River Bend Lodge has a private concession in South Africa's Addo Elephant Park,…
River Bend Lodge: Our full report
On a private concession between the Nyati and Addo main section of South Africa’s Addo Elephant National Park stands the luxurious River Bend Lodge. It aims at providing pleasurable country life right in the middle of the Eastern Cape’s bush, with a notable focus on families and children. It is a very comfortable base from where to discover Addo Elephant Park, which is famous for its excellent elephant viewing.
At River Bend there are eight luxurious suites including two for families, linked by a path through the lodge’s garden. All of them are air-conditioned and equipped with ceiling fans.
Each of River Bend Lodge’s seven stand alone double suites has a large bed with white percale linen and cushions, a couple of cosy armchairs, a little desk, a mini bar, a tea and coffee station and a concealed flat screen TV. Double doors lead out onto a private patio open to the bushveld. The en-suite bathroom features a shower, separate bath, and a hairdryer. The beige carpet and warm, earthy colours which dominate the rooms help it to feel very homely and comfortable.
There are two ‘inter-leading’ family units at River Bend that can accommodate families. Except of their inter-leading doors and built-in baths, these are similar in style and furnishing to the double suites.
The honeymoon suite at River Bend has some additional amenities like a private deck with its own plunge pool offering nice views of the bushveld, an additional outside shower and an espresso maker.
About one kilometre from the main lodge the separate, private Long Hope Villa can be booked on an ‘exclusive-use basis by groups of up to six travellers. It comes fully staffed with a private chef and guide.
The common areas at the main River Bend Lodge include a central lounge, a very formal dining room, a bar, a long terrace overlooking a waterhole on the other side of the fence, which is great for breakfast, a nice and large pool, a Spa and a day room.
River Bend’s stone-floored dining area feels very formal, with white table cloths, white chairs, huge chandeliers, some wooden tables and torch-light lanterns on the wall. It also includes a small selection of books.
The lounge-like, tiled day room at River Bend Lodge offers comfortable wicker furniture to relax on and a TV.
River Bend Lodge’s swimming pool has a very shallow long step covering the whole with two steps down to a deeper area, which bottoms out again at the end.
Activities from River Bend face travellers with the choice between 4WD safaris on the lodge’s private concession and self-drives in the public section of the national park, whose wildlife area is easily accessible for self-driving guests. For more information about wildlife and vegetation in this area, see our Addo Park page.
4WD wildlife safaris in River Bend Lodge’s conservancy are tailored to suit guests’ interests and schedules. There are two safari vehicles: one with three rows consisting of two seats each, with a box in the middle of each row; and one for bigger groups, which has three rows with a total of nine seats. A special highlight on game drives from River Bend is that a resident photographer offers free photography advice to help guests choose the right lens, settings, composition and positioning. At the lodge you can also do free photography courses, from basic introductions to editing and manipulation courses.
As the eagle flies, River Bend Lodge is less than 1.5km from the main, tarred R342 road which cuts through Addo from east to west. This makes the lodges very easily accessible indeed, but the proximity doesn’t lend it any feeling of ‘wilderness’ – and the occasional overhead power line in this area of Addo doesn’t help either.
That said, the lodge’s concession stretches over parts of five biomes and is home to about 300 bird species. Travellers interested in birdwatching might appreciate that all guides at the lodge are trained birders who can take you on a private birding trip.
Other activities possible include walking with giraffes, wine tasting and treatments in River Bend’s Spa, which offers e.g. full body and pregnancy massages. However, please note these treatments will be charged additionally.
Our viewRiver Bend Lodge is very easily accessible by car, and very comfortable indeed – in fact, consciously luxurious. It’s like a small luxury hotel in some ways, although that does come at the cost of any real feeling of ‘wilderness’. Where we think it really excels is in providing a very safe and exceedingly child-friendly environment for families with younger children – who will love the freedom they have around the lodge and the attitude of the lodge team, as well as the proximity of the game.
Directions: It’s an easy 60 minutes’ self-drive on tarred roads from Port Elizabeth Airport to River Bend Lodge. Take the N2 towards Grahamstown, then change on the R335 towards Addo. 11.5km after Addo Town you will see the first signposts directing you to River Bend. Alternatively, road transfers or chartered helicopter flights from Port Elizabeth can be arranged.
Accessible by: Self-drive or Fly-and-Transfer
Food & drink
Food quality: The Classic French cuisine at River Bend Lodge is complimented by some very good South African wines.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Further dining info: Room service is available.
Family holidays: With a very positive attitude towards children and high flexibility, River Bend Lodge offers excellent South Africa family safari holidays. Kids can participate e.g. in baking and a ‘mini rangers’ programme, or go on a self-drive safari in Addo Park with their parents.See more ideas for Family holidays in South Africa
Birdwatching: Embracing parts of five biomes, River Bend’s concession is home to an incredible 300 African bird species – the nearby Addo Park hosts even 400 species. All guides at the lodge are trained birders who can take you on a private birding trip.See more ideas for Birdwatching in South Africa
Photography holidays: A resident photographer at River Bend Lodge in South Africa offers free courses, from basic introductions to editing and manipulation. He also assists guests to choose the right lens, settings, composition and positioning on game drives – actually making them photographic safaris!See more ideas for Photography holidays in South Africa
Wildlife safaris: At River Bend you can choose between wildlife safaris in the lodge’s private concession, tailored to guests’ interests and schedules, and self-drives in South Africa’s Addo Park. This has a high density of elephants and many kudu, warthog, Burchell’s zebra and eland.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in South Africa
Private villas & houses: Long Hope is a fully staffed private villa in South Africa’s Cape sleeping up to six travellers. About one kilometre from the main River Bend Lodge, it’s ideally located for visits to Addo Park, which is famous for elephant viewing.See more ideas for Private villas & houses in South Africa
Attitude towards children: Children of all ages are welcome.
Property’s age restrictions: None
Special activities & services: River Bend Lodge is very used to baby dietary requests and happy to arrange flexible meal times for children. The lodge even has child seats for their game drive vehicles, although it’s more usual for self-drivers to use the car hire seat and attach that to the game drive vehicle. Baby sitters are available but you shouldn’t expect them to be qualified to European standards. The lodge offers a selection of toys and DVDs for children. They can bake with the chef, participate in the mini-rangers programme or even get a spa treatment that is appropriate for children, as we are told.
Equipment: Two sets of rooms have inter-leading doors, so that they can accommodate families. There are also cots and high chairs available at the lodge.
Generally recommended for children: River Bend Lodge has a strong emphasis on families with children. On our most recent visit with two young children in May 2013, the staff showed a high level of flexibility and a generally very positive attitude towards children. Therefore we feel it is a very good place to stay for families.
Notes: The swimming pool can easily be gated off with proper gates that children really can’t open. Children under three years sharing with their parents stay free, while 3-16-year-olds pay children’s rates.
Communications: In all rooms at River Bend Lodge there are telephones which go through internationally or just to the reception. Guests can use the computer in the reception or access free WiFi in their rooms.
TV & radio: Satellite TV is provided by each suite’s concealed flat screen. Moreover, there is a TV in River Bend’s day room.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: No
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Laundry facilities: A laundry service is available at an additional cost.
Money: Each of the lodge’s suites possesses an electronic safe.