Reluctantly, we said goodbye to La Petite Dauphine and Franschoek and headed off on the last leg of our South African adventure. The next stop – a three day safari in a national park an hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth.
There are so many safari experiences to choose from in South Africa. The parks are divided into two regions: malaria-free and malaria-risky. From the list of non-malarial parks I chose Gorah Camp. Gorah is a 5000 hectare private concession inside Addo Elephant Park. There are other game parks or concessions surrounding Addo but Gorah is the only one inside the reserve. When Addo National Park was created in 1931 poachers hunting for ivory had reduced the elephant population to 15. Today there are over 500 elephants and I think we saw at least half of them on our second game drive when multiple herds converged on a watering hole.
The Hemmingway Tents at Gorah Camp
I’d seen pictures of the Gorah Camp on the net and it looked great but… I’d also read that we would be living in tents, electric power was sporadic and only available through generators which were turned off at night, and that the camp was very isolated with wild animals roaming the grounds. And so it was with some trepidation that we set out from Port Elizabeth airport and headed toward the camp.
I’d been warned that the big game – the stuff you dream of seeing – is best viewed in those parks that fall inside the malarial regions. Places like Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Botswana. I’ve dreamed of seeing Victoria Falls my whole life but I weighed that dream against the risk of exposure to malaria. Here’s the thing…it wasn’t long ago that I lost a friend to Malaria. When I tell people about this, their general reaction is amazement and disbelief. They’re all convinced that Malaria is 99.99% preventable if proper measures are taken and even if by some stoke of ill luck, you contract the disease, there are medicines and treatments that will make it all go away. Well, that’s just not true. The memory of Cathie’s death sits heavy. I needed to respect her by honouring what I’d learned when she died.
Gorah Camp was a glorious surprise. The main lodge was an 18th century farmhouse. It was where we took our morning coffees and afternoon cocktails. It was so isolated and remote. I tried to imagine what it must have been like for those early farmers with lions, hyenas, and warthogs on their doorstep. It took half an hour for our 4×4 to drive into the lodge on a long rutted dirt track road. It would have taken hours for those early farmers to ride out to find help or companionship.
Sunset on the porch of the Gorah Camp Lodge
In the evenings the power was turned off. When we came to lodge for our evening meal the entire place was illuminated by candles and gas lanterns. After cocktails and canapés while standing on the porch watching a 200 strong herd of Cape Buffalo come to the watering hole, we were seated in an elegant crystal-on-white-tablecloth dining room and served a quite astounding meal all prepared in a rustic kitchen that used only generator-powered appliances.
It was dark by the time dinner was finished. There is a rule at Gorah; you may not walk out at night alone. One of the game wardens escorts you back to your tent each night. Now, I assumed this was something created for the tourists. It adds a little thrill to the setting. However, one of the couples there were serial visitors who came to Gorah every year. They told the story of stepping out of their tent one morning to find a male lion lying on the grass. Right there.
Hemmingway Tent Interior
The camp has 11 Hemmingway Tents for camp guests. These are no ordinary tents. Erected on raised platforms with a layer of thatch on the roof to help keep out the rains, the tents are serviced by solar panels, which provide power for the 12 V lamps and the minimal electrics. Inside, each tent is furnished like a five star hotel room and has it’s own privy and shower. This was most definitely not going to be a hardship camping trip though… we did have have few visitors scurrying about. Mice. Voles.
The waterhole on the lawn in front of the lodge meant that at any time of day you could see something interesting from the veranda. In our three nights at Gorah Camp we saw elephant, zebra, ostrich, hartebeest, oryx, warthog and Cape buffalo – all while sitting on the porch. There was a drama one evening. We all heard a loud wailing. The herd of Cape Buffalo that had visited the waterhole earlier had retreated leaving a very young baby buffalo behind. He was frightened and had climbed inside a wedge in the trunk of a massive tree. There was much discussion between the trained wardens about the best course of action. Finally it was decided to leave the baby where he was. They contacted the National Park Wardens who arrived the next day to rescue him. Talk about dinner theatre!
The custom jeeps
There were two game-drives each day. One in the morning before breakfast and the second in the late afternoon, before dinner. With all the talk of big animals being in places like Kruger, Botswana and ‘Zim’, I hadn’t expected to see much wildlife. The concession is enormous and wild animals have a knack for blending into their surroundings. Was I surprised! I took almost 600 photos during our three days at Gorah. If you’d like to see a few of them, just click on any of the links below. They’re organised by by animal.
My Animal Gallery
For a gallery of elephant photos from Gorah, click here. Elephants of Gorah
For a gallery of zebra photos from Gorah, click here. Zebras of Gorah
For a gallery of lion photos from Gorah, click here. Lions of Gorah