Our Garden Route Roadtrip #3: Safari-Chic at River Bend Lodge
What a week it’s been on b.loved! Yesterday saw our rather epic 4-part b.party special, what a day!! If you missed out, don’t forget to pop back and take a look! Today is rather special in it’s own way too, as we venture onto the next stage of our Garden Route roadtrip which will be spread over two posts, this week and next, as there’s just faaar to much to share! The 4-hour drive from Knysna to Addo Elephant National Park took in the grand scenery of Tsitsikamma National Park and Stormsrivier, where we stopped to watch the more adventurous jump from the world’s tallest bridge bungy, and through the industrial town of Port Elizabeth before turning inland to the more rugged landscape of the National Park.
Addo is the third largest National Park in South Africa, first sectioned in 1931 when just 16 elephants remained in this part of the country. Since then, the area has been part of a massive conservation program, seeing elephant numbers increase to over 550, plus lions, buffalo, black rhino, spotted hyena, leopard, a variety of antelope and zebra species, as well as the unique Addo flightless dung beetle. Our love of safari led us to this relatively unexplored park, although there are many private game reserves nearer to Cape Town, Addo offered a larger, more natural experience.
Approximately an hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth, we arrived at River Bend Lodge where we would spend two nights in pure luxury. Entering the gates (and nervously giggling at the ‘beware of the lions’ signs!) we ambled along the dirt road driveway avoiding potholes and the occasional zebra, who appeared to say hello. As we pulled up to the lodge we were greeted warmly by Sam and Steve, who would be looking after us throughout our stay. Our late afternoon arrival meant a few minutes to drop off our bags before being whisked off for afternoon tea (what a treat!) and our first game drive. I’ll come back to the game drives in next week’s post, as today I want to tell you all about our wonderful stay at River Bend Lodge. Located on 14,000 hectares of private reserve, River Bend Lodge was originally farm land (like most of the surrounding properties) before becoming part of the Nyathi Concession of the National Park less than 10 years ago. In this time it has flourished back into it’s natural habitat, with River Bend supporting local and national conservation programs including the preservation of the endangered rhino, and is now home to the Big 5 and over 300 bird species.
The beauty of River Bend Lodge is it’s setting, just eight individual suites set in lush gardens all overlooking the bush, with the main house accommodating the dining room, drawing room, bar and library with a long veranda overlooking a popular watering hole just a few metres away and separated by a (surprisingly low!) fence. Inside the colonial influence is evident, from the dark timbers and rattan furniture, to the anatomical and botanical illustrations on the walls of African wildlife. The dining room, overlooking the herb garden and out into the bush, whilst formal, encourages guests to recount the days game drives and sightings over the most beautifully prepared meals. Not only were our menu’s personalised each day with three delicious courses on offer, but also paired with suggested wines from South Africa. Needless to say, we ate well!
We stayed in the honeymoon suite, on the edge of the garden and completely private, except for the occasional herd of zebra or elephant wandering past the fence! Although the September weather meant it was a little too chilly to enjoy the plunge pool and terrace, Mr B enjoyed the outdoor shower more than once!! We were also terribly spoilt, with champagne and treats left in our room one evening, petals and candlelight on another. A perfect honeymoon retreat!
Join me next week to meet some of the local residents, from friendly zebra and giraffe to the introvert rhino! Follow the rest of our South African road trip story here