Monday, April 11, 2011

Safari - Elephant Plains

We stayed at Elephant Plains safari lodge for our 4 days on safari. Elephant Plains is located in a private game reserve called Sabi Sands which is right next to Kruger Park and shares a border with it. We booked a rondavel. The rondavels were the original rooms on the property. In recent years they have added luxury rooms and a honeymoon suite. We were in rondavel #5 which has the best view of any of the rooms on the property except for the spa next door. We overlooked the watering hole and were able to see impala and buffalo from our room. While at the spa and getting the massage, my masseuse told me to look up to see a hippo wandering across the plains. In the winter season when there's not grass and trees apparently you're able to see animals everywhere. The watering hole was harder to see as we were there in the middle of the summer with lots of grass and shrubs.

Our rondavel had a huge bed covered in a mosquito net. Never fear, we weren't really bit at all during the time we were there, even though it was a malaria area. And yes because it is a malaria area you need to get malaria pills. There was also a large bathroom with a separate enclosed area for the toilet then a large tub and a glass shower.

For only about $8 we were able to do a huge load of laundry. It came back nice and folded although everything was inside out. We couldn't figure out why they did that. Our room was cleaned during our morning game drive and then there was turndown service during our evening game drive.
We were woken up at 5 am every morning by the rangers. The morning game drive was 5;30-8:30 am then breakfast was 8:30 - 9:30 am. I used the morning to nap until noon (hey I'm on vacation, I need my sleep) then usually got up and went to the pool to read. Lunch was from 2-3 and then the evening game drive was from 4:30-7:30 with dinner shortly after at 8:30. Dinner was served outdoors at the boma in good weather and everyone started out in the bar area for drinks before dinner.

Elephant Plains had 2 pools, one an infinity pool and both overlooking the bush. There is also a fitness center if you're one of those people who feels a need to workout on vacation.
During the morning game drive you stop for tea and coffee in the bush. During the afternoon game drive you stop for sundowners and snacks in the bush. Your ranger will ask you in advance what you'd like to drink for a sundowner.
The only downside to lodge was the food. I think part of it was I didn't really like being locked into eating at certain times with no opportunity for snacks in between. Another part was we ate so well in Cape Town and the Winelands that it's really hard to match that. The breakfasts and lunches were pretty good. But the meat at dinner was not. It was just too overdone night after night. Just keep in mind that you're not going to eat like a king in the bush.

Getting to Elephant Plains was quite an adventure.  We were glad we had gotten a transfer service from the airport as I'm sure we would have gotten lost with the directions.  We flew into Hoedspruit airport which is about a 1 hour 45 minute drive from the lodge.  Hoedspruit only has two arriving flights per day and is fairly expensive to fly into.  Nelspruit Airport is closer to a 3 hour drive from the lodge and is slightly cheaper to fly into than Hoedspruit.  Both involve driving on very bumpy gravel roads.  You can also fly directly to the lodge on a charter flight.  Elephant Plains has it's own airstrip.  This of course is very expensive.  It's also subject to the weather.  One group we talked to was supposed to leave the lodge by plane but it was too muddy from the rain for the plane.  So their private flight was moved to Nelspruit airport but they still had to pay the high fee.  A final alternative is to drive from Johannesburg.  It's a 7 hour drive but if it means you can avoid all the time spent getting to the airport, checking in, flying, then transfer time to the lodge, it's about the same amount of time.


Liz said...

absolutely stunning- the grounds, the room, the bathroom!

weezermonkey said...

So very Africa...with modern amenities!