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“A 5 star experience of the African bush” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Tongole Wilderness Lodge

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Tongole Wilderness Lodge
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Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, Nkhotakota, Malawi   |  
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kit1978
Contributor
13 reviews 13 reviews
6 hotel reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
11 helpful votes 11 helpful votes
“A 5 star experience of the African bush”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 15, 2014

This lodge is located in the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. The road leading up to the lodge can be difficult terrain to drive on during the wet season but can be fun if you like the trill of 4x4 driving.

We were welcomed by Donna, Steve and their team around mid afternoon with a cold refreshing drink and a cold towel. The entrance to the lodge is amazing - a wooden structure supported by large trees that overlook the dense woodland and Bua River. The next jaw dropping experience was the room - a very well designed lodge with a huge bed that can be covered by an elegant mosquito net, deep bath and open plan shower. It really did feel like you were in the African bush especially if you sleep with the curtains undrawn.

The first day we immediately went for a canoe ride up the river. Emmanuel and his assistant Dan have all the patience to guide you up the river where you get off and have your sun down drinks listening to the stories of the animals that live in the forest together with the story of how the lodge can to exist. After a quick thrill of the rapids with our guide we headed back downstream to the lodge. The showers have hot water which is a real joy when you've been out in the hot sun. Water is powered by solar panels but there is sufficient water for 2 people to have a nice shower. We had arrived with a couple that had just got married so Donna had placed a bottle of champagne for them in their room - a nice touch! We then came and sat around a log fire having a few drinks before dinner. Dinner - well that was amazing. The Chef has got real talent in making tasty food and the waiters explain what food they've served for each course which adds a real exclusive feel.

The second day we woke up early for a jungle trek up to a nearby mountain. The 2 hour trek up was a little tiring but definitely doable. The scenes from the top are well worth the effort as you can see the lush green fields for miles. Emmanuel is a great motivator to get you up when your energy levels are flagging! After a well deserved rest we went for a fishing trip in the afternoon after lunch. Lunch again was superb! It was my first time fishing but Emmanuel and Dan again look after you and teach you the basics. After some sun down cake and drinks we headed back for a quick shower, sit around the fire and dinner.

The last day we went on an off-road drive through some amazing terrain. Freddie the driver has real skill in getting his car through the thickest bush! If you like trill rides then this is for you! I was unfortunate not to see any elephants on the trip but a member of our group did get a quick glimpse.

Overall - the trip was amazing, food was exquisite, staff are to be commended especially Donna who sees to making your stay special. The informal structure and convenience of when you want your meals or activities is a definite plus. Its a shame that more people don't know about this place as its a real undiscovered gem!

Room Tip: Room 2 has nice views and not close and not too far from the main dining area.
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  • Stayed January 2014, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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28 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Sleep Quality
    5 of 5 stars
  • Location
    5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (8)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Dundee, United Kingdom
1 review
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed December 10, 2013

Has two of the best staff you could ask for Donna and Stephanie(i think his name was) they were so polite and friendly and helped me with everything i needed. Will be revisiting this lodge next time im back at this side of the world. Food and drink was excellent. A must stay in Malawi

  • Stayed December 2013, traveled solo
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Bury St. Edmunds, United Kingdom
Senior Contributor
24 reviews 24 reviews
18 hotel reviews
Reviews in 19 cities Reviews in 19 cities
33 helpful votes 33 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 20, 2013

Tongole Wilderness Lodge is situated deep within the beautiful Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. It can be accessed by light aircraft or by road - a pleasant three and a half hour drive from Lilongwe. The Lodge is surrounded by dense miombo woodland and sits above the Bua River, affording wonderful views of the forest and mountains beyond, plus all the animals and birds that frequent the river banks. The architect-designed Lodge comprises a dramatic reception space, many comfortable seating areas for relaxing and a series of intimate dining decks. There are just 4 bedrooms and ours was one of the loveliest we have stayed in. All have private decks overlooking the river, the large super-comfy beds have mosquito nets; toiletries and insect repellents are provided. Laundry is turned round on a daily basis.

Our whole stay was tailor-made to our requirements - including meal times. Activities included walking safaris, expeditions deep into the Reserve in the Land Rover and canoeing. We also spent a sleep-out at a remote location by a waterfall. Here we enjoyed a fabulous BBQ served round a camp-fire, whilst listening to the night sounds gathering around us before retiring to our tent. The following morning we sat with hot coffee as the first light rose over the forest before returning to the Lodge for a huge breakfast. A very magical experience. The birding around the Lodge and further afield was superb. The Reserve itself is about to be taken over by African Parks whose aim, we understand, is to re-stock it with animals, support existing efforts to combat poaching, enhance access and foster positive relationships with local communties. This will assuredly secure the future of this totally unspoilt and beautiful environment which should then become top of everyone's list for safari in Malawi. Go before it becomes too popular!

Notwithstanding, our stay at Tongole would not have been so exceptional if it hadn't been for managers Stephen and Donna and their splendid team. Nothing was too much trouble - from the cold towels and refreshing drinks that greeted our return from every activity to a memorable birthday dinner - every detail was taken care of in a discreet and totally professional way. Their management style supported an enthusiastic and happy team who looked after us superbly, making us feel utterly special at all times and encouraging us to treat the Lodge as a 'second home' .

We cannot recommend Tongole more highly. Thank you Stephen, Donna and all your team for a truly wonderful stay.

Room Tip: Our room was 'Nkhwazi' (which means fish eagle). It was No. 2.
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Stayed October 2013, traveled as a couple
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Kendal, United Kingdom
Contributor
11 reviews 11 reviews
10 hotel reviews
Reviews in 9 cities Reviews in 9 cities
7 helpful votes 7 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 2, 2013

This is a very special place to stay - incredible architecture of the rooms and lodge with a beautiful view over the river to natural woodland, hills all surrounded by the birds and animals too.

The hosts Zane and Jo are brilliant and the guide Shai is the business so we spent five very happy nights here, walking canoeing and climbing the two mountains for the stupendous views. We saw and heard elephants, baboons, bush buck, fish eagles, crocodiles and so many beautiful birds..

While we were there the Chief. Exec. of African Parks arrived with plans to manage the National Park and to introduce herds from other parts of Africa where the were too many animals - sounds like Tongole has an exciting future - which it well deserves!

Room Tip: Take some warm clothing for chilly evenings during the Winter
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  • Stayed July 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Franschhoek, South Africa
Senior Reviewer
8 reviews 8 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
9 helpful votes 9 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 5, 2013

Tongole is wonderfully remote and isolated with the full beauty of brachystegia woodland - magnificent, thick, unspoiled African bush! The teak trees are stunning and the river hauntingly scenic. The lodge is, as others have said, the perfect level of understated luxury. The staff could not be more warm, friendly, helpful and knowledgeable, and meals, inspired by Jo, are delicious and delightfully presented! Elephants gave us many exciting moments, several times over, in and around the lodge area; the canoeing (including a few minor rapids!) was blissful, with marvellous bird and elephant sightings; hiking and bird walks were splendid; the night sky was magical and best of all was just relaxing in the many comfortable spots the lodge offers. The individual lodge bedrooms are magnificent. Best of all are the efforts to live in harmony with the bush, to protect the animals, to revive the Nkhotakota Game Reserve and to save our beloved continent from the ravages of humanity. Zane, Jo, Shai and their staff have done an outstanding job in designing, building and creating Tongole, and are superb hosts. Anyone who really loves to be in the bush, and is fortunate enough to go to Tongole, will revel in the uniqueness, the comforts, the beauty, and in being thoroughly pampered and spoiled. The vision behind the creation of Tongole and for its future is to be highly commended and we urge as many as possible to visit.

Room Tip: Every room is equally superb!!
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  • Stayed March 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
Contributor
12 reviews 12 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 26, 2013

Tongole has a special kind of magic. Its remote location makes you really appreciate what it has to offer. A long drive from Lilongwe regresses from tarmac to dirt to rough track and leads to a secret wonderland of understated luxury, delicious food, friendly, engaging staff and the natural wilderness of the African bush. There is a timelessness, tranquility and simplicity about the place that it hard to describe and has to be experienced. A great place to reflect, engage with people you know and those you've just met and a rare opportunity to get out into and experience nature. Zane, Shai and Jo were three people who stood out and made the visit special. All three seem at ease with themselves and their surroundings and are very engaging and very natural and seemingly very proud of what they have to offer. Between them they have food, wildlife and actvities covered and they are a fountain of knowledge and stories about Malawi and elsewhere. There is so much to say about Tongole. It is very good value for money, it has sustainability at its heart and is also very rooted in its community, creating jobs locally. We had amazing vegetarian meals every day. I can't recommend it highly enough. As a tip I'd recommend arranging for a driver to take you to and from Tongole so you can enjoy the journey and learn about the countryside on the way. You don't need a vehicle once you arrive, so best leave it behind and start to experience a freer way of living. Thanks to all at Tongole for such a memorable visit.

Room Tip: All four lodges are equally amazing, but they are in a line leading away from communal lodge, so yo...
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  • Stayed March 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Wrexham
Reviewer
3 reviews 3 reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
9 helpful votes 9 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 20, 2013

I was a lone traveller when I stayed at the lodge and happened to be the only guest on the weekend in December 2013 that I stayed. The service was outstanding and they even offered to dine with me to keep me company! I loved everything about my stay.

The food was the best I'd eaten in Malawi and it was wonderful to see fresh, cold salad!

Here you are in the true wilderness and when you see wildlife it's a privaledge. I saw elephants, baboons, vervet monkeys,crocs, bucks, water mongoose and millions of varieties of birds.

The team are the best. I settled and felt instantly comfortable and at ease. They let me choose what I wanted to do and when. I felt I was on a big adventure! It was equally exciting to see the guides excited when they saw wildlife too. I felt like jungle Jane!

I would have liked to have stayed longer so that I could have visited their foundation schools and done other activiites too.

I can recommend Tongole

  • Stayed December 2012, traveled solo
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Tongole Wilderness Lodge

Address: Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, Nkhotakota, Malawi
Phone Number:
Location: Malawi > Central Region > Nkhotakota
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beverage Selection Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Suites Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 3 Specialty Lodging in Nkhotakota
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$
Number of rooms: 5
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Discover Tongole Wilderness Lodge. A luxury eco-lodge nestled deep amongst the breathtaking Miombo woodlands of the 1,800km² Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. Tongole is unique in being one of only two lodges in the reserve and the only lodge to boast high-end, luxury accommodation and first class facilities. Nestled in the South East corner of Africa, sandwiched between Zambia and Mozambique: Malawi and the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve are your playground. Each experience in the wilderness is unique. Your adventure at Tongole is fully customisable. Whether a first time explorer. Or a veteran of the safari. Your escape is personally tailored to allow you to be as wild or laid back as you wish. Traverse the snaking Bua River on a canoeing adventure. Trek through the rugged wilderness bush with an expert guide. Or if that all sounds too much like hard work, relax in your suites hand-built sunken bath before enjoying a meal under the African star-lit sky. Adventure or relaxation. Whatever your desire it's waiting for you in the wilderness. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Tongole Wilderness Lodge Malawi/Nkhotakota

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