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“did I stay in the same lodge as the other majority of reviewers?”
Review of Pondoro Game Lodge

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Pondoro Game Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed September 11, 2012

Madeline the guest reception lady was v. nice and welcoming. The food was delicious and we couldn't get better homemade bread anywhere else. The service staff-3 of them daily were a delight, very friendly and genuine & warm. The dining area was v. nice with monkeys on the trees and a view of the river.

We had the Earth room. For a luxury lodge, this is a major let down. One of the two sinks had taps so close to the basin that I couldn't put my hands near it so it means I have to use the other basin which wasn't much of an improvement either. Curiously, the windows near the sink and bath area has no curtains, I checked with my other two friends who stayed in different rooms: and they had the same issues with the curtains being non existent in the bath area.

The outdoor jacuzzi and the bathtub looked worn, and we certainly did not use it.
The shower area looks gritty and I used my slippers when I showered. Its so dark, I can't tell if its clean or otherwise.

We had problems with the walkie talkie as well, and only understood when Madeline explained to us (she was v. kind and patient) for the 2nd time, that its for after hours. Well, anything before 9pm, I guess we have to holler or run to the reception and if your lodge is right at the end, then good luck if there was an intruder. I certainly didn't feel terribly safe with only a lock on the doors and almost complete darkness outside.

Our trekker and ranger were great and went beyond their usual thing to help us locate the elusive leopard, I believe it was Andreas-the trekker, and the ranger was not Mark or Robbie, it was the 3rd guy whom I can't remember the name. Sadly, we didn't locate the leopard. I guess as its part of Kruger National Park, it was hard to spot animals, we did see the other big 4 but honestly we were not impressed, however, this is nature, so we accept it.

Overall, I guess it depends on your expectations, the staff & food were great but the accomodation was a letdown. Another of my friend stayed in the Water room and it is more modern and brighter than our Earth.

  • Stayed: August 2012, traveled with friends
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5  Thank denimautum
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Pondoro, Owner at Pondoro Game Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded September 13, 2012

Dear denimautum

Thank you very much for taking the time to write a review. It is as always disturbing when one sees that a guest did not enjoy their stay with us and I sincerely apologize for not managing to meet your expectations.

One has to understand the concept however as Pondoro has several suites each with their own theme. The suite you stayed in is called Earth with a theme of earthy tones and decor to match. The floor is cement mixed with a black oxide that also extend into the bathroom and shower. Obviously the decor does not match everyone' tastes. That is why we would give guests a choice of which suite to book depending on availability. If you had told us during your stay that you preferred another suite we would have gladly obliged if possible.

The bath is made of the highest quality and cannot wear out. The only problem that I can think of regarding the Jacuzzi might be that it had some leaves and dust inside as it is located on the deck outside facing the river. This will be washed out as soon as the taps are opened and is very difficult to keep spotless although we try.

The bathrooms do not have curtains as the whole idea is to have a view from your bath or shower.

Pondoro is part of the Greater Kruger Park with no fences in between. We are very proud of being part of such a huge open ecosystem. This means that the animals move freely and cannot always be found. We thus cannot guarantee that guests will see everything they want, but we always try our best and most people find that it adds to the experience as you never know what will be waiting around the next corner.

We appreciate all feedback and I will certainly look into yours in detail to find out if there is anything that we can improve upon to make guests' stay at Pondoro an even better experience.

Greetings from the bush,

Robbie and Pondoro family

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Reviewed September 9, 2012

We promised our grandson when he was six that when he turned 13 we would take him on a two-week vacation to South Africa. When he turned 13 a few months ago, we kept our promise. We wanted our vacation to end by saving the best for last, and Pondoro certainly was the best. Lize and Robbie were wonderful hosts. The entire staff, including Andres who took us on a walk through the bush, were exceptional. The accommodations were luxurious and the meals were superb and artfully served. They even provided marshmallows for our grandson to toast! Our grandson was most anxious to see leopard and Robbie made his wish come true.The safari tours could not have been more exciting. We would like to thank Lize and Robbie for making our vacation the experience of a lifetime. Pondoro has earned its 5-star rating.

  • Stayed: August 2012, traveled with family
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1  Thank D W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Pondoro, Owner at Pondoro Game Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded September 16, 2012

Dear D W

Thank you for taking the time to write a review. It is wonderful to see that you enjoyed your stay with us and that your grandson got to see his leopard as well.

Greetings from the bush,

Robbie and Pondoro family

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Reviewed September 9, 2012

Great lodge, especially for the price. Lodge is located in Balule Game Reserve, which has very thick bush. Seeing animals isn't quite as easy here as it is in the Kruger or Sabi Sands, but we still had some great encounters (actually, we had the best or maybe second best encounter of our trip with two male leopards here). The guides worked extremely hard to track animals for us, but they were not particularly helpful at explaining anything we saw or very friendly. The food here was the high point for us. There is a different great meal each night, each which incorporates South African cuisine elements, and breakfast on the deck after the morning game drives was a pleasure. The food was NYC-caliber, in my opinion, and far better than the other lodges at which we stayed on our trip. Each room had a unique decor theme and was a bit rustic compared to the other lodges at which we stayed (i.e. I thought the towels seemed a little dirty or maybe just highly used, no hair conditioner in the shower, cement floors...). However, they were spacious and did the trick. We visited the spa for a massage, and the facilities there and at the gym were very minimal. Overall, this was a very good experience for us, and we would recommend Pondoro to those who don't necessarily want to spend an arm and a leg for a safari experience but still want individualized service and great food.

  • Stayed: August 2012, traveled as a couple
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3  Thank Worktravelgal
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Pondoro, Owner at Pondoro Game Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded September 16, 2012

Dear Worktravelgal

Thank you for taking the time to write a review. I am glad to see that you enjoyed your stay with us and I would like to take the opportunity to comment on a few points that you raised.

Your guide during your stay is a kind and gentle person with a smile as big as Africa. Although he is fairly introverted his knowledge of the bush is as good as it gets. He is in fact a legend in the industry and held in awe by his peers.

Your point regarding the towels has been noted and it has since been replaced by new ones. The bathroom offers a conditioning shampoo, shower gel, bubble bath, bath salts, body lotion, shower caps and vanity kit. Shoe buff, shaving kit and tooth care kit is on request at reception.

Pondoro is a Safari Lodge that offers Spa treatments. We are not a Spa or wellness destination. I believe however that we offer quite an extensive list of treatments for a lodge of our size and the facilities include a steam room and Spa bath as well.

Our gym equipment have been sourced by a fitness expert and it must be remembered that we only cater for 16 guests. It is often wrongfully thought that you need all kinds of fitness machines to do a proper workout whereas dumbbells and loose weights provide the best resistance training. We have a fitness bike, treadmill and Body-solid G6B Bi-angular gym exercise machine, Smith machine, dip station, aerobic step, Pilates ball as well as several dumbbells and loose weights.

Greetings from the bush,

Robbie and Pondoro family

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Reviewed September 3, 2012

I could go on for pages what a pleasant stay it was to stay at Pondoro.
Excellent management that made us feel home on the first day. All the staff smiling and eager to make our holiday nicer.
The food was unbelievable, the presentation was lovely, Lize could compete with michelin star chefs at any time! Im a picky eater but ate everything she cooked!
The nights were romantic by the river and the bonfire kept us warm and cozy
The 5.45AM wake up calls hurt a lot it took 10min to forget about sleep and get excited about the safari.
The trackers, the drivers were funny and really went above and beyond to amaze us.
Thanks guys, Im sure we will meet again!

Room Tip: All rooms looked equally beautiful and comfy!
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  • Stayed: July 2012, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank Traveller2628
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Pondoro, Owner at Pondoro Game Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded September 5, 2012

Dear Traveller2628

Thank you very much for taking the time to write a review. It is heartwarming to see that you enjoyed your stay, food and the safaris.

Greetings from the bush,

Robbie and Pondoro family

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Reviewed August 31, 2012

Shortly, you simply cannot ask for more. Dream rooms in a dream scenario; every day a different, superb food; "obsessive" attention to every single detail; warm and friendly staff always at your disposal but never intrusive. In every field, Pondoro managers and staff have shown unlimited professionalism and experience. For people like me who've been several times in the African bush, watching Robbie at work in search of animals was a pleasure and you can immediately feel his talented skill. Guests' safety was always his main concern, and I could feel totally safe among the wild game with my family, even during the walking safaris. I will never forget the way we were greeted before leaving, with the whole staff singing and dancing for us! If you have short time to spend around the Kruger area, Pondoro is the best choice: I can hardly believe you can get more. Thanks again to Lize and Robbie for our wonderful stay!

  • Stayed: August 2012, traveled with family
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Thank MarkV0
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Pondoro, Owner at Pondoro Game Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded September 1, 2012

Dear MarkVO

Thank you very much for taking the time to write a review. I am elated to see how much you enjoyed your stay with us and it has been a pleasure to have you here and drive your family around.

Greetings from the bush,

Robbie and Pondoro family

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Reviewed August 26, 2012

Very friendly Staff and very good food.
Beautiful located at the river, top service and very good safari tours.
It is possible to walk through the bush with the Ranger what we liked very well. On the walks you learn much about the nature.
Animals walk by directly in front of the chalets. It's really worth the money we paid.

Peter

  • Stayed: July 2012, traveled as a couple
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Thank Peter F
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Pondoro, Owner at Pondoro Game Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded August 29, 2012

Dear Peter F

Thank you for taking the time to write a review. I am elated to see that you enjoyed your stay with us and that you enjoyed everything from the location to the food, service and safari drives as well as our nature walks.

Greetings from the bush,

Robbie and Pondoro family

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Reviewed August 23, 2012

In short, Pondoro was an absolutely amazing experience. The staff, the grounds, the food and the rooms were impeccable. I know you can spend more at some of the more widely known lodges but it would be very hard to convince us that you get more from them than you do at Pondoro. We would love to do another safari someday, but we have a very real concern that nothing will live up to what we experienced here.
The staff, from Robbie and Lize, to the trackers, the guides, and all of the other supporting personnel, makes you feel like you are staying with your oldest friends in the world. Each meal is an event and the care that is put into each one is obvious (we will now be disappointed when we go to a restaurant at home in New York and they don't have impala). The rooms are luxurious, but not so much so that you feel like they just dropped a suite from the St. Regis into the bush - and that is a very good thing. We stayed in the Water Suite which had a waterfall behind the bed, dual rain showers and a separate tub in the bathroom, an outdoor shower and a private plunge pool out on the deck, which we kept filled in case the elephants got thirsty. The room was beautiful but also felt appropriate for the setting overlooking the Oliphants River...while it was a five star room, we still felt like we were in Africa which was the whole point of coming. This can be said for the entire camp as it is perfectly integrated into the surrounding environment. As we were on our honeymoon the staff took extra steps to help us celebrate. One night we were served a private dinner in the wine cellar and on our final night while we were at dinner they ran a rose-petal filled bath that was waiting for us when we got home that evening. Just small touches that definitely made the trip even more memorable.
This is a safari lodge after all, so how was the game viewing? Beyond all reasonable expectations. We had multiple encounters with the Big 5, including a “Big 5 drive” on our final morning. We knew we were experiencing something special when both our tracker and driver, Eric and Mark, were visibly excited. The fact that people who do this twice a day, every day, still get excited about it goes to show how connected they are to the bush. We also did three guided walks which were a great way to immerse yourself in the landscape. The trackers seem to know every track, rock, shrub, tree and poop pile and do a fantastic job of imparting their vast knowledge to the guests. Make sure you do at least a couple of the walks; they are a great complement to the game drives.
There are a million safari lodges and the selection process can be daunting. This is an investment level trip, not only in terms of money, but also in time as it seems like almost everyone has to travel a full day to get to South Africa. Lastly for many people it might be their only safari so a lot is riding on the decision. If you are reading reviews of Pondoro you are already considering visiting. Stop reading now and book a reservation, you will not be disappointed.

Room Tip: Water suite was fantastic!
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  • Stayed: July 2012, traveled as a couple
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Thank Terry F
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Pondoro, Owner at Pondoro Game Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded August 29, 2012

Dear tfly212

Thank you for taking the time to write a review. It is has been a privilege to host you at Pondoro during your honeymoon. I will make sure to give your feedback through to Mark, Eric and all the others as everyone gets some personal satisfaction in your enjoyment of the rooms, the food and safari experience.

Greetings from the bush,

Robbie and Pondoro family

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Additional Information about Pondoro Game Lodge

Address: Balule Private Nature Reserve, Kruger National Park 1380, South Africa
Phone Number:
Location: South Africa > Kruger National Park > Balule Nature Reserve
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 22 Specialty Lodging in Balule Nature Reserve
Price Range: $835 - $1,373 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:5 star — Pondoro Game Lodge 5*
Number of rooms: 8
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Set on the cool riverine banks of the Olifants River (largest in Kruger) in the 40 000 ha Big 5 Balule Private Game Reserve inside the greater Kruger National Park, Pondoro offers its visitors comfort, sophistication, elegance and a canvas on which to create a truly unforgettable African safari.In this small, very exclusive 16-bed lodge ( owner managed ) you will discover the only way to experience the African bush. In addition to luxurious accommodation and the caring attention from trained professionals, our visitors are lavished upon with international fare and humble African hospitality.Meals are an extraordinary culinary experience where Traditional African Cuisine fuse effortlessly with modern European trends.To compliment the food, select any of our fine wines from our extensive wine cellar. Vegetarians are specially catered for. All meals are served on a wooden deck high up in the tree canopy overlooking the Olifants River (weather permitting).Between game drives in open safari cruisers, nature walks and peaceful afternoon naps, enjoy a dip in the sparkling rock pool, a spot of sun bathing or browse through the library. The Pondoro bar is the ideal spot to quench your thirst and grab a snack. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Pondoro Game Hotel Balule Private Game Reserve
Pondoro Game Lodge South Africa/Balule Nature Reserve

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