5 stars because I have had 2 outstanding stays here already, however my most recent stay was rather dismaying...
Firstly allow me to get all the positives out of the way! The game viewing was cooking while we were there and fortunately we managed to get to see pretty much all the action, including a leopard making a kill and dragging the kill to her very young cub... this was truly once in a lifetime!!! The accommodation was standard Kirkman's and was clean, well tended and comfortable.
We have travelled to andBeyond Exeter River Lodge (twice), @Beyond Dulini (when it was still @Beyond), Kirkman's Kamp (3 times), Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge (twice), Sabi Sabi Little Bush, Lion Sands and Chitwa Chitwa. Whilst all the lodges have been outstanding, we had thought that we had finally found an annual retreat with Kirkman's Kamp and Exeter River Lodge... but after our 7 days with @Beyond are feeling a little neglected and in two minds about returning.
So what happened? I will write a separate review for Exeter River Lodge and will now focus on the things that disappointed us over our 4 nights at Kirkman's.
As we really enjoyed the experience with our last guide and taking into account this being our 3rd visit we phoned ahead of time to find out if we could have the same guide again... denied even though he was there the entire time and his guests arrived the same day as us... he even had the one guest alone for a while until that guest was rejoined by others. Ok this is not a big deal... we can live with it and were introduced to our guide. Because this is in the public domain I shall refrain from using any names.
Our guide was generally last to arrive, did not track the animals like the other guides but rather responded to sightings. He did not appeared to be very interested in actively seeking out the animals but appeared comfortable responding. A very different experience to our guides in ALL the other lodges. Strangely enough there were two guides who pretty much found EVERYTHING and one of them was our previous (requested) guide. Not a problem really because we managed to see the animals they found with the exception of one... and it was a biggie for us! Our guide also managed to get us embroiled in the red tape of responding to a sighting... basically because we never found anything ourselves... we had to wait! Now for someone like me who had just spent $20 000 on a camera, I was also requiring some good light and unfortunately we always seemed to get to the evening sightings in poor light because of the red tape in how long the guide who found the animal can stay with the animal... Did not enjoy!
As we knew our previous guide from the year before we were friendly and there was some good natured banter between us (I thought)... For example when we responded to one of his sightings and he had left we told him that the leopard had gone and hunted the Impala nearby (which was not true and he knew it and we told him as much). One morning our guide decided to take us all the way to Lion Sands after heavy rain and as a result we were not allowed to go off road. While we were there the big male leopard we were desperately wanting to see had been found by our previous guide not far from Kirkman's Kamp. We raced there only to be told that the leopard had swum across the river. What I did not appreciate it that our previous guide then told us how amazing the sighting was, how they followed the leopard scent marking in the road, how they followed him through the bush and how he lay down on the rocks in the sun for a long time posing for photos. When he saw the shocked look on my face he said he was kidding and that the leopard was only with them for a few minutes before getting lost in the reeds and crossing the river. I believed him and thought the good natured banter was continuing. Unfortunately a day later a guest on his vehicle showed us the photos... scent marking in the road, walking in the bush and laying on the rocks right next to the vehicle... an epic sighting with the most beautiful photos... the whole affair left a bad taste in my mouth.
The food was below the usual standard with burn't cakes everyday. The creme brule was runny and in general the standard was lower than our last visit.
In general we felt the standard has gone down and we will not be back to Kirkman's.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The spirit of safari comes alive at historic Kirkman’s Kamp. Step back in time into the gracious early settler atmosphere of this original 1920s homestead and marvel at the spectacular views of the unspoiled wilderness from each of the 18 guest cottages and the lodge’s rim-flow swimming pool. Rolling lawns carve out a niche in a wild and tumbling wilderness that hosts memorable game viewing in one of the most renowned Big Five wildlife regions in the world. Spacious sitting, dining and bar guest areas contain original mementos of a time long past. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Kirkman`s Kamp Hotel Sabi Sand Game Reserve
- AndBeyond Kirkman's Kamp South Africa/Sabi Sand Game Reserve