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5 luxury lodges where you’ll see elephants in South Africa

The grand stature of the African elephant is as captivating as its innate intimacy for its own kind. You’d expect the huge frame of these gentle giants to stand out like a storm cloud in a clear blue sky, but the elephant isn’t as easily spotted in the wild as you may believe. Here are 5 luxury lodges in South Africa where you are guaranteed to spot elephants, often from your own private balcony: Addo Elephant Back Safaris and Lodge With wild animals grazing at the doorstep and a backdrop of dense mountain thicket, Addo Elephant Back Safaris and Lodge is reminiscent of Hemingway’s old days of Africa. The lodge borders the malaria-free Addo Elephant National Park, a popular attraction for international travellers and a convenient retreat for locals. It’s also the world’s only reserve where you’ll see the Big 7 – elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, buffalo, southern right whale, and great white shark – as the reserve incorporates the Bird and St Croix Island groups. Set in a yellowwood forest or on a hillside, the environmentally friendly tented suites blend discreetly with the bushveld. If the idea of a sleeping in a tent has you hovering your mouse over the “close” button, these are no ordinary tents. Housed on elevated wooden decks, each suite has a king-sized bed, en-suite bathroom, and satellite television. You’ll also be pleased to find that there are only 10 secluded suites, so you’ll enjoy your outdoor spa bath in privacy. Addo Elephant Back Safaris & Lodge As the name suggests, Addo Elephant Back Safaris offers the chance to ride or walk with the elephants through the diverse landscape. It’s an experience that not even an elephant would forget. Addo elephant back safari Camp Jabulani The beauty of Camp Jabulani lies not only in its cosy stone and thatch structure, elegant African décor, and exceptional cuisine. The real beauty shines from the heart of its conceptualisation. The 5-star lodge was created to support and sustain 12 elephants who found themselves in the custody of wildlife visionary, Lente Roode, founder and owner of the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre in the Greater Kruger Park area. Camp Jabulani - room interior Built on the edge of a water hole, the camp’s open plan design merges seamlessly with the surrounding bush. Each of the luxury suites has a private deck, plunge pool, and lounge area with a fireplace. The Zindoga Villa is an appealing option for families and smaller groups who are looking for an exclusive lodge experience. Camp Jabulani - private splash pool Daily activities include elephant back safaris, game drives in open safari vehicles, visits to the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, and relaxing spa treatments. Additional activities can be arranged. Tembe Elephant Park & Lodge Tembe Elephant Park is home to the largest herd of elephants in South Africa and the last remaining indigenous tuskers of KwaZulu-Natal. The remote park lies on the border between KwaZulu-Natal and Mozambique, deep in a diverse land of sand forests, woodlands, pans, and wetlands.  The region is abundant in wildlife and the phenomenal quality of birdlife may even rival your sightings of the Big 5. Only 10 vehicles are allowed into the park on a daily basis and these must be 4x4s to negotiate the network of sand tracks. At Tembe Elephant Park & Lodge, you’ll enjoy the magnificence of untouched nature in the comfort of a private lodge. The understated tented suits offer simple luxuries without any unnecessary opulence, with a splash pool and open braai area to complete the picture. Being able to peer into the wild bush through your glass walled shower is a small thrill that reminds us why it’s so important to conserve our natural heritage. Cultural experiences include Zulu/Thonga dancing and if you aren’t superstitious, you may even enjoy a visit to the local sangoma (witchdoctor). Gorah Elephant Camp Travel back in time as ancient-looking elephants meander the savannah plains before you, while you quietly sip tea on the veranda of an old colonial manor house. While it may sound like an age old dream, it is a daily occurrence at Gorah Elephant Camp, a fully restored national monument and lodge in the heart of Addo Elephant National Park. Gorah Elephant Camp - tented suite exterior The luxury tented suites are sheltered beneath thatched canopies and reflect the safari lifestyle of the early 1900s – with the finer comforts of today, of course, like en-suite bathrooms and solar-powered lighting. You’ll also enjoy a private deck where the elephants may just join you for a sundowner after your Big 5 game drive. Gorah Elephant Camp - deck and elephants Manyatta Rock Camp Manyatta Rock Camp is one of two camps on Kwa Madwala Private Game Reserve, near the southern border of the Kruger National Park. Guests at Kwa Madwala are privileged in that they can enjoy moving interactive elephant experiences with the two tamed elephants, Tswale and Modjadji, that live within the reserve. Manyatta Rock Camp - elephant interaction The accommodation at Manyatta Rock Camp is cleverly designed to resemble giant boulders scattered across the rocky outcrop, with private wooden decks overlooking the dense bush. Subtly lit footpaths connect each room to the main swimming pool, boma, dining deck, bar, spa, and viewing lounge deck. Manyatta Rock Camp - rooms The reserve is home to 4 of the Big 5, namely elephant, lion, rhino, and leopard, as well as a wide variety of other wildlife that can be spotted on game drives, walking safaris, horseback safaris, and elephant rides. Game drives in the Kruger National Park are highly recommended for the ultimate safari experience. Would you like to see the great African elephant in the wild? Marcel Van de Ghinste is a Director at TravelGround. 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