Why we love Gorah Elephant Camp in South Africa’s Addo National Park
The beautiful and biodiverse Addo Elephant National Park is home to more than 600 of these magnificent giants. Our Destination Expert Cara Maitland describes her stay at Gorah Elephant Camp
At 1,200sq km, Addo Elephant National Park is the third largest park in South Africa, stretching from the Karoo area in the north, over the Zuurberg Mountains and down to the coast. The non-malarial reserve protects the remnants of the vast elephant herds that once roamed the Eastern Cape. When it was proclaimed a national park in 1931, there were only 11 elephants remaining, but today there are more than 600. These magnificent giants are generally Addo’s biggest attraction as they can be found in enormous herds and are relaxed around vehicles, so you can get very close to them.
Just an hour’s drive away from Port Elizabeth, and located just beyond the eastern end of the Garden Route, Addo is a great destination for self-drivers exploring this famous route. Our favourite place to stay here is Gorah Elephant Camp, which sits on the only private concession within the national park. As the park itself can become quite busy with day-trippers, Gorah is the perfect choice as it is away from the crowds and offers an exclusive and very comfortable safari experience.
The main lodge is a converted Cape-Dutch farmhouse and National Monument built in 1856. On arrival, it becomes clear that the theme is very much in keeping with Gorah’s past. The walls are covered with old photos that tell the history of the lodge and the park, and there is no electricity, which gives a wonderfully romantic feel, as the camp is littered with candles and paraffin lanterns. I felt very much as though I was experiencing the Africa of the old – a bygone era. The lavish three-course dinners, with sorbet palate cleansers, are served to you in the candlelit dining room, where the tables are set up with white-linen tablecloths, polished silver and crystal glasses.
This theme continues into the huge, elegant tents, which are either side of the central lodge. They are simple but comfortable, and they all have a wooden deck that looks out onto either the savannah or the very active waterhole in front of the camp. We always try to book suites seven to 11 for our clients, as these have unparallelled views of the waterhole. During my two-night stay, this popular water source was visited by many elephants, a mother and baby rhino, a large breeding herd of buffalos and lions who then attempted to take down one of the buffalos. It was truly remarkable how much wildlife action we saw just from the camp.
You spend your days at Gorah sipping tea on the verandah of the colonial manor, having a dip in the lovely swimming pool or relaxing in the sun between game drives. My guide, Riaan, told me that game-viewing is so good here that they rarely have to leave the concession. Guests supposedly have a 90% chance of seeing lions during their stay.
It’s also possible to go on a big game bush walk in the concession with one of the qualified guides. I chose to do this on my second morning. Having heard the lions around the camp during the night, I have to admit I was slightly nervous when Riaan suggested that we track them on foot. He gave us our safety briefing and explained that we would be walking for around two hours. Three hours later, we returned to the camp having had a wonderful time. We may not have spotted any lions (phew!), but we saw plenty of interesting, smaller creatues along the way – the most exciting being the flightless dung beetle, which is endemic to only a few areas of South Africa, including Addo.
Gorah Elephant Camp in Addo Elephant Park is particularly suitable for honeymooners and couples who are exploring South Africa’s Garden Route. In our opinion, it is a fantastic, malaria-free safari destination with incredible service, delicious food and some of the best guiding and wildlife-viewing in the Eastern Cape.