We have just returned from a Christmas holiday at Balule River Camp - “we” being a family of 11, spanning three generations and ages from 14 to 80 years. We enjoyed the exceptionally delicious food, and felt pampered by the entire staff. The two rangers Jonathan and Edward, shared their extensive knowledge of the animals and vegetation, as well as a delightful sense of humor. Everything was held together by Bob, assistant to the camp manager, who shared in our recounting of the day’s events during mealtimes, supplying us with further insight to the ways of the South African culture, and going out of his way to help fulfill our desires, wether it being a shopping trip or pancakes.
As for the rooms, they were at all times clean and well maintained. The standard bedrooms are not particularly large, but they are no less comfortable than the master bedrooms. Every room has a good view of the river, and comfortable chairs on the terrasse. The pool is well kept, with a wonderful surrounding pool area, complete with plenty of sunbeds. Best of all is the covered area next to the pool, with comfortable lounge furniture, giving everybody a chance to relax and enjoy the cool breeze from the river, wether wanting to swim in the pool or not.
It being Christmas, the camp manager Jesper had prepared a delicious roasted duck for Christmas dinner - what a treat! As two of us celebrated our birthday during the stay, the Chef had prepared two lovely cakes and a beautiful birthday song for us - thank you!
All in all we had a wonderful stay at Balule River Camp, thanks to the very professional staff!
As part of a two week vacation in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana we stayed at Balule River Camp for a week. It turned out to be a one-of-a-kind experience. The lodge is situated 13 km from the main road (on a very bumpy road) next to the Balule River. The surroundings are beautiful and the wild life is literally in the lodge. Baboons are playing on the ground, crocodiles and hippos lives in the river below the lodge and a group of three elephants passed through the lodge when we were there.
Even though it turned out that we had chosen virtually the worst time you can imagine for a safari in the winter after a year of drought, we saw a lot of wild life. Most of it on the tour to the public park but also a lot of animals in the Balule area. Of the big five we only missed the leopard. Our guides, Jonathan and Edward, were fabulous at spotting the animals at a far distance and get close to them without intimidating them.
The lodge itself is intimate and well maintained. It consists of two bungalows with three rooms in each, a main house with a small pool and fitness room, a small shop and houses for the staff. The standard of the facilities are high, and both power, hot bathing water and wifi were reliable which is not always the case at safari hotels.
The food is a story in itself. We have travelled many places and eaten at many restaurants from family restaurants to Michelin restaurants, but we have very seldom got a consistently culinary experience at the level we got at Balule seven evenings in a row. Sometimes served outside in the Boma, sometimes served by the fireplace in the main room and one evening even served at the top of a hill in the bush in the light from candles and torches.
The staff was kind and spread a happy mood from early morning til late night. Jesper, the manager of the lodge, is a great host. He was very accessible and participated in all meals and facilitated a cozy atmosphere and good conversation and also managed to include our sons (13 and 20 years) in the dialogue. When we had special requests Jesper was very flexible and fast to react.
We can definitely recommend Balule River Camp.
NB: One thing we realised was that it is possible to book a stay directly at Balule bypassing the travel agencies. Then you can arrange travel and other activities yourself. The contact information is email@example.com or +27 83 677 6889.
NB: It is sometimes difficult to predict the additional costs when you plan your travel. Our experience was that if you have chosen a standard package with travel and accommodation you can add around 5% for drinks, tips, laundry etc. Extra tours are not included in that figure.
NB: It is very cold in the winter in the mornings so bring your winter clothes, if you travel when it is winter in South Africa.
We had a fantastic 1 week stay at the camp last week of November. As the only guests this week we got the full attention from the whole team. Jesper and Colleen was around the whole time giving advices and keeping us company. With the help of Edward we got to see the big 5 and got a lot of nice pictures. We were as disappointed as Jesper and Colleen that we missed the 7 lions passing by the river bank one evening while we enjoyed dinner in the boma. The food was excellent every day and we also got time to enjoy the pool life. A stay at Balule can really be recommended.
In Balule all six of us aged from 7 to 49 had the most wonderful vacation. The safaries were exiting and we all learned a lot from the very professional and nice rangers. The camp is calm, beautiful and friendly. Food, drink, pool, the host Jesper, the singing chef, the sundown, the river.....Nothing to worry about, pure happiness!