Gorah Elephant Camp, Addo Elephant National Park

– African Safari Review by Jonathan & Sophie Ellaby

Set on its own exclusive concession in the heart of Addo Elephant National Park, we find a unique blend of nature and history at Gorah that makes for a delightful stay.

It’s easy to spot Gorah from afar, perched in rolling hills, each luxury safari tent with a commanding view of the bush and no fences to interfere with it. But it’s only when you get there that you appreciate how intense it can be and how different it is to anywhere else in Addo, or for that matter, South Africa. As seasoned bush hands, we were simply blown away.

First, a step back. The modern-day lodge is on the site of a farmhouse dating back to 1856, since lovingly restored, and the house oozes a sense of family history from the moment you step through its doors. Open verandas, lots of wood and old furniture and giant fireplaces are designed to conjure up images of hunting parties and colonial splendor.

The farming history is apparent in the large swathes of grassland previously used for cattle grazing, now the domain of larger herbivores such as zebra, kudu, hartebeest and eland. And elephant of course. Ironically, these open grasslands (which ought naturally to be thickets) make you feel more than ever like you’re in Africa, evoking the great savannah plains of East Africa.

Up close and personal - Gorah Elephant Camp

Up close and personal – Gorah Elephant Camp

We sit out on the colonial-style veranda for a ‘light lunch’ gazing out onto the plain, with herds of elephant just metres away and no fence in between – this comes close to many people’s vision of what a safari ought to be like. And we have to say, having spent many months in the bush, that this is pretty damn good. With a waterhole a stone’s throw away, you have a good chance of observing most of the plains game as well as elephant, at close range, while enjoying every gourmet meal Gorah’s superb staff lay on for you.

There’s little to fault the service either – from the meet and greet, waiting staff, guides and tent escorts – there’s everything you’d expect for a five-star lodge. The camp runs on solar power so there are a few compromises on things some take for granted – no air-con for example, and to get a battery charged you have to give it to your guide to take away overnight. But these are small things in what is otherwise a very luxurious set-up.

Relaxing by the tent at Gorah Elephant Camp

Relaxing by the tent at Gorah Elephant Camp

It’s the lack of electricity that gives the historic lodge its charm in the evenings – the whole place lit only with candles and heated by blazing wooden fires in each room, and after a post-game drive drink in the paneled lounge, we sit down to a superb 3-course dinner (by candle light of course: there’s no other way).

After dinner, we step onto our private tent veranda for one of our most memorable bush experiences ever. There’s nothing but wild bush everywhere in front of us, all lit up by an almost-full moon and the air is dead still, punctured only by nightjars and the shrieks of a barn owl. Then comes the first rumbling, then another, and a big bull elephant is standing right in front of us, tearing grass from the very edge of the veranda. We sit motionless, spellbound, close enough for him to touch us with his trunk if he tried. Next morning, recalling this encounter in the silvery swathe of moonlight seems like it was a dream.

Elelphants up close, Gorah Elephant CampOur evening game drive yielded more special elephant moments. Gorah is unique in Addo in being allowed to use entirely open-top vehicles, with not even a canopy to shield you from the grey beasts. Make no mistake – this results in far more intimate encounters (and also ensures you’ll get a soaking if it unexpectedly rains, as it did for us next morning). With 5,000-odd hectares of private concession to themselves, as well as access to the rest of Addo Main Game Area should the need arise, the game viewing is exclusive, as you’d expect. We miss the lion, but glimpse a black rhino across the hills (there are regular sightings of this extremely rare animal).

Sipping complimentary sparkling wine on comfy chairs in the luxury of your tent, while gazing out at vast herds of kudu (we counted 52), elephant and other game, you’ll most likely have a ‘pinch-me-is-this-real’ moment. We did. And if one of Addo’s 12 lions took down one of those kudu at that moment it would be, well, unreal. But it could just happen. At Gorah, you hardly need to go on game drives. The game comes to you.

Good for: Classic luxury tent safari in a spectacular setting (ask for tent 10 for the most spectacular experience of all)

Not so good for: Those who demand the highest level of creature comforts (the lodge runs off solar). Ticking off all the Big Five

Our Verdict: The combination of old family history and an exquisite camp almost guarantee an unforgettable experience

For enquiries, please contact us on +27 21 813 6961 or info@kleincollection.com. Alternatively, please complete the short enquiry form below.

River Bend Lodge, Addo Elephant National Park

– African Safari Review by Jonathan & Sophie Ellaby

We visit one of Addo’s three exclusive lodges for a dose of colonial luxury and come away impressed with what the large reserve has to offer. And the hospitality.

It’s a warm winter’s day when we arrive, greeted by the competent front-of-house team and we tuck into a scrumptious lunch while our room is being prepared. A good chunk of the reserve’s 120-odd elephant are parading not far from the lunch terrace, while a couple of fish eagles wheel overhead. It’s a promising start.

Addo Main Game Area can sometimes feel a bit claustrophobic, with a lot of roads traversing quite a small area. If you’re yearning for a bit of space, then River Bend Lodge has the answer. The only lodge in the huge 14,000 hectare Nyati section of the park, you and your fellow guests will have this whole tract of wilderness to yourselves.

River Bend 2After high tea with our guide, Mike, we pile into the land cruiser for the evening game drive. Mike has taken time to chat to us and find out exactly what our interests are, which is what guides are supposed to do but these days often don’t, being instead obsessed with finding what they THINK their clients want to see. So we’re impressed. But what, I want to know, makes River Bend unique, and why does he enjoy working here?

“Addo has incredible diversity and much of it is right here at River Bend,” he explains. No less than 5 of South Africa’s 7 biomes are represented in a small area – from Cape Fynbos to sub-tropical thicket, Afromontane forest, and savannah. “And we’re incredibly fortunate to be the only lodge on this whole reserve.”

We spend some time with the elephants, which are remarkably relaxed around the vehicle, allowing for some excellent interactions, before checking out some birds and sundowners looking out over the river. We rumble a few spring hares and no less than three Spotted Eagle Owls on the night drive back to the lodge, before tucking into a superb three course a la carte dinner.

River Bend 3A few things stand out. First is the ambiance, which is colonial style and relaxed – from the lounge areas packed with soft chairs, to the library and self-contained chalets comprising the guest suites, each with a private deck overlooking the bush and, (always a winner this), its own private outdoor shower.

Second is the level of hospitality and attention to detail, which we usually associate with lodges in a much higher price bracket. You always expect smiles and greetings from hospitality managers but here, the waiters greet you by name and the gardeners welcome you too with genuine warmth. All this without being over-attentive or fussed over. Here, River Bend succeeds where a lot of other places let slip.

The lodge location within the reserve is not ideal, being relatively close to a main road and within sight of electricity pylons – for bush purists such as us this is an initial shock but the other pros outweigh this. On the plus side, it’s easy to get to, and the lodge benefits from this with excellent facilities and every comfort in the beautiful chalet-suites – including free Wi-Fi in every room.

River Bend 1On our final morning drive we head up a rough track into the foothills of the Zuurberg mountains and leave the main road far behind – here you feel in the middle of the wild, bumping along up wooded ravines stalked by black rhino (though you’ll be lucky to see one), the shrill whistles of Sombre Greenbuls ringing in your ears. This is also the place to hunt for the elusive Narina Trogon. At once we’re in our element – just us and our guide in a truly remote corner of the park, where you know your moments of peace and solitude won’t be disturbed by anyone else, or any other vehicle. That’s rare in Africa’s parks, even if you’re staying at top-dollar lodges. At River Bend, it’s taken for granted.

We rumble the reserve’s three lion and a large healthy herd of buffalo – but along with the elephant this is as much of the Big Five as you’re likely to see here, or indeed anywhere else in Addo. But that’s not what River Bend is about. It’s about a diverse safari experience, away from the crowds, in a beautiful setting, and with quality of food and hospitality to match.

If that’s your idea of a great safari, River Bend Lodge won’t disappoint.

Good for: Romantic getaways (the honeymoon suite has its own plunge pool), superb food and hospitality

Not so good for: Lodge setting

Our Verdict: One of the best choices for a luxury safari in the Addo area, a place where everything comes together and you’re made to feel part of the family

We would love to help you plan your own African safari. Contact us today.

Email: info[at]kleincollection.com | South Africa Tel. +27 (0) 21 813 6961

Kuzuko Lodge – Addo Elephant National Park

– African Safari Review by Jonathan & Sophie Ellaby

We step apart from the Addo crowds and into the wilderness to discover a little-explored, yet hugely under-rated section of the Park, to see what Kuzuko has to offer.

Standing on the dining deck, or from your chalet and surveying the vast expanse of wilderness from this hilltop lookout, we feel like we’re in the middle of nowhere. Ridge after ridge of rocky Karoo scrubland merges into haze and then sky as far as the eye can see, and I can scarcely see a sign of human habitation in any direction. But look carefully and you’ll see the telltale movement far away on a rocky hillside – a troop of baboons perhaps, a kudu, or one of the reserves many elephant.

Kuzuko is a 5-star hotel transported into the middle of the bush, in its own private reserve, and part of Addo Elephant National Park. Getting here is not the easiest – more than 2 hours drive from Port Elizabeth, the last hour or so on gravel roads, but at least the drive is scenic and unlike some parts of Addo, this feels wild. Really wild.

Kuzuku Lodge, AddoOur chalet is hotel standard and feels like a hotel, not a safari lodge and this is part of its appeal to those who know what to expect from the Legacy Hotels. So expect OMG! And Dish magazine in your room, rather than Birding or Africa Geo.

Make no mistake though, you’ll still get a ‘real’ safari experience here, with a variety of optional activities available, from walks with Cheetah to star gazing. If you love birds, you won’t need to stray far beyond the beautifully kept indigenous gardens interspersing the chalets, and if you come in winter, as we did, the chances are you’ll have most of the place to yourself.

After ‘high tea’ at 2pm, we pile into an open-top land cruiser with head guide Freddie for the three-hour afternoon game drive. With the whole 15,000-hectare reserve for the exclusive use of Kuzuko guests, there’s no sharing sightings with other vehicles – it’s just you, the other guests and the wilderness.

Kukuko Lodge, AddoA track winds down a ravine from the hotel – baboons shelter in craggy cliffs, Cape Mountain Zebra cling to the slopes and extraordinary numbers of kudu mingle among the Jacket Plums, Shepherd Trees and iconic Spekbooms. The constant bird chatter, especially the whistling cries of the bokmakierie, reverberates around the gorge. Down in the plain we soon spot a large herd of elephant and go to pay our respects. As we drink sundowners overlooking the expanse, the sky turns mauve, and thunder starts to crackle as a storm begins to move in. It’s a magical moment.

Kuzuko Lodge, AddoWe enjoy the passing storm to the full on our chalet deck, as flashes of lightning illuminate the hills and the sounds of the nightjar carry on the warm wind.

Dinner is a four-course a la carte affair; I have tomato soup, beef Carpaccio, lamb stew and malva pudding. Don’t expect levels of cuisine or service to match five star lodges in Sabi Sand, but as value for money goes, Kuzuko delivers.

There’s no crack-of-dawn wake-up call here – the morning game drive kicks off at the sociable time of 8am, leaving plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast as the sun rises spectacularly in front of the hotel. Remember to leave space for the post-drive brunch. You won’t go hungry at Kuzuko.

We spot the reserve’s two male lion on our three-hour morning drive but we’re unlucky with the rhino. No matter – for us this place is not about the Big Five, but a slice of solitude and beauty – though you’ll still be able to tick a few of those boxes. There’s a good chance of seeing amongst other things – lion, elephant, rhino, kudu, zebra, black wildebeest, red hartebeest and eland.

Kuzuko may not be the easiest place to get to, but those that make the effort are blown away by the beauty, the friendly staff and the feeling that you’ve done something – well – different.

Good for: Wild solitude, value-for-money safaris in a spectacular setting. Families, team-building groups. There are good conference facilities.

Not so good for: Accessibility, Big Five.

Our Verdict: Solid good-value choice if you’re up for a safari in the Addo area.

We would love to help you plan your own African safari. Contact us today.

Email: info[at]kleincollection.com | South Africa Tel. +27 (0) 21 813 6961

Tintswalo Atlantic

Francois talks about his and his wife’s trip to Tintswalo Atlantic.

This magnificent lodge is situated in one of the most stunning locations in Southern Africa! Positioned at the base of Chapman’s Peak, Tintswalo Atlantic overlooks the quaint fishing village of Hout Bay, Cape Town.

Klein Collection: How far is Tintswalo Atlantic from Cape Town?

Francois: About 25 km from Cape Town city centre with a beautiful scenic drive along the Atlantic seaboard, located at the start of the world renowned Chapmans Peak pass (just on the other side of Hout Bay).

Klein Collection: What made you decide to stay at Tintswalo Atlantic?

Francois: I have heard so many good things about Tinswalo and wanted to see and experience it myself.

Klein Collection: What was your first impression of Tintswalo Atlantic on arrival?

Francois: How is it possible that that there could be a boutique hotel so close to the ocean within a nature reserve? Its setting is absolutely amazing – probably one of the best in the world.

Klein Collection: What was the service like?

Francois: Personalised service has been redefined. We were welcomed by all Tintswalo staff on arrival. The staff have perfected the art to make things happen without you being aware that it has been done.

Klein Collection:  Is it child friendly?

Francois: Tintswalo Atlantic allows children older than twelve years of age.

Klein Collection: What activities are offered at Tintswalo Atlantic?

Francois: First and foremost to relax, allow yourself to take in the ocean’s rhythm, and then absorb the beautiful views from your suites’ private deck. Enjoying the culinary experience was also a highlight (dinner is a must).  Spa treatments are offered, but you can also enjoy plenty of other surrounding excursions (kayaking, wine tours, whale watching, etc.).

Klein Collection: What was the food like?

Francois: Really out of this world. The afternoon tea, dinner and breakfast. In all we had about seven courses and a chef making dishes according to our wishes.

Klein Collection: What was the highlight of your stay at Tintswalo Atlantic?

Francois: Everything! Really.

Klein Collection: What should potential visitors take note of?

Francois: Be prepared to be blown away. Try to check in as early as possible – allowing you to spend as much time at Tintswalo Atlantic as possible.

Klein Collection: Who is Tintswalo Atlantic ideal for?

Francois: The discerning traveller for whom only the best will do. Privacy, nature and food are key factors.

Point out of 5
Service  5
Location  5
Food  5
Facilities  5
Décor  5
Attention to detail  5
Value for money  5

Should Tintswalo Atlantic sound like music to your ears, contact Klein Collection at info@kleincollection.com to book your stay.

Cellars-Hohenort Hotel

Francois talks about his family’s recent trip to CELLARS-HOHENORT.

The owner-managed Cellars-Hohenort, with its panoramic mountain and garden views, is a must for those looking to add a health dose of peace and tranquility to their lives. The Cellars-Hohenort rests on the breathtaking slopes of Table Mountain. Located in Constantia, Cape Town, it shares its home with some of South Africa’s most historically significant wine estates.

Klein Collection: How far is CELLARS HOHENORT from Cape Town?

Francois: About 25 km from Cape Town city centre, located in the Constantia Valley.

Klein Collection: What made you decide to stay at CELLARS HOHENORT?

Francois: I had a meeting in the area and impulsively decided that Carien should join me for an evening at this well respected establishment (after dropping the kids at their grandparents … of course).

Klein Collection: What was your first impression of CELLARS HOHENORT on arrival?

Francois: Proper old world charm and extremely friendly staff.

Klein Collection: What was the service like?

Francois: Warm, friendly and efficient. Liz McGrath standards.

Klein Collection: Is it child friendly?

Francois: Yes, but only partially. Children must be 8 years old or older. However, if you’re looking for a family holiday, we have other establishments that are probably better suited for this.

Klein Collection: What activities are offered at CELLARS HOHENORT?

Francois: Culinary experiences at the Green House or at the Conservatory restaurant, the Fresh Wellness Spa and the unique traditional Cape Malay high tea.

Klein Collection: What was the food like?

Francois: We did not have dinner at the Green House, but I have heard that it is really worth every cent. Our breakfast and dinner at the hotel’s restaurant was really very good – especially the omelette!

Klein Collection: What was the highlight of your stay at CELLARS HOHENORT?

Francois: Warm friendly service, beautiful lounge area and fireplace and large scenic grounds.

Klein Collection: What should potential visitors take note of?

Francois: Make sure you have the directions – it can be tricky to find the hotel if you do not know where you are going.

Klein Collection: Who is CELLARS HOHENORT ideal for?

Francois: Discerning guests appreciating old world architecture with modern luxury combined.

Point out of 5  
Service  5
Location  5
Food  5
Facilities  5
Décor  5
Bedrooms  3
Attention to detail  5
Value for money  4

Should CELLARS HOHENORT sound like music to your ears, contact Klein Collection at info@kleincollection.com to book your stay.

Grootbos Private Nature Reserve

Francois talks about their trip to GROOTBOS

Only 2 hours from Cape Town en route to Hermanus and the Garden Route, Grootbos is centred in the heart of the Cape’s abundant sea, floral and wild life landscapes. The reserve boasts some of the world’s most distinct and unique plant, bird and animal species.

Klein Collection: How far is GROOTBOS from Cape Town?

Francois: Grootbos is located about 180 km from Cape Town driving though Hermanus and Stanford respectively.

Klein Collection: What made you decide to stay at GROOTBOS?

Francois: We love Grootbos for what it stands as well as the experience. Grootbos is also a winner for our two boys (aged 5 and 3).

Klein Collection: What was your first impression of GROOTBOS on arrival?

Francois: Unobstructed views of fynbos and ocean (The Walker Bay) as far as the eye can see. You just know that you have arrived at a very special place.

Klein Collection: What was the service like?

Francois: Grootbos staff are very friendly and attentive to all needs. They are particularly good with children (e.g. entertaining the kids while the parents can have dinner alone)

Klein Collection: Is it child friendly?

Francois: Yes, the Garden Lodge accommodates families with children of all ages. The Forest Lodge is not open to children, being a good strategy for those adults not wanting noisy children around…

Klein Collection: What activities are offered at GROOTBOS?

Francois: What is great about Grootbos is the fact that all meals as well as most of the activities are included in the rate. Horse riding is a must for the kids. Nature walks, picnic at the beach or going to the limestone caves are all memorable activities.

Klein Collection: What was the food like?

Francois: The food at Grootbos is included in the rate and the selection at every meal is very good. Food quality is top end and they make a conscious effort to cater for the children’s tastes as well.

Klein Collection: What was the highlight of your stay at GROOTBOS?

Francois: The nature setting, views and simply feeling spoilt. And of course seeing my boys’ faces on the horses. Grootbos is a personal favourite of mine.

Klein Collection: What should potential visitors take note of?

Francois: You need to try and stay at Grootbos for at least 2 nights – if the bank balance allows it…

Klein Collection: Who is GROOTBOS ideal for (i.e. the type of client you would sell this product to)?

Francois: Discerning nature lovers with an appreciation for understated luxury.

Point out of 5
Service  5
Location  5
Food  5
Facilities  5
Décor  5
Attention to detail  5
Value for money  5

Should GROOTBOS sound like music to your ears, contact Klein Collection at info@kleincollection.com to book your stay.

Steenberg Hotel

Francois talks about his stay at Steenberg Hotel

The luxurious Steenberg Hotel is situated on the Cape’s oldest farm, a mere 20-minute drive from the bustling heart of Cape Town. The hotel nestles in the tranquil Constantia Valley, against the slopes of the Steenberg Mountain, offering sweeping views over the False Bay.

Klein Collection: How far is STEENBERG HOTEL from Cape Town?

Francois: About 25 km. Location in the beautiful Constantia Valley

Klein Collection: What made you decide to stay at STEENBERG HOTEL?

Francois: I was attending a corporate conference at Steenberg and decided to stay over the night prior to the event.

Klein Collection: What was your first impression of STEENBERG HOTEL on arrival?

Francois: Traditional Cape Dutch wine farm. Luxurious and excellent service for the discerning guest. Open spaces and top end facilities, art and antiques. Elegance and traditions of the 17th century blended with the most refined luxuries and conveniences of our modern age.

Klein Collection: What was the service like?

Francois: The staff were very friendly and helpful with the duty manager greeting me on arrival.

Klein Collection: Is it child friendly?

Francois: Yes, Steenberg caters for families and some suites have ample space to accommodate children traveling with parents.

Klein Collection: What activities are offered at STEENBERG HOTEL?

Francois: Steenberg has one of the top South African golf courses. It is also situated within the Constantia Valley winelands and within a 5 km radius of top South African wine estates. There are two restaurants (Catharina’s as well as Bistro Sixteen82) on the estate as well as a unique Cap Classique wine bar called Gorgeous. There is a luxury spa as well as a swimming pool area with cocktail bar. I was also impressed with Steenberg’s conference facilities.

Klein Collection: What was the food like?

The Steenberg Hotel's Conferencing FacilitiesFrancois: I had a lovely dinner at Catharina’s – best rack of lamb in a long time! Breakfast also exceeded my expectations and not only was there great variety and choice, but effective service, presentation and attention to detail is one of the consistent threads at Steenberg.

Klein Collection: What was the highlight of your stay at STEENBERG HOTEL?

Francois: Overall luxury and style – with 17th century monuments and furniture combined with modern luxury. My spacious room and sophisticated facilities was definitely a highlight.

Klein Collection: What should potential visitors take note of?

Condé Nast Traveler voted Steenberg as the Top Hotel in Africa and the Middle East in 2012 – so be prepared to be impressed!

Point out of 5
Service  5
Location  5
Food  5
Facilities  5
Décor  5
Attention to detail  5
Value for money  5

Should STEENBERG HOTEL sound like music to your ears, contact Klein Collection at info@kleincollection.com to book your stay. Alternative, complete the form below.