Large bowls filled to the brim with bright yellow lemons adorn the side tables. Sheaths of bronze flowers hang alongside the green, spiky aloe leaves. Black and white portraits adorn the walls. This is Elephant House, a cosy “lodge” close to Addo Elephant National Park, where I spent the recent long weekend.
The citrus and aloes are synonymous with Addo and featured throughout the property. At this time of year, the aloes were in full bloom and graced the entrance to our thatched cottage at the far end of the property. The Hartley Room looks over the larger of the two swimming pools. The room itself has comfy beds and crisp white linen. In the large private courtyard, an outdoor shower provided an alternative to the modern indoor bathroom. However, the wintery weather was not conducive to showers under the stars. The room was closest to the main road, and the thatch provided little sound insulation against passing traffic. However, as we were out for most of the day, this wasn’t too much of a bother. (I assume the other rooms would not have the same issue, as they are set a bit further aback.)
There are multiple lounges across Elephant House, with enough reading material to keep guests occupied. I soaked up the morning sun on the plush couches on the central veranda, rested at another lounge at tea time, and warmed up alongside the crackling fire in the main lounge after dinner. It’s at meal times when you realise how attentive the staff are. Breakfasts are hearty and each course is served by one of the waiters. Dinners, on request, are three course affairs that start with freshly baked bread.
It’s possible to simply relax at Elephant House itself, but most visitors comes to see real elephants. While Elephant House can arrange safaris into Addo Elephant National Park (they have their own safari vehicle), we opted to self-drive. Elephant House is less than ten minutes’ drive to the Main Gate of the park, which is also the gateway to the main game viewing area. We’d do morning and afternoon self-drives in the park, returning for a midday break. But there’s plenty to see and explore in the park and the Interpretation Centre at Main Camp provides a rewarding insight into Addo.
Elephant House provides a great alternative to staying in the park itself, offering personalised service and other little luxuries that can’t be offered by a large scale camp like Addo’s Main Camp. The downside is that you’ll be visiting the park as a day visitor, and will need to register for a park permit each day, which can take up valuable game viewing time during peak season.
I’d probably return to Elephant House, perhaps even to just simply unwind. As the citrus and aloe flowers epitomise the Addo region, it’s the friendly staff that gave Elephant House its charm.