(Eastern Cape) – Eco-tourism campaigner Adrian Gardiner has unveiled the latest in the line of his hospitality group Mantis Collection’s 72 luxury boutique hotels and lodges around the world – Founders Lodge, set adjacent to the renowned Shamwari Game Reserve.
Gardiner has come a long way since launching the legendary Shamwari Game Reserve in the heart of the Eastern Cape. Shamwari was a risky and bold initiative – establishing a Big Five game reserve in a malaria-free zone thousands of miles from South Africa’s game-viewing attractions up north in the bushveld. With Shamwari as flagship, Gardiner and his team have since grown the Mantis Collection to stretch over all seven continents, with each destination dedicated to offering something truly exceptional.
But Gardiner’s heart remains at home where it all started in the Eastern Cape. It is here at Founders Lodge where many a perfect day was created as he hosted friends, families and celebrities. Memory and legacy hang thick in the atmosphere. Most recently, after extensive renovation, guests have started to share this rare experience by being invited to stay over inside Gardiner’s original Shamwari home on the adjacent Bickley farm, under the care of the Mantis Group’s world-class hospitality.
A world-class experience in itself, the lodge boasts six private suites only, with walking areas on the 400ha estate with full access to Shamwari for a Big 5 game drive.
Managed by industry stalwarts Wayne and Vicky Nel, Founders Lodge is a return to the heart of Eastern Cape hospitality. Decked out with all the mod-cons a seasoned traveler could wish for, visitors can also enjoy communal dining, where the Nels host in true hospitable style.
A menu which would not be amiss at any world-class restaurant, the lodge fuses comfort with the easy-going Eastern Cape nature. Guests can help themselves to beverages, and ask the chef for meals as they feel peckish.
“We have tried to move away from the ‘stiff’ regimental environment some 5-star establishments offer,” explained Vicky. “Founders is about the home of the founder of Shamwari, offering true Eastern Cape hospitality, personalised service, and tailor-made experiences.
“We do not offer set itineraries, but tailor the experience to the guests’ requirements and expectations. Mr Gardiner hosted many friends and dignitaries at Founders for many years, sharing his love and passion for the area. This is the basis upon which we are building the Founders experience on.”
Future guests at Founders will soon be able to enjoy several additions to an already otherworldly experience, by spending more time in close contact with nature. There are few things in the world that can compare to sleeping out under the stars and hearing the African night sounds around the fire, and a safe, yet pristine sleep-out venue is to be added soon. For bird-watchers, the two dams on the property will offer a hide from where guests can unobtrusively enjoy the abundance and variety of this region’s bird-life. And if this is not enough, a special boma in one of the reserve’s valleys will create a unique venue for outdoor dining experiences. Arrive from your game drive to hear the sizzle of hearty fare. When the sun gets high later in the day, retreat under the deep shadows of the umbrellas at the pool.
The Mantis Collection has built its business by offering a wide variety of exceptional experiences away from home, and once guests have had their first experience, they never need to look outside of the Collection for their next travel adventure. Whether a boutique cruise, an exhilarating ski holiday, an African game experience, a visit to an exotic and far-off country, or even when traveling for business, the Collection has something new to offer time and again.