Elephant House: Our full report
Elephant House is a comfortable, owner-run lodge just 5km from the main entrance of Addo Elephant National ...... Park in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, a 45-minute drive from Port Elizabeth. Comprising the main Elephant House and its Stable Cottages, it offers a homely, country-style ambience and is well-suited as a base for activities both in the park and in the fertile Sundays River Valley.
Elephant House itself is a converted colonial farmhouse with thatched roofs, courtyards, verdant gardens, secluded corners and deep verandas. The covered outside areas, as well as the house, are furnished with comfortable sofas, Persian rugs, artwork and interesting old photos and maps, and every year since opening in 1998 the owners have added something new. The most substantial addition are The Stable Cottages, which are set in four acres of lush lawns just across the quiet gravel access track and are lighter and more contemporary in design. The two properties are in some respects semi independent of each, although out of season guests at the Stable Cottages sometimes eat at the Elephant House and the reception and all activities are organised from here too.
As both buildings are just off the main road, the lodge doesn’t feel as remote as some other safari lodges, but once inside they 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, most recently in March 2016.
There are a total of 14 rooms split across the two properties – eight rooms in the Elephant House, and six Stable Cottages.
The main Elephant House incorporates eight ‘standard’ rooms, two of them designed for families. Although these large, thatched rooms differ in terms of layout, character and furnishings, all are well appointed but unpretentious, with exposed rough brick and cream-painted plaster walls. You can expect, too, 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. Every room has air conditioning and heating, and five of them open out onto a private veranda and small grassy courtyard.
The spacious en-suite bathroom has polished concrete floors, an open shower, separate bath and basin with hairdryer and bathrobes provided. .
Of the two family rooms here, one is in the main courtyard and has a separate living room with an antique coffee table and a convertible sofa bed. The other is detached and set slightly away from the other rooms, with a more modern décor as well as indoor and outdoor showers.
Inside, the main area at Elephant House is a wonderfully colonial clubroom with comfortable seating areas and great coffee table books, as well as a large TV with DVDs, games and a laptop for guests’ use. Outside, oriental rugs, paintings and photos, and comfy armchairs and sofas on the wide verandas overlooking grassy courtyards create a very informal and relaxed space. The country-style dining room is very informal, too, its combination of wall lights and candles,creating 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.
Elephant House boasts two pools, one bigger than the other and set in a large garden, the other more privately located off the lawns. The gardens here are beautiful and attract a variety of bird species.
Set around a vast lawn, the six Stable Cottages are modern Cape country-style in design, with light and bright interiors, reed ceilings and private verandas. All have full air conditioning and heating, and feature both stocked minibars (at your expense) and tea/coffee-making facilities. Two of the cottages work well for families, with a separate inter-leading bedroom for children. The configuration of these means that adults have to walk through the children’s room in order to get to the bathroom, but unless your children are light sleepers, this is unlikely to be a problem.
Breakfast at the Stable Cottages is usually served in the Wine Bar which has a modern African feel, with smart dining tables and chairs, comfortable sofas and armchairs, and of course a bar. Floor-to-ceiling windows make this feel a large and airy space and the wide veranda provides a warm and sunny spot to relax. In peak season, afternoon tea, lunch and dinner are served here, but out of season guests at the Stable Cottages will often have all their 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 DVDs at the Wine Bar, along with a comfortable lounge, and outside you’ll find a table tennis table and set of boules. There is also a large (12m) swimming pool with sunloungers in front of the cottages.
We have visited many times over the years, and one of the things we love about the Elephant House is the friendly staff. , Not only have the owners – Clive and Anne Read – remained the same, but so have the manageress, Charlene, head guide, Aubrey, and other staff. This speak volumes about what a great place this is to work, as well as to visit.
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 drive themselves here, and spend much of their time exploring Addo in their own car; the national park's main gate is barely five minutes’ drive away.
If you don't want to drive yourself, there are two game drives a day into the national park, led by an in-house field guide who has been at the lodge for years. Drives, with drinks and snacks included, depart at 8.30am and 2.00pm respectively, and in the past we have found them very good.
Other activities within a 45-minute drive of Elephant House include birdwatching on a guided paddle tour, 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 quadbike 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 Quadbike warning in the 'Health & Safety' section below for our comments on insurance issues regarding this activity.)
Finally, there’s the option of a half-day safari in one of the many relatively small private game reserves in the area:
- 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 run from 3.00pm to 9.30pm, and include a night drive and braai (barbecue) supper in their boma (outdoor enclosure).
- East of Addo, Amakhala Game Reserve covers 75km2 and has 11 lodges of its own.
- Pumba Private Game Reserve is north-east of Addo and covers about 65 km², an area that is shared by two lodges of its own.
Members of the Expert Africa team have visited the Elephant House (and Stable Cottages) several times over the last ten years and have always found it to be comfortable and welcoming, with the owner Clive ever present to check that 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.
South Africa expert
- 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.
- Situated on the R335, just under 50km from Port Elizabeth and 5km from the Addo Elephant National Park main gate.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Bed & Breakfast
- Food quality
- Whenever we have eaten here the food has been of a good standard and very tasty. We would comment though that there is no separate menu for children, and the three-course dinner may be a little large and sophisticated for younger palates.
Breakfast is a combination of a cold buffet of cereals, juices, cheese, meats etc, and hot dishes served to your table. Champagne is often on offer too!
Lunch of sandwiches and salads is a very relaxed and casual meal. A packed lunch can also be prepared for you if you ask in advance.
Evening dinner is a set three-course meal (there is always a vegetarian option available) using fresh local produce. On our last visit in March 2016 we had butternut squash soup, followed by a Karoo lamb chop accompanied by mashed potato and seasonal vegetables, and finished off with a Malva pudding with cream.
Just a short walk away, or a one-minute drive, you’ll find the owner-run Lenmore Restaurant and Farmstall, a very relaxed and informal place that would suit families, especially those with younger children. It serves a range of meals, from pizza made in the dedicated outside pizza oven, to steaks, schnitzels, seafood and salads, while the adjacent shop is a good place to stock up on snacks to keep you going when self-driving in the park.
- 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 ideas for Family holidays
- 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
- Babysitters are available on request – although they're likely to be local women who work at Elephant House rather than qualified childminders.
- There are cots and highchairs available to use. There is also a children’s playroom with TV and DVD player, rocking horse and games, plus plenty of outside space for them to burn off excess energy.
- Generally recommended for children
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Elephant House
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Elephant House have kindly recorded their wildlife sightings and shared them with us. The results are below. Click an animal to see more, and here to see more on our methodology.
- There is a telephone in each room as well as WiFi throughout. There is full cellphone reception too.
- TV & radio
- The lounge/clubroom in the main Elephant House has a TV with full satellite channels.
- Water supply
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- There is a doctor in Addo Town, about a 10-minute drive from Elephant House. The closest serious hospital can be found in Port Elizabeth.
Quadbike warning: Quadbiking 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 quadbike activities only for bikes with lower engine ratings’ check such clauses particularly carefully before you get on a bike.
- Dangerous animals
- Moderate Risk
- Fire safety
- Fire extinguishers are found throughout the property.
Guided walking safari
- Disabled access
- Not Possible
- Laundry facilities
- A laundry service is available at an extra charge.
- Each room has an electronic safe.
- Accepted payment on location
- The lodge accepts cash in South Africa rand, as well as Visa and Mastercard.
Other lodges in Addo Elephant National Park
Alternative places to stay in this same area.