It's all about value for money, isn't it? And Mantobeni is in my opinion great value for money. It was my third time at that camp, over the last 12 years. Overall, a very good experience, we loved the cooking and the game drives were good. I remembered it to be excellent, that's all. I remembered our sundowners to be in amazing locations, having our dinner near the fire, having a hot water bottle in my bed at night, having a ranger transparent about what we were about to see. This time it was different for me. The fire every night was minimal, we had to fan it to get something going. Our guide was somewhat resistant to share what was going on on the radio. Sundowners were just where we happened to be except one night where we were near a lake. One out of three.
The first night, we heard on the radio galagalagala, a very excited other guide was yelling. I then did not know that gala was lion in shangaan. Guide ignored it, we finished our drinks and then, rushed to where the lion was. We caught it as it was leaving, We did see it and we did rush to go see it. My preference would have been for the guide to ask us if we preferred having a glass of wine or going to see a lion. I think we would have said lion. I think the other two times I was there, our guide would have asked what our preference was.
To be fair, we did see a lot of animals, up close. But everyone wants to see lions, don't they?
The other point I would make, is that they asked the guide to sit with guests at meals. Our guide was not engaging at all, and I knew he would have preferred to be just about anywhere else, we would ask him a question and he would answer yes or no, which left us with talking among ourselves in English to be polite, as English is not our first language. I felt uncomfortable at meals because of the lack of conversational skills our guide had. Then on the last day, he perked up and wanted to talk. It would have been much better to be among ourselves in this case. What I remembered were great dinners with our guides - both times - them telling us stories of past drives etc. But his very guarded attitude did not allow him to share maybe because he thought we would require the same.
We had a good time, and since I got back I looked at other lodges and Mantobeni is definitely cheaper than most. If I was on a budget and wanted to see animals, I would go back. If I was a little bit more relaxed about money, I would try something else.