5 August 2013 by Romi Boom

Addo’s luxury lodges

Known as SANParks’s ‘Golden Kudus’, the luxury lodges in Addo Elephant National Park offer exclusivity and privacy, outstanding service, impeccable accommodation and gourmet cuisine.

Enjoying the sight of game on a drive with Riverbend Lodge. Image by Romi Boom

Visitors who like luxury in the bush will love staying at these lodges, which include ultra-luxurious tents and even a gracious old homestead.

All three luxury lodge concessions in Addo are dedicated to rehabilitating this precious wildlife region and have made huge investments to protect the natural heritage.

Riverbend Lodge (in the Nyati Section of the park) has eight suites and a family-friendly policy. Children of all ages are welcome, and even toddlers are allowed on game drives, the viewpoint being that it’s never too early to start loving nature. During our stay, guests included two families spanning three generations, and it was an inspiration to see each happy clan occupying their own safari vehicle.

Intsomi Reserve, accessible exclusively by Riverbend guests, is home to several species not seen elsewhere in Addo. The absence of predators in the private reserve allows you to explore on foot iking within 20m of graceful giraffes is definitely a bucket-list highlight!

The Karoo Section is a world apart from the main game viewing area. Succulent noorsveld, coral aloes, sweet thorn and pale-barked shepherd’s tree dot the landscape. To reach the Kuzuko contractual area in the northwest of the park, you have to exit the gate at Main Camp and drive towards Paterson. The most affordable of the Addo lodges, with excellent winter specials for South Africans, Kuzuko (‘place of glory’) sits like an eyrie against a mountain ridge, with views that stretch forever across the Nama-Karoo.

The numbers of the game in this section have spiked since a drought in 2009. Red hartebeest, kudu, zebra and black wildebeest absolutely abound.

Collaring of individual lions, cheetahs and elephants assists with management decisions and theoretically this makes it easier to locate prize species. In practice, the guides rely on their skills and luck, not telemetry, to track the wildlife. While the elephants were playing hide and seek with us, the lions and cheetahs couldn’t be bothered by our presence and provided superb and intense photo opportunities. On more than one occasion our guide, Freddie van Reyner, pointed out where the lions had sharpened their claws, leaving deep indentations in trees. Freddie found us a couple of lion’s hairs in the grooves, which were surprisingly soft and broke easily.

The numbers of the game in this section have spiked since the drought in 2009. Red hartebeest, kudu, zebra and black wildebeest absolutely abound. On a scenic drive towards Darlington Dam, we even happened across a handsome herd of gemsbok. To grasp the full spectrum of Addo’s diversity, include Kuzuko in your itinerary. The lodge is happy to accommodate children and groups. Its conference facilities and wellness centre are top class.

After crossing the rugged and desolate Zuurberg Pass to re-enter the main game viewing area of Addo, we arrived at Gorah Elephant Camp. Gorah means ‘natural water’ and traces its history to the Early Stone Age. The original spring attracted wildlife, farmers and hunters. Gorah was recently awarded the SANParks Kudu award for their contribution to conservation and as business partner of the year.


										Looking out over the bushveld from Kuzuko Lodge. Image by Romi Boom

Romantic Gorah is the epitome of an African safari, with 11 ultra-luxurious tents and a gracious 1856 homestead, a national monument, furnished in period style. Think Robert Redford and Meryl Streep in Out of Africa, chilled sparkling wine by candlelight. The entire camp is unfenced, with views across the savanna. The busy waterhole right in front of the manor house may be shared at any one time by eland, zebra, buffalo and warthog. Unless the big cats put in an appearance.

Our afternoon game drive produced a very focused lioness in hot pursuit of a warthog near Hapoor Dam. We waited with bated breath, but there were no squeals once they had disappeared into the spekboom thicket. After sundowners at Kadouw Lookout Point, we returned in darkness to Gorah Camp. In our absence, the surrounding grassland had been invaded by a herd of buffalo, grazing to their heart’s content. Imagine being surrounded by 200 pairs of eyes, glimmering like fireflies. It’s a spine-chilling experience, the kind of memory that will have you yearning for the wilds ever after.

The Wild Card is the most economical way to explore South Africa's wild places. The card allows visitors a year's free access into 80+ game parks and reserves – no need to pay the daily conservation fee. For more information, please go to the SANParks website or the Wild Card website.

Visit the various lodges online:

Riverbend Lodge

Kuzuko Lodge

Gorah Elephant Camp

  • Romi Boom is editor of Wild, the Wild Card magazine

Category: Wildlife

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