High on a hill in the kingdom of Kariega: Settlers Drift

High on a hill in the kingdom of Kariega

We recently visited Kariega Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape to check out their five-star lodge, Settlers Drift, perched on top of a hill with unparalleled views of quite the most extraordinary rolling tract of nature. As an extension of the Cape’s Garden Route or as a destination all of its own, this expansive, almost-coastal reserve offers a lot to be excited about. 

A safari lodge on a hill overlooking a river
Hidden between the trees and overlooking the Bushmans River, Settlers Drift is a retreat in the kingdom of Kariega.

Highlights of Kariega Game Reserve

  • It is malaria-free
  • Has two rivers & river activities
  • Includes five different ecosystems
  • Is home to the Big 5
  • Is a natural extension to the Garden Route
  • Glows with conservation accomplishments
  • Offers five different lodges traversing almost 12,000 hectares

Giraffes feed on the vegetation while tourists watch from a safari vehicle
A sense of space and an abundance of wildlife give Kariega five-star status as a safari destination.

Rolling green hills all the way to the horizon
Zoom out and there's more than the eye can comprehend. A safari home to the Big 5 and much more, with rivers, ridges, and valleys to explore.

Location, location, location

Typical of this south-eastern region of South Africa, and what you’re getting here that you’re not getting in the Kruger are the rolling, forested hills that turn the landscape into a lush topography of ridges and valleys. The height brings a new perspective, a sense of space, an ethereal magic, and the grassy flats are open, green plains galloped upon by healthy herds surrounded by the mountainous rises around them. 

The presence of both the Bushmans and the Kariega Rivers adds another dimension not only to the scenery, but the species diversity and the availability of activities that excite keen fishermen and canoeists, not to mention birdwatchers. Kariega of course has the presence of the Big 5, so there is zero compromise there, and it falls into a kingdom of unique biodiversity with its proximity to the sea, the cliffs and crags, evergreen forests, and savannah grassland. You can just imagine the feast for the eyes!

Hippos have their eyes exposed from the water with photographers looking on in the backgroundd
Guided bush walks explore the landscape and get you up-close encounters and fabulous photographic opportunities.

It’s got heart

Another un-ignorable element is the cultural heart of Kariega, and the extended Eastern Cape region. As the birthplace of Nelson Mandela and the origin of the Xhosa people, there is a rich connection between human and nature and you’ll feel the depth of the history as you scan the landscape and ponder the ancient existence of South African people, including the British 1820 Settlers, the Khoi, the Xhosa and the Boers.

Now that you know a bit more about the reserve, let’s dive into our thoughts about Settlers Drift - one of the reserve’s most tempting offerings, and recently the subject of a recent site visit which left us overly impressed and ready to share with our guests! 

Here’s what we LOVED about Settlers Drift


We drove up to the lodge, but usually upon entrance (if weather and conditions permit) you’d park your car and then get a boat transfer across the Bushmans River and then driven up to the lodge which is elevated above the river. Truly grand - what a presence!

The main lodge is cosy, smart and clean. There is a small shop selling local goodies and the main area is extremely spacious so if you are not keen on interacting with other guests, there are a lot of private corners for your family or group to relax in. Each spot is as good as the other, with expansive views of the game reserve as the lodge is set high on the hills of Kariega. The pool is also set in more of a private corner of the main lodge - a beautiful and welcoming blue infinity pool with ample relaxation and tanning space.

Grand entrance to a tented safari camp lit up in the evening
Welcome to Settlers Drift.

An infinity pool with an astonishing pool - a peaceful place to refresh and absorb the wild surroundings.

A bar and a lounge under a timber ceiling with large glass windows looking out into the forested surroundingsi
Snuggle up and enjoy the view from all sorts of comfortable spaces at Settlers Drift.


The rooms have a lot of distance between one another, so, coupled with the ample forestry around, there is more than enough privacy between each suite. Upon entering the room, the first noticeable feature is the view - all rooms in Settlers Drift have a view of the plains - perfect for chilling on the balcony and having a cool binocular session. The suites are extremely spacious, beautiful, cool and open with modern features. Each one has a large bed and the option to add a third bed if three guests are sharing (drop down bed).

Each tented suite is far apart from the next, enjoying privacy and space among the natural vegetation.

A sense of solitude and simple luxuries in tented suites hidden between the trees.

A modern bathroom with timber walls and glass doors and windows looking into the wilderness
No compromise on views even from the bathrooms!

Safari experience:

Setting off on a game drive takes you into the vastly differing terrains, which is awesome to explore. We were guided by Richard who was extremely knowledgeable and great to talk to - very attentive and aware of everything in his surroundings. The vehicle was in pristine condition which is an added bonus. We didn’t have time to canoe the river or go fishing or take a guided walk, but can only imagine that these epic experiences would have been just as enchanting as the traditional game drive, or even more so given their novel appeal.

Tourists are led by a safari guide through a mountainous landscape
Exploring on foot and getting closer to the kingdom of Kariega.

Wining and dining:

First off, the coffee - very importantly - was impeccable. And the wine selection is phenomenal. An all-inclusive booking basis with a superb selection of wines is a testament to the quality of the Settlers Drift experience. The barman was more than happy to make a cocktail that was not on their list - an Old Fashioned (and it was a very good one at that!) Lunch is served at different locations in the lodge every day, buffet-style with a stunning selection of cold meats, salads, bite-size delights and fresh fruit. Guests help themselves and can eat in comfort wherever they choose. And at dinner time, each dish was impressive, more than skillfully catering for specific tastes and preferences. 

Cheese and wine is served on a large wooden table in front of a big fireplace
Cheese, wine, and cosy comfort.


What a well organised and warm departure (as much as we didn’t want to go). Our car was brought to the reception area with great timing and there was absolutely no rush from the staff to move us along, even though we knew there were new guests coming in. They paid just as much attention to us as they did when we arrived, which left us with lasting impressions and gratitude for such a wonderful stay.

Quick facts about Settlers Drift

  • There are nine luxury tented suites (each 110m2) with extensive views.
  • Each suite has a bedroom and living area, full bathroom, indoor/outdoor shower and private deck.
  • No children under 10 years old.
  • Access via a boat ride (when weather permits).
  • Complimentary minibar in-room.
  • Wifi connectivity in-room and main area.
  • Free-standing bathtubs in rooms.
  • All-inclusive booking basis.
  • River cruises, canoeing, fishing, bush walks, and game drives.
  • Third bed available in the room.
  • Air-conditioning.

Reach out on hello@bhs-safari.co to find out more about Settlers Drift, availability in 2024, and how to tie it into an epic South African safari experience.