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“A thrill of a lifetime” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Pondoro Game Lodge

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Pondoro Game Lodge
5.0 of 5 Lodge   |   Balule Private Nature Reserve, Kruger National Park 1380, South Africa   |  
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Washington DC, District of Columbia
Top Contributor
65 reviews 65 reviews
25 hotel reviews
Reviews in 35 cities Reviews in 35 cities
71 helpful votes 71 helpful votes
“A thrill of a lifetime”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 13, 2011

I have been traveling to the continents in search of new adventures and my experience here at the Pondoro Game Lodge was unlike any other. The lodge was very clean and tastefully decorated. The whole place had a distinct charm. The dining area, bar and living room seemed like you were in a huge home. The people were warm, attentive, friendly and relaxed making the my stay very pleasant . The spa massages after exploring the bush was a superb treat. The menu selection was also exsquisite and meals were served by the the riverside which I found quite special. The highlights of course, were the early morning and late afternoon safaris to the wilderness anticipating the excitement of what can be seen and captured in the lens of the camera. Our trackers were knowledgeable, skillful, daring and yet cautious. They provided us with tons of information about almost everything we experienced. The "sundowners" which were the cocktails served in the middle of nowhere were an added treat with the South African sundown as the back drop to this special scenery. At the lodge, there was a tiny pool which blended so well with the surroundings and was a nice way to refresh after being under the heat of the sun.
The safari experience was full of surprises. It was a perfect combination of relaxation and excitement. Timing of activities were not rushed. I would definitely go back here with my family and hopefully soon.
My visit to Pondoro was actually in February but the option for this month did not show so I chose July which was the closest to February. The weather in February was perfect for this expedition.

Room Tip: Rooms have ample space.
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  • Stayed July 2010, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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439 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 (105)
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Chicago
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 June 10, 2011

My wife and I spend part of our honeymoon in the greater Kruger and visited three different game lodges in Balule, Klaserie and Sabi Sand. Pondoro was our favorite. The lodge is very small, remote and intimate. We stayed in the Buffalo suite and the accommodation was amazing with a huge veranda overlooking the river. The staff paid attention to every little detail and made our stay very special. On one night we were surprised with dinner in the lodge’s wine cellar. What a great atmosphere! The food was always awesome – definitely on the level of a top notch restaurant. We saw plenty of game and the Big 5 within 2 days. Go on the bush walks – it’s well worth it. There are monkeys around the lodge which wake you up in the morning. A bush bock always slept next to our suite and we saw him every day. I highly recommend this great place.

  • Stayed May 2011, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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London, United Kingdom
Reviewer
4 reviews 4 reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 16, 2011

I stayed at Pondoro Lodge for 3 nights after a recommendation from a friend and travel agent. The greatest compliment I can give is that I so wish I'd been able to stay for longer.

It's a wonderfully designed lodge located among some trees down by the Oliphants river, bursting with character and little touches that show how much care and love the owners, Robbie and Lize, have put in to the place. I stayed in the Rock suite, one of the luxury chalets, and it was great. The room was large, spacious, excellently furnished and had great character. It was river facing (although the view is obscured a bit by the trees the lodge is situated in) with a large terrace.

Erik and Ryno, our tracker and ranger respectively, were top class. Friendly, knowledgeable and always willing to go almost anywhere and stay out as long as it took to help us spot the wildlife. Each game drive lasted 3 and a half to 4 hours with morning tea and sun downer stops. When we got back from the evening drives, the staff would be waiting to greet us with warm hand towels and complimentary sherry. Perfect.

Balule reserve has relatively a lot of bush compared to other parts of the Kruger I've heard so it can be harder to spot and get close to the animals. I've got no complaints. Erik and Ryno did a great job. On my game drives, I saw and got up close to 4 of the big 5 (no leopard alas although some others who'd been there longer than I, had seen them the day before) as well as plenty of all the other major animals. The highlights were a testosterone fuelled elephant getting very, very close to us, ending up being surrounded by 70-80 water buffalo, coming across a herd of elephants feeding at night, and tracking a pride of lions at night by just spotlight for 2km.

Special mention must go to Lize, her kitchen staff and the food! The food was excellent and unique. Slow roasted lamb shank, wilderbeast curry, impala fillet. It was wonderfully presented, tasted great and filled me up. It's a shame I arrived too late and left too early to sample the Ostrich and Kudu I heard about! It's definitely worthy of some of the finer restaurants and hotels I've visited. It's all served on the main open deck with a view of the river (we did get to see some hippos from it). My final dinner, instead of being served in the main dining area, was instead served at a lantern lit table set up in a clearing down by the river. A clear night sky above us, man high river grass next to us and the sounds of the wild all around us. It was stunning. It's apparently done every 3rd night, if the weather's good, and I'm glad I lucked out.

Thanks to Lize, Robbie, Chantelle, Ryno, Erik and all the others for making my too brief safari experience a great one.

  • Stayed May 2011, 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
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Nottingham, United Kingdom
1 review
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 13, 2011

Pondoro provided the best overall experience of a 3 week vacation - we wish we had allocated more time. From the moment of arriving, every single one of their team was genuine, hospitable and knowlegable, obviously loving their job and keen for you to share their piece enjoyment. The food was set menu but exciting and excellent - meals on an open balcony overlooking the river - wow - heaven. Game Rangers were obviously dedicated individuals and the drives - never a dull moment, tracking you up really close without disturbing the animals - tense moments on occasion - but all the animals to see large and small. Next time longer and more relaxed pace to absorb the tranquility

Room Tip: All mini lodges - ask for river view
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  • Stayed April 2011, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 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.
Johannesburg, South Africa
Senior Reviewer
8 reviews 8 reviews
7 hotel reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 13, 2011

We have been going to Pondoro Game Lodge for a number of years but have only stayed at the self catering lodge before. The main lodge was fantastic and lived up to all expectations. The food was out of this world, the staff fell over themselves to assist and the rooms and beds were fantastic

  • Stayed April 2011, traveled with family
    • 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 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London, United Kingdom
Reviewer
3 reviews 3 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 3, 2011

We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Pondoro Game Lodge. After a warm welcome from Lize, the manager, we were whisked off on a night game drive and our adventure truly began. With authoratative commentary from our guide (the owner) and the sharp eyes of our tracker we managed to see three of the Big Five (lion, rhino and elephant along with zebra, giraffe and lots of others) though a leapord was spotted the night before. Our rondavel-style cottage was wonderful- open plan round room with vaulted ceiling and very African decor, huge four poster bed with nets,wet room and bath and balcony overooking the trees and the Olifants River below. The food was wonderful and we especially enjoyed a convivial evening around a table in the bush with all the other guests. The guided walk into the bush beside the river with its man-eating crocs was scary and interesting in equal measure. Our one regret is that we didn't book a longer stay

Room Tip: Use Rhino Africa to negotiate rate for a luxury rm
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  • Stayed April 2011, 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.
Canberra, Australia
Senior Contributor
36 reviews 36 reviews
15 hotel reviews
Reviews in 20 cities Reviews in 20 cities
19 helpful votes 19 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 2, 2011

After a 3 hour drive from Nelspruit Airport we finally arrived at Pondoro Lodge in Kruger National Park around 8.30pm. And what a place! We were greeted by Lize, the general manager, and taken on a long trek to our room - the Buffalo Suite. Wow, it was amazing! A huge thatched 'hut' with an enormous living area, bedroom, and open bathroom area, all with huge windows leading onto a large deck overlooking the Oliphants River. The furnishings were all very modern and interesting, with an African twist - desk and vanity unit held up with twisted tree trunks, a huge red painting of a buffalo hanging over the bed, outdoor shower built around a tree trunk on the deck...... wonderful!

Dinner was served on a large deck overlooking the river, kerosene lamps on every table, trees overhead - it looked amazing. Our first dinner was: Chunky corn soup, followed by Ostrich fillet with almond couscous, African ratatouille and creamy basil pesto sauce, finishing with a sticky date pudding and vanilla ice cream, and African coffee. All courses were beautifully presented and tasted wonderful. After dinner we were again escorted back to our room, to prepare for our first game drive at 5.30am next morning - yes, 5.30am!

During our first drive we spotted beautiful birds, elephants, rhinos, impala, warthogs, giraffes, and zebras - a good morning's work. Getting up at 5.00am has its rewards!
During our stay we went on 7 game drives, each one revealing something different and magical each time. On our second morning, Ryno (our guide) asked what we would like to see - I replied that I would really like to see lions, so off we went. And incredibly, they tracked down a pride of 11 lions lying in some dense scrub after a big night of hunting! We sat only a few metres away from them, taking photos and talking in hushed voices, while they just ignored us - fantastic!

On our next evening drive, Ryno again asked us what we would like to see - Trev replied, "We'd like to see a hippo and a leopard, both at the same time!" Ryno replied that he'd certainly do his best, but couldn't guarantee it. Well, we arrived at a dam where a hippo was clearly visible, together with a crocodile lazing on the banks of the dam. So we ticked that one off, and had our 'sundowners' (beer and wine) at the top of the dam.
After we packed up and hopped back into the truck, Eryk (our tracker) murmured 'leopard' and shone his spotlight to the left of our vehicle, where a beautiful big leopard was strolling along! We were so excited, and the leopard passed in front of our vehicle where we had been standing having a drink just moments before! He wandered around for a while while we took photos and movies, then wandered off into the scrub, where Ryno started following him. We tracked him for a good half hour through dense scrub in the dark - it was just amazing. So not only did Trev get his hippo and leopard at the same spot, but he also got a crocodile thrown in for free! What a great day - lions in the morning followed by hippo, leopard and crocodile in the evening.

On our last morning after the game drive we headed up to our usual spot for breakfast on the deck, but this time we were escorted to our own private breakfast table on the bank overlooking the river - it was just lovely, and a nice touch to finish on.

We had an absolutely wonderful stay at Pondoro Game Lodge - the food was fantastic (the lodge has won awards for it, and we got to taste impala, ostrich and kudu), the staff, guides and trackers were lovely and very knowledgeable, our suite was just amazing, and the game was plentiful. Service was excellent, friendly and professional. And the pool was good, too, athough we only got to use it once, we were so exhausted!

We would definitely recommend Pondoro to anyone going to South Africa to view the wildlife in a wonderful environment. And did I mention that the food was fantastic???

If you want to have a look at a full report on our stay, check out my blog at:
www.turners-travels.blogspot.com/

  • Stayed April 2011, 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.
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Additional Information about Pondoro Game Lodge

Address: Balule Private Nature Reserve, Kruger National Park 1380, South Africa
Phone Number:
Location: South Africa > Kruger National Park > Balule Private Game Reserve
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 12 Specialty Lodging in Balule Private Game Reserve
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$$
Hotel Class:5 star — Pondoro Game Lodge 5*
Number of rooms: 8
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Set on the cool riverine banks of the Olifants River (largest in Kruger) in the 40 000 ha Big 5 Balule Private Game Reserve inside the greater Kruger National Park, Pondoro offers its visitors comfort, sophistication, elegance and a canvas on which to create a truly unforgettable African safari.In this small, very exclusive 16-bed lodge ( owner managed ) you will discover the only way to experience the African bush. In addition to luxurious accommodation and the caring attention from trained professionals, our visitors are lavished upon with international fare and humble African hospitality.Meals are an extraordinary culinary experience where Traditional African Cuisine fuse effortlessly with modern European trends.To compliment the food, select any of our fine wines from our extensive wine cellar. Vegetarians are specially catered for. All meals are served on a wooden deck high up in the tree canopy overlooking the Olifants River (weather permitting).Between game drives in open safari cruisers, nature walks and peaceful afternoon naps, enjoy a dip in the sparkling rock pool, a spot of sun bathing or browse through the library. The Pondoro bar is the ideal spot to quench your thirst and grab a snack. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Pondoro Game Hotel Balule Private Game Reserve
Pondoro Game Lodge South Africa/Balule Private Game Reserve

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