Around Gorah Elephant Camp, warthog families ferret for food, while dazzles of zebra trot past tortoises to reach the waterhole. Embraced by the wilderness of Addo National Park, this luxury safari lodge merges Victorian colonial style with modern creature comforts.
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A bottle of wine from their cellar and romantic evening turn-down service
Double rooms from £740.40 (ZAR15,232), including tax at 15 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional government tax of ZAR10.00 per person per night on check-out and an additional resort fee of ZAR75.00 per person per night on check-out.
Rates include meals and game drives.
There are walking trails around the camp, and, for an extra charge, horse-riding or mountain biking are an option for those who don’t want to get too relaxed. Electricity is sporadic: charge all electrical appliances fully before arrival. Girls, take a good support bra for the bumpy game drives.
At the hotel
Valet parking, room service, library, outdoor swimming pool, barbecue, gardens, Charlotte Rhys toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
Each of the 11 tented lodges in Ian Hunter’s hotel is identical, with jaw-dropping views and attention paid to every luxurious detail, but we recommend nabbing one of the two furnished with huge canopied double beds. The enormous showers have double-heads, and are eco-friendly in style, using borehole water and gas geysers. None of the rooms has any electrical appliances – the hotel is strictly an electrics-free zone.
A camera and camcorder are necessary additions to the kitbag to capture the postcard-perfect panoramas and abundant wildlife. Lions, leopard, buffalo, ostrich and antelope – not forgetting the elephants that make Addo famous – all roam nearby.
Non-smoking tents can be arranged if required.
Not suitable for children under the age of 10. Extra beds in adult tents can be provided for 10 to 14-year-olds at half-price. Packed lunches are available on request.
For a more authentic African experience, take a seat on the veranda and dine overlooking the waterhole. Listen to the soothing sounds of the bush and watch elephants quenching their thirst while you sip champagne.
Shorts and sunhats are of course permitted, but the period grandeur of the dining room would seem to require something a little snazzier.
The candlelit dining room is an elegant snapshot of Victorian yesteryear. The varied three-course set menu boasts a variety of cuisines but all food is locally sourced and prepared on site. Attentive silver-service adds to the aristocratic ambiance.
Tents come complete with crystal decanters of sherry and staff deliver creamy Amarula liqueurs as nightcaps, but a wide range of drinks are also available in all parts of the hotel, from brandy in the library to fresh lemonade by the pool.
Dinner is served 7.30–9pm, with other meals provided throughout the day. Food and drink can be provided for guests at any time.
The nearest major airport is Port Elizabeth, which can be reached on stopover flights with many major airlines. Hire cars are available for the 70-km drive from the airport to Gorah.
The closest train station is in Port Elizabeth, roughly 80km from the camp.
Cars are protected from any elephant-based damage by an electric fence which keeps the game clear of the carpark. From Port Elizabeth (roughly an hour and 45 minutes), travel east on the N2, continuing until it becomes the N10. There are two exits to the Addo Elephant National Park, don't take the first (Addo Elephant National Park, Motherwell), which is 10.4 kilometres from the airport; the correct exit is Camp Matyholweni Gate about 30 kilometres from the airport. Turn left here and drive until you see the Addo National Park sign, then turn right and follow the road to Addo National Park Matyholweni Gate. Drive for about 16 kilometres (past Vukani loop, Mbotyi loop, Ngulube loop and Harveys loop), then exit through the N10 gate. The camp entrance will be to your left.
Worth getting out of bed for
Lions and leopards and elephants and buffalo and rhinos, oh my! You can spend your days in safari-mode, searching for the big five on game drives at Gorah Elephant Camp. Bring binoculars and a zoom-equipped camera: if you’re lucky, elephants may even lumber up to camp as you enjoy a little downtime. Adventurous types who would rather keep going can explore the camp’s walking trails, ride horses or go mountain biking. For an adrenaline rush of a non-safari nature, head south of Addo Elephant National Park and try sandboarding by Sundays River. If that’s a bit too dry for you, wakeboarding on the river is available too. Port Elizabeth, one of South Africa’s largest cities, is 70km southwest of Addo Elephant National Park. There you’ll find Jeffreys Bay, a blue-flag beach and (according to CNN and the Travel Channel) the number two surf spot in the world. Get more use out of your trusty binoculars and head to the coast for whale watching. You can often spot Southern Right Whales from shore, or take a tour from Port Elizabeth with Raggy Charters, which works with the Baywatch Marine Conservation Project, to get closer to the action. You might also see dolphins, penguins and Great White sharks. And there are a number of other South Africa National Parks within driving distance, if you’d like to branch out from Addo.
‘I don’t do tents,’ are Mr Smith’s first words on hearing about this Mrs Smith's South African reviewing stint idea. ‘But it’s glamping,’ I protest, adding in a small voice, ‘Er, you know, glamorous camping!’ I can see he is far from keen. 'Never were there more polar-opposite words,' he sighs, 'Let alone the creation of such an oxymoronic new verb.'
Silly Mr Smith. So it comes to pass that I arrive at Gorah Elephant Camp with Madam Smith. Not quite the romantic African safari weekend break à la Wills and Kate that I’d had in mind, but nevertheless, Madam and I are beside ourselves with excitement as we speed past Jurassic Park-style fencing and checkpoints along the final six miles of dirt roads.
Situated in the enormous Addo game reserve near Port Elizabeth, Gorah is a fabulous, mid-18th-century heritage manor house. We step back in time as we cross the threshold of the main building, a study in historic, colonial chic. Large, dark antique furniture, horned gaslight fittings and turn-of-the-century safari chairs are overlaid by calming colour palates of cream, taupe and burnt orange which meld together to evoke a bygone era of aristocratic hunting parties. Pictures of long-dead owners’ peer down at us, including one chap who was gored to death by a local elephant; I can only assume the pachydermed one took exception to his rather lavish moustache.
The landscape is mind-bogglingly spectacular with wide open plains as far as the eye can see. And Gorah's main house overlooks a well-used watering hole which has various species of animals breezing past as if choreographed specifically for us. 'Cue the warthog! Let’s go with the zebras! And now – hurry boys! – entering left frame can we have the elephants!' All they needed were top hats and canes. To be perfectly honest, Madam and I are unsure why we would ever need to drive anywhere when right here we can enjoy an excellent leisurely lunch on the terrace paired with sensational South African wines, all served by legions of smiling, warm nothing-is-too-much-trouble staff.
After a rather decadent lunch, we’re shown to our tent. ‘Now this…’ declares Madame as she sweeps aside a canvas flap to reveal a glossy well-thought-through space bigger than most city apartments. 'This, is my idea of camping!’ (A certain Mr Smith would be wholeheartedly eating his words by now if he were here. But he's not. And boy will he regret it.)
The elegant taupe of the canvas frames polished deep-chocolate floorboards. Inviting and comfortable furniture is littered with tassels and plumped cushions, crystal decanters of brandy, and jars of tempting home-made cookies. Waffle-fabric bathrobes, scented burners and full-sized Charlotte Rhys products are impeccably presented in the ensuite area and the beds are made up with crisp, white Egyptian-linens with a thread-count higher than the calories of my daily Starbucks.
A short nap later, we cosset ourselves away by the azure rock-framed swimming pool in a giant Zen-inspired garden of circular-raked sand and giant wood-burning bowls before presenting ourselves for afternoon tea. ‘And this is my kind of safari,’ Madam gushes, tucking into the carrot cake with rose-petal icing, as I take another sip of my Twinings English Breakfast tea.
Animals in the wild beckon, and dutifully we clamber aboard an open-top safari jeep with four other guests for a game drive. With a fabulous rush of fresh air, excitement and bush scents, off we go bouncing our way around the park, discovering animals at every turn… elephants, jackals, impala, elephants, rhino, lions, buffalo, elephants, owls, dung beetles… more elephants… with over 650 of them in the park, they are the undisputed stars of the show.
Darkness falls and the warm glow of over a 170 candles, gas lanterns and crackling, aromatic fires tempts us towards the main house for our three-course silver-service supper. On arrival, the waiting ranger ticks us off for walking unescorted in the dark in this animal-filled park. Madame’s chest swells as she declares, ‘Forgive us young man, but we are very independent women!’ I smile and silently dare any resident wildlife to take on the formidable Madam.
Feeling as though we’ve barely blinked an eye, suddenly it’s a deep sleep later and we’re being woken at an eye-watering 6am. Mr Ranger is cheerfully calling, ‘Don’t forget about your tea tray or the monkeys will eat it!’ Thrilled that we’ve survived the night without being mauled by lions, trampled by elephants or tickled to death by monkeys, we shuffle bleary-eyed onto our tent terrace to be greeted with the calming, early morning noises of the bush. With not one single unnatural sound, the raw, natural beauty and the enormity of the wide African landscapes is quite overwhelming.
Life at Gorah takes on a gentle rhythm of its own: eat, sleep, game drive, eat, nap, eat, game drive, eat, sleep, game drive... Miss a nap or a game drive and eating becomes the main activity, but the food is excellent and the wine list weighty and with camp-generated power only available for a handful of hours a day the experience is as authentic as it gets. Very few creature comforts are not provided at Gorah – electronically driven devices excepted – and if there was ever a single place that embodies the ultimate example of ‘glamping’ then, ladies and gents, Madam and I have found it in Gorah Elephant Camp.