The only private concession camp in Addo Elephant National Park, Gorah Elephant Camp is home to the most astounding number of elephants. They take center stage and are peacefully joined at the watering hole by an array of other animals, including zebra, warthog, buffalo, eland, ostriches, black backed jackal and in a perfect world, lions and hyenas.
A large bull elephant is striding towards us, his trunk aloft. My husband starts backing up the car, not knowing whether the elephant might be in musth. We swiftly refer back to our letter we received at the gate “please do not be alarmed if an elephant should approach your vehicle, simply give them space to move on by. They are very ‘relaxed’ but inquisitive and will simply wander on in their own time. However, do not at any time get out of your vehicle.”
We find an embankment to ‘give him space’ and he struts towards the right-hand side of our car, probably sniggering at us because we fell for his clever ‘game’ and disappears into the thicket to feed.
At Gorah House, we are met by senior guide Gabriel Roux, who will be looking after us for the duration of our stay. We arrive later than expected and Gabriel bundles us and his other patient guests into the game drive vehicle for a quick sundowner drive. With over 500 elephants in Addo Elephant National Park, you will surely encounter loads of elephants during your stay at Gorah Elephant Camp, which is exactly what we are seeing on our drive, including the cutest baby elephants.
After witnessing the most incredible sunset, we make our way back to the lodge where dinner is greatly anticipated. For pre-dinner drinks, we meet in the lounge area, beautifully illuminated by candelabra, bearing testament to the bygone colonial era which makes Gorah such a special place.
Tonight, we dine on tomato, mozzarella & basil tart, beef fillet, pulled pork or gnocchi for main course and for dessert, malva pudding or cheese plate. The food is delicious to say the least and we leave feeling satiated and ready for bed.
We are staying in Tent number 4 and because the camp is purposefully not fenced to allow animals access to the nearby watering hole, a ranger is accompanying us to our tent. Our tent is luxuriously fitted with all the conveniences you could want in the middle of a national park. After a warm shower – the geysers are gas-lit and the camp is solar-powered, minimizing it’s carbon footprint, you can be assured of a great night’s sleep.
Indulging in a mouth-watering breakfast is a sure way to start the day on a good note. Add to that a scenic game drive with animals around every bend – zebra, buffalo, ostrich, red hartebeest and even lions having a snooze.
Back at Gorah, brunch is best spent with a view of the watering hole, where three separate elephant herds take their turn to quench their thirst. The most amusing sighting is a tiny black backed jackal being ‘reprimanded’ by a large bull elephant for his presence at the watering hole.
The day has warmed up substantially and some elephants are ‘bathing’ in the drinking water, having a mud-splash. A tiny baby elephant is standing on his own, not certain how to use his trunk yet. He eventually gives up and suckles from his mother.
Dinner is a gastronomical delight; my husband and I order the perfectly prepared Karoo lamb rack while our daughter opts for the grilled chicken breast. Dessert is the mouth-watering Amarula Panna Cotta.
I wake early from the call of a jackal and not too far in the distance, I hear the unmistakable sound of a lion roaring. It is getting closer. I groggily climb out of bed and cautiously open the curtains. It is 06:45 in the morning and the sound reverberates through camp. Then I see him, the most beautiful sub-adult lion strolling past our tent on the way to the watering hole, closely followed by a female.
We wait until it’s safe to leave our tent as we wouldn’t want to become a predator’s breakfast. The lioness is already at the watering hole, joined by four of her sub-adult cubs. Gabriel asks if we would like to get into the game drive vehicle to see what the lions are up to.
Suddenly, a cacophony of roars and shrills penetrate the early morning air and there they are – five lions and twelve hyenas! The hyenas aren’t quite sure how to react in the lions’ presence; they eventually saunter off into the early morning sunrise. Gabriel suggests that we head back to enjoy breakfast on the verandah.
As I sit in my comfortable chair on the porch, I am taken back to what it must have felt like to be on safari in the 1900’s, with style and luxury at my fingertips. I look out over the plains and as the sun rises over another beautiful day in South Africa, I cannot imagine wanting to be anywhere else but at Gorah Elephant Camp.
** Views expressed are the author’s own.**
| Photographs courtesy of Hunter Hotels and by Heléne Ramackers
Enjoy the best of Hunter Hotels by combining a stay at Gorah Elephant Camp in Addo Elephant National Park with Tsala Treetop Lodge in Plettenberg Bay. Visit www.hunterhotels.com for more information.