My second stop on my Fair Trade Tourism blog trip was the Woodbury Lodge on Amakhala Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape. The lodge is spectacularly set up high against a cliff in a patch of indigenous forest overlooking the Bushmans River valley. Amakhala means ‘place of many aloes ‘ in Xhosa and the many aloes on the cliff and on the property are testament to this. Did I mention I love aloes?
The Lodge caters for mainly international tourists who are looking for a malaria-free Big 5 safari experience. The reserve’s terrain is diverse with a variety of vegatation from which to spot game. Dense thickets of valley bushveld, thorn-tree savannah, and sweeping grasslands provided the backdrop to our game drive.
We spotted a large herd of elephant, buffalo, a lioness and cheetah, and a baby fox amongst various buck and bird species. I love elephants, and we spent about 20 minutes quietly watching the herd. I just hoped that they didn’t come too close like the last time!
I liked that Woodbury is easily accessible from Port Elizabeth airport, with convenient access to the Garden Route. Most of the guests that I met at the lodge were en route from Cape Town and the Garden Route, and their visit to Woodbury at Amakhala was the safari part of their trip.
Woodbury is 4 star rated and has just six stone and thatch rooms, perfectly postitioned to offer views of the valley below. The rooms are secluded, all with private decks, however there are plenty of common areas for guest to mingle and dine together. Rates are on an all-inclusive basis and include game drives.
I was allocated the Krans room – the first room to be built on the lodge – and named because of it’s prime location, perched on the krans (cliff), complete with private deck and stunning views of the valley below. I was later told that all the rooms have private decks and large bathrooms with a view over the plains. My room, though a little dated, was comfortable and spacious with great views.
Staff at Woodbury Lodge
From the time I arrived at Woodbury, I was welcomed and attended to by the super helpful and friendly staff. I was met by the host, Tim with a welcome drink. I was just in time for high tea, where the chef had prepared a selection of naughty pastries, home-made breads, and fresh salads.
After a little siesta, we headed out for a late afternoon drive with our guide Melusi. Melusi was excellent – I couldn’t believe he’d just joined the lodge and was fairly new to guiding. He seemed liked he’d been guiding for years.
All the staff from at Woodbury Lodge are from the local area. Tim informed me that between Woodbury lodge and the Woodbury tented camp, 30 people are employed, which is significant for the region where unemployment is rife and job opportunities are few.
I had a chance to chat with Chef Zukile Sanquele, who prepared us the most delicious food during my short stay. Zukile joined Woodbury in 2006 after completeing his chef training in Port Elizabeth. He love’s getting creative with pastries and desserts. Zukile is also involved in the training of morning staff, and is proud to see his staff develop as part of his in-house training programmes.
Fair Trade in Tourism Certified
Talking to the staff at Amakhala, and learning about their environmental practices, I got to understand why Woodbury Lodge has been Fair Trade in Tourism certified. Based on adherence to specific criteria such as fair wages and working conditions, fair distribution of benefits, ethical business practice, and respect for human rights, culture and the environment, the FTT label is an independent endorsement of fair and responsible tourism practise in South Africa.
With regards to social responsibility, the Amakhala Foundation (a registered South African NPO) co-ordinates the conservation and social projects within the reserve. The Foundation manages the Amakhala Conservation Centre which is responsible for conservation on the reserve in addition to managing an environmental education programme for schools in the region and a socio-economic development and support programme in nearby Paterson Village. The Centre is directed by Dr Jennifer Gush, (resident biologist) who oversees all conservation centre activities.
I really liked that each guest was supplied with a reuseable water bottle. The lodge has water coolers in the commom area where guests could refill them. I was told I could take the bottle as a souvenir if I wanted but I decided it would be more sustainable to leave it for the next guest. I really wish more lodges and hotels would adopt this practice instead of supplying guests with regular plastic bottles of water. Imagine how much plastic could be saved!
Overall the hospitality, food and friendly staff of Woodbury were great, however as an ethical traveller I was impressed by the sustainable practices of the lodge. For travellers looking for an intimate, tranquil and sustainable tourism experience in the Eastern Cape riverine bushveld, Woodbury Lodge at Amakhala is an excellent option.
Find out more:
Learn more about FTTSA
Please note that this post is sponsored by Fair Trade in Tourism in honour of their 10th birthday. Mzansigirl maintains editorial control of all content published on this site.