The Most Affordable Safari in Africa

White Elephant is a true 5-star tented safari camp. Tents are lusciously equipped with soft pillows, high-thread count linens, and canopied beds. The bathroom features a clawfoot tub and an outdoor shower and the tent flaps can be opened up, allowing guests to bathe with a spectacular view across the plain to the lake and mountain behind. There are only eight tents in the camp, allowing each tent to be positioned with a feeling of privacy and isolation.

The lodge is the kind of place we imagine Ernest Hemingway staying in as he wrote The Snows of Kiliminjaro. Sofas are deep and comfortable, books on Africa lie on the sidetables and shelves, and antlers and tusks adorn the walls. A pool is available and the well-manicured lawn that surrounds it makes a wonderful place to read and sunbathe, even on cool days.

White Elephant has no shortage of wildlife, but it’s not a “Big 5” reserve. At the time of our visit there were no lions (although that may change) and leopard sightings are rare. However, the elephant herd is large and easy to track, there are several resident rhinos. Giraffes, crocodiles, hippos, buffalo, and warthogs are plentiful. The lake is also a great site for fishing.

The game drives and lake excursions are excellent, but the bush walks really set White Elephant apart. The guides are incredibly experienced and are capable of taking guests within just a few meters of elephants and even rare black rhinos.

The all-inclusive price may seem expensive at first (about $500 a night in low season). However, 5-star safari camps are some of the most expensive accommodations in the world (many cost more than $1,500 a night). By that standard White Elephant is a bargain. Rates include:

• 5 Star accommodation Luxury Safari Tent Suites;

• Pre-activity continental breakfast, brunch (late breakfast) & dinner;

• Afternoon high tea, coffees, teas, juices, cakes, snacks and activity drinks;

• Two eco-activities per day which include game drive, guided walk, boat cruise, tiger fishing, guided elephanting, black rhino tracking or canoeing (depending on weather conditions).

The quality and amount of food included at White Elephant is phenomenal. Rates include four meals a day: early breakfast (before your morning game drive), brunch after your game drive, high tea in the afternoon, and a full dinner served in the lodge. White Elephant gives each group of guests a sense of space and privacy by seating them at separate tables scattered throughout the lodge.

For the full decadent 19th century explorer experience, request in advance that the lodge serve one dinner in your tent. The culinary delights at White Elephant are even more exciting when served in the beautiful and private setting of your safari tent. The fine china, serving bowls, and wine glasses of the multi-course dinner fill the room.

  • Address: Pongola Private Game Reserve, PO Box 792, Pongola 3170, South Africa
  • Rooms: 16
  • Reservations: +27 (0) 34 413 2489
  • Price: $$$$

Check out Seth and Whitney Robertson’s travel adventures at and like them on Facebook.


More in:

Comments (Showing 1 of 1)

  • iahphx at 3:56am May 07, 2013

    The headline should read “The Most Affordable Luxury Safari in Africa.” The most affordable safari is Kruger National Park, which has the “Big Five” and much more at a fraction of the price. Of course, the accommodations and food are only comfortable, not luxurious. IMO, this is more than compensated by the ability to drive yourself around (if you wish) and see far more animals.

Leave Reply

You must be a logged in member to post a comment. Click here to Register.