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“Pondoro Game Lodge, an outstanding experience”
Review of Pondoro Game Lodge

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Pondoro Game Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed July 22, 2013

Pondoro was fantastic…very elegant and a great value. Pondoro is in the Baluli reserve and it was full of game, the big 5 plus many more. Pondoro is right on the Olifant river so we had hippos behind our hut and we slept to the sounds of elephants tearing up the bush….they make a racket. Velvet monkeys and baboons came by daily.

We visited Pondoro as a family of 7, all USA nationals with 3 currently living in Switzerland.

A week before we arrived a pride of lions killed a big water buck just behind our hut. During daily bush walks around our lodge we saw fresh lion, leopard, and hyena tracks. On one bush walk along the river our tracker Remsen pointed out what looked like a huge black rock underwater, suddenly two hippos came to the surface 2 meters from us! The hippos were snorting and clearly annoyed with our intrusion. The main Pondoro lodge is encircled by an electric fence but the guest huts are outside the fence. Pondoro required a guide whenever we walked to our hut at night or early morning. A bit unnerving to see hippo’s in the flashlight beam 10 meters away. The guides said we were fine as long as the hippos were between us and the river, dangerous the other way around.

Even our guide Mark took out his camera for some unusual sightings. Cheetah’s are not common in Baluli as they prefer the open Savannah. We were fortunate to follow a Cheetah through the bush, up and down a tree, for around 20 minutes. We also got within 2 meters of a resting leopard in the twilight, again Mark had his camera out. Surprisingly the guide was impressed when at night we saw a civet cat and an aardvark, again his camera came out. Our guide told us that these animals are not rare but unusual to sight. The last time our guide saw an aardvark was years ago.

We travelled in a 9 passenger Land Cruisers with a guide and tracker. We would follow tracks until our tracker Remsen would hop off his front-most seat and walk deep into the bush to find a pride of 6 lions resting in dense grass. It seemed very daring in our regulated world of health & safety. During one evening tea-break the tracker and guide urgently hustled all of us back into the Land Cruiser. 60 seconds later two lioness walked by the truck giving us a close inspection. The tracker said he heard something and saw movement….the city slickers from Zurich did not notice anything until we were hustled into the truck.

We saw a lot of birds as well, vultures, harrier hawks, hawk eagles, African eagle, owls, lilac rollers, franklins, black ibis, etc

Seeing the sunrise and sunset, morning and evening stars, in the bush was amazing. Makes one realize how far away our lives are from nature.

The staff at Pondoro were amazing, always smiling, or ready with hot towels at the end of a game drive. Mark and Remsen, our guide and tracker, were very knowldegable about the flora and fauna. Mark and Remsen worked hard to deliver amazing animal encounters....and deliver they did! We were so happy to have them show us the bush. The food was delicious, with many courses each one better than the previous. The Chef and her team got everything rigtht...fresh ingredients, variety, novelty, and presentation. Several in our party took in a massage at the spa which was delightful.

This was our 30th wedding anniversary and the staff went out of their way to help us celebrate with candles, champagne and rose petals galore.

In short, Pondoro provided an amazing experience and a very good value. I highly recommend them. Many thanks to our friends at Pondoro...

Room Tip: We stayed at the huts outside the main lodge rather than within the main reception area. The huts a...
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  • Stayed: June 2013, traveled with family
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Thank James G
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 20, 2013

Dear James G,

Thank you very much for taking the time to write a review.

I am elated that we could help in making your 30th anniversary a special celebration. Will definitely tell Mark and Remson, as well as other staff, about your great feedback. The staff get great enjoyment from this as there is nothing beats honest appreciation for hard work.

Greetings from the bush,

Robbie and Pondoro family

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Reviewed July 18, 2013

This trip was extremely special. Starting with the game drives, my favorite part: We had a great driver Mark and tracker Remson; they found the big 5 and some bonus animals. This pair found some really amazing animals on our drive. Over the course of 4 days they found a a cheetah, leopard (x2), lions, rhinos, elephants, hippos, giraffes, owls, cape buffalo, zebras ... an aardvark (we found out later that seeing an aardvark is really rare)! This was a trip of a lifetime.

The rooms and staff: My parents were celebrating their 30th anniversary with 5 grown children. The Pondoro staff sets this lodge apart; they went out of their way to be welcoming, friendly, and informative. There was champagne to welcome my parents, and a hot bath drawn in their room after the evening game drive; these personal touches really made it memorable.

Each meal we had was phenomenal and the staff provided delicious wine recommendations with every meal. The food alone would be worth visiting for. Our party was so happy to meet the chef and say thank you on our last night during the candle lit dinner on the river, just one more way that the staff anticipated what our group wanted.

Room Tip: Buffalo is at the end of the line of suites, and a lot of big animals walk past that lodge in the ev...
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  • Stayed: July 2013, traveled with family
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Thank Laura G
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 20, 2013

Dear Laura G,

Thank you very much for taking the time to write a review.

Look like you had a really good time and that you saw lots of animals. You are right when you say that seeing an aardvark is special. I am happy that we could make your parents 30th anniversary a special one!

Greetings from the bush,

Robbie and Pondoro family

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Reviewed July 4, 2013

A great place to stay at, the facilities are magnificent, staff is beyond great, and the food exceptional... we got to see 4/5 big 5... bt seeing the lion roar made up for the leopard :-) picnic in the tree house was such a treat... nothing bad to say about this place... away from the madness of Kruger... a great choice without a doubt!!!!

  • Stayed: June 2013, traveled as a couple
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Thank aiga1965
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 July 17, 2013

Dear alga1965,

Thank you very much for taking the time to write a review.

I am very glad to see that you enjoyed your stay with us. Will let the staff know of your appreciation. A lion roaring right next to the vehicle is a rare treat.

Greetings from the bush,

Robbie and Pondoro family

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Reviewed July 4, 2013

My husband and I stayed at Pondoro for 6 days / 5 nights in August 2012 (finally got around to writing reviews from the trip!). Amazing experience overall. The chalet (we stayed in the Buffalo Room) was incredible - the pictures online don't completely do it justice. We regularly got to see wildlife without leaving the room - not the big 5, but lots of monkeys, kudu, etc. The staff actually walks you to/from your room every time because they have had lions walk through the property. We didn't use the shower / tub on the deck due to the thinner vegetation at that time of year - makes game viewing easier on the game drives, but we would have given a show to the lodge across the river. (This doesn't pose a problem, because the in room facilities were equally awesome.)
The staff was excellent, and I wish I had written down everyone's names so I could thank them individually here. They truly are out to make your vacation perfect, from remembering your drink at the bar to your game driver designing your drive to complete your big 5 before you leave.
The game drives run very nicely - they provide blankets for the early morning and evening chill, and ponchos for the occasional rain. Our driver and tracker were great - they teach you what they are looking for, which makes for a nice bit of education, and seemed to find animals even on rainy days when I would have guessed that everything would have been hunkering down. Our most memorable experience was watching - from a distance of 15 feet! - two young rhinos demolish a 10 ft high anthill.
Meals were out of this world, and probably the selling point for us on coming back to Pondoro in the future rather than trying somewhere else. The dinner menu features various game animals (ostrich, kudu, etc) and is on a rotation, so we didn't get the same thing twice (though I'd have been fine eating any of the meals every night).
Other than the food, the atmosphere is probably the other big draw. You spend a lot of time together with the other people on your truck for the game drive, but beyond that, the way the lodge is set up brings the guests together remarkably well. Though the option was available to dine alone, while we were there afternoon tea and meals inevitably ended up with 10-12 guests sitting together, leading to great conversations with folks from all around the world. We became very close with several other couples, and the staff even set up a fire-lit dinner table for us all down on a dry section of the riverbed just below the lodge one night so we could all sit together.
All in all, this was an incredible experience. The only negative out of our entire stay is that with the prices we were paying I felt a little nickeled and dimmed when I was charged for each can of cola. I expect to pay for alcohol but other drinks should probably be included in the overall price.

We saw 4 of the big 5. Leopard are not prevent in this part of the park (due to the high number of lions). If seeing all 5 of the big 5 is a top priority you might want to split your trip and stay in Sabi Sans in addition to Pondoro. Either way, If you are looking for an unforgettable safari experience this is the place to go.

Stayed: August 2012, traveled as a couple
1  Thank Sarah K
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 July 17, 2013

Dear Sarah K,

Thank you very much for taking the time to write a review.

It is great to see how much you enjoyed your stay with us. Sounds like you had great safari sightings and that you really enjoyed your suite. Just one comment on leopards: A high density of lions does not have an effect on leopard numbers. We see leopards on average every 2nd day, but they can for obvious reasons not be guaranteed. Sorry you missed seeing one but hopefully you would be lucky on your next visit.

Greetings from the bush,

Robbie and Pondoro family

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Reviewed June 26, 2013

Beautiful setting. Wonderful room/chalet. Great food. Exceptional staff. Fantastic wildlife.

This lodge is paradise and it is so good to know that a palace like this exist. The staff was exceptional, the accommodation perfect and beautiful , and the game drives exciting. The efforts to make the stay exceptional was incredible. I will return!

If you like good food and wine, like I do, then you will appreciate Pondoro. A lot of effort goes into the quality and presentation. A gourmet restaurant in the middle of nowhere! Being privately owned this lodge is not part of a large commercial company and the personalised service and flexibility is outstanding.

I stayed for 3 nights and wish I had stayed for longer. I saw all big 5's on the first 2 game drives, which were accompanied by great information by Rul and Ramson, who knew the animals well. One of the best places to view wild life for sure, even after having been in Botswana! Three chetah brothers and lots of lion cubs were highlights. So were the resident wild mongoose family.
Next time I will try the spa. Did not have enough time.

Transport from the airport was organised by the lodge and went smoothly.

I cannot recommend this place enough for wild life, staff, accommodation and food. Tops!

Room Tip: My request for a room close to the main building materialised and it was beautiful.
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  • Stayed: June 2013, traveled solo
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Thank Merete H
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 July 11, 2013

Dear Merete H,

Thank you very much for taking the time to write a review.

It is, as always, great to see how much guests appreciate all the little things that we do to make their stay exceptionable. Big 5 including lion cubs and cheetahs! No wonder you enjoyed the safaris.

We are looking forward to your next visit.

Greetings from the bush,

Robbie and Pondoro family

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Reviewed June 21, 2013

We recently stayed at Pondoro for our honeymoon, and were amazed by everything! They cater to every need (even those you didn't know you had), are super friendly, kind, generous, fun, the list could go on forever! Honestly, everyone who works there is 5 star+ and made us feel like VIP guests. The safari took our breath away, the food left us amazed (and heavier ;) ), the spa treatments left us relaxed, and the treatment from every staff member made us feel welcome. By the time we left we missed all of them, not only the lodge and the animals. I cannot say enough nice things about this place and we have been raving about them to anyone who will listen!

We will absolutely be back one day, and we wish we had never left!! :) Robbie & Liza - we hope to be sending many more Canadians to your friendly/out of this world establishment.

All the best this weekend,

Chris & Anne

Room Tip: We stayed in a chalet which was amazing, so I could only imagine how beautiful the suites are!
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  • Stayed: June 2013, traveled as a couple
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Thank Anne B
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 July 11, 2013

Dear Anne B,

Thank you very much for taking the time to write a review.

We are honored that you chose Pondoro as part of your honeymoon to South Africa. It is so nice to see that guests notice and appreciate all the small things that we do to enhance everyone's stay. We are looking forward to truckloads of Canadians visiting the lodge!

Greetings from the bush,

Robbie and Pondoro family

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Reviewed June 18, 2013

We had a very very lovely stay at Pondoro game Lodge! We spend 2 night for our Honeymoon with Lize and Robby and we felt very welcome! Lize even arranged a private romantic dinner for us which was very unexpected but very nice!!! The food is delicious! Teh lodges are very clean and nicely decorated! the service is super!
Our game driver did his outmost to found the animals!
Our stay was unforgetable but to short!

Room Tip: The suites have a jacuzzi :-)
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  • Stayed: May 2013, traveled as a couple
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Thank cathy r
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 July 11, 2013

Dear cathy r,

Thank you very much for taking the time to write a review.

It was a honor to host you at Pondoro for your honeymoon and I am glad to see that you enjoyed your stay with us and that we managed to make it very special and romantic for the two of you.

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 21 Specialty Lodging in Balule Nature Reserve
Price Range: $725 - $1,225 (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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