Restored railway carriage now available for exclusive hire at Mantis Founders Lodge in South Africa

The Founders Railway Carriage

Mantis, a leading conservation-focused hospitality group with luxury hotels, eco-lodges, waterways and impact experiences located across the globe, has announced the opening of the lovingly restored Founders Railway Carriage at Mantis Founders Lodge, located 72km from Gqeberha. Mantis invites you to get on board and enjoy the charm of a bygone era but with modern touches, including a pool, boma, an outdoor deck and dedicated personal services.

The Founders Railway Carriage, the first of its kind in the Eastern Cape, belongs to conservation pioneer and Mantis Founder Adrian Gardiner. Gardiner travelled in the carriage with his family on holiday and business rail journeys around South Africa for almost a decade until the train was eventually retired and meticulously restored. He says, ‘My love for train travel began in the early 60s when I travelled from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe to the University of Cape Town. The return trips were six a year for at least four years and took three days and three nights. In those days with steam engines and remarkable service, the experience was unforgettable.’

From 2000, says Gardiner, ‘the carriage stood empty, and we needed to find a permanent home for it. My dream to place the carriage at Mantis Founder’s Lodge on its own siding has been realised.’ 

Mantis Founder’s Lodge is an hour’s drive from Gqeberha’s Chief Dawid Stuurman International Airport in the Eastern Cape. It offers 5-star hospitality focused on tailored and convivial service, authentic local cuisine and magnificent game viewing. Making it a popular choice for travellers who have explored the Garden Route.

The Railway Carriage is in addition to the 7-suites at the lodge, all offering a pampered safari with an intimate, romantic experience for couples or an engaging, interactive social environment for families and friends.

This lovingly restored 3-cabin Railway Carriage, stationed at a siding atop a hill overlooking a magnificent valley, offers new, exclusive-use accommodation. The charming carriage features an expansive outdoor deck, private swimming pool, dining area and boma. It is also adjacent to a unique and delightful neighbour – Munu– the blind and fiercely protected Black Rhino.

The carriage has three compartments accommodating a total of 5 guests: A main double sleeper, a two-berth, and a single compartment. There are also period-inspired bathroom facilities onboard and a beautifully restored lounge and dining area. The outdoor deck and boma, with separate bathroom facilities, complete the Founders Railway Carriage.

Staying on the carriage means you will have dedicated staff to set the pace of your holiday. Whether that’s early morning nature walks, leisurely picnic brunches, lounging by the pool or enjoying identifying the constellations and stars sprinkled across the late-night sky.

The Carriage re-design brief to MI Designs was simple: ‘Create a world of timeless glamour, reminiscent of the days of luxury train travel’.

The shape and lines are inspired by the feeling of an old train coach with a curved ceiling and slatted screens over doors. These create a very private space but allow for the sounds of nature to be heard when the doors are open. An alternative is to open all the screens and enjoy the panoramic setting, with a glimpse of rhinos, giraffes and other wildlife.

Founder’s Lodge itself offers a choice of classic or contemporary rooms – each easily accessed from the main guest areas – as well as an intimate romantic pod.

Take off your shoes, step off your private patio and onto the lush grass with your eyes fixed on the hilly horizons of our rare biome with distinct flora and fauna. This is how you ‘earth’ yourself, and it’s best done with a cup of tea and our Chef’s homemade biscuits – you’ll find a fresh batch in your room! 

The newly built Honeymoon Pod – a plush, private cocoon – is designed as an ideal setting for romantic getaways for two. Perched above the central lodge, the suite offers unobstructed views of the valley. It also has its own separate entrance and verandah.

You will savour intimate experiences inspired by the natural environment, including the Big 5 as well as smaller, lesser-known wildlife and ecology. Mantis Founder’s Lodge is both intimate in terms of hospitality yet vast in terms of 4×4 guided game drives on 25 000ha of the wilderness area.

Paul Gardiner, CEO, Mantis Collection, says, ‘Mantis Founder’s Lodge is the ideal base for a family holiday with the Founder’s Lodge Kids Conservation Warriors programme, which includes a Bear Grylls Survival Academy experience, taking young survivors on a journey of dynamic self-rescue to find out if they have what it takes to survive the wild!

‘Families can enjoy tranquillity away from the city and be reminded of the pristine beauty of the natural world, right in the heart of a wildlife concession. This is an unforgettable experience, and with bespoke activities tailored to each guest, no holiday is the same.’

In the unlikely event that you are not completely relaxed at Mantis Founder’s Lodge or just need a bit of pampering, in-room spa treatments are available that leave you even more rejuvenated and relaxed and restored.

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Bear Grylls Survival Academy

Main Mantis Founder’s Lodge Experiences include: 

  • Daily safari game drives
  • Rhino feeding and monitoring
  • Bear Grylls Survival Academy Experience
  • Wildlife tracks & signs of the bush (interactive)

Behind every Mantis property is the desire to educate and create a consciousness about conservation, saving our animals and wildlife while nurturing our planet and its people. We need to preserve what we have and strongly believe that the future is in the hands of our youth.  

Bear Grylls, a well-known adventurer and television personality, shares Mantis’ passion for education, evidenced by our newly launched Bear Grylls Survival Academy experience at Founder’s Lodge.

This dynamic self-rescue activity invites young adventurers to learn some of Bear’s key survival techniques before putting them to the test! In just two hours, the aspiring survivors will learn what it takes to survive in the wild and return to the lodge with an experience they won’t soon forget!

All staff at Mantis Founder’s Lodge are vaccinated, and PCR testing is available for guests’ convenience and safety.

Game viewing is excellent, but a highlight is sitting on your patio and viewing the rhinos, warthog and giraffe all directly from the lodge. Even better is visiting Munu and learning his story and about black rhinos in general. Kids love giving him some ‘sweets’’ – the indigenous plumbago.

The Game Reserve is a celebration of essential beginnings in sustainable tourism, culture, conservation and community inclusion. It is a monument to conservation history and offers soul-reviving safaris in the place where Adrian Gardiner pioneered private game reserves and eco-tourism in the Eastern Cape. For rates, availability and further information, email us directly at

For further information contact:

For reservations and more information call: +27 41 404 9300




Mantis Collection

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