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“Most Enjoyable Experience”

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Shepherd's Tree Game Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed December 12, 2011

We'd like to thank Shepherds Tree management and staff for a wonderful experience. Myself and family
were there for a week end and enjoyed it very much. From the time we got there till the time we left
we received 5 star service. Your staff are very friendly, helpful and reliable. We enjoyed the game
rides the most, the rangers were knowledgeable and we loved viewing the game. Your rooms are
stunning, we loved the open windows onto the game reserve, it was quiet and relaxing, exactly what
we needed!

We would definitely visit Shepherds Tree again.

Regards
Mechelle and Francois Oosthuizen

  • Stayed: November 2011, traveled with family
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1  Thank mechelle o
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed December 12, 2011

I just wish to say thank you to the staff and GM (Mr. Kevin Jeffery) for the wonderful time I spent at Shepherd's Tree Game Lodge in September of this year 2011. It was so relaxing and at the same time very exciting. Kevin went out of his way to see that I had everything that I needed to make my stay comfortable and memorable.
He arranged my game drives, which I will always take away with me as it was very exciting witnessing an almost wildebeest kill. The ranger Jacques was most pleasant and took the time to stop and explain to his passengers the smallest details of the bush and interesting habits of the wild life in the game park.
The service at the lodge was excellent, the food to die for, not to mention the rooms which were perfect. Every little detail taken care of and a pleasant personal touch in the room to make it even more welcome.
I really appreciate the warm and welcoming approach Kevin and his staff gave me with my short but pleasant stay at the lodge. I will most certainly recommend anyone to get in touch with the GM (Mr. Kevin Jeffery) and book their week-end away in paradise.
THANK YOU ONCE AGAIN KEVIN......I will most certainly be back again.

  • Stayed: September 2011, traveled with friends
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1  Thank Juliana114
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 27, 2011

I am a self-confessed game lodge “junkie” – taking a breather from the pace of city life, I love nothing more than a weekend in the African bush. Unabashedly addicted to the luxury game lodge experience, I’ve been lucky to spend time in some world-class lodges in South Africa. With a colleague visiting from Ireland, we chose to spend last weekend at Shepherd’s Tree Game Lodge in the Pilanesberg.

Staying at luxury lodges, one expects that the experience of a wilderness getaway is combined with personal service, great food, and beautiful accommodation. Compared to other lodges, our experience at Shepherd’s Tree simply didn’t achieve the same high standard set by others in its price range (at between R1500-3,000 per person per night). The lodge itself – while unconventionally chic and markedly “unAfrican” – has loads of potential to provide an exclusive retreat to many who would appreciate the beautifully appointed rooms and immersion in the African bush. But a really inconvenient layout, combined with impersonal service and sub-standard food left me certain this won’t be a lodge we’d return to.

Shepherd’s Tree has 29 rooms – all beautifully modern, comfortable and secluded, with nice touches like private outdoor showers and canopy beds. However, the spralling layout of the lodge requires an intentional approach – with rooms a good 500m walk from the main lodge, a convenient way to shuttle guests easily back and forth is the foundation of a pleasant experience at Shepherd’s Tree. The lodge seems to have no way to manage this – an ancient converted bakkie trundles up the hill to rooms on demand, driven by the game guides. This disconnect between the lodge and rooms just doesn’t work – the approach feels clunky and leaves guests feeling glad at the brevity of their stay in the far-flung rooms. It also means the lodge lacks a sociable vibe as guests can’t move easily back and forth from rooms to the lodge pool, cigar bar and deck.

Staff at Shepherd’s Tree are well-trained and efficient – but service is impersonal and inflexible. One gets the impression of a checklist being executed – everything from the greeting to the meals service is “cookie-cutter”, creating a superficial veneer that lacks the personal touch that brings guests back to luxury resorts. Staff are polite but inflexible to requests, and transactional in dealing with problems – a power failure in our room, setting an alarm beeping insistently in our room at midnight, took 40 minutes and 3 phone calls to resolve, without any follow-up or comment from management. The checklist approach creates an expectation of personal service that is lacking – why ask me what time I intend to arrive, but have my room ready only 2 hours after I advised I’d be arriving? A notable exception was our personable and knowledgeable field guide, Jo, who made two drives – even without a single big 5 sighting in this big 5 reserve! – very enjoyable.

The same “serviceable” approach to guests is evident in the Shepherd’s Tree kitchen. Attentive waiters take orders and ask how food should be prepared – yet 3 fillets, each ordered differently, are all served well done without comment. At breakfast, a comprehensive order is taken for English breakfast – but of 3 plates delivered, not one was what we ordered. I was probably more accommodating than others might be in handing over the bacon I didn’t order to my bacon-less table-mate and bemusedly eating my pork sausages in lieu of the beef ordered, with my multiple medium poached eggs (despite specifically asking for “just one, please, not two” soft poached eggs). The food was by all standards “fine” – but I’m not sure guests paying luxury lodge prices expect food to be just fine?

For a lodge promising memorable & exclusive vacations, with a room rate to match, Shepherd’s Tree has a lot of work to do to convince guests to return. Our Irish friend, enthused by the park and by South Africa, wants to bring his family to the Pilanesberg, and asked after other lodges – not complaining that he didn’t enjoy Shepherd’s Tree, but simply because it’s not one of those irresistible lodge experiences that lures you back. This junkie was disenchanted – we’ll return to the Pilanesberg, but not to Shepherd’s Tree.

Room Tip: If you do visit Shepherd's Tree, insist on a single-digit room number. We were in room 25 - pro...
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  • Stayed: November 2011, traveled with friends
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2  Thank havejeepwilltravel
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 31, 2011

A friend and I drove up from Johannesburg for the night to Shepherd's Tree Lodge to escape the city and see some game. It was easily finadble and accessible off of the main road - it has its own gate right in to the park! This was great. However, I had two main issues with this property that will keep me from returning in the future:
1) It has an awkward balance between conference center and game lodge and 2) the game drive ranger was really unprofessional.
To the first point, the rooms are lovely inside and the grounds well kept but our room had no balcony or out door space at all... we had to stand in the outdoor shower to see the stars! This is the only game lodge where I have been to where there hasn't been a comfortable outdoor space for each room. We would have gone back to the main lodge, however our room was the last one on the property and a significant walk, one they asked us to be careful of at night due to the game! Our minibar was also locked and we hadn't even been offered the key upon check-in. We were so thirsty at night and had no idea if the water was drinkable or not from the faucets (nothing in the documents in the room) and no way to access the water in the fridge. Additionally, the dining room/ballroom is really overly formal for my tastes. When I get back from a game drive, I don't need white tableclothes!
As to the second point, our ranger while on the game drive fed the birds in the park (illegal, I believe), scared the birds to make them fly and make noise (a bit cruel in my book) and then was teasing other visitors to the park with telling them animal sightings that didn't exist. It just wasn't professional at all.
Given the two factors above, I will not be returning to Shepherd's Tree Lodge in Pilanesburg.

Room Tip: Rooms are really spread out - ask for one near the main lodge and one with a balcony
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  • Stayed: July 2011, traveled with friends
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1  Thank RedPepper823
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 6, 2011

We had the most amazing time with our 2 teenage monsters. Booked it via Travel butlers who could not have been more helpful to our very strange specific demands ( long story)..

The 2 rooms combined with lounge were bigger than our house.. The bathrooms stupendous ( though being a Brit still felt weird having an open air shower)

Everything was so nice in the room I did'nt want to put anything down.. I thought they had
got the blend of contemporary versus African Safari Fusion just right..

We were lucky to have rooms right near the main lodge so there were no problems with the transport.
As in all these things the staff make it.. Again we were so blessed to have the superb Dylan as our guide... As it was not full we had him all to ourselves.. He made even the grass and the weeds sound fascinating, brought up in the Bush and young enthusiastic but with a wise knowledgeable head on his shoulders... Two optional game drives a day ( both over 4 hours ) , and just such deep hairs on the back of my neck stand up emotional happy attacks on more than several occasions .

Jabu deserves a heads up as he made us laugh and smile and again went far above and beyond what you would expect of a host.. Great lad..

I,ve had better meals but they were good enough and I really did't go there for a Gastro Holiday..

Would definitely recommend...

Room Tip: Asked for 2 rooms together and ended up with massive what I can only describe as a house,
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  • Stayed: April 2011, traveled with family
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1  Thank JumboBoy
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 31, 2011

I have just come back from my trip to Shepherd's Tree Game Lodge and i would highly recommend it. My friends and I had a wonderful time both in the hotel and out on the game drives. The hotel was clean and tidy with lovely rooms. The staff were very welcoming and warm especially Portia. Our game guide, Joannel was absolutely brilliant. She was so enthusiastic about every sighting that we had. We managed to see lions, elephants, white and black rhino, hippos, giraffes, zebra, leopard and many more. My friends all sampled the spa and said that the massages that they had were really relaxing. We only stayed for 2 nights and so wish we could have stayed longer. I have not one bad thing to say about this place. It was all outstanding. Go there if you can.

  • Stayed: May 2011, traveled with friends
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1  Thank louisewalsh1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 31, 2011

While the Shepherds Tree is beautifully situated with great rooms overlooking the savanna, the food and service was hugely disappointing.

On the positive side, the ranger and the game was isolated seen fine. However, on the cold morning drive in minus degrees, we were informed that coffee was not provided as the machine broke down and there were no addtional blankets as agreed the previous night as they were not clean. The very professional ranger did however make up for these challenges that one does not expect from a 5 star facility.

The rest of the stay has much room for improvement. The lunch consisted of deepfried and greasy snacks, breakfast orders took 45 min to arrive, internet was down, staff constantly gave contradicting information - one showed us the shared living space between rooms while the other told us it had been locked because we have not paid for it -, the ranger told us he would bring snacks and drinks to the sundowner and we could choose what we wanted but without mentioning that all orders would be billed to us directly, lunch the second day consisted of a tiny greek salad and another very mediocre salad with pieces of salmon (naturally not fresh) and upon request only bread being overheated in the microwave though staff stated it was freshly baked - all at the price of 220 excluding drinks, spiderwebs in my bathroom. And so I could continue. Too many slips for a 5 start get away. I informed the Acting GM, who listened politely without making one single attempt to improve the experience.

The previous 10 days we had stayed at Didimala lodge where service was impeccable and the change was a sincere disappointment. I believe staff was trying to do their best, but they were all light years from being at a level one would expect at a 3 star hotel, and absolutely not at a 5 star lodge. They came across as very untrained, desorganized and unfamiliar with the hospitality sector.

  • Stayed: May 2011
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5  Thank Journey1967
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Shepherd's Tree Game Lodge

Address: Pilanesberg Game Reserve | Sun City, Pilanesberg National Park 316, South Africa
Location: South Africa > North-West Province > Pilanesberg National Park
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free Parking Restaurant Room Service Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 14 Specialty Lodging in Pilanesberg National Park
Price Range: $525 - $1,658 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:5 star — Shepherd's Tree Game Lodge 5*
Number of rooms: 30
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Skirting the northern slopes of an amphitheatre within the Pilanesberg Game Reserve lies Shepherd’s Tree Game Lodge, the lodge enjoys unrestricted vistas of the wilderness area of this big 5 wildlife sanctuary. Sweeping patios and sun decks adjoin the generous guest entertainment areas and rim-flow swimming pool. A gourmet restaurant, open entertainment decks, cigar lounge and gift gallery are amongst some of the facilities that discerning guests will find during their African safari. The lodge also includes a conference facility and Amani Spa. Attention to detail extends beyond the pleasure of your hosts, and is perhaps only rivaled by the contemporary cuisine, freshly prepared by dedicated chefs. Shepherd’s Tree features 13 double and 4 executive suites accommodating a maximum of 60 guests. Absolute privacy is ensures through the linear positioning of the suites along an elevated contour line, and providing panoramic vistas of the reserve. Each chalet features full en-suite bathrooms, tea and coffee making facilities, mini bar and safe. Whilst some of our guests will find proximity to the Sun City complex appealing, most of our guests are at Shepherd’s Tree for the thrill and excitement of big game viewing from the comfort of our custom built game viewers. Qualified and experienced guides are tasked with the pleasure of interpreting the sights and sounds of this vast wildlife sanctuary. The reserve is home to the big 5 and cheetah, wild dogs and hippo. Guests are encouraged to join their guide and host on 2 daily safaris, designed around optimal game activity periods, these occur in the early morning and in the late afternoon and evening, the afternoon safari is punctuated by a sundowner stop before continuing into the night with the use of a powerful spotlight. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Shepherd`s Tree Game Hotel Pilanesberg National Park

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