Elephant House

Elephant House: Our full report

Rooms
14 rooms in total
Traveller's rating
Good (80%) From 5 reviews
Children
Good choice for children of all ages.
Open
All year

Elephant House is a comfortable owner run lodge comprising the main Elephant House and it’s Stable Cottages. Its just 5km from the main entrance of Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape of South Africa and 45 minutes from the historic Indian Ocean harbour town of Port Elizabeth. It offers a very homely, country-style ambience and its location in the fertile Sundays River Valley is well-suited as a base for different activities, both inside and outside Addo National Park.

There are a total of 14 rooms split across two properties here. The Elephant House is a converted colonial farmhouse with thatched roofs, courtyards, verdant gardens, secluded corners and deep verandas complete with comfortable sofas, Persian rugs, artwork and interesting old photos and maps. From conception in 1998, every year the owner adds something new to the property to enhance the experience whilst retaining the essence of the place.

Just over the quiet access track/road, set in 4 acres of lush lawns, are the Stable Cottages, which were added in 2010.

As both of these accommodations are just off to the main road, the lodge does not feel as remote as some other safari lodges but once inside they both offer a comfortable haven. In some of the rooms you may hear faint road noise, though this was not loud enough to bother us during our various stays here.

Elephant House consists of eight standard rooms, two of which are family rooms. Each large, thatched room is different in terms of layout, character and furnishings but all come with air-conditioning and heating. The well appointed but unpretentious bedrooms have rough brick and plaster walls painted cream, and have an extra long king-size bed with bedside tables and lamps, a writing desk with fresh flowers, a comfy armchair and wooden venetian blinds as well as dark, heavy curtains. The spacious en-suite bathroom has polished concrete floors, an open shower, separate bath and basin with hairdryer and bathrobes provided. Five of these rooms open out onto a private veranda and grass yard. One of the family rooms is in the main courtyard and is classified as a standard room however it can adapted to make a family room as it has a separate living room with an antique coffee table and a convertible sofa bed. The other family room is detached and set slightly away from the other rooms, and has more modern décor as well as an indoor and outdoor shower.

The main areas at Elephant House include a spacious clubroom with DVDs, games and a laptop for general use. Oriental rugs, paintings and photos and the comfortable, striped, patterned and floral-print armchairs and sofas on the wide verandas, overlooking grassy courtyards, create a very informal, and relaxed space to while away the hours. The country-style dining room is very informal and with wall lights and candles only, create a mellow mood for your evening meal (though some may comment that it is a little dark). Breakfast and light lunches are served on the terrace or beside the pool.

There are two pools, one bigger and set in a large garden, one smaller and more privately located off the lawns. The gardens at the Elephant House are beautiful and attract a variety of bird species.

The Stable Cottages are located a stones throw from the main Elephant House – literally just over the gravel track from the entrance. Set around a vast lawn, the 6 stable cottages are modern Cape country-style in design, with light and bright interiors, reed ceilings and all have a private verandah. Two of these are family suites/cottages and have a separate inter-leading bedroom for the children. The configuration of these is slightly strange though as the adults have to walk through the children’s room in order to get to the bathroom but as children often sleep pretty heavily we do not consider this to be an issue. All the cottages are fully air-conditioned and also have heating, and have stocked mini bars (for your expense) and tea/coffee making facilities.

Breakfast here is served in the Wine Bar which has a modern African feel, with smart tables and chairs for dining, comfortable sofas and armchairs to relax in plus a bar. Floor to ceiling windows makes this feel a large and airy space and the wide veranda provides a warm and sunny place for eating and drinking. In peak season, afternoon tea, lunch and dinner are served here, however out of season you will often have all meals at the Elephant House.

The Stable Cottages are great for families, as there is lots of space for children to run around and play outside. There is also a playroom, including TV and DVD player with a selection of DVD’s at the Wine Bar, along with a comfortable lounge, and outside you’ll find a table tennis table and boules for the more active.

In front of the cottages is a large (12m) swimming pool with sun loungers.

One of the things we love about the Elephant House is the friendly staff. Over the years, we have visited many times and whilst the owners have remained the same, so have the manageress Charlene, head guide Aubrey and other staff – this speak volumes about what a great place this is not only to visit but also to work.

Elephant House (including the Stable Cottages) offers a broad variety of activities, although naturally wildlife safaris in Addo Elephant National Park are the big draw. Most travellers will drive themselves here, and spend much of their time exploring Addo in their own car; the national park's main gate is less than 5 minutes drive from here.

That said, if you don't want to drive yourself, then there is an in-house field guide who has been at the lodge for years who conducts two game drives per day in the national park with drinks and snacks provided. These depart at 08:30 and 14:00 respectively and in the past we have found them to be very good.

Other activities within a 45-minute-drive of Elephant House include bird-watching on a guided paddle tour, or perhaps a half-day safari in one of the many relatively small private game reserves in the area. Some of the closer options include:

  • The tiny Schotia Safaris Private Game Reserve claims to be the oldest private game reserve in the Eastern Cape, and may well be one of the most densely stocked. Games drives here start at 3pm and end at 21:30, and include a night drive and braai (barbecue) supper in their dining boma (outdoor enclosure).
  • Amakhala Game Reserve is east of Addo, covers 75km² and has 11 lodges of its own.
  • Pumba Private Game Reserve is north-east of Addo and covers about 65 km² which is shared by two lodges of its own.

  • Other possible activities include visits to the Sundays River Valley's citrus groves, encounters with the local community in the Nomatamsanqa Township and visits to Port Elizabeth. Sporty travellers might like to hike in the scenic Zuurberg Mountains, go on a quad bike tour through a farmer's orchards, have a round of golf at one of the nearby golf clubs or play tennis, polo or squash at Addo Polo Club, which is only 3km from the lodge. (NB: It's essential that you read the Quad bike warning in the 'Health & Safety' section below for our comments on insurance issues regarding this activity.)

    Our view

    The Expert Africa team have visited the Elephant House (and Stable Cottages) several times over the last ten years – the last time in 2016. We've always found Elephant House to be very comfortable and welcoming with the owner Clive ever present to check everything is running smoothly. It is also great value for money and perfectly located for exploring Addo. We generally view it as a base for your own activities, although good guided game drives are available too.

    Geographics

    Location: Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa

    Ideal length of stay: 2 to 4 nights here gives you ample opportunity to explore Addo Elephant National Park.

    Directions: Situated on the R335, just under 50 km from Port Elizabeth and 5km from the Addo Elephant National Park main gate.

    Accessible by: Self-drive

    Key personnel

    Owner: Clive and Anne Read

    Staff: Charlene – manageress Aubrey – guide Linda - chef

    Food & drink

    Usual board basis: B&B

    Food quality: Breakfast is a combination of cold buffet including cereals, juices, cheese, meats etc and hot dishes served to your table. Champagne is often on offer too! Various locations are used for dining including the verandah outside the dining room, by the pool or either inside or outside the Wine Bar at the Stable Cottages.

    Lunch of sandwiches and salads is a very relaxed and casual affair. The Elephant House can also put together a packed lunch for you if you ask in advance.

    Evening dinner is usually served in the main dining room at the Elephant House and is a set three course meal (there is always a vegetarian option available) using fresh local produce. Whenever we have eaten here the food has been really of a good standard and very tasty – on our last visit in 2016 we had butternut squash soup, followed by a Karoo lamb chop accompanied by mash potato and seasonal vegetables, finish off with a Malva pudding with cream.

    We would comment though that there is no separate menu for children, so the three-course meal may be a little large and sophisticated for younger palates.

    With this in mind, just a short walk or a 1-minute drive away you’ll find the owner run Lenmore Restaurant and Farmstall. This is a very relaxed and informal place with a range of meals from pizza made in the dedicated outside pizza oven, to steaks, schnitzels, seafood and salads. The adjacent shop also provides a good place to stock up on snacks to keep you going when self-driving in the park.

    Dining style: Individual Tables

    Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

    Further dining info: A room service is available 24 hours a day.

    Special interests

    Family holidays: With spacious family rooms, a large garden and lawn, three pools and a relaxed atmosphere, Elephant House is well prepared for families. Set just outside the malaria-free Addo Park, it provides a convenient base for family safari holidays in South Africa.

    See more ideas for Family holidays in South Africa

    Children

    Attitude towards children: Children of all ages are most welcome at Elephant House.

    Property’s age restrictions: There are no age restrictions here.

    Special activities & services: Baby-sitters are available on request – although they’re likely to be local women who work at Elephant House rather than qualified child minders.

    Equipment: There are cots and highchairs available to use. There is also a children’s playroom with TV and DVD player, rocking horse, games plus plenty of outside space for them to burn off excess energy.

    Notes: Children under the age of 4 stay free of charge at Addo’s Elephant House.

    Infrastructure

    Power supply: Mains Electricity

    Communications: There is a telephone in each of Elephant House's rooms as well as Wi-Fi throughout. There is full cell phone reception too.

    TV & radio: The lounge in the main Elephant House has a TV with full satellite channels.

    Water supply: Mains

    Health & safety

    Malarial protection recommended: No

    Medical care:

    Quad bike warning: quad-biking is sometimes available as an activity from Elephant House. As with any potentially dangerous activity, it’s vital that you take responsibility for ensuring that you have adequate travel insurance prior to getting involved. Be aware that some insurances cover quad-bike activities only for bikes with lower engine ratings: check such clauses particularly carefully before you get on a bike.

    Dangerous animals: Moderate Risk

    Security measures: There is an electronic safe in each room.

    Fire safety: Fire extinguishers are found throughout the property.

    Extras

    Disabled access: Not Possible

    Laundry facilities: A laundry service is available at an extra charge.

    Money: Each bedroom at Elephant House has got an electronic safe.

    Accepted payment on location: The lodge accepts cash in South Africa rand, Visa and MasterCard.

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