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“Bonamanzi - From a Camper's Point of View”

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Bonamanzi Game Reserve
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed January 31, 2012

What we were looking for: A bush camping experience with flair. We didn't find it...

First the good things: Our email correspondence with the staff was 110%. Prompt and friendly replies. The same went for check-in on arrival. Big smiles and a lovely welcome.

Thats pretty much where the good stuff ended and the mundane began. The area surrounding the main lodge area is pretty tatty, the Lalapanzi camp looks quite run down, and the bar area is equipped with 70's furniture and needs a good sweep.

Down to the camp, past endless staff accommodation, we were in campsite 1 (we weren't given a choice despite being the only ones there). We were lucky that there weren't any other people, as the braai areas are all lumped together, and really, we don't like sitting with strangers on holiday unless by choice. It would be better that every camp has its own braai facility. Good for groups though. If you are on your own, ask for site 5 or 6 - thats the only way you are guaranteed privacy.

The thing one expects from a private resort with regards to camping is a degree of creativity - possibly a bush shower, open loos, a lookout to a view or waterhole, but this camp has none of that. Just a clearing in the bush with a bog standard ablution block that is badly tiled (and therefore difficult to clean), unfunctioning windows and not even a bench in the shower to place your clothes and other goodies. Water pressure was good and there was plenty of hot water (there were only 2 of us) and there is electricity at every site as promised. One thing that bothered me is that none of the cleaning staff wear proper uniforms and arrived at camp carrying nothing to clean with... the bathroom was just wiped down with an old rag and the tiles were smeared with bits of bugs. This is no fault of the staff, in my opinion the management is at fault. Not once did I see management checking anything.

As far as the game goes, well, I would like to see proof of the so-called 4 of the big 5 that the staff at reception emphatically said that they had there. Usually when there are rhino, elephant AND buffalo in a reserve (and its a small reserve), you will find lots of evidence by way of dung, especially on the roadways. Not once did we see fresh dung, and we traversed the whole of the park during our 3 days there.

On night one, we were kept awake from parties in the staff accommodation - drumming till late. On night two, it was a domestic dog consistently barking. Night 3 we heard a lone hyena quite close to camp. This was blissful. At last!

The hides that we visited are in good condition and nice to take a picnic lunch to. The birdlife is very good.

As a further note, if you are going to tell guests they can self-drive the park, please, check the roads to make sure they are open. We had to turn back due to a fallen tree (not a recent fall either) and we scratched our car quite a lot anywhere off the main thoroughfare as the roads weren't cleared on the sides at all (not really acceptable guys - the reserve is tiny, check it once a week at least).

Would we come back? Not unless something changes to up THEIR game (or THE game). Did we hate it? No, not at all - it was pleasant enough, just really nothing special. I certainly wouldn't stay in the tree houses - we had a peek and they look awful and stuck in 1982.

This review does seem picky I am aware of this, but I really did expect better from this place, because the website promises all sorts of lovely things, but fails to deliver. And without someone telling you exactly how it is, well, you will never know. I was going to tell the staff on checkout my complaints, but they didn't ask how my stay was.

Room Tip: If camping, ask for site 5 or 6 for privacy. Take your own plugs for the scullery - supplied don'...
  • Stayed: January 2012, traveled as a couple
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4  Thank Worsie76
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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149 - 155 of 175 reviews

Reviewed October 20, 2011

I spent a 3 wonderful days at Bonamanzi, in one of the Tree Houses in the forest with my fiancé! It was magical! The food was excellent and very tasty and we were serviced by very friendly and helpful staff! Thank you Bonamanzi, we will definitely return very soon!

  • Stayed: September 2011
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Thank mishmash1985
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 30, 2011

I stayed at bonamanzi for two nights, on my arival i could hear a manager screaming at staff and then later saw a young girl exiting crying. None of the staff seemed game to breath and I felt extremely unwelcomed. When I checked into my room, my room hadn't been made up and I had to wait until this was done and even once done was very poorly done with the room still seeming to be dirty and dusty. That evening we had dinner in the restaurant which was average and then sat out by the fire which was relaxing and enjoyable until some of the younger staff that were managing the restaurant decided to get drunk with some of the younger male guests and when I asked nicely if they would keep it down a little was rudely insulted back.

The next morning I went on a game drive which was ok, the young french girl seemed to try but didn't know much and only stuck to the main roads so we didn't get to see really anything besides a coupld of antelope which you can see walking around the lodge. I had a lot of questions about different things that we did see and really couldn't get any answers, what is a french girl doing guiding in SA, why not have sombody who knew what they were doing. Are they just trying to save money instead of giving their guests an enjoyable stay?

The only really enjoyable askpect was that we could walk around by ourselves which is what we decided to do that afternoon, the location is nice and the were a variety of different birds taht we saw.

After the terrible dinner the night before, we decided to stay in and cook our own dinner, this was lovely, except to be able to have a bbq or as they call it a braii, we had to collect our own firewood.

We would have had an enjoyable stay if we didn't deal with any staff, had a clean room that we didn't have to wait for and had a guide that knew what they were doing.

From all the places that I stayed in while in South Africa which was over 20, this was by far the worst place by far that we encounted and next time I wouldn't even stay there if I were being paid as the entire time we just felt so uncomfortale and unwelcome.

  • Stayed: October 2010, traveled with friends
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8  Thank explorer60763
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 24, 2011

Lovely spot and great small game viewing (animals are very tame). Dinizulu Camp was great but finding 'lost' costumes in the pool is not a great feeling! Tree Lodge was a good setting but looking very tired and need of a decor refresh. Also ridiculous white curtains meant any sleep in was impossible due to the early and strong light. Game Lodge also in dire need of a refresh. Tree Houses OK. Infrastructure needs upgrading - we had 2 days of no power and water! Whole place could also be made more eco-friendly. Management and dealing to issues just not up to scratch, sorry. Hopefully a turn around can be made and some sprucing up. Then it will be a great place for a family holiday.

  • Stayed: December 2010, traveled with family
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1  Thank Paul B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 19, 2011

The location is attractive though very heavily wooded. The various lodges (which we occupied) were of varying standards. Game Lodge and Tree Lodge were of a lower standard (and price) than Dinizulu. For 2 days, we had no power or water due to a major electrical failure. Surprisingly, for a game reserve, the lodge is relies wholly on electricity (lighting, hot water and cooking). Previous guest comments also highlighted power failures (in the rainy season). The reserve needs significant investment and upgrading (new gas cookers, solar power and emergency lighting) to make it of a more acceptable standard. The lodges too need repair and maintenance. There are other lodges in the area with a better standard of facilities at a similar price.

  • Stayed: December 2010
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1  Thank liquidgiraffe
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 5, 2011

As above, the tree house we stayed in is in the middle of nowhere, at least a 10 minute drive to the main lodge house (which itself is in the middle of nowhere!) which has a pool and restaurant. The pool was a strange brownish colour and i certainly didnt go in it. Didn't eat in the restaurant so can't comment but poeple who did said it was OK but i did have a toasted sandwich for lunch there and it was very average.
Our lodge is itself was quite nice from the outside but very very basic inside. Never encoutered so many insects at night and they were very huge (not for the squemish). Our twin room smelt terrible and the smell didnt go for the 3 days we were there. Even had a tarantula in our room the first night! I wouldnt go back. Too remote, and far too basic.

  • Stayed: December 2010, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank joey30
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 5, 2010

Bonamanzi is in a wonderful location - very peaceful. Rooms are located in individual chalets. The chalets fit in with the surroundings perfectly but the rooms are very basic and the bathrooms are very dated. The setting is amazing with widlife grazing around the grounds. Food is good, nothing amazing, but hearty amd filling. Dinner is served around the fire pit in the evenings which is lovely.

  • Stayed: October 2009, traveled as a couple
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Thank Claire-Clinton
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Bonamanzi Game Reserve

Address: Bonamanzi Game Park | c/o Bonamanzi Game Park, Hluhluwe 3960, South Africa
Location: South Africa > KwaZulu-Natal > Zululand > Hluhluwe
Amenities:
Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #6 of 32 Specialty Lodging in Hluhluwe
Price Range: $178 - $202 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:3 star — Bonamanzi Game Reserve 3*
Number of rooms: 38
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Bonamanzi Game Reserve, a Big 4 Reserve, is a Natural Heritage Site bordered by the spectacular Lake St. Lucia Isimangaliso Wetlands - a World Heritage Site - and the magnificent Hluhluwe River.This privately owned game reserve and safari lodge is widely recognised as one of the best birding destinations in Southern Africa. Lake St Lucia and the Hluhluwe River give Bonamanzi its Zulu name, meaning "Look, Water!". Its almost 4000 ha teams with game, and one of Bonamanzi's special features is that it provides a safe and interactive bush experience in which you can do walks or drive, with or without the company of a trained field guide. To see the Big Five animals, the famous Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve is a short 20 minute drive away or join us on one of our Game Drives.A wonderful climate prevails all year long with splendid summers and warm winter days. Set your own pace as you absorb the peaceful sounds and spectacles of three adjoining eco-systems: coastal grassland, tropical forest, and woodland. Comfortable Accommodation and every facility is available to ensure that your stay is a pleasant one, be it a peaceful getaway for couples or families, or Conference and Events or Weddings parties. And there are plenty of Activities from Boat Cruises, Bird Safari and Game Drives to relaxing at the pool at Lalapanzi Camp to ensure that your every whim is catered for.Bonamanzi Game Reserve is easily accessible, being just a few hours drive from the Durban airport as well as the Golela border post with Swaziland, and perfectly situated to explore the splendour of this heavenly part of the world. Come, and experience Zululand's warm and friendly hospitality at its finest - we'd love to share it with you ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Bonamanzi Game Park Tree House Hotel Hluhluwe

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