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“Best trip ever”

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Pilanesberg Private Lodge
McKinney, Texas
Level 5 Contributor
45 reviews
25 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
“Best trip ever”
Reviewed April 7, 2014 via mobile

I had the pleasure to spend two night at PPL and it was AWESOME! Warren was our guide and he was a wealth of knowledge about the animals. The lodge accommodations were very nice and peaceful. When it come to the food, it was just outstanding! There were other guests that were on repeat trips which also show how good it is. I highly recommend the PPL for anyone thinking about a safari

Stayed April 2014, traveled solo
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1 Thank Stbuford
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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English first
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
Reviewed February 1, 2014

My husband and I visited Pilanesburg Private Lodge on 3 different occasions. Our first trip was just the two of us and then we returned two additional times with visiting family members. I have nothing but wonderful things to say about the lodge itself and especially the staff. From the moment we pulled up at the lodge, we felt like old friends. The staff was very warm and welcoming and went out of their way to ensure that we had a wonderful stay. The chalets were beautifully appointed with comfortable furniture and we were quite pleased. The main lodge is comfortable with large sofas and easy chairs for reading or tv watching. We enjoyed the afternoons there while we read and watched the animals that wandered by just past the electric fence surrounding the property.

I have raved to everyone about the incredible game drives we experienced. Not even the torrential downpours we experienced one weekend deterred our fearless guide. His knowledge and enthusiasm made our game drives a fascinating learning experience. We experienced incredible sightings of all of the Big 5 over the course of our visits as well as numerous other species. A white rhino mom and calf passed just a few meters from our vehicle and this was just one of the many special game sighting we enjoyed. The watering hole that is adjacent to the lodge provided wonderful game viewing from the comfort of the deck or breakfast table.

I would also highly recommend the game walk. Although it is an extra fee, it was well worth it. The moderate level walk was fascinating and enjoyable. We learned so much and seeing the wilderness from a different perspective was excellent. The sightings we enjoyed were also breathtaking, from the lion and black rhino to the elephant and monkeys.

I absolutely cannot say enough about the food at Pilanesburg. We ate like kings! I would happily stay there just to eat Jacome's cooking. The English style breakfast was always delicious and served with delectable fresh fruit, cereal, and yogurt. Lunch was a lighter affair with options like toasted sandwiches or salads. Dinner was the star though, a heavenly 3 course meal of South African favorites. We savored dishes like grilled lamb chops, fillet with red wine sauce, lamb potjiekos, and pan fried kingklip. The meals were expertly prepared and always enjoyable. The only downside was sometimes we struggled to finish the generous portions that were served to us! The on site bar offered a nice selection of beer, wine and spirits as well as non alcoholic beverages to compliment our meals.

All in all, Pilanesburg private lodge provided an excellent experience in the bush for a very reasonable price. The staff's attention to detail and willingness to go above and beyond to make the expereience memorable was greatly appreciated and the excellent amenities, lodging and food rounded out a wonderful trip. I would highly recommend Pilanesburg Private Lodge to couples, families, individuals or any small group looking for a getaway. It's a 5 star bush experience for much less than a 5 star price.

  • Stayed July 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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5 Thank mbilyeu
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Toronto, Canada
Level 6 Contributor
34 reviews
34 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 431 helpful votes
Reviewed January 25, 2014

This was our first safari experience (of six we did on our trip) and here's what you need to know.

This is a safari "camp" but you get all the comforts of a mid-market hotel with that authentic wildlife experience.

Set in the northwest corner of Pilanesberg just outside the public park boundary, this Private Game Reserve has a cluster of 25 camps all grouped in the same location within a kilometer of the main entrance gate. Note that each camp is surrounded by an electrified wire fence, which is low and unobtrusive but evidently does the trick. This means you have some reasonable assurance that you can walk around day or night in your camp without fear of running into a large predator - but smaller animals like rabbit still come through. The driveway in is gated and only opened under guard. Despite this, our camp #19, like the others, host a maximum of ten guests in five thatched roof cottages, all of which share the central communal lodge. Note that not all camps front on a watering hole (a draw for wild game especially in the dry season), though ours did. Our cottage (named elephant) was well equipped, with two beds (can be combined to make one queen size), two end tables, 2 bedside lamps, two wardrobes for hanging clothes, a writing desk with chair, hot water kettle, two coffee mugs, two drinking glasses, leather sofa, bar fridge with two bottles of water, a ceiling light, programmable code wall safe, outdoor lights, and modern air con unit with thermostat to set the digital read out temperature and remote. There is an en suite bathroom with both indoor and outdoor (private) walk-in showers with rain head fixture, a stand alone sculptured soaking tub, toilet in a separate room with a locking door and window. There is no door between the bathroom and the bedroom but as the bathroom is behind a wall, it is fairly private. The floors are poured polished concrete, and the ceiling is a cathedral ceiling. The bathroom contains a floor mat, 2 hand towels, 2 bath towels (both terrycloth). Shampoo, soap, and toilet paper is provided. The beds are comfortable, the linens appear new, and there are 2 pillows per bed, and a comforter (duvet) and blankets are provided. You have your own private deck out the front door which is locked with a key. The roofs are all thatch. Water is NOT potable so you must use bottled water for drinking and tooth brushing; you are given two bottles of water per room per day. Breakfast lunch and dinner are included in the room rate but all beverages are charged extra and they are not cheap. Bring your own with you.

Daily game drives are included. (Times vary by the month - January/summer drive times - morning 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., and evening 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.) Sunrise in summer (January) is around 5:30 a.m. so you need to be up as dawn is breaking. The game drives are conducted in a modified Toyota diesel pick up truck, equipped in the rear bed with three bench seats, elevated theatre style, with open sides and a covered canvass top. The ride is surprisingly comfortable. Each evening game drive comes with a break for a snack. They set up a little table and give you munchies (dried meat, potato chips, and the like). Don't wander from the group - you don't want to get eaten. We found no flying bugs (mosquitoes or otherwise) and no need for bug spray; despite being in a bit of dry spell, the vegetation was lush and green. Whatever you may hear about not seeing wildlife due to the lush bush is not to be believed. On our driving safari, we saw lion, white rhino, waterbuck, steenbok, zebra, wildebeest, elephant, warthog, impala, and various raptors and on the walking safari (you really must do the walk at least once - it is a whole different experience), we saw giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, zebra, elephant, impala and the very elusive black rhino. Being summer we saw lots of young wildlife as well.

The meals are adequate. Lunch is not more than a choice of one sandwich (BLT, ham and cheese, etc.) or some salad. Breakfast is better - self-serve cold cereal (granola, corn flakes, bran flakes) with milk or yogurt, diced assorted fresh fruit salad, one type of muffin (one day the muffins were good, the next not so good), tubs of packaged margarine, jam, (note juice costs extra and the choice was orange or mango), coffee, choice of two eggs (scrambled, fried, boiled in shell), strip bacon (choice of well done or regular), toast (white or brown, 1 slice). I asked for crispy not burnt bacon and got well done but not crispy. I asked for an egg with a soft yoke and got solid. The toast was well prepared and served hot. Dinner was very average (choice of fish or lamb stew, with a half cup of cooked white rice and a third of a cob of corn boiled. I felt a little like being in Boy Scout camp. The worst part of dinner was that it was served outdoors at night in the dark at little cafe tables on a ground level patio set around an open camp fire - which meant that you could be "smoked" for a good part of your dinner (lessons needed on how to build a smoke free fire).

All of which I mention because your staff of four (for eight guests in three cottages when I was there) take your personal order for breakfast, lunch and dinner and do their very best for you. They also do game drives, and serve your meals, and cook. So this is not Sabi Sabi but it doesn't cost US$4,000. a day either. In fact, for value at the price of around US$175 per person per day, it is a fabulous value. And the meals are filling enough and tasty enough. But then you don't come here to eat.

You come here for game viewing and despite being in the thick of summer vegetation, we found the viewing quite good and evidently consistently so. Forget anything you read about this being a stocked zoo -- this is an authentic wildlife experience in a restored habitat where native animals have been reintroduced to the place where they've roamed for a thousand years. Everything is very real; this is not a staged experience.

The guides are young but professionally schooled; this is their career and they share a passion for the job and the animals. Over two days we did three game drives followed by a morning walking safari (US$35 a head extra and an experience which we thought was worth twice what we paid - google Nare Walking Safaris). Two days after our stay here we did a couple of days of self-drive safaris in Kruger National Park (a seven hour drive from Pilanesberg) overnighting there in a SanParks Camp. Each type of safari, driving/walking/self-drive is a different kind of safari experience.

But all that said, you can't really go wrong with Pilanesberg Private Reserve. Our camp had a South African couple celebrating their anniversary with their 40th safari(!), a young couple with their kids 12 and 9, and the two of us first timers. We all felt we got very good value. Great for photographers, honeymooners, adventurous fit hikers, and out of shape couch potatoes. And all this in a malaria free reserve.

Highly recommended.

Room Tip: No matter what you will be in a small group and all cottages are built to the same specs. Getting a...
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  • Stayed January 2014, traveled with family
    • Value
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Helpful?
11 Thank Rob1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Ascot, United Kingdom
Level 3 Contributor
15 reviews
12 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
Reviewed January 19, 2014

I regularly go to the Bush (on safari) and am quite fussy about where I go. I look for tranquility, a little bit of luxury, friendly staff, and a non-commercial, authentic operation. Very few places tick all the boxes. Pilanesberg Private Lodge is a real gem and manages to be all the above and more. I stayed two nights and was very sorry to not have booked for longer. The game drives were endlessly breath-taking scenery, and wonderful sightings of some of the big five as well as being treated to other wildlife sighting such as giraffe, zebra and warthogs ( who are adorable!) to name a few. In between plentiful sightings of rhino, elephants and lions, I learnt a lot about the flora and fauna, local history, and the rangers’ knowledge of birds was immense. What was very impressive was the excitement of the staff at each and every sighting… really wonderful to be on safari with people who see this as more than a job and have a genuine passion for all types of wildlife and nature. It was the real differentiator.

The lodge itself was elegantly decorated, well serviced and has all the amenities you would need. Each chalet has a private patio – mine overlooked the waterhole. The rooms are spacious and gracious, and I loved the private outdoor shower. There is also plenty of communal areas and lots of places to spot game while safely in the Lodge grounds. I had a brilliant experience of seeing the elephants drinking from the waterhole while I was cooling off in the infinity pool.

I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants a fantastic, authentic bush experience around 2.5 hours from Johannesburg in a non-malaria area. Definitely choose this lodge over some of the more commercial operations in the area – you won’t regret it! The only downside to staying at this lodge is that at some point, you will have to leave…and you won’t want to.

  • Stayed January 2014, traveled solo
    • Value
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Helpful?
4 Thank Tonikins81
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Perth, Australia
Level 2 Contributor
6 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed January 6, 2014 via mobile

The staff are all wonderful and the whole experience was very personal, I wish we'd stayed a little longer! My only suggestion would be to have a little music in the communal area only cause there was 4 couples enjoying their own time and all you could hear was other people's whispers but it was still a fantastic place!

  • Stayed January 2014
    • Value
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    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
1 Thank mikroe
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Melbourne, Australia
Level 1 Contributor
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
Reviewed December 5, 2013

The Pilanesberg Private Lodge is an exceptional base from which to explore the intriguing Black Rhino Reserve. The cosy lodge has all the necessary amenities for an atmospheric and relaxing stay - including a small pool, a jacuzzi (water levels permitting), a very comfortable common area with a bar, a viewing deck and flexible dining facilities which provide the option to eat on the pool deck, indoors or around the outdoor fireplace. The private rooms are beautifully clean and comfortable, complete with air-conditioning, which was useful on humid nights. The staff were knowledgeable and incredibly hospitable. Meal times were something to look forward to, with original menus each night, often featuring South African specialties. Advice to anyone with dietary requirements is to inform the lodge in advance, as they are happy to go the extra mile to pre-purchase any essentials to ensure your meals are optimal. Finally, the game safaris themselves were a fantastic experience. Twice-daily driving safaris are included in each night's stay. The reserve is easily big enough not to have to retrace many paths, and boasts an inspiring suite of wildlife. A walking safari is a must too- definitely the best way to really appreciate the wilderness.

  • Stayed December 2013, traveled with family
    • Value
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Helpful?
3 Thank Laurakaston
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Prague, Czech Republic
Level 1 Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed November 29, 2013

With my wife we had had 2 days to enjoy Pilanesberg Park and we have chosen this lodge for its privacy, comfort and family-like atmosphere. We were not disappointed.
- accomodation is very nice and clean, pretty high standard
- meals are ok, supper is delicious, served in local style, often next to the fire place - very nice
- game drives were very good too - ranges have 'good feeling' for animals, during 2 days we've seen most of big 5 and plenty of other animals
- staff is very nice, helpful, family-like atmosphere
- lodge is very small, non-commercial one, which for me is a great advantage. When we were there, there were in total 10 guests, which allows you to have very good service and plenty of discussions with rangers
- lodge offers also walking tour, which was amazing

In one senence:
If you're looking for a non-commercial lodge with very good standard and nice staff, Private Lodge is for you. Highly recommended.

  • Stayed September 2013, traveled on business
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank Piotr M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Pilanesberg Private Lodge

Property: Pilanesberg Private Lodge
Address: Black Rhino Reserve, Pilanesberg National Park, 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 #8 of 14 Specialty Lodging in Pilanesberg National Park
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$$
Hotel Class:4 star — Pilanesberg Private Lodge 4*
Number of rooms: 5
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Private luxury safari lodge in the Pilanesberg National Park.Game drives are conducted by our qualified ranger in an open safari vehicle.Guests stay in 5 seperate sleeping units.Each unit has a king size bed,air conditioner,ceiling fan,en suite bathroom,private patio,rock bath and indoor and outdoor shower.The lodge enjoys spectacular views accross the Pilanesberg mountain range.A waterhole infront of the lodge attracts numerous animals like elephant,rhino(black and white) as well as plenty of plains game.Lion and leopard have been seen drinking infront of the lodge as well.We also offer walking safaris from the lodge which are conducted by Nare walking safaris. ... more   less 
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