The History of Gondwana Game Reserve

How it Began

Mark and Wendy Rutherfoord met in the Kalahari Desert where Mark was involved in wildlife management at Tswalu Private Reserve and Wendy was on a marketing trip for De Beers Diamonds.  In 2004, they were drawn to the seaside of Mossel Bay by a beautiful piece of land they now call Gondwana.  The amazing colours and variety of the Fynbos drew Wendy, while the area’s ability to carry game and dramatic valleys lured Mark.

Originally three cattle and sheep farms were purchased totalling 6,500 hectares.  The properties were chosen for their conservation value, viability to support wildlife, and desirable setting for tourism. The wildlife reserve grew by an additional 4000 hectares by 2009 increasing its biodiversity and wildlife carrying capacity and most importantly its conservation contribution to Fynbos species such as the Renoster thicket and Blanco Fynbos Renosterveld, which are critically endangered. After 60 kilometres of game fencing was erected around the now 11,000 hectare or 27,000-acre game reserve, the wildlife introductions commenced.   Over 20 species of game were introduced including hippo, cheetah, kudu, eland, elephant, red hartebeest, lion, giraffe, buffalo and lion.  Gondwana is now home to the first wild elephant calves and free-roaming lion cubs born in the region in over 250 years.

In December 2008, Gondwana opened its doors to its first guests and has since grown into one of the preeminent eco-tourism destinations in the Western Cape.  We pride ourselves in sustainably offering an authentic safari experience in the rare Fynbos biome, employing a fabulously dedicated team of 140 individuals, many of them from our local community, and conserving this special piece of South Africa for generations to come.

Our Name – Gondwana

Our name derives itself from Gondwanaland, the landmass that existed one hundred and twenty million years ago.  In palaeogeography, Gondwana, originally Gondwanaland, is the name given to the more southerly of two supercontinents which were part of the Pangaea supercontinent that existed from approximately 510 to 180 million years ago.  The Outeniqua and Swartberg Mountains that the Reserve looks upon are the last visible evidence of the former Gondwanaland after the continent split to how we know it today.

Gondwana Land

The Past



Khoi San

History of the Cape and its people: Khoi San By Quinton Mtyala

San & Khoi Khoi
The San had lived on the subcontinent in virtual isolation for thousands of years until the Khoi Khoi arrived in 500 AD, from the north, in search of grazing for their cattle.

The Khoikhoi and San were the first inhabitants of the Cape and are considered by many to be one in the same and the word Khoisan is used generally, yet they are very different from one another.

The Khoikhoi referred to themselves as “the real people of Khoi-na” to distinguish themselves from other groups such as the San (SoaQua or SonQua), also known as Bushmen.
Khoikhoi literally means “men of men” and they were slightly taller than the San. Nomadic herders, the Khoi also owned livestock such as cattle and sheep. They lived in large groups as opposed to the San who lived in smaller groups and were mainly hunter/gatherers.

The Khoi lived within an exogamous clan system, meaning that they could marry from outside their clan. This was seen as way of forging alliances with other groups and also saw to it that the group survived eventually.

The Khoi (Hottentots) are much like the San in appearance, but slightly taller. The essential difference between the two peoples is in their respective traditional lifestyles. Originally both semi-nomadic, the Khoi kept flocks of sheep and herds of oxen. Some planted crops and established semi-permanent settlements. They developed the craft of pottery making.

In the past they were hunter-gatherers, living largely off game, honey and the roots and fruits of plants. They lived – and some still do today in total harmony with nature, posing no threat to wildlife and vegetation by over-hunting or gathering. The semi-nomadic existence of the San was (and is) governed by the seasons and the movement of game.

The San have short, slight bodies, small hands and feet and yellow-brown skin that wrinkles early. The women tend to store fat in their buttocks and have sharply hollowed backs. They look exactly like the characteristic profiles depicted in the San rock paintings. They store fat in their buttocks – a natural adaptation to their precarious existence in a harsh environment.

Khoi society was hierarchical as opposed to the San where all members of the tribe where equal. The Khoi considered those who owned cattle to be wealthy, there were servants (without stock) and those who would work as herdsman. Usually a herdsman would receive a lamb for his services.

Where & How did they live?
The Khoi lived in villages led by a chief, a hereditary position, meaning that the title would pass to the oldest son of the chief in the event of death. Several villages would usually be united by a much larger unit called a tribe, ranging in size from a few hundred to several thousand. They lived along the coast and were known to be skilful fishermen. The bones found in caves along the coast by archaeologist bare testimony to the fact.

Their semi-nomadic life makes it impossible to possess anything that is not easy to carry. Their shelters are built of sticks and form roughly a circle, 150mm high. Some cover the sticks with mats woven from reeds. The clan system of the Khoi was somewhat more regulated than that of the San, in that each group had a chief. Their dwellings were beehive-shaped huts made with pliable sticks. Long mats, the strips sewn together by the women covered the frame, leaving an opening at either end. Doors made of a narrower mat to roll up or down was hung over these openings. The huts could be dismantled quickly and transported on the back of oxen as they moved on. These mat covered huts can still be seen in Namaqualand.  Gondwana’s Kwena Huts are inspired by this history.


Freedom of Movement
Local clans could move around and use the resources, like water, game, wild fruit, and pasture within a specified  tribal  area. Unrelated clans from other tribes had to ask permission from the local chief to use the resources. The chief owned neither land nor the resources on it as land was not owned by an individual. This way of existence brought the Khoi into conflict with early European settlers.

Early explorers
The early European explorers who rounded the Cape described the people they encountered living on the coast as devoid of all religion and were particularly fascinated by their language which consists, almost exclusively of clicking sounds. In time the white Europeans encroached upon the San’s traditional hunting grounds. Some Bushmen went to live with them and others moved on west and north in search of land where they could live freely.

The Language
The language of the Khoi-San groups influenced the Xhosa language; it has a distinctive clicking sound, formed in the palate with the tongue.

Many of the Khoisan people who lived in the Cape were decimated by diseases like small pox, brought to the country by Europeans, for which they had little resistance. In the 1950s they were classified as coloured by the Apartheid authorities. Today, many coloured people in South Africa can be linked to these two groups. Presently the San community is estimated to be 5000 and the Khoi,10 000. They’re spread around several areas in the Cape,Northern Cape, Namibia and Botswana.

Nomadic Khoisan people were the first inhabitants of the Mossel Bay area. Caves in which the remains of several Khoisan settlements have been found are located nearby, with one located at the starting point of the walking trail to the nearby town of Dana Bay, now a national monument. A Khoisan cultural village is also located at the cave, but has been criticized for being “commercial”. A more recent discovery at nearby Pinnacle Point is claimed to be the earliest evidence of human seaside settlement.

Book your stay at Gondwana Lodge today for a family safari experience that you soon won’t forget.