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“A mixed experience” 3 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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Copenhagen, Denmark
1 review
13 helpful votes 13 helpful votes
“A mixed experience”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed March 21, 2013

I have been working 40 years in travel & tourism and on and off on the safari track in Africa since the late seventies. Having stayed in more than a thousend lodges and camps all over SA and central and eastern Africa. The accommodation and the food at Pondoro is definately above average. Well done. But game drives! First of all you need to be honest in your PR and selling material and state loud and clear that you use the middle seat and squize 9 guests together in your safari cars when needed! Leaving the middle passenger in a hopeless and worthless position. Second you need to educate your so-called young rangers to be just as quiet as your guests during an animal sigthing. Instead of constantly shouting driving instructions into their headset to fellow rangers in other cars. Correct these details and you will have a lovely place.
Best regards
Bjarne Jensen

  • Stayed February 2013, traveled on business
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 13
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Pondoro, Owner at Pondoro Game Lodge, responded to this review, March 23, 2013
Dear Bjarne

Tripadvisor is a forum where honest and fair reviews about your hotel of choice can be done. I do not believe that Tripadvisor should be used as a tool to punish and harm a hotel when we do not agree to certain outrageous demands. It should also not be used to trick uneducated readers into thinking that your way of thinking is the norm.

Here are the facts:
1. Pondoro has a policy of putting only 8 guests per vehicle. We cater for only 16 guests which means that we use 2 safari cruisers at the lodge. No lodge runs at 100% occupancy meaning the vehicles would be driving with less than 8 guests for the majority of the time.
2. Nowhere in our literature do we state that that we only seat 6 guests ( no guests in middle seat ) per safari cruiser.
3. Allowing 8 guests per safari vehicle is the industry standard but a lot of lodges prefer to make use of all 10 seats. We try our best to provide a high quality safari experience which made us adopt the 8 guests per vehicle policy.
4. Only ultra luxurious lodges would restrict guests to 6 per vehicle with a rate of at least R10 000.00 per person per night. It does not make financial sense to limit guests to 6 at the rates that we charge.
5. We provide a private vehicle to guests that wish for a more personal safari experience for an extra R4000.00 per day ( for the vehicle ).
6. Mark, your guide, is blessed with a strong voice that should be a benefit for guests as he would be easily heard and understood when on safari. Your remarks about him is in bad taste and not true.
7. All of the above were explained in great detail to you while still at the lodge.

You are very liberal with your facts:
1. There were only 6 guests on your vehicle during your first 2 safaris. There would have been only 8 guests on your vehicle for your last 2 safaris and not 9 as you try to claim. Mark even tried to explain to you that you and your wife would still have an entire row to yourselves ( open middle seat ) but you refused to listen to reason and did not participate in any further safaris which was a shame as you missed some fantastic sightings.
2. You state that you are a safari expert who have visited more than a 1000 lodges, no doubt trying to give authority to your review while trying to advise readers about your experience at the lodge. A quick calculation, with an average stay of 2 nights at a lodge, would mean that you visited a lodge on average every 7,3 days over 40 years. No mean feat while trying to make a living as well! It is difficult to understand how you as a safari expert would not know what the industry standard would be regarding the number of guests per safari vehicle. Tour operators and agents also contact us regularly regarding the private vehicle rates when needing a more exclusive experience for their clients as this is standard practice at most upmarket lodges.

Greetings from the bush,

Robbie and Pondoro family
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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
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English first
1 review
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 20, 2013 via mobile

We had a lovely stay! A perfect place to go on honeymoon!! The service, the safari and the food were excellent! We love to come back to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary! Thank you for everything! It was a wonderfull experience!

  • Stayed February 2013
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 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.
Pondoro, Owner at Pondoro Game Lodge, responded to this review, April 10, 2013
Dear HansSophie,

Thank you very much for taking the time to write a review. It is very good to see that you found Pondoro the perfect place to spent a honeymoon. You will be welcomed with open arms to celebrate your 5th wedding anniversary with us.

Greetings from the bush,

Robbie and Pondoro family
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Pretoria, South Africa
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 20, 2013

My wife and I spent a few nights at Pondoro at the end of February 2013. We had flown from Johannesburg to Hoedspruit where the transfers were also arranged by Pondoro. Upon arrival we were greeted by friendly staff and ice cold lemonade, we immediately felt right at home.

The lodge and our suite (Buffalo) were absolutely beautiful and impeccably clean, the design features are very natural and very unique. This lodge was true luxury in the bush and we would not change anything about our experience here. You have awesome views from the deck and the suites.

Lize is an amazing chef and the food was phenomenal, you are unique and world class. Eating dinner, listening to the sounds of the bush is truly Africa. The special dinner the last night was also an exceptional experience.

The drives were incredible. Regardless of animal sightings, it is important to remember where you are and take a moment to appreciate the scenery. This is one of the most beautiful places in the entire world. The ranger and tracker worked extremely hard to give us the best experience possible, they are so knowledgeable. We were lucky enough to spot the big five during our visit and drives, what an experience to view them so close-up.

Pondoro’s staff is the most friendly and professional people in the world. We just cannot say enough good things about our safari experience here at Pondoro. If you want a quiet, intimate experience, this is definitely the place to go, thanks for the wonderful memories.

I highly recommend Pondoro for a luxury Safari experience. Thank you Robbie & Team

Gavin & Anne-Marie Viljoen

Room Tip: The Luxury Suites is exceptional.
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  • Stayed February 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
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Pondoro, Owner at Pondoro Game Lodge, responded to this review, April 10, 2013
Dear Gavin V,

Thank you very much for taking the time to write a review. It is heartwarming to see how much you enjoyed your stay and your kind words and compliments are much appreciated. I will also pass your compliments on to Lize who as you know works extremely hard and deserves all the accolades.

Greetings from the bush,

Robbie and Pondoro family
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Canada
Senior Contributor
23 reviews 23 reviews
10 hotel reviews
Reviews in 17 cities Reviews in 17 cities
9 helpful votes 9 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 19, 2013 via mobile

What a wonderful place to stay for our last 4 nights in South Africa! The staff are amazing, forming a well oiled team that provides to everyone's needs. From their warm welcome on your arrival to your reluctant departure, they go out of their way to make your stay special. The accommodations are luxurious, the food delicious, attractively served and very plentiful. Our guide Mark, and tracker, Eric, were great! From finding 6 week old lion cubs, a leopard, and even rogue elephants made our time at Pondoro a truly wonderful experience we will not forget. Thank you, Pondoro, we cannot recommend you highly enough!

  • Stayed February 2013
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Pondoro, Owner at Pondoro Game Lodge, responded to this review, April 10, 2013
Dear lihad,

Thank you very much for taking the time to write a review. I am elated to see that Pondoro was the highlight of your South African trip. Thank you for the compliments as it provides us with more enthusiasm to improve on our service.

Greetings from the bush,

Robbie and Pondoro family
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Toronto, Ontario, Canada
1 review
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 19, 2013

My husband and I spent two nights at Pondoro at the end of February 2013. We had flown into Johannesburg and rented a car and planned to drive to Pondoro. With the exception of getting lost in Johannesburg for a couple hours, when we finally got on the right path it was a very beautiful, scenic drive to Pondoro (about a 5 hour drive from Johannesburg). When we arrived at Pondoro we were greeted by Madeline who had two lemonades ready for us and brought us into the lobby area which is beautifully decorated and open. Since we were late in arriving, we missed the afternoon game drive, but it was just as well, as it gave us some time to shower and get ready before dinner. Madeline gave us a tour of the grounds and walked us to our room, we stayed in the Rock Room. The rooms are just as beautiful as the pictures, although the rock room was a little dark, the design features are very natural and very unique!! We were then brought to dinner which I have to say was OUTSTANDING!!! Lize is an amazing chef and the staff and the food was phenomenal! There were only 2 other couples at Pondoro when we arrived so it was a very intimate, tranquil environment. We had dinner on the deck overlooking the river, and there happened to be two male hippos fighting in the river, which was amazing to hear, we were eating dinner, listening to the sounds of the bush. I have to say, I think this was my favourite part of our whole trip!! After dinner we went into the bar area for a couple of cocktails, and the staff joined us which I thought was wonderful!

The next morning we woke up early for our first game drive, Mark was our driver and Eric was our tracker. On our game drive, we saw 3 rhinos, a pride of lions, including baby cubs, a couple warthogs, a giraffe, and a herd of buffalo, AMAZING! We also saw a leopard for a couple of seconds before it ran away in the tall grass. The game drives are about 3-4 hours, Mark and Eric really did their best to find the Big 5. After the game drive we had breakfast and went on a Bush Walk with Eric, there is a lot more to see on foot, that you cannot see on the drive so I really recommend joining in on the Bush Walk. There is sometime in the afternoon for you to rest if you like before going out on the afternoon game drive.

I have to say, our experience at Pondoro was amazing, and the staff is exceptional. The only criticism I can offer is that the outdoor pool a little uninviting, as it is surrounded by bushes/trees, it looks like it is well kept, but since you are in the bush there could be critters nearby so my husband and I didn’t use the pool. Other than that, If you want a quiet, intimate authentic experience – this is definitely the place to go!!

Thanks for the memories!!!

Alicia and Justin
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Room Tip: Ask for the water room!! That one looks the best!!
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  • Stayed February 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
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Pondoro, Owner at Pondoro Game Lodge, responded to this review, April 10, 2013
Dear Alicia and Justin,

Thank you very much for taking the time to write a review. I am very glad to see that you enjoyed your stay with us. Yes, you really seemed to have done a thorough tour of Johannesburg before eventually finding a rental car with a GPS that works! Glad you could make it as it was fun having you here.

Greetings from the bush,

Robbie and Pondoro family
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Thionville, France
1 review
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 19, 2013

My family and spent two full days at Pondoro and we had an amazing time. Literally everything was perfect: the location (awesome view from the deck), the food, the service, the game drives and obviously the staff. We felt very special and I can tell that everyone in my family was very sad to leave.

Marc and Erick, our ranger and tracker did an excellent job in tracking (and finding) the animals; we saw just so many of them, in so many different situations. Balule is a beautiful reserve, to me different from other places in Kruger. I found it rockier and hillier and I reckon it makes it special.

I can only recommend anyone travelling to Kruger to consider Pondoro. I would get back there tomorrow if I could!

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Pondoro, Owner at Pondoro Game Lodge, responded to this review, April 10, 2013
Dear miemartien,

Thank you very much for taking the time to write a review. It always make it worthwhile when seeing that guests have really enjoyed their stay with us. Will pass your compliments onto Eric and Mark.

Greetings from the bush,

Robbie and Pondoro family
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Nanaimo
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 18, 2013

I loved Pondoro Lodge. From wildlife viewing to cuisine and spa treatments everything was first rate. We saw tons of animals on our game drives and enjoyed the small touches like a sundowner drink. My chalet was fabulous and I used my outdoor bathtub to enjoy the river view and have a soak at the same time. Vervet monkeys played around my balcony and the photo ops throughout the stay were outstanding. As for the staff, I can't say enough. Our ranger and tracker were fun and interesting and went above and beyond to fill our "dance cards" so that we could say that we had seen the big five and more. I highly recommend Pondoro for a Safari experience, I' d go again in a minute.

Room Tip: Take a chalet, don't stay right in the lodge. They are very private and luxurious.
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  • Stayed February 2013, traveled with friends
    • 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
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Pondoro, Owner at Pondoro Game Lodge, responded to this review, April 10, 2013
Dear Hetstalis,

Thank you very much for taking the time to write a review. Glad that we could fill your " dance cards"! Yes, the bathtub overlooking the river is a fabulous way to spend the afternoon or romantic evening.

Greetings from the bush,

Robbie and Pondoro family
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative 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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