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Garonga Safari Camp
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Reviews (394)
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Reviewed January 21, 2010

My husband and I returned from SA nearly a week ago having spent 4 days at Garonga during our last week in South Africa. There are so many great things to say about Garonga but I shall try to summarise what were personal highlights for us.

Bernie and his staff - the owner, Bernardo Smith has brought together a wonderful group of individuals who will ensure that your every need and desire is provided for. They are all so friendly, and they make you feel that nothing is too much trouble. There were on average about 6 of us staying each day at the camp during our stay, but we found out that there is a staff of 30 at any one time! You never see them, but it is clear that they are there. The camp is immaculate, and if you did ever need anything, someone was always around. Whenever we left our luxury tent for a meal, or a drive, someone from housekeeping would always visit our tent and tidy things up, or close our doors when dusk was coming. But it was always done so discreetly, the only other sign of them being the sweet little hand-written messages left behind encouraging you to "relax" or be at "peace". I must make special mention of Zele, who I guess you'd call the manager (although you don't get much of a sense of hierarchy because everyone is so friendly with each other). As well as being completely in control of the camp and always knowing what you need before you do, she is also a real delight to talk to and spend time with, putting everyone at ease. She is a real treasure and I imagine it would be near impossible to find someone quite like her. (If Bernie built a tennis court near her house, I don't think she'd ever leave!) When the staff appear as happy and relaxed as you do, as a guest, then that really is something quite special.

The sleep-out - Garonga have created a sleep-out deck which is about 20 mins drive from camp. It is built onto the side of a small hill, and looks out over a small lake (a pan?). There is a bed which is covered with a mosquito net, with pillows and duvets etc, and a table with a couple of chairs, and paraffin lanterns. They also provide the obligatory mosquito repellant, torch, a radio (a la walkie-talkie, not for listening to!) and a whistle to fend off any unwanted visitors! I have no idea if the whistle is effective for this purpose as noone has had cause to use it (believe it or not, the animals aren't interested in eating you!). You are dropped off during the evening game drive, it was around 6.45pm for us, and they leave you with a 3-course meal and drinks (whatever you choose from the bar at lunch time!). You are then simply left there on your own, to enjoy the sunset, your meal, and above all, the wonderful solitude of the African bush. There is simply nothing quite like this experience. I cannot imagine anywhere more peaceful, and more beautiful. When it gets too dark to look at the landscape around you, a canopy of stars appears in the sky which is quite overwhelming. I have never seen so many stars. When you finally put your head down to sleep you will be woken by the sunrise (and somehow still hot tea and coffee!). Then you get picked up again on the morning game drive at about 6.15am, by which point, we didn't want to leave! In hindsight, I wished that we had done this twice.

Everything else - I could go on forever about individual things because everything is so wonderful, but to keep this a reasonable length, the food is great, very varied and very healthy. You would think that it would be difficult to cater for somewhere this remote, but all the food is really fresh and varied. It was nice in the evening how they varied the service of the evening meals, sometimes have everyone together around one table, other evenings having tables of two. Also, the picnic lunch is lovely, a deck up a tree in the bush where they lay out a 3-course lunch for you, with drinks of your choice, walk you out there (about 5 mins walk from camp) and then leave you for as long as you desire. If it weren't for the fact that there is no loo up there, you could quite happily stay there for hours. In the height of Summer, other than the pool, it is certainly the coolest spot in the camp. There is a resident masseuse who gives massages in a little hut that looks out over the waterhole. It is quite special having a massage with the sounds of the animals all around you. The games drives are good, although when we were there it was very difficult to spot certain animals (cats!) because the bush is so green and thick. We didn't mind because we had been on safari before and it was simply so interesting seeing all the birds, insects, tracks, and other wildlife (there are plenty of elephants, hippo, giraffe, warthogs, zebra, impala, wildebeest, and we even saw a rhino with her newborn calf and cheetah and a leopard). The guides are very knowledgeable and like all the other staff, put you completely at ease. Special mention to Brian, Jaffet and Alisa. One of my favourite parts of the day was during the evening game drive, about dusk, when Ali would just pull up somewhere, everyone would pile out, and they would serve drinks and nibbles. I guess it's just a small thing, but I can't think of anywhere else in the world I would rather enjoy a G&T.

It was heart-breaking to leave Garonga although there is the fear that if one were there too long, one might take it all for granted. I now know what they mean when they say "safari for the soul". It is really the most relaxing and uplifting place I have ever stayed, and a small piece of my heart will always be there. We were there on our honeymoon, and, along with our wedding day, it is the happiest time we have ever had.

Thank you so much.

  • Stayed: January 2010, traveled as a couple
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7  Thank Boorette
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 14, 2010

The best holiday ever!!! What more can I say other than Excellent!!
After a very delayed flight from a snowy UK, we were greeted by the 'G Team' and the past 2 days were forgotten about from that point on. The place is great, the food and drinks are wonderful and staff will do anything for you.
They arranged the best wedding anyone could want. It was private and romantic and the perfect day. Christmas Day was full of gaming and a Christmas dinner that would have done my mother proud and that is saying something.
Ok, so now about the place. The tents are great, the views are breath taking and well when can I go back. If big time gaming is what you want or you want to see the top 5 in one hour then it may not be the place for you.The trackers and rangers were brilliant, we got atleast 5 metres away from every animal, except those bloody leopards - next time!
This place is amazing and is a must!!! - Thank you to the whole G Team

  • Stayed: December 2009, traveled as a couple
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3  Thank travelseeker2010
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 7, 2010

We couldn't have had a better time. The place is lovely, the food remarkably good and the natural biodiversity of the place is impressive. We saw lions, cheetah, rhinos, elephants. hippos, etc, etc, etc. The best part about the place was the quality of the guides. Jaffeta, who has been with Garonga since it opened, is one of only 20 people in South Africa with his level of qualifications. His encyclopedic knowledge on everything from whether we were looking at a female or a male leopard footprints to how many vertebrae are in a giraff's neck was what made the trip for us. He brought the place to life, whether by tracking lions on foot (I couldn't see tracks but he could) or describing how the various animals co-exist, it was his guiding that made the whole trip one of those truly memorable experiences.

  • Stayed: January 2010, traveled as a couple
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4  Thank RobertoIncognito
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 23, 2009

From the moment we arrive (tired after wedding and overnight flight) Garonga was amazing. The welcome was warm and the service outstanding from start to finish. The rooms are very luxurious despite the cold at night. ON our game drives we saw everything we'd hoped for, including a leopard with fresh kill and cubs. The food was great and the drinks flowed. Bernie is an excellent host, and the trackers, guides and other staff are very friendly and helpful.
We can't praise this place highly enough, it was a brilliant 5 days start to our honeymoon.

  • Stayed: August 2009, traveled as a couple
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3  Thank Pingflux
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 20, 2009

Mary and I had a fabulous time at Garonga, staying for four nights. Nothing seemed too much for the staff. The atmosphere was very relaxed but at the same time you just knew that there was a very efficient process behind the scenes. Food was good and we enjoyed the variety of dinner settings - romantic tables for two one night, lovely large round table for the whole group another etc. Good quality drinks are all inclusive and served generously – we genuinely never felt we wanted for anything.

The "tents" are very nice indeed, even if the frogs were a little noisy - you do have to remember you are in the real bush - this is not Disneyland! In fact when sun falls you do have to be escorted to and from your tent – of course this luxury accommodation is not a tent but a beautifully designed impression of a tent – it does have a real canvas roof, which you realise when the monkeys play on it in the morning – absolutely fantastic – you really do feel part of the bush.

As far as the game drives were concerned, we saw everything we wanted to, apart from the illusive leopard - although the excellent guides tried very, very hard. The game drives were excellent and we especially enjoyed the nice touch with a stop and some drinks and nibbles. Mary particularly loved the hippos and warthogs, whilst I came within touch distance of an elephant.

We both had massages, which we both enjoyed and we felt that they were very good value for money.

Overall then, a fantastic experience and a perfect way to start a holiday in South Africa. Thanks to Bernie and Zele and all the staff who looked after us so well.

  • Stayed: November 2009, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank SMSteve2009
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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