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“A true bush experience” 4 of 5 bubbles
Review of Toro Yaka Bush Lodge

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Toro Yaka Bush Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
Birmingham, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
50 reviews
37 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 66 helpful votes
“A true bush experience”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed April 16, 2012

As a fairly seasoned safari goer, I have avoided Balule Reserve having had a bad experience at a poorly run lodge, as well as very few game sightings in 2004, but I decided to give it another try during my recent return home to South Africa. Toro Yaka’s reputation looked like it may change my mind.

The reserve is beautiful and Toro Yaka certainly has some stunning land to traverse and explore. As there aren't many lodges in this area and therefore few vehicles out on drive, you will experience Steve’s skills and the adrenaline rush of tracking, as well as the disappointment of not finding your quarry (i.e. not 'tracking by radio' which is often the case in reserves with numerous lodges traversing the same area). Thus, if you are looking to tick off your list of Big 5 during a short stay, you may be disappointed. That said, during my 3 day stay I was more than delighted with two separate sightings of a big herd of buffalo, 7 lion with very full bellies, a rhino up close and very personal, as well as warthogs, zebra, impala, wildebeest, waterbuck, giraffe, numerous birds and glorious sunsets over the Drakensburg mountains. In particular, I treasure the times spent by the Olifants river just listening to the world around us, the impromptu walks during drive and the very real joy of being a part of the bush, tracking, smelling, listening, observing, just being.

Steve’s enthusiasm, passion and strong opinions are interesting, if somewhat blunt and provoking at times - he says it as he sees it. Nicole is a warm and lovely lady who has created a comfortable environment in which to relax and feel at home.

I left with mixed feelings, but overall I believe that Nicole and Steve and their team work incredibly hard and Toro Yaka is a peaceful and beautiful haven for the weary soul looking for stylish and comfortable rooms, lovely guest areas, tranquility, delicious and copious amounts of food and an interesting and enjoyable bush break at a reasonable rate.

My impression of Balule Reserve dramatically improved thanks to them.

Room Tip: Corner suites have their own private deck area (4 in all out of 6 rooms)
See more room tips
  • Stayed March 2012, traveled solo
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
9 Thank UKIngwe
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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332 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 bubbles
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (55)
Date | Rating
  • Dutch first
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English first
New York City, New York
Level Contributor
17 reviews
9 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 16 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed April 8, 2012

I was really happy with my experience at Toro Yaka. This was my first real safari and Steve and Nicole did not disappoint. Steve is an excellent guide, who deeply cares about the wildlife and conversation efforts in Kruger Park. Our AM and PM safari drives were not only an opportunity to look for wildlife, but also talk more about the history of the park and what is being done to protect animals in the future. As we met other groups in the bush, I could tell he is well respected by his fellow "rangers". Nicole is a very warm host who ensures all of her guests are being fully attended to. We had a different menu each day and all the food was wonderful. The grounds are small and quiet, which is great for relaxation and the rooms are very clean. I felt this lodge was great value for money and would certainly return next time I'm at Kruger.

  • Stayed April 2012, traveled solo
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
3 Thank Global_Voyager1000
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Perth, Australia
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed March 26, 2012

Toro Yaka is an incredible lodge! My boyfriend and I spent 3 nights there and everything was perfect. Nicole and Steve are two such hospitable and multitalented people and what makes the lodge and experience so unique is that they put energies into the finest of details; the rooms are magnificent and have an African touch to them... Nicole is a superwoman - her food is 5 star with so much variety - every meal was delicious and we were continuously amazed with the things she came up with. Her massages are a must - Don't miss out :) and Nicole and Steve run the lodge so smoothly together. Steve doesn't only take his guests out for game drives and game hikes but he has so much to offer and is so well educated - we learnt a lot from him! And Vusi his co-assistance was fantastic - he added to the warm and welcoming environment.
Our experience was simply complete and I took a lot of time looking into different game lodges prior to arriving in South Africa and I couldn't believe how lucky we were to find Toro Yaka - it was amazing and we would definitely go there again!

  • Stayed February 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
1 Thank DanitMaor
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Great Missenden, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
213 reviews
59 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 135 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed March 21, 2012

I cannot believe how lucky we were to pick Toro Yaka as our first game lodge ever, it was outstanding. From the welcome on arrival to the departure in our freshly washed car (yes they even washed our car) we were constantly surprised and amazed at the level of service, creativity and attention to detail. Lodge, bedroom, food, game drives, staff, pool, dog ;-) everything at Toro Yaka was genuinely first class. Nicole and Steve make such a good team both displaying amazing expertise and dedication.

We moved on from Toro Yaka to Kapama which is a 5 star private reserve and I have to say that whilst it was bigger it certainly wasn't better.

Toro Yaka has set the standard against which all other game lodges will be judged! Living in the middle of the bush is an experience not to be missed.

Room Tip: There are no bad rooms so you don't need to worry about how to choose a good one.
See more room tips
  • Stayed March 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
2 Thank Miles7000
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London
Level Contributor
9 reviews
9 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed February 12, 2012

Usually wouldn't dare use that adjective of 'perfect', but this place definitely is on every level in the hotel/tourism business. They have achieved everything that makes a place excellent!

Nicole is nothing but multitalented; when it comes tasty cuisine, reflexology, massage and checking the finer points. Steve is experienced and a fanatic about his work as a ranger; extremely passionate and provides a very educational account of the enthusiastically encountered wildlife encountered plus local and global conservation issues. All the staff are extremely pleasant and as a small hotel you feel part of the visiting family. We loved our visiting company!

Better than value for money!! If you want great value Kruger in a private game reserve with a personal touch.. Come here! Just returned from a 4 hr game drive where we stalked lions hunting into the night! Excellent!

  • Stayed February 2012
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
5 Thank Stormchild83
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
West Sussex, UK
Level Contributor
18 reviews
12 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 18 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed February 6, 2012

Kruger and the surrounding area had just had very heavy rains and flooding when we arrived at Toro Yaka, but it did not dampen our stay at all. We went on several safari drives and a walk with Steve and his co-guide Vusi, whom considering they could only operate in around 20% of their usual patch, due the floods, did a superb job. We saw lions almost every drive. It was incredible to be able to see the lions at different points in their day and observe their behaviour. Steve is clearly very knowledgeable and passionate about wildlife, the landscape and its conservation. Going on foot thru' the bush was an amazing, new experience, giving a different perspective on Balule. Because of the rains, we did get stuck in the mud a couple of times, with everyone rallying round to get the landrover out. We never felt in any danger at all, in fact you could say it added to the whole experience! Back at the lodge itself, Nicole is a great host and fab cook....we ate well! The dinning highlight was the braai, with everyone sat around the open fire. A sociable and atmospheric setting. Other times, we ate on the deck, or by lamp light beside the pool. The rooms are spacious and nicely done, with outdoor seating and "bush shower" a bonus. Although the rooms have air con, we found despite the heat, the breeze thru' the mossie screen kept the room at a decent temperature. Nicole's extra touches, such as African animal folk tales left on the pillow at night and a local welcome gift add an extra personal touch. The pool is great for cooling off in the heat of the day and affords a good view towards the water hole. We saw wart hogs here one day.Nicole and Steve are great hosts, we highly recommend Toro Yaka. We had sad faces at breakfast on our departure day.

  • Stayed January 2012, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
5 Thank Lisa_Simon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Bruxelles
Level Contributor
5 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed January 23, 2012

My wife and I had a very good time at Toro Yaka in September 2009, having received the contact details from friends who recommended the place, after having spent two weeks travelling through South-Africa. It was just great for the following reasons:

1. You can relax there as you would in a luxury hotel elsewhere but, on top of what you would expect from a nice hotel, you enjoy excellent facilities with the benefits of a small very charming structure and, more importantly, excellent contacts with the owners, Steve and Nicole, who really welcome their guests as friends.

2. You have no time to get bored as you would if lying for five days on a beach as you enjoy up to two game drives a day where you can see the wild nature (incredible for me, as it was my first safari holidays and had the chance to see so many species) and take all pictures you want, the birds (Steve is an expert in bird-watching), the reserve, and perhaps even some walks through the reserve. And you will never forget Steve who has an immense knowledge and so much to tell about the animals, the reserve and the eco-system.

3. You are really pampered by the owners and their staff. Just as an example, you enjoy a cup of tea or any other drink of your choice with a few excellent snacks in the middle of the reserve, during a pause, in the Land Rover, in the very original British style. And Nicole is always there to ensure you are fine and that everything is well with you. And your room will be refreshed during days by the very discrete staff. And the meals are just terrific. And...

4. To the contrary of what I initially thought, it is absolutely not hard to wake up early in the morning around 5am for the first game drive as you can expect an excellent breakfast when you return from the game drive and then have a full day to rest before next game drive in the second half of the afternoon.

In addition, it is worth mentioning that you would pay much more in another private reserve and that Toro Yaka offers an incredible value for money.

My conclusion: I was recommended the place a few years ago and now definitely want to recommend the place to others. Do not hesitate in case you look for accomodation around the Kruger and contact Tora Yaka!

  • Stayed February 2011, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
5 Thank MvdW
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Toro Yaka Bush Lodge

Property: Toro Yaka Bush Lodge
Address: Sable Road, Kruger National Park 1380, South Africa
Phone Number:
Location: South Africa > Kruger National Park > Balule Nature Reserve
Amenities:
Free Parking Restaurant Spa Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 2 Hotels in Balule Nature Reserve
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$
Number of rooms: 6
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Owner/Manager team Steve & Nicole Baillie would like to invite you to visit Toro Yaka Bush Lodge. This special lodge is nestled in the heart of the Balule Nature Reserve, a 38 000 hectare conservancy, which forms part of the Greater Kruger National Park area. ToroYaka means “My Dream” in Northern Sotho, one of South Africa’s local languages, and the creation of Toro Yaka Bush Lodge has fulfilled the dreams of Steve and Nicole, by establishing a haven of peace and tranquility from which to share their passion for nature. The lodge has been designed in a modern elegant style, with a relaxed atmosphere, allowing guests to sit back, relax and feel at home. The six en-suite double rooms ensure tranquility and comfort at all times. Steve has spent more than a decade sharing his knowledge and love for the bush with clients from all over the world at luxury game lodges throughout South Africa. Nicole is a qualified holistic massage therapist and takes care of all the tiny details. Together with the Toro Yaka Staff, they will ensure your stay to be a memorable one. Balule is home to a large variety of plants and animals. From the smallest spider to the largest elephant, from the tiniest flower to a 1000 year old Leadwood tree, owls at night and eagles by day, every aspect of the ecosystem is explored. The Olifants River, which flows year round through the Balule, is home to hippos and crocodiles, and the whole area is one of scenic splendor, with the northern tip of the Drakensberg mountain range being visible from many points. Together with all of this, Toro Yaka Bush Lodge offers you good home cooked food, friendly service, warm South African Hospitality and loads of enthusiasm. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Toro Yaka Bush Lodge South Africa/Balule Nature Reserve

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