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“Now My Favourite &beyond Property” 5 of 5 bubbles
Review of Kwandwe Great Fish River Lodge

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Kwandwe Great Fish River Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
Los Angeles
Level Contributor
118 reviews
67 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 126 helpful votes
“Now My Favourite &beyond Property”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed May 3, 2009

I enjoyed my stay at Kwandwe immensely. From start to finish I could not have asked for more. Very warm greeting on arrival with cookies and lemonade. I need not have worried about the timing of my arrival, fearing I would have to wait till morning to go on a game drive. They asked if I wanted to join a game drive already in progress and it was as simple as that. In general service was excellent, unobtrusive but efficient.

Food was wonderful; Very well prepared, and the portion sizes were perfect. Who knew kudu could be so enjoyable?

Animal sightings were of course fantastic. One nice detail is that the guide asks if you have any special requests for animal sightings. Having been on safari before, I was more interested in the smaller animals and chose porcupine, and really enjoyed the search for them (much more difficult than lions). The aardwolf was a very nice bonus. The lions stole the show, not just their prescence but actually being able to understand what scene in the never ending soap opera was being played out before you.

Kudos to Phil and Digby, my guide and tracker team. Because of them my photos turned out a hundred times better than they might have. Just know when Phil says "Hang On!" he means it! Of course it goes without saying that Phil was very knowledgeable about the terrain and the animals.

I did just about all of my holiday shopping at the main gift shop in Heatherton Towers. The items here were much more to my taste than I had seen elsewhere on my trip.

Other andbeyond properties I've visited include Bateleur and Ngorongoro Crater lodge. The crater is still tops for the magical setting of the game drives, but for an overall experience, Kwandwe wins.

  • Stayed April 2009, traveled solo
    • 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?
2 Thank Livetowander
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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252 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
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 bubbles
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (64)
Date | Rating
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English first
toronto
Level Contributor
21 reviews
15 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 27 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed March 22, 2009

fantastic - i cant add much more to what the previous reviewer said - the was true luxury - the room gorgeous, and the food out of this world! it was expensive, but really when travelling all the way to south africa for a once in a lifetime experience why settle for second best?! amazing amazing.
we went to have a look at ecca on our last day, and i am glad we stayed at the great fish river lodge - at ecca while the rooms were huge, with a bigger plunge pool and better vew, the common areas seemed a bit sterile and more modern, less of a safari feel. the rooms at ecca would be perfect of course if you had kids.

  • Stayed March 2009, traveled as a couple
    • 4 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?
1 Thank jessie12
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Surrey, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
54 reviews
35 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 118 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed February 14, 2009

You'll see from my other Tripadvisor reviews that I dont always go overboard with praise - but this place is truly, truly special! It doesn’t seem to be as well known as other nearby game reserves – we hadn’t heard of it till friends recommended it – but we are so thrilled we found it. It was definitely the highlight of our trip to South Africa in January.

It’s about a two-hour drive inland from Port Elisabeth – not a difficult road , but quite deserted and we were pleased we had booked a car transfer from the airport. We did wonder what we would have done had our self-drive car broken down on the way!

After a very friendly check-in it was then a 25 minute transfer by jeep to Great River Fish Lodge (we saw loads of game even on this trip) – and as we drew up we were met by a welcome committee of staff – Nina and Chris and Innes – all immediately greeting us and making us feel like long-lost friends.... Every single member of staff we met made us feel they wanted to make our stay as special as possible – they couldn’t do enough for us.

The main lodge is timber and thatch – colonial feel, high ceilings, comfy sofas in the lounge, a library and dining area. There’s a huge drinks cabinet, from which to help yourself, no TV, and just a lovely view from the full-height windows of the river and the far banks, where we saw monkeys, baboons and, on one occasion, black rhinos grazing. No children here (though they can stay at Kwandwe's Ecca Lodge) so very peaceful!

No more than18 people can stay at one time in nine thatched lodges set along from the main lodge. They're all completely private – traditional in style but with floor to ceiling windows that you could pull right back to the open air, bird and animal sounds – fantastic! The main room was huge, with absolutely all mod-cons, including fans and air-con. Behind were all the facilities – double sinks, showers (both indoor and outdoor) and a huge free-standing bath, where again – if you wanted – you could open back the huge glass doors and sit and watch the wild-life!

Outside was a large sitting area with easy chairs, loungers under a shaded pergola and a plunge pool. The staff had thought of everything – umbrellas in case of rain,(though we had wall-to-wall sunshine), beach towels, candles and champagne on our return from dinner…..

The days obviously centred on the game drives at 5.30am and then again at 4.30pm; max 6 people to a jeep. We only ever saw another jeep if we came across a really special sighting. Rangers were in radio contact to alert other jeeps, but there was careful control to ensure only two jeeps were ever at one sighting at one time – brilliant!

We were lucky enough to have the only female ranger in the reserve – Michelle – so enthusiastic and totally fearless when it came to driving! Together with Rasi, her tracker, she made our drives such fun, and was determined to find every species for us to watch. Most memorable – her whoop of joy when Rasi (goodness knows how) spotted a lion stalking zebra miles away and had us tearing across the bush to get near enough to follow; finding a herd of elephants climbing a thickly wooded hillside and hearing the cracks as they pulled down branches; following a cheetah and her cubs almost near enough to touch as they began stalking; sitting watching (and listening to) lions and their cubs as they devoured a warthog next to our jeep. Perhaps most special, watching a stand-off between two male black rhino – one protecting his female and calf and the other trying to muscle in – incredibly tense….

We loved that Michelle and Rasi were so knowledgeable about not just the ‘Big Five’, but about all the birds – the endangered Blue Cranes we spotted, and the goshawks etc, and obviously cared so much about their conservation. We would have loved more time to go on an educational walk and also to look at some of the community projects Kwandwe is working on – it’s an impressive place…..

Between drives we did nothing but relax and eat, served by our always attentive butler, Sim, The food was never-ending and superb – huge breakfasts of exotic fruit, muesli, breads etc – before the cooked offering arrived! Lunch, then home-made cakes for tea ; hot 'toddies' by the fire after the evening drives and and then more delicious food for dinner! And always including a choice of ‘local’ fare to try – crocodile, kudu, ostrich – though not, we were assured, taken from Kwandwe itself! But plenty of other more familiar fish and meat too, served beautifully and washed down with lovely wines. The Head Chef, Fanie, even came out on a morning drive for a pre-breakfast cook-out of pancakes and fabulous pineapple sauce, washed down with champagne. I raved about the sauce; when I got back I found a typed copy of the recipe in my room! It was that thoughtfulness that made the stay so special.

Negatives? Hardly any at all! it wasnt cheap (but in fact we found a special deal in January). A couple of the lodges were quite a walk from the main lodge (though ours, no 6, was very near). If you want to see immense herds of animals then you probably would be better in somewhere like the Kruger. We did see large herds of buffalo at the waterhole, but more often it was a case of tracking to find a smaller group of lions or zebra – but we were able to get so close and sit and watch with no other jeeps around - that was special.

I would hate to think we wouldn’t go back to Kwandwe, we think it has everything – fantastic animal viewing in a breath-taking, malaria-free setting; very comfortable surroundings, and – the real icing on the cake – fantastic staff, every single one of whom went out of their way to make our stay special. We know it’s their job to do that – but it definitely worked for us – I felt like crying when we left! We certainly hope to be back. I'm happy to answer any questions!

  • Liked — Luxurious private lodge, great views, fantastic food, service and attentive staff - ie everything!
  • Disliked — Absolutely nothing!
  • Stayed January 2009, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Check in / front desk
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Business service (e.g., internet access)
Helpful?
5 Thank SusieG
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
New York City
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed February 11, 2009

I stayed at the Great FIsh River Lodge for my honeymoon back in May/June of 2008. The experience was so wonderful that I can't stop thinking about when I can go back.
Everything was amazing from the moment we arrived in Port Elizabeth to catch our personal flight to the reserve (which was terrifying at first for me! but my husband loved it!) to our final night.

The staff at the reserve was so incredibly friendly and accommodating it was unbelievable at times. When we were taken to the reception they asked if there were any dietary needs we required and our only thing was that neither of us drink alcohol. By the time we got to the lodge everyone there knew we didn't drink, and the alcohol was never pushed or mentioned which is such a relief for two people who constantly get "looks" for not ordering booze. They even, on our last night at the lodge, gave us a private dinner in their library with candles and a wood burning fire in the fire place and gave us alcohol free champaign to celebrate our last night of our honeymoon. It was really touching and amazing.

Beyond the service, the amazing rooms had great views. They felt secluded and quiet, which is so nice coming from New York City. They were of course beautiful and comfortable.

Finally, our ranger and tracker Phil and Saki, were out of this world! We learned so much from them and saw so many amazing moments with the animals (like 2 kills in 1 day!! lions and cheetahs). It was so great because we were there for 5 nights and by the 4th day we were willing to just sit and observe the animals as we had seen so many other things. (elephants, cheetah, kudu, eland, zebra, rhinos, and on and on!) This was nice because it really gave us a chance to see them in their habitat without feeling like we had to rush to find the next animal. I think Phil and Saki liked that chance too.
Phil and Saki are also an amazing team, spotting animals that we couldn't have seen in a million years. They have a lot of fun together too which is great.

I can't say enough good things about this trip and this Lodge. My husband and I have plans to go back in the near future and I can't wait!

  • Liked — Service
  • Disliked — Nothing
  • Stayed May 2008, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Check in / front desk
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Business service (e.g., internet access)
Helpful?
1 Thank starrNYC
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Houston
Level Contributor
4 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 25, 2008

I'll write this review by describing a typical day at Kwandwe.

We arrived by private plane & were driven to the check-in lodge, where we sat outside being served yummy home made cookies & lemonade. Then a 30 minute drive to the actual lodge, where we were greeted by a staff of 4 who stood in a line waving hello, which I thought quite unusual. We were offered a drink and lunch, chosen from a 3 course daily menu, and very good. I was just recovering from a lung infection & was taking antibiotics daily, so I asked for some plain yogurt, which they brought. From then on, our server asked - would I like my yogurt now?
Since I was not feeling well, I stayed in the room rather than go on the first game drive. I had a massage in the room, and let me tell you it was the BEST massage I've ever had in my life! The large room was of rustic decor, very comfortable & had a great view, along with a private plunge pool which was 1 story down via steps. At sun down I opened a bottle of sparkling wine to toast the first night at Kwandwe, went out on the deck and was greeted by 2 warthogs! Dinner that night in the open air boma was 3 courses plus salads and a cheese plate if you could fit it in. A young female chef appeared tableside to introduce herself and say she was at our disposal. After dinner we were led back to our room by a flashlight-bearing guard due to the extreme darkness, and the slight chance of encountering a dangerous animal (they had had a lion kill just outside the kitchen a few months back.)
Wakeup: 5:30 a.m. by Phil the Ranger. After coffee we were off for a game drive. During the 4 days we were there, we saw every animal we could imagine except hippo and leopard. Plenty of lions, elephants, cheetahs, giraffe, zebras, buffalo, white rhinos, eland, impala, wildebees, sprinkgbok, warthogs, kudu, plus more; a wild dog, jackal; a monitor lizard on the pathway to our room,birds galore, all passionately described and tracked by our ranger Phil and his sidekick Saki the tracker, who sat in the front jumpseat a la John Wayne in Hatari! We stopped for coffee and a light breakfast snack (in the evenings it was whatever alchoholic drink you wanted plus snacks.) Return to the lodge at 10:00 or so for breakfast outside, which always consisted of a delicious tray which consisted of the wonderful South African health bread, plain yogurt, homemade granola, fresh fruit kabobs, fresh muffins, tomato, a piece of ham or salami, a cheese and freshly squeezed orange and a second choice (mango, pineappple, etc.) THEN you are asked if you would like the breakfast of the day (a hot entree.)
Back to the room to rest, or check your email on the lodge computer. At 1:00 it's lunch time - another 3 course menu to choose from, changing daily and always delicious. Back to your room to rest, or lounge by the private plunge pool, which was too chilly when we were there. Then 3:00 - it's Tea Time! Assortment of sweets and fruit along with tea or coffee, then shortly after it's off to your afternoon game drive, returning at 7:30 for drinks by the fire if warranted, then dinner. You can eat alone or with others if you prefer.
Something else - since laundry service is included, we were preparing our stack for pickup in the room. The laundry service slip we filled out had a bullet point that noted 'occasionally hyenas and baboons raid the laundry yard' - a warning just in case you don't get your clothes back.!

I think the best part of this stay was the service by the staff. They were so personable and relaxed that you feel like they are close friends or family by the time you leave. "Where anything is possible...' was the common remark by one of our servers. Take them up on it! I wish I had more. The delightful rooms, with their outdoor shower, large indoor shower and bath tub, glass doors and African decor. And of course the animals. Our ranger obviously loved what he did, and gave us every opportunity and more to get a glimpse of these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat, including some tense and exciting encounters.

It is pricey, but you do receive a lot for your money and it's an experience you'll treasure.

  • Liked — Breakfast tray along with just about everything
  • Disliked — 5:30 wakeup call (but you don't have to go)
  • Stayed October 2008, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Check in / front desk
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Business service (e.g., internet access)
Helpful?
2 Thank swexan
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Atlanta
Level Contributor
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 19, 2008

We went to several places in South Africa during the course of our honeymoon and definitely wanted a safari experience but didn't have the extra time it takes to get to Kruger.

We decided to try a game reserve but figured it would be sort of like a big zoo and not much of an authentic experience. We were proven wrong!

Although we cannot compare it to Kruger, we can say without reservation that Kwandwe Great Fish River Lodge is an incredible safari experience. The setting is stunning and the area is vast. We felt we had a full game-viewing experience and our rangers and guides were fantastic.

The food was totally delicious and everyone was so friendly and warm - we really felt like they enjoyed being there and wanted us as part of the Kwandwe family.

The room was first rate and we also loved the main lodge.

I cannot say enough good things about this place!

  • Liked — the friendliness of the staff
  • Disliked — I gained weight eating all the yummy food!!
  • Stayed October 2008
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Check in / front desk
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Business service (e.g., internet access)
Helpful?
2 Thank piratesmom
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sheffield, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
85 reviews
67 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 72 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed September 26, 2008

Worth the money. Absolutely fantastic lodge, great deck & private plunge pool. The champagne in the room after dinner was a great touch.

Game drives were excellent - very expereinced guide & tracker made the experience fantastic. The hot water bottles & hand warmers were a great touch in the late evening.

Evening dinner was a great expereince by the fire. Food was excellent - the chef managed to rustle up vegetarian food with no hassle at all.

If you are in the region Kwandwe is a must!

  • Liked — Luxury lodge, great outlook, fabulous location
  • Stayed September 2008, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Check in / front desk
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Business service (e.g., internet access)
Helpful?
3 Thank Awayagain_7
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Kwandwe Great Fish River Lodge

Property: Kwandwe Great Fish River Lodge
Address: Heatherton Towers, Fort Brown District | Grahamstown, Kwandwe Private Game Reserve 6140, South Africa
Location: South Africa > Eastern Cape > Kwandwe Private Game Reserve
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Restaurant Room Service Suites Swimming Pool Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 4 Specialty Lodging in Kwandwe Private Game Reserve
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$$
Number of rooms: 9
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
This founding lodge with only 9 privately situated suites features a classic-contemporary style of simple elegance that embraces the lodge's splendid setting high up on a steep bank overlooking the Great Fish River. The colour scheme comprises a calm and natural palette of earthy tones, from khaki browns to charcoal greys.Pewter and glass add an effortless yet understated glamour to the furnishings; artefacts such as ostrich eggshells, hides and horns create subtle points of interest and relevance to the lodge's surrounds, whilst natural linens and plenty of texture preserve its simple but sophisticated atmosphere.Watch majestic kudu meander down to the river from the Lodge's expansive viewing decks, or observe playful Cape clawless otters swimming in the cool waters below from the comfort of your private balcony. Suites are spacious and feature en-suite bathrooms, indoor and outdoor showers, personal in-room bars and private decks with plunge pools overlooking the vast reserve. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Kwandwe Great Fish River Hotel Kwandwe Private Game Reserve

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