THANK YOU ELLEN FOR MAKING THIS SUCH A MEMORABLE STAY.
My wife and I stayed at Shiduli Private Game Lodge from 17th to 24th September 2013, on a Saga arranged holiday, (which followed some extensive research into the best available South African Safaris, and also the best time of year to visit this area), and I think we got it right on both counts.
WEATHER: For my money, September was perfect timing for a number of reasons –
1. It’s spring – the early morning game drive conditions were quite mild, (up at 5.00am, a quick coffee in the lodge, and out on the Land Rover by 5.30am), so we certainly didn’t need gloves and hot water bottles!! Likewise, the evening game drives were also pleasantly warm, but it’s still worth taking a fleece when you’re out in the bush, because it can be cooler before the sun rises and after the sun sets.
2. Being spring, the vegetation is sparse, so you stand the best chance of seeing the animals.
3. The weather is generally good but not yet TOO hot – (the ‘Rains’ start about mid October!!)
4. The mosquitoes are dormant – we didn’t have a single insect bite, and didn’t need to use the mosquito nets around the beds, nor was there a need to apply insect repellent (although it’s probably a good idea to do so – better safe than sorry).
GAME DRIVES: The game drives are truly memorable. The purpose fitted out/ open top Land Rovers can take up to 9 or 10 guests, (although generally there were only about 6 guests on board), and they are reasonably easy to get in and out of. One of our ‘group’ had significant mobility problems, but he was still able to get in and out of the vehicle with minimal aid.
We had the same ‘Ranger’, Ellen – (who was also our driver), and ‘Tracker’ Joel (who sits on a seat over the bonnet), throughout our stay. Ellen was simply superb – knowledgeable, enthusiastic and attentive to everyone’s needs – her communication skills were second to none. Joel was also very knowledgeable and had the biggest smile in the world (when he wanted to!).
During each 3 hour morning drive, we would stop off at a lake or watering hole where we could alight from the vehicle and where Joel and Ellen would produce a table covered in a perfectly pressed white table cloth, and then serve hot coffee or chocolate and wonderfully fresh Muffins!! (see photo!). On the Evening drives, coffee was replaced by alcoholic or soft drinks of your choice along with ‘nibbles’ such as dried Mango.... Mmmmmm! (These stops are also the opportunity to use the ‘Bush Toilet’).
Each drive was full of surprises around every corner. How Ellen & Joel knew where to find the animals is beyond me, but they made sure that we saw every one of the ‘Big 5’, and so much more.
A good compact digital SLR camera is highly recommended, although you get SO close to the animals, a simple point and shoot camera can often be effective. There’s plenty of room to take all you need with you in the Land Rovers, with huge elasticated pockets behind every seat.
ACCOMODATION: Shiduli Lodge comprises 24 ‘guest rooms’ surrounded by well maintained gardens, where the local monkeys, baboons and Kudu (deer) can often be seen playing or grazing in the grounds – (keep the windows and doors shut in your room.... the monkeys can be in and out in the blink of an eye, and take whatever they fancy).
The air conditioned rooms have lovely showers, comfortable beds, mini-bar, hairdryer, ample toiletries/towels, and a telephone. The best rooms are Nos 1-5 or 21-24 as these are furthest away from the main road which can be a little noisy at times.
The Dining area serves a fairly wide range of food. (I’m a fussy eater, but there was only ONE meal where I couldn’t find something I enjoyed). My favourite meal was breakfast.... fruit juices, cereals, yoghurts, fried eggs, bacon etc. etc. You really can’t go wrong with the breakfast at Shiduli!
TIP: Look out for Petra.... with her 24 inch high head gear!! – She’s a crack up and she has the most genuine smile and laugh that we’ve ever come across.
The bar is open most of the day/evening, and if you sit out in the grounds, the drinks often come to you, thanks to Patrick and Timothy our fun loving barmen! If you happen to be a smoker, there are plenty of outside areas where you can do so without affecting other guests.
For a very small fee, (about £3), W-Fi is available around the main lodge, (but not any further away), or there is a guest computer available in the main Lodge building.
ALL the staff are friendly and they really seem to enjoy talking to guests. They may take a bit of time to understand a joke but, once they get it, just see the room light up with their beaming smiles. The one thing that we, and some other guests, found missing was some background African music in the the bar and dining area. Some local music would have had provided a little more ambiance.
SUMMARY: All in all, I would describe this as an ‘In yer Face’ holiday... very little time to read a book, have a swim or sit at the bar, so if you want a Relaxation Holiday this is probably not for you. Up at 5.00am, in bed by 10.30pm, (and believe me you’ll need that sleep), BUT, if you want African wildlife, fabulous game drives with fantastic Rangers and Trackers, three ‘all you can eat’ meals per day, endless drinks (if you can find time), extremely comfortable rooms, and with only a small number of guests staying at any one time, then GO FOR IT. Shiduli may not be located directly within the Kruger Park, (as a previous reviewer kept on about), but did that matter? Nah......... we visited Kruger Park, and for my money SHIDULI WAS BETTER.
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- Also Known As:
- Shiduli Private Game Hotel Tzaneen