Elephant Riding, Camp Jabulani

Aquila Game Reserve nr Cape Town
April 25, 2008
Luxury Train, Namibia
April 25, 2008

Elephant Riding, Camp Jabulani

Sis on an ele

Update June 2016: in line with current protocols re close up animal encounters, Camp Jabulani is no longer offering elephant-back riding, even though their rescued herd were habituated and used to human interaction.

Camp Jabulani left me feeling enriched in so many ways and I am now completely in love with elephants. Camp Jabulani is one of the good guys in elephant back riding – according to my safari tart friend Shaz, who did a magazine exposé on the elephant riding safari industry. And I became convinced of this on my own accord. Camp Jabulani is also one of the best safari lodges in Kruger National Park region, in terms of top accommodation, sublime food, décor elegance, sophistication, charming staff and the whole shebang.

I was lucky enough to be hosted by permission of the owner Lente Roode, whom I met and under whose spell it was easy to succumb. Lente Roode with her favourite cheetahNot only is she beautiful on the outside, but she’s soppy on the inside and loves animals to distraction. I empathized completely.

Read on to find out how she rescued a baby elephant and how that led to her owing a whole herd of tame elephant.

Rescuing a baby ele

Camp Jabulani is named after one special elephant that Lente Roode rescued after he was found stuck in mud. This baby elephant was nurtured back to life, and while attempts were made to reintroduce him to the wild, he preferred human company and refused to go. Jabulani needed some elephant friends, and when Lente heard that eleven trained elephants in Zimbabwe had an uncertain future, she didn’t think twice and rescued them. So Lente suddenly owned a whole herd of trained elephants.

It’s not everyone that has the space in their garden for a herd of ele’s, but luckily Kapama Private Game Reserve, adjacent to Kruger National Park, is a family affair. Her backyard is 13000 hectares of African bush, teaming with big game.

Like Jabulani, these new elephants were too habituated to return into the wild, so another plan had to be hatched. Elephant-back safaris seemed like the perfect option. So Camp Jabulani became a safari lodge with a difference.

riding ele's at Camp Jabulani

I am the kind of animal lover who has to touch every creature and I couldn’t wait to meet the elephants. I climbed the scaffold and got onto the back of Jabulani, he probably couldn’t even feel me and didn’t stop tearing down branches to munch on as we strolled.

Paul Coetsee is the elephant boss man and a former hard core, military Hardcore Paul and his beloved ele'swarrior and crack shot. This man, who is hard as nails with muscles tight as a drum, totally adores his elephants (and likes pretty girls too, even though he must be close on 70, though you’d never say so).

Elephants are not Lente’s only animal passion. She rescues cheetah too who live in the non-profit Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, which she started in the late 1980s. Her passion for animals is evident from the wildlife paintings, bronzes and artifacts found throughout Camp Jabulani. Elephant figures are even cut out of leaves decorating the marble-top basins in the lavish suites, which are huge and very luxurious.

lavish bedrooms


mushroom tartCuisine at Camp Jabulani is one of the memories I took away with me because the food is so brilliant that each dish easily meets international gourmet standards. The chef personally introduces the menu at the start of each meal and stays to chat about the day and his food. He aims to creat perfectly sized portions of the freshest ingredients presented in an exquisite arrangement that will leave you more than satisfied. I cannot fault his aims or execution and his was the best food I have had on safari in over 150 lodges.

Fruit plate


Safari Satisfaction Index (SSI)
Market: Exclusive Luxury Mid range no frills
Cost: High Mid Low
Basis: Fully inclusive Full or ½ board Self-catering
Child friendly Activities extra
Ratings: Poor = Excellent = ■ ■ ■ ■ ■
Wildlife / Nature Experience: ■ ■ ■
Ranger / Guiding: ■ ■ ■
Star grading: ■ ■ ■
Food: ■ ■ ■
Elephant riding ■ ■ ■
Game walk ■ ■ ■
Overall rating: ■ ■ ■


  1. Jo says:

    Hi Carrie,

    I am excited that your Camp Jabulani experience made such an impression on you. Ironically, we do the public relations for Camp Jabulani in the U.S. and would love to talk to you about safaris since you have done so many. To see who else we represent feel free to go to http://www.montcom-ny.com



  2. Sue Soroczynski says:

    Hi Carrie,
    After a stay at Camp Jabulani over Easter, I have to agree with you! Its awesome..and the food – the best I’ve ever tasted. Rudolf can be “King of my Kitchen” anyday!
    Saving for my next trip…….

  3. I think you are doing a great job.This blog will certainly help the tourists to plan their trip in an orderly manner.

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