“Charming homestead and villa in malaria-free Addo Elephant Park - fab for families and just an hour from Port Elizabeth”
All suites are cosy and spacious, with plenty of storage for unpacking. The classic décor ranges from elegant creams and browns with furry blankets to feminine, Laura Ashley-style prints. Carpeted throughout, all suites have kingsize beds, armchairs, coffee tables and writing desks. Each also features air-conditioning, a ceiling fan, an electronic safe, a phone, a minibar and a satellite TV.
Of the 7 Luxury Suites, 4 have interconnecting doors, making them ideal for groups and families (all rooms can fit a child's rollaway bed and a baby cot). All offer secluded verandas, views across the plains and, in our case, a highly entertaining display of mating ostriches across the fence. For special occasions, the Honeymoon Suite has its own plunge pool.
Nostalgic black and white bathrooms have Victorian bathtubs and separate showers, fluffy towels, comfy bathrobes and hairdryers. Luxurious Charlotte Rhys toiletries are complemented by homemade orange and cedar soaps, adding a personal and colourful touch.
For more a more personal and exclusive experience, the Long Hope Villa - a restored 1900s Cape farmhouse - is set a short distance from the main lodge. It has an open-plan lounge and dining room with original wooden floors and doors, plus a library and a veranda. With 3 ensuite bedrooms (each with walk-in wardrobes) and space for a rollaway bed, the villa can sleep a maximum of 7 adults. You get the added luxury of a pillow menu, a private pool and an indigenously-planted garden. In the evening, take your sundowner cocktail to the sundeck for views of the Zuurberg Mountains and the sweeping plains. And the icing on the cake; rates include a housekeeper, a private chef (all meals included), and a personal ranger with a game vehicle.
Food is a vital part of the RiverBend experience, so be prepared for some serious culinary pampering. A hearty breakfast is served on the wraparound veranda of the historic homestead house between 9.30am and 11am. Yoghurt with fresh berries is offered alongside a large selection of pastries, jams, cheeses, fruit platters and fresh juices. With a long game drive behind us, we opted for a full-on feast of oats with cinnamon and honey followed by oven-baked kippers on rye bread with poached eggs covered in a chive sauce.
Like most guests we skipped the à la carte lunch, from 12-2pm, and took a food break until late afternoon when everybody gathered in the library for traditional afternoon tea before the evening game drive (complete with a G&T sundowner stop).
Upon our return to the lodge, hot towels and hot chocolate awaited and a quick steaming shower later we were headed into the dining room for our tasting-menu-style 5-course dinner. It included voetkoek with sweet peppers, succulent beef sirloin in red wine jus, and a delicious ginger pudding.
Room service is available throughout the day, albeit with limited choices. If you're venturing further afield, ask for a picnic lunch.
If you're staying in Long Hope Villa you get a personal chef included in the rates. With a fully equipped kitchen, barbecue area and bar at your desposal, the possibilities are endless.
i-escape's Best for Kids Awards 2013
Winner: Wildlife Spotting category
RiverBend Lodge is a fantastic safari option for families, with babysitters, safaris arranged with children in mind, snake experts and bespoke bug hunts.
As well as arranging activities for children, the lodge also puts together a personalised pack for children on arrival, containing cookies and age-appropriate goodies like children's books about Africa and drawing materials.
It's good for children and babies of all ages.
Luxury Suites have space for an extra bed and a baby cot, and 4 of them are interconnecting (request when booking). All suites have a bathtub.
Long Hope Villa is a great option for larger families and those who prefer a bit more freedom. It sleeps a maximum of 7 with 3 ensuite double/twin rooms and 1 rollaway bed (there is also space for a baby cot). It includes a personal chef (great for kids' meals), a private game vehicle and guide, a pool, a library, a viewing area and a kitchen. Perfect for those who like to set their own schedule and enjoy personalised service.
English-speaking babysitting is available on request. It's charged during dinner time (see rates) but is free at other times so parents can go on game drives
Baby monitors are available and work from the restaurant to the bedrooms
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
Children's meals are available (all-time favourites are on the menu) plus early tea. Long Hope Villa has a fully equipped kitchen and includes a private chef. There's a blender for guest use in the main lodge and you can get food all day
There's mobile phone signal everywhere on the property. You can buy limited baby/toddler provisions nearby