Part of the increased local interest is linked to lower rates offered. Previously many of the reserves were exclusively a destination for the well-heeled.
It has been a tough couple of months at the Pumba Game Reserve. Their last guest checked out on March, 26th. But conservation and animal management did not stop and all efforts were directed to preserve jobs. But now the dust is being kicked up again. Guests are returning to much excitement.
One guest says, “It’s so nice to be back here after months of being coupled up at home. It’s so nice just to leave Port Elizabeth and get out into the wild, it’s so refreshing just being here.”
“What a way to start the spring, being out here with my family, it really feels so good. It’s an amazing feeling just to get out, leave Port Elizabeth and get to nature for some much-needed time out,” adds a third guest.
Safety measures put in place
Stringent measurements have been put in place all around the reserve to prevent the spread of the virus. The director of Pumba Lodge, Dale Howarth, says masks are a must, especially for his first arrivals…
“It actually feels like the first day we opened, that’s how excited everyone is. You can see that everyone is really tired of being stuck at home and wants to go out and have fun. That really shocked me is that normally we have people from Cape Town and Johannesburg coming to our lodge, but in our first week, with just one lodge opened we are full to capacity and its people from the Eastern Cape and next week there are more bookings. The response has been really phenomenal.”
Down the road, another game reserve is also getting ready to open. It’s safety first from the moment you arrive with temperature checks and screening. Everything from the gym, to the spa, to the family room and even the game drive vehicles have been sanitized and a strict sanitising regime is in place.
The lodges that have opened are already 70 percent full, with local bookings.
Special rates on offer
Shamwari Game Reserve’s Joe Cloete says the increase in domestic travel is a good sign.
“There is a massive demand out of the areas of Cape Town where they have been in lockdown for five months, Johannesburg and local areas like Port Elizabeth and East London. We are seeing a sudden spike in domestic travel, we have put out special domestic rates to cater for the South African market and we will probably have to extend to beyond that till Christmas, depending on what will happen with the international travel ban, and there’s a big demand for locals to get out and enjoy safari experience. We anticipate two types of travel, there will be the couple that comes, or there will be the families that would like to have a private experience, so we are opening up two lodges, one for a private exclusive type of villa, safari experience where you operate in your own bubble and the other will be for individual couples where we can spread them out.”
Glen Papin from Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism says South Africans must make the most of the special rates on offer.
“We are hoping that in September with it being tourism month, we will see people coming to experience out beauty, but chatting to my colleagues in Addo, they have definitely seen a nice Pick up on leisure travel, so we hope that the South African hat can get out there, lockdown was hard, you know five months, get out experience your city, there are a lot of specials on the go at the moment.”
It is estimated that it can take up to a year for the game lodges to recover completely from the losses they suffered.