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“The perfect small lodge- if it sounds like you'll like it- YOU WILL.” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Toro Yaka Bush Lodge

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Toro Yaka Bush Lodge
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Sable Road, Kruger National Park, South Africa   |  
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Brooklyn, New York
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
“The perfect small lodge- if it sounds like you'll like it- YOU WILL.”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 13, 2012

We spent 4 nights at Toro Yaka while honeymooning in South Africa. It was the last part of our trip, and we kept saying that if we had gone there first we never would have left. We added an extra night at the end just because we didn't want to leave.

The rooms are large and comfortable, with indoor and outdoor showers and private decks. There are only 6 rooms. The bed with the mosquito netting was incredibly romantic. The common areas are comfortable and the pool looks out onto a watering hole. The staff of the lodge is incredible; they are warm and kind and you can tell they love where they work. Every night there is a different chocolate on the pillow and a different bedtime fable. It's small details like this that make Toro Yaka stand out. It is not only as good as you want it to be- it's consistently better.

Nicole and Steve are wonderful hosts. The food that Nicole prepares is just delicious. And they really think about the guest experience- some meals we took just the two of us, one dinner we spent with everyone at a large table, and one dinner was done around a firepit where everyone had their own individual table. It would be so easy to serve meals the same way every day and the guest would never know the difference, but we really noticed these details and appreciated them.

Steve and JB are both fabulous field guides. Absolutely go on a bush walk with Steve. The combination of the two- Steve is very experienced and an encyclopedia of knowledge and JB is so enthusiastic and filled with energy. Steve is so interesting- he is so clearly passionate about conservation and has amazing stories. The game drives are so exciting- you never know what you will see that day.

We would recommend Toro Yaka without reservation to anyone who is looking for a more intimate experience in the South African bush. We are so glad we stayed here. We didn't want a big-box game reserve with 20 trucks out every day and 250 other guests. The experience at Toro Yaka was so lovely and romantic. And it was an amazingly good value. We simply don't have one negative thing to say about it. If it sounds like the kind of thing you're looking for, then don't hesitate. We're already dreaming about going back and bringing our family.

Room Tip: We stayed in Lion, which has a fabulous private deck, but I'm fairly sure all 6 rooms have this.
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  • Stayed October 2012, 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
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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214 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    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 (40)
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English first
Cambridge, New Zealand
Reviewer
3 reviews 3 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
8 helpful votes 8 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 9, 2012

Toro Yaka is one of those places you find that not only lives up to expectations - it exceeds them in every way. Check out their website and you will get an idea that it is a warm, hospitable lodge set in amazing bush and owned and run by some pretty down-to-earth decent folk. It's a smaller place but seems just what you want. From the moment you arrive, you know you've come to a special place. Nicole's attention to detail is evident from the beginning. The rooms are immaculate and have all those touches you might not expect. The best feature for me was the outdoor shower - there's an indoor one too but why bother when you can whistle in the bush? The wonderful marula soaps, the turndown service, the little notes and chocolates. Don't expect to lose weight there either. Who can resist Nicole's 3 course menu? Or Steve on the braai? The game drives and bush walks are also something special. Steve has an incredible knowledge of the bush and I think more importantly an ethical and compassionate view of the way we interact with the bush and the animals. His passion is obvious. And the rest of the Toro Yaka staff are always there, but not there. If you know what I mean. And after a hot day in the bush, what better way to relax then a dip in the most picturesque infinity pool I've seen. But of course, the experience is always better with a good group of people. But you're more than likely going to have a great group if they are at Toro Yaka because it is just so peaceful and relaxing but oh so comfortable and all the little luxuries make it superb. Proper espresso anyone? I've never felt compelled to write a review about anywhere I've stayed until now. And I promised Steve & Nicole I would so here it is. As long as they are in charge, you won't be disappointed.

  • Stayed November 2012, 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.
Singapore, Singapore
Senior Contributor
22 reviews 22 reviews
7 hotel reviews
Reviews in 13 cities Reviews in 13 cities
18 helpful votes 18 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 22, 2012

First & foremost, I would like to assure you that the majority "Excellent" traveller ratings are genuine. My boyfriend, Peter and I were rather sceptical about the near perfect reviews, but the experience we had at Toro Yaka proved it all.

Hosts/Service – Nicole and Steve are both hospitable and professional. They know exactly how they would run their lodge to leave an impression on their guests. Nicole is always quick to respond to our emails, our requests, managing our Kruger day-trip booking etc. Steve is informative and got us enchanted with the new surroundings the minute he checked us in. The service from the rest of the staff is impeccable. We are in awe of the additional touches; the welcome gifts and bedtime stories left on our bed every night. Their attention to details is impressive, and the little surprises sure warmed the cockles of our hearts.

Lodge/Room – Lodge is situated in the Balule Reserve, which is actually part of the Kruger National Park as they share an unfenced border. We had free-roaming animals visiting us at the lodge, giraffes and buffalos included. Rooms are huge, clean, and comfortable, with an additional private deck where the African birds frequent.

Food – We look forward to every meal that Nicole has in store for us. She caters specially to her guests’ needs, whether you are a vegetarian or a game lover. Meals are delicious and wholesome, never lacking. We got to order what we want for breakfast, lunch comes with cheese and crackers platter and a fruit mix after the mains, and dinner is usually a 3-course meal which scores in both presentation and taste.

Game Drives/Bush Walk – Special thanks to our trackers, Victor and JB! We managed to see the Big 5 because of them. We had the most exciting game drive on our last morning, where our heroes tracked down the rhinoceros for us. Discovering fresh tracks, feeling the warmth of the rhino’s dung, Victor getting off the vehicle unarmed to follow the tracks, JB flying across the terrain, their teamwork, spotting the rhino at last...sure felt like we were in a movie scene. We learnt a lot from our bushwalk with Steve, who is so passionate about the wildlife, the ecosystem, and conservation efforts. The game drives and bush walk were both exhilarating and educational. We were there for 3 nights and went on 3 game drives, 1 bush walk, and a full day at Kruger National Park, a superb itinerary. If you are hoping to check off the list of Big 5 and more, a trip to Kruger National Park is a must.

All in all, nothing more we could ask for!

  • Stayed August 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 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 5
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
cape town
Reviewer
4 reviews 4 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 14, 2012

You can tell that the hosts, Nicole and Steve, own their lodge and genuinely care about conservation, wildlife, and your experience! There heart and soul is 100% in it!
Steve has a conservation and ecology backround, and you will not find a more knowledgeable guide. He also does giuded walks, which is the ultimate in bush experiences - becoming a part of nature. Nicole has made the lodge a beautiful and comfotable home, immersed in nature, without the feeling of separation or being a spectator that one gets at a lot of the lodges. no big electric fences and spotlights, just you in your cabins and the sound of lions and hyenas at night! Serious goosebumps!! The cabins are spotless and airconditioned, and they are extremely environmentally conscious, minimizing the lodge's footprint where ever they can. Meals are delicious and healthy, genuinely South-African homecooked inspired, with lots of freh veg and fruit, and amazing venison and meat also, home baked pastry and breads, eggs, literally ANYTHING one could ask for.
If you are coming to this area, Toro Yaka is a must, or you have not truly been to the bush!

  • Stayed March 2012, 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 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Arlington, Virginia
Senior Reviewer
7 reviews 7 reviews
6 hotel reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
8 helpful votes 8 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 27, 2012

Our three days with Toro Yaka was by far the highlight of our vacation in South Africa. We had a fantastic time, the rooms were great, the food was fabulous and best of all the staff was wonderful. Jaybe and Victor did a great job on the game drives (the big five in 24 hours!) and we really enjoyed our hike with Steve- his outdoor knowledge is incredible. The food was first class and better than anywhere else on our vacation in South Africa and Zimbabwe. We spent two nights at another more expensive lodge and there is no question that we liked Toro Yaka better.
I can't stress enough how wonderful everything was! You might pay more at another lodge, but you will not get more value.

  • Stayed August 2012, 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 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
jgshaver
Senior Reviewer
9 reviews 9 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviews in 6 cities Reviews in 6 cities
9 helpful votes 9 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 27, 2012

My wife and I were looking for an exciting experience for our first safari and our first visit to South Africa. We could not have made a better selection than the Toro Yaka Bush Lodge. Steve and Nicole and their staff made it very special. The rooms were sparkling clean, the meals were amazing and the safari drives were just what we were looking for.
Lots of small special touches made us feel like part of the family.
For us it was the perfect safari experience.

Stayed August 2012, traveled as a couple
Was this review helpful? Yes 5
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Houston, Texas, United States
Top Contributor
63 reviews 63 reviews
12 hotel reviews
Reviews in 18 cities Reviews in 18 cities
30 helpful votes 30 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 25, 2012

Visited Toro Yaka for my safari July 15-20, 2012. From the beginning, it was a superb experience. Robyn picked me up and gave me a great introduction to the area. Steve introduced me to the lodge and after settling in started with the first of many outstanding meals. Steve is the guide and animal expert and his lovely wife, Nicole, was the chef and a great massage therapist. JB was a wonderful guide and everyone at the lodge provided "5 star" service down to little details that made the experience one to remember. I saw the Big 5 over the next few days. Was up close and personal with lion, elephant and buffalo. Nicole arranged for a day in Kruger Park. Robyn was a fun, great guide--we saw leopard, lion and the rest of the Big 5. She told great stories about Africa.

I had many friends who were doing safaris in the area, including in the same game reserve. From our discussions, it sounds like I had an outstanding experience and saw more animals than most.

I can see why Toro received such high ratings and I add mine to them. It is a special place with wonderful people--I can't wait to come back and visit again.

Room Tip: Ask for a room with an out door shower and porch.
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  • Stayed July 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 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Toro Yaka Bush Lodge

Address: Sable Road, Kruger National Park, South Africa
Phone Number:
Location: South Africa > Kruger National Park > Balule Private Game Reserve
Amenities:
Free Parking Restaurant Spa Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 2 Hotels in Balule Private Game Reserve
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
Number of rooms: 6
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Owner/Manager team Steve & Nicole Baillie would like to invite you to visit Toro Yaka Bush Lodge. This special lodge is nestled in the heart of the Balule Nature Reserve, a 38 000 hectare conservancy, which forms part of the Greater Kruger National Park area. ToroYaka means “My Dream” in Northern Sotho, one of South Africa’s local languages, and the creation of Toro Yaka Bush Lodge has fulfilled the dreams of Steve and Nicole, by establishing a haven of peace and tranquility from which to share their passion for nature. The lodge has been designed in a modern elegant style, with a relaxed atmosphere, allowing guests to sit back, relax and feel at home. The six en-suite double rooms ensure tranquility and comfort at all times. Steve has spent more than a decade sharing his knowledge and love for the bush with clients from all over the world at luxury game lodges throughout South Africa. Nicole is a qualified holistic massage therapist and takes care of all the tiny details. Together with the Toro Yaka Staff, they will ensure your stay to be a memorable one. Balule is home to a large variety of plants and animals. From the smallest spider to the largest elephant, from the tiniest flower to a 1000 year old Leadwood tree, owls at night and eagles by day, every aspect of the ecosystem is explored. The Olifants River, which flows year round through the Balule, is home to hippos and crocodiles, and the whole area is one of scenic splendor, with the northern tip of the Drakensberg mountain range being visible from many points. Together with all of this, Toro Yaka Bush Lodge offers you good home cooked food, friendly service, warm South African Hospitality and loads of enthusiasm. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Toro Yaka Bush Lodge South Africa/Balule Private Game Reserve

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