At Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape, in the curve of the Secret River that flows only after hard rains, sits River Bend Lodge in all the upright colonial fashion and comfort of a blazered old Englishman enjoying a Sunday afternoon on his porch.
The five-star lodge has a honeymoon suite and seven other rooms in a circular layout around a spacious garden. Large trees create a peaceful space filled with the songs of a great variety of birds and the charming main building houses a dayroom with board games and a TV, a library for reading and wine-tasting evenings, a lounge, a classic dining room and a sprawling stoep, from which you can stare out over a plain that ends at the Zuurberg Mountains on the horizon.
Weekends here are easily filled with private morning game drives, walks with giraffes, photography workshops, high tea, evening game drives with nightcaps, wine tastings and exceptionally good meals and the conversations they induce.
A stay at River Bend Lodge is made even more memorable by the magical meals conjured up by the chef, who describes the creations as a modern interpretation of familiar flavours. My favourites were the parma ham, crispy egg, pea mousse with truffle dressing starter, the main dish of African spiced saddle of lamb bredie with roasted red pepper and cumin sauce and for dessert an almond clafoutis, vanilla streusel, confit of yellow peach and vanilla ice cream.
The guides on the game drives are loaded with interesting information. The lodge is exclusive and comes with five-star benefits such as turn-down and room service, private dinners on request and nannies for kids (with prior notice).
Summers on the stoep comfortably become winters in front of the lounge fireplace and, overall, the lodge offers a great escape and the food alone is worth the price of the stay.
The lodge has a fenced swimming pool. Kids of all ages are welcome and there is a dedicated play area. The lodge isn’t wheelchair or pet friendly.
River Bend Lodge
From R2 800 a person a night sharing, including all meals, game drives and a walk with giraffes (drinks excluded). Special rates for kids.
Tel 042-233-8000, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.riverbendlodge.co.za.
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