Short stay: Mantis Founders Lodge, Eastern Cape, South Africa

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Two rhinos, sculpted from waste oil drums, stand by the entrance to Mantis Founders Lodge. The pair are symbols of both the progress made saving rhino and future ambitions for the species at the birthplace of Eastern Cape conservation.

Those sculptures are also a symbol of Mantis properties’ eco-commitments. After all, the acronym stands for Man And Nature Together Is Sustainable. Mantis Founders Lodge is “where it all began”, when Adrian Gardiner set out on his mission to re-wild this dramatic landscape. From introducing flightless dung beetle through oxpecker birds to elephants, it was a hugely ambitious project.

Soul-reviving safaris, at dawn and dusk, drive through almost 100 square miles of distinctive eco-systems with an abundance of wildlife, fauna and flora. Yet, the Eastern Cape is not just about The Big Five: a 70 minutes’ drive takes guests to Port Elizabeth for whale and shark spotting. The Big Five expands to the Big Seven.

The welcome

Just inside the entrance to the reserve, we turn into the Founders Lodge estate where gardeners strim and weed to create manicured gardening perfection at the heart of the bush.

Chilled flannels and a cool drink welcome us. As we are guided to our room, our luggage follows.

The room

Recently built above the breakfast room, elevated room 7, aka The Honeymoon Pod, is reached by a flight of stairs. Whilst some rooms have their own gardens, number 7 has a roof garden with dining table, chairs and spectacular sweeping views across the valleys and bush.

One wall is almost entirely devoted to sliding glass doors showcasing a serene vista across the lawns to a blue gum…

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