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“Dissapointing”

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Kariega Game Reserve - All Lodges
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed January 6, 2013

We stayed at Kariega at the end of December. Our stay at Kariega was going to big treat for my husband as he is from New Zealand. Unfortunately I have to say that we were dissapointed. when I looked at all the options for game lodges available in the Eastern Cape Kariega caught my eye due to the boat trip on the River. My husband also was looking forward to this. when we checked in on the day no one ever mentioned anything about the boat being damaged or no indication was given on their website about the boat trips being cancelled. It was only after I asked our Ranger the night before dinner that she told me the boat is damaged. Accordng to her the flood that damaged the boat happened 6 weeks ago but when I got to my parents house and asked after the floods we realised the flood happened 11 weeks ago. The weather was not the best the morning for our Game Drive so instead of a Game Drive that lasted 3 to 3.5 hours ours lasted two hours. No compensation was ever offered for the cancelled boat trip or the shorter game drive. and to add to our frustration something small such as coffee and muffins that were promised on the Game Drive was never given. And then there's the fact that its advertised as a Big 5 Game Reserve, but after asking the Ranger about leopards I got the idea that there's not really a leopard/s on the Reserve. The room and the food however was lovely.
Also I would like to add that I e-mailed the Reserve with these comments before posting it on Tripadvisor but after 5 days I still had no reply. Funny when you want to make a booking they get back to you within hours.

  • Stayed: December 2012, traveled as a couple
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3  Thank Liesl P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Bronwen d, Manager at Kariega Game Reserve - All Lodges, responded to this reviewResponded January 21, 2013

Thank you so much for posting your review about your stay with us at Kariega. We are really sorry that your experience was disappointing. We are also very sorry that we did not respond to your email. Please could you forward this to our General Manager, Alan Weyer, on alan@kariega.co.za so that we can see why this was not picked up. We really value feedback and respond to all emails from guests. We apologize that we didn't get your email.

We also apologize that that you could not go on the river cruise. We are also very sorry that you were not informed about the damage to our boats as a result of the severe floods during October 2012. This flood caused significant damage to the infrastructure on our reserve including our roads (as well as a portion of the national road), jetties and boats. Our river boat was nearly washed out to sea and had to be completely rebuilt. The repair process took much longer than we hoped and we had various problems even once it was fixed. We really apologize that this was not communicated to you and that it had such a negative impact on your stay. We agree that our river experience sets us apart from other reserves and we are really sorry that you did not get to experience this during your time at Kariega.

We are also sorry that you did not get to see any leopards. The leopards on our reserve spend most of their time in the valleys and deep kloofs as well as in various caves. They can be difficult to see but an incredible experience for those lucky enough.

We really appreciate your feedback.

Kind regards,
Bronwen & the Kariega team

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Reviewed December 30, 2012

We stayed here for 4 nights at the start of December 2012 and it was truly fantastic. We stayed in Main Lodge (all comments in this review therefore relate to Main Lodge and Main Lodge facilities) and as we arrived after reception had closed (7pm), we collected our key from the security guard and found our way to the chalet. The chalet was spotlessly clean, spacious and airy. There were only 2 of us, but we were in a 3 bedroom chalet which could have accommodated 6 people so there was plenty of room! The chalet was beautifully decorated, and the views from the balcony and 2 bedrooms were lovely.

We had 2 game drives per day included in our package, and each one was superb (we went on a total of 7 game drives). The game reserve is beautiful and there are so many different species of animal to see. We saw 3 of the big 5 (lion, elephant and rhino), and saw lots of other animals aswell (too many to mention, but included giraffe, hippo, baboons, impala, nyala, jackalls, kudo). Our ranger Matt was fantastic, very knowledgeable, friendly and with a good sense of humour. Matt really went the extra mile to try to get us to see the animals we wanted to see - he most definitely went the extra mile to get us to see the rhinos, an experience we will never forget. On the evening drives there was always a drinks stop, which was a lovely touch - getting out of the jeep with a beer/glass of wine and just taking in the scenery is amazing. Not only did we see lots of amazing animals on this safari, but we learnt so much about these animals, their behaviours and their futures.

The food can only be described as fantastic. Having read some reviews on here, I wasn't sure what to expect, especially as I am vegetarian, but I can safely say, there were no issues with food. It was tasty, plentiful and very enjoyable!! Breakfast (always eaten after the morning safari at about 10am) consisted of fruit, yoghurt, toast and a hot breakfast. Lunch (2-3.30pm) was salad, fruit, and a choice from 2 hot dishes (eg, pizza, macaroni cheese, kudo stew). There was also a small selection of desserts. Evening meal served after the evening safari (about 7.30pm) was soup, homemade bread, roast meat, other meat or fish, vegetables and salad. For dessert there was a choice including gateaux, sticky toffee pudding, cheese and biscuits etc. All meals are buffet style so you can choose how much you want. Our travel agent had told Kariega in advance that I was vegetarian and they had gone to great lengths to ensure there was always a separate veggie option for me, including pasta, chickpea curry, stuffed pepper. Big thanks to Gillian and her team for my tasty meals and all the extra effort. I fail to see how anyone could not like the food at Kariega and you certainly won't go home hungry!!

Meals are served in the restaurant, and you do eat with your group including your ranger. We didn't have any issue with this, and really enjoyed this. It's a great way to meet new people, discuss the day, and generally relax. I do admit though that it probably does depend on the group you are with, and we were fortunate that we were in a really good chatty group. As I said, our ranger was very chatty and friendly, and from what I could see the other rangers were the same. On one evening, you get to go and eat your dinner by the boma, round the open fire which is a good experience.

There is a small bar next to the main restauarnt, which is great for relaxing in. The bar manager is very friendly and runs an efficient bar service (can't remember his name - Julius?). The bar closes reasonably early, but no-one minds as it's always an early start the next morning and most people retire to bed early in order to be fresh and alert the next day to make the most of the safari experience.

All staff at Kariega are friendly and welcoming, and we genuinely felt that nothing was too much trouble. We felt that it was very personal service and in some ways the team at Kariega make you feel just like you are at home!

In between safaris, there is a lovely pool area, a walk you can do unguided and spa facilaities. We didn't use the spa or go on the walk, so can't comment - we were too busy relaxing in our chalet and admiring the view from our balcony!

In summary, we had a great stay here at Kariega Main Lodge and cannot fault our stay at all. We loved every minute and hope to return again one day. We would wholeheartedly recommend Kariega to anyone.

  • Stayed: December 2012, traveled as a couple
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4  Thank bettybrum
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 20, 2012

Would happily recommend Kariega River Lodge to anyone. It's a fantastic setting and experience. The Game is plentiful and the Rangers were great, enthusiastic and helpful. We stayed for four nights and weren't disappointed. We saw all of the usual suspects in terms of wildlife, but were also enthralled by the indepth knowledge of the Birds and plantlife demonstrated by our excellent Ranger David

  • Stayed: December 2012, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank ScoobyScott
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 17, 2012

We stayed here for 4 nights at the end of our honeymoon. We arrived on a Sat afternoon and received a warm welcome at reception and was introduced to our Ranger, Louis. We were taken to our accomodation at the Ukhozi lodge. This was a very spacious chalet with a large double bed and bath with seperate shower and plunge pool. The room was very clean and comfortable.
The food at the Ukhozi lodge was generally very good The breakfast included fresh fruit, cereals and very good cooked options. Lunch however was a little disappointing....a hot soup was available, which I liked but salad options were poor and much of the other food options (chicken legs, sausages, simosas) were cold and not covered, hence there were flies in and around the food. (Mesh foods covers would quickly address this). However the evening meals were excellent and the wine list superb and plentiful. The service in the restaurant was also very good.
The highlight was the game drives which we very much enjoyed. Louis Fouris, our ranger, was simply superb and we very much enjoyed his company. He was very knowledgable and planned out our drives each day so that we got to see a little bit more of the area and animals, building up to seeing the elephants and Lions. This was such a unique experience and I would highly recommend it. We also got to witness a number of fantastic sun downs from perfect locations.
Overall our stay was very enjoyable but here were a few minor things that we thought should be addressed to really drive home this 4 star experience.
We decided to take a trek one day along the Blue Duiker trail. The trail was poorly signposted and any direction points were confusing. Also the trek path was quite overgrown hence after a short period of time we turned back. A little TLC and this would be a great option outside of the game drives.
One day after our morning drive I decided to go to the gym for a run, as there are no real options to run outside (for obvious reasons). The gym did not have a treadmill, the air con wasn't working, no gym towels available or water. I know you might say, why are you even bothering with going to the gym when on safari....well, we were there for 4 days and the weather wasn't great that day so it was nice to have another option.
As stated earlier, we really enjoyed our accomodation but our shower gels etc were not replaced during our whole stay and our plunge pool was full of flies and leaves and wasn't cleaned once during the 4 days.
The above items will hopefully be seen as constructive criticisim and if addressed will reaaly make this a top place to visit......overall we really did enjoy our 4 days and would recommend Kariega!

  • Stayed: December 2012, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank NHyde73
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Bronwen d, Manager at Kariega Game Reserve - All Lodges, responded to this reviewResponded January 20, 2013

We are so pleased that you enjoyed your honeymoon stay with us at Kariega Ukhozi Lodge. Thank you for your lovely feedback and helpful pointers. We have taken note of all of these and passed them onto the people responsible for each area. We really value helpful comments and appreciate you taking the time to post these for us. We have also passed on your compliments to Louis and the service team at Ukhozi.

We hope you had a great holiday and have many great memories. We'd be happy to welcome you back any time!

Kind regards,
Bronwen and the Kariega team

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Reviewed December 8, 2012

Stayed for three nights and we were amazed by the reserve. Fantastic accomodation, very good food and a wide selection of very nice wines included in the all-inclusive. We thoroughly enjoyed the wildlife, amazing to see animals in natural environemnt and not in a zoo. Staff and in particular the rangers can't do enough for you. Well worth it and made our honeymoon!

Room Tip: We stayed in the Ukhozi lodge, which was fantastic.
  • Stayed: November 2012, traveled as a couple
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Thank StaceyU2012
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 3, 2012

We stayed at Kariega Main Lodge for 2 nights and it that was more than enough. When we checked in and out we didn't feel like we were valued guest but more like a number. Not a warm welcome or departure like we're used at other lodges. The game was a bit shady, if you claim to have the "magnificent" big 5 you expect a bit more. Not just 7 lions, 6 buffalos (2 young ones), and probably no more than a handful of rhinos and maybe a leopard. Worst of all was seeing a buffel with a collar around its neck. It felt like a free roaming zoo.
The rivercruise was also not available due to earlier rain that wecked the boat.

Though, the cabin we stayed in was very nice, big enough for a family of 6 although we were with only 3 adults. The restaurant was nice and served good foods.

  • Stayed: November 2012, traveled with family
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Thank LarsH79
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Bronwen d, Manager at Kariega Game Reserve - All Lodges, responded to this reviewResponded December 6, 2012

Thank you for posting your review about your stay at in our Main Lodge cabin.

We are so pleased that you particularly enjoyed our accommodation and food. We sincerely apologise that your welcome and departure was not handled in a friendly and warm manner. This issue has been brought to the attention of our general manager. Thank you for letting us know.

We are sorry that the wildlife experience did not meet your expectations. We consider ourselves exceptionally fortunate to offer a safari experience on 9000 hectares of pristine African land. This area can only support a particular number of big game, particularly lions.

We are also very fortunate to be involved in a unique programme to expand the area and number of disease-free Cape buffalo. We are currently monitoring the movement and habits of these animals as part of our conservation programme. This is why one of the animals has a collar. We hope that our herd will continue to grow so that we can, in time, support the expansion of disease-free animals outside of the Eastern Cape.

Thanks again for taking the time to feedback to us.

Kind regards,
Bronwen and the Kariega team

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Reviewed November 25, 2012

My boyfriend and I booked to go here for 4 weeks recently and after searching on the internet for feedback or any reviews(they haven't listed it on trip advisor?!), like most people who have commented on this thread before, we didnt find any. So we took a leap of faith and paid for the trip in advance as requested by the marketing agent, enkosini. Unfortunately this programme turned out to be nothing like stated on the enkosini website or the literature at all in terms of the accommodation provided, or conservation projects and activities.

The house that the volunteers stay in is old and worn and very poorly maintained. As stated on the literature provided, we arrived expecting basic and rustic accommodation but the house was far less than basic, it was old, dirty, damp and in a bad state of disrepair. The 6 volunteers who had been there for 1week already were quick to tell us how they were not happy with the living conditions and equally, unhappy with the programme as they hadn't really done any conservation work in the last week either? In fact they went on to tell us that they had mainly been sitting in the house for the best part of each day doing nothing and occasionally they were picked up by the co-ordinator to go out and fix roads or fences, change batteries in some of the reserves cameras and that was about it. The house is actually in the middle of the reserve where the lions and elephants roam so its completely fenced off so you cant go out of the garden. It's also very remote from any other form of life, so there is no way to leave the house unless the staff come and collect you. Therefore unless you are out with the co-ordinator, your are stuck in the house. The nearest town is 40minutes out of the reserve by car but again you can't leave the reserve unless you are with the co-ordinator as the volunteers don't have any transport. We were told they would take us to the town on Saturdays if we required. With nothing to do in the day/ and then sitting there all night you couldn't help feel like a prisoner.

However, we wanted to give the programme a fair shot and see if things changed or at least have our own opinion but the next two days turned out to be exactly what the other volunteers had described. Because of the weather (raining)on the first morning the co-ordinator was due to collect us at 8am but didn't collect us till after 11. She said she was taking us out to fix up a dirt road on the reserve where the water had washed away parts of it. We spent 1.5hrs in the torrential rain, picking up rocks from a nearbye quarry and then getting them(by truck) up to the part of the dirt track, then piling them in the holes. Not great fun at all. After getting soaked, it was announced that its too rainy so we should go back to the house. We were dropped off and that was it till the next day. The house was freezing, very damp due to all the bad weather they had been having and the only way of getting warm was to light the one coal fire in the dining room. We tried to lite this but was told by the others that there was no point as the chimney was old and hadn't been maintained/swept in a long time so the smoke just bellows back in the room! So the fire was not working either. We had a shower to warm up but even the bathrooms are old and tired and very dirty. There is mould and mildew around the tiles in the showers and again damp coming down the wall so there was no way to escape the cold. The second day didnt get much better. It was announced that the rain was still continuous so maybe if it stopped we would go and change some batteries in the surveillance cameras! You can't help the weather, we know this but the must be so much more we could learn about in preparation for when it stops?
I couldn't help feel that there was things to be taught about the reserve, the 'conservation programmes' the animals, the history of the place, research that had been done, research in progress? Sadly none of this happened for the people who had been there one week already during the bad weather, and it was looking very likely that it wasnt going to happen for us this week. We stayed in the house all day doing nothing and the next morning too. I'm not sure that there was even the projects underway that were advertised on enkosini? One of the house rules was that you were not allowed to ask the co-ordinator what the plans were for the next day??! Odd! It was becoming more and more apparent that there wasn't much thought put into the volunteer programme at all, food, comfort, health and hygiene nor daily activities whether it be raining or not.

With regards to the house, my boyfriend and I were lucky enough to have the only double room in the house, but other than that there was a boys room and a girls room. The boys room was cramped with only one bathroom to share between 5 of them. On the first night we were there they had to re_arrange all the beds around as the roof was leaking onto his mattress. The bathroom was also damp and tired. The girls room also had damp and the ceiling was black from the mould, again 4 sharing one bathroom. Our room, again damp with black patches, and to get into the bed was even wet. The damp was seeping into the mattress and pillows. We just felt we had been cheated and mislead.
The final point that made us leave on day 3 was when the co-ordinator took us over on a drive to the main reserve, the paying guest side where people book to go on safari. This place was immaculate, easily 4-5 star conditions. Understandably the guests expect this as they pay much more to stay here but we couldn't help feel that the money we paid to 'volunteer' (4000USD) for 1 month was basically being invested into this profit making side of the business, and actually what the volunteers were doing was the maintenance work for the reserve? We were paying to do their maintenance?

Food: As part of the above sum we paid, our food was included and we were told that the shopping was done for us once per week. When we saw what had to last one week and the quality of the food, this again frustrated us further. Very little fresh vegetables and fruit, tiny amount of meat, but lots of processed tins of food and cheap packets of sauce and pasta. Nothing the at all to form part of a healthy diet but obviously we were told that if we wanted to buy our own food at the weekend when we go to town then we could? (6 days away) Again not great having already paid for full board.

In the end we stayed 3 days(2nights). we spoke to the co-ordinator and the conservation manager on morning 3 and left that afternoon. They said that we were the first people that had ever complained about the house which we found hard to believe. There were 4 other people in the house who also planned to leave that weekend for the same reasons, one of which decoded to leave that day and get the transfer back to the airport with us. Damp and dirty living conditions, no conservation work materialising, isolation in the remote house, bad diet, cold and so on.

We were fortunate enough to get some of our money back as we were firm and clearly stated the reasons we were leaving and showed them the damp and so on. They did say that they never give refunds (so maybe they have been asked before) but we pushed our case and got the majority of the payment back, less 200USD. Unfortunately we were still out of pocket for our flight to port Elizabeth and our transfers to and from the reserve, plus the 200USD that they kept, so it turned out to be a very expensive and bad experience. Thankfully we are confident travellers so we decided to make the most of our trip to South Africa by hiring a car and doing our own traveling along the garden route for the next 4 weeks. Our flight to leave SA was non changeable and non refundable so we couldn't leave for another 4 weeks anyway. Unfortunately not all of the other volunteers had the luxury of some emergency travel money or the confidence to do the same so they were stuck there till their leaving date.

  • Stayed: October 2012, traveled as a couple
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3  Thank XJJC
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Bronwen d, Manager at Kariega Game Reserve - All Lodges, responded to this reviewResponded December 5, 2012

We are very sorry that you did not enjoy your time in the volunteer programme. As you know, weather is not something that we can control and we experienced some of the most severe flooding in many years before and during your stay. This is the reason that most houses in the area had leaks and dampness during this time. The floods were terrible and affected everyone very badly including washing away homes in informal settlements, parts of the newly built national road as well as various game trails at Kariega.

We work very hard to ensure that the house is comfortable for our volunteers. It has a lovely boma and a plunge pool in the garden. An undercover deck leading out from the living area (built in May this year) and an enlarged entertainment and dining room. More renovations are being planned as I type this. During our December Christmas break, builders will renovate the kitchen and retile both the showers. From January 2013, our volunteers can look forward to a lovely new kitchen and bathrooms.

It was unfortunate that you only stayed for one and a half days, when it rained the majority of the time, so we are really sorry that you did not get to experience the conservation projects at Kariega.

Despite the severity of the weather we do understand your perspective, and apologize that things were not to the standard you expected.

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Additional Information about Kariega Game Reserve - All Lodges

Address: R343 | Between Kenton On Sea and Grahamstown, Kenton-on-Sea 6191, South Africa
Location: South Africa > Eastern Cape > Greater Addo > Kenton-on-Sea
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Business Center with Internet Access Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Kitchenette Restaurant Shuttle Bus service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 8 Specialty Lodging in Kenton-on-Sea
Price Range: $538 - $826 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:4 star — Kariega Game Reserve - All Lodges 4*
Number of rooms: 50
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Kariega Game Reserve is a 10,000 hectare Big 5 malaria-free private game reserve in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa. The safari experience combines close up Big 5 game viewing, an expansive variety of fauna, flora and birdlife, a landscape spanning 5 eco-systems and dramatic views and vistas. Kariega Game Reserve has five safari lodges. Main Lodge consists of 21 separate log chalets, each with en-suite bathrooms, lounge and private balcony; River Lodge has 10 suites and is located on the Bushman's River; Ukhozi Lodge has 10 spacious suites, each with private pools and great views; Settlers Drift Tented Lodge has 9 modern but intimate suites surrounded by natural bush and overlooking the Bushman's River wilderness area and lastly the Homestead private lodge is perfectly suited for families or groups of friends of up to 14 people. Rates include accommodation, meals, morning and evening game drives with your experienced guide, walking safaris and a river trip. Fishing, canoeing and other activities can be arranged. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Kariega Game Reserve Hotel Kenton-On-Sea
Kariega Lodge

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