Adrian Gardiner has left a deep spoor in the global conservation community and in the hospitality industry. It all began in the Eastern Cape where he founded the legendary Shamwari Game Reserve. He now offers a small, select number of guests the opportunity to stay over at his original residence, the secluded Founders Lodge, and to experience all of its serenity as well as viewing the Big Five at the adjacent Shamwari.
Viewed by many as the founder of conservation tourism in the Eastern Cape, Gardiner’s original vision connected the Garden Route with the Big Five, all within driving distance from Cape Town and Port Elizabeth and in a malaria-free region. Building on the success of Shamwari, he formed the award-winning Mantis Group that today manage or own 78 luxury hospitality establishments situated on all seven continents across the globe.
But Gardiner’s heart is still at home where it all began in the Eastern Cape. It is here at Founders Lodge, where many an unforgettable day was created as he hosted friends, families and celebrities. History and a long legacy hang thick in the atmosphere. Now, after extensive renovation, guests can share this rare experience by being invited to enjoy the original home, under the excellent care of the Mantis Group’s top-class recipe for outstanding hospitality.
To maintain the intimate and personal character of the experience, there are only six private suites. Either off in the courtyard or forming part of the home, they all allow access to the many comforts on offer. These include a library and business centre, a gym with steam room, a lounge replete with billiards, bar and fireplace, a formal lounge in the manor house plus a choice to dine on the superior cuisine either formally inside, or more casually on the dining terrace. There are two swimming pools on the premises, and a boma for those magical African fireside nights. The ambience is one of a lush, warm and inviting visit to a happy family home of undisputed good taste.
A) The heart of the lodge is The Founders Collection – a fascinating room which houses Adrian’s striking personal library of museum pieces and artefacts, including a famous Xhosa bead collection.
B) Guided by Adrian’s lifelong passion for art, Mantis properties have become renowned for their appreciation and display of famous artworks; and Founders Lodge is no exception, where guests are invited to explore the collection of world famous wildlife photographer, David Yarrow.
C) On announcing the opening of Founder Lodge, owner Adrian Gardiner remarks: “I have a lasting, personal and deep connection to Shamwari which still offers one of South Africa’s top game experiences. Opening up my private residence adjacent to this iconic reserve gives me great pleasure and is very symbolic of our roots in the Eastern Cape. This is an exciting time for me personally and the Mantis Group.”
The immediate 400 hectare reserve around Founders is free of predators and, therefore, open for guests to explore on foot. Visitors can feel the excitement of tracking small animals and identifying the abundant bird, insect and plant life of the region.
The entrance to Shamwari and the Big Five is a mere 50 metres away from the lodge. Daily game drives with professional guides provide the perfect opportunity to encounter Africa’s incredible animals, while evening drives reveal the elusive magic of nocturnal Africa.
Sundowner drinks at sunset and coffee and tea at sunrise make the game drives so much more impressive. Guests can also visit the Born Free Foundation’s Animal Rescue & Education centre to learn more about conservation and to meet some of the big cats under rehabilitation up close.
Inactivity, it must be added, is an acceptable activity, too, at Founders and one could just bring a good book and laze at poolside while overlooking the beautiful scenery. There are few better ways to spend the perfect day in Africa.
Founders Lodge is a place built on meaningful memory, and offers visitors the special opportunity to make time spent in the African outdoors equally memorable.
Mantis is a family run collection of award winning, privately owned, five star properties located around the World, across all seven continents. Each of the diverse, handpicked properties represents the finest example of its kind and celebrates the culture, gastronomy, architecture and nature of the locations in which they are found.
Mantis eXtreme is a separate collection of authentic, once-in-a-lifetime experiences and encounters from around the world, often paired with Mantis’ five star properties. Experiences include (amoung others) parabolic flights, midnight golf, northern lights experiences, Bear Grylls Survival Academy courses, rhino encounters and meeting the teams working to save them from extinction, and navigating the glaciers and ice tunnels of Antarctica.
A third portfolio, Mantis Owners Collection, is a collection of handpicked, fully staffed and exclusive use properties around the world. As part of their service offering, the Mantis Owners Collection assists members with flight reservations, transfers, tours, restaurant bookings and event management.
Founded in 2000 by entrepreneur and hotelier Adrian Gardiner, the Mantis brand is internationally acclaimed for its pioneering work in Development, Hospitality, Marketing, Education and Conservation.