RiverBend Lodge

Addo, Garden Route & Eastern Cape, South Africa Book from

Reviewed by Maia Tarrant
Charming homestead and villa in malaria-free Addo Elephant Park - fab for families and just an hour from Port Elizabeth
Set in lush colourful gardens with countless butterflies, this Victorian homestead has just 8 suites. With its bright floral décor it offers a light, gentle and refreshingly different way to experience African wildlife. Within viewing distance of the nearby waterhole, yet entirely fenced in, RiverBend makes for a safe and peaceful stay in the bush. The nearby Long Hope Villa offers a more private experience; set in a secluded area of the park, guests are provided with a personal chef and their own game ranger.

After the morning game drive spent passing herds of elephants, we enjoyed a hearty breakfast on the wraparound veranda, with its endless views across the plains. After that, a trek on elephant-back or plain lazing by the pool were equally tempting choices. Delicious homemade snacks appeared out of nowhere throughout the day to save us from sure starvation, before the fabulous 5-course gourmet feast that was our dinner.

Staff are unfailingly lovely and enthusiastic, the vibe is cossetting, and the guides are superb at tracking both large and small animals; required in this type of bush as it conceals wildlife. This is a great place for safari enthusiasts who want a relaxed, gourmet-led experience - and it's utterly fantastic for families with children of all ages.

Highs

  • Parents can take offspring on game drives, or leave them with babysitters to have cooking lessons, track small animals, or play in the sandpit. The pool is fenced, and there's a kids' menu
  • Spacious, tranquil suites with views of the waterhole
  • Long Hope Villa sleeps 4-7 and comes with private staff; a great option for larger groups who want more flexibility with meals and game drives
  • Addo was successfully founded to conserve indigenous elephants; now there are also buffalo, hyena, zebra, lion, kudu, jackal, warthog, eland and hartebeest
  • Good value for money considering the standard of accommodation and food, and the all inclusive basis

Lows

  • Some will find the décor a bit old-fashioned and chintzy, and the dining area a bit soulless
  • If children don't feature in your dream holiday scenario this may not be for you, although families are taken on separate game drives wherever possible
  • Incredibly popular, so you need to book early
  • The game viewing in the private concession part of Addo (where the lodge sits) was fairly limited; take game drives in the National Park as well

Best time to go

RiverBend Lodge is great to visit all year-round. Winter (May to early-August) is the driest time, so it's the best for game viewing. School holidays (December to mid-January) are particularly busy so early bookings are essential. Most guests stay for 2 nights.

Our top tips

Apart from bringing your camera, mosquito repellent and sun protection apparel, you'll need warm, comfortable clothes (it gets rather chilly at night) for the game drives and smart casual wear for cocktails and dinner.

Great for...

Family
Foodie
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Safari Lodge
  • 8 rooms and 1 villa
  • All meals included
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Playroom
Room:

Rooms

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.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cd player
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

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.

Features include:

  • All meals included
  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cooking classes
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Private chef at Long Hope Villa
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Game drives take place in Nyati (Riverbend’s private concession), and walking safaris are on offer in the 5,000-hectare Intsomi Reserve; the lodge boasts really inspiring guides, expert at locating wildlife of all sizes in the bush

  • Experience elephants up close; understand more about these beautiful giants by walking with, or riding rescued elephants

  • It's often easier to get nearer wildlife when riding. Take a horse riding safari on trails through Addo with an experienced guide

  • Go bird watching - Addo has over 300 species to check off your list, including the black eagle and blue crane. All guides are trained birders and special birding trips can be arranged on request

  • If you’re keen to learn more about astronomy the knowledgeable rangers can take you on night drives to best appreciate the big skies

  • Family-friendly activities include animal tracking, a sandpit and a playroom with toys and a tour of the RiverBend Citrus Farm (which produces oranges, navels, ruby grapefruit and lemons; the chef will prepare a picnic for you)

  • A resident photographer is on hand to give photography guidance and editing advice so you can get the most out of your safari shots (an additional charge applies)

  • The lodge offers a South African wine and food pairing session (tasting only) with their executive chef (an additional charge applies)

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Astronomy
  • Birdwatching
  • Cooking classes
  • Farm tour
  • Hiking
  • Horse-riding
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Safaris
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Wildlife

Kids


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.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

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.

Babysitting:

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 listening:

Baby monitors are available and work from the restaurant to the bedrooms

Baby equipment:

  • 4 cots
  • Pushchair
  • Baby bedding
  • Highchair
  • Bottle-warming

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

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

Kids Activities on site:

  • Guided walks
  • Baking with the chef
  • Wildlife DVDs
  • Fenced swimming pool with shallow end
  • Snake and raptor demonstrations
  • Kids' mini ranger courses
  • Bug hunts with a guide
  • Playroom
  • Playground
  • Toys and books for all

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Children are welcome on game drives and where possible families will be allocated a private vehicle
  • Guests at Long Hope Villa have a private safari guide and vehicle

Families Should Know:

There's mobile phone signal everywhere on the property. You can buy limited baby/toddler provisions nearby

Distances:

  • Airport: 1 hour
  • Hospital: 45 minutes
  • Doctor: 15 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
6/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
9/
Overall

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Rates for RiverBend Lodge