After having looked forward to a relaxing long-weekend at Maliba River Lodge, I sadly have to rate the service at this establishment as dismal (which is sad because Lesotho, & the Tsehlanyane National Park within which the lodge is located, is a magnificently beautiful place). The day after our arrival at the lodge (Saturday) was meant to be our only full day there, as we were meant to check out the following morning.
Unfortunately, at approximately 11h30 on Saturday morning, we were quite unprofessionally (and in a panic) told by Crystal to pack up our belongings, as there was a fire on the mountains, which could possibly get out of hand (note that I saw a fire on the mountain at 7h30 on the same morning, but obviously this didn't bother the management of Maliba logde at that stage, or they just didn't care until the very last minute when it got out of hand). We were given no further direction in terms of where to go once we'd packed up, even though we were being rushed by Crystal to pack up, & being watched as we threw our belongings (including our food, since we were in a self-catering unit) into the car. We then had to find out from her as to where we were supposed to go, to which she replied "well, it's probably best if you go wait at reception", while staff ran around in a panicked state. So that we did, met by nobody at reception, and watched the flames move progressivley closer to the lodge.
At approximately 13h30, Crystal & other staff came running into the reception area, seemingly talking to other staff members (looking blindly past guests at the lodge), frenziedly repeating something to the effect of "get off the property" (like it was now a big surprise that the fire had moved closer!). After a minute, I caught her attention as she walked right by me, looking right past me, without even acknowledging that we were guests at the lodge & that it would only be professional for her to give us some direction at least. Upon my enquiry, we were told to "get off the property" (there was no elaboration as to "which" property to get off exactly - the property of the lodge, or that of the national park??). So, naturally, with us being in another country & having been booked in at Maliba, we enquired as to whether we would receive a refund (as her statement meant that we would have to travel back home or book into another place for the night). Her response was arrogant as she stated "my priority is the fire". Okaaay then, let us drive & let us see...
Most certainly, at no stage, was any of the staff's priority or concern that of the safety of their guests!! They were in fact completely unprepared for dealing with any form of an emergency, & most certainly reacted in a huge panick to things only as they occurred! (One would think that they would surely have to deal with the breakout of fire on the mountains now & again, & at the VERY LEAST KNOW HOW TO HANDLE GUESTS IN A PROFESSIONAL MANNER in such circumstances!?!).
So we proceeded past the maliba gate (which had been abandoned) and on to the gate of the national park, meeting other maliba guests en route to the gate & at the gate, who were just as confused as we were, in terms of whether we should begin our (long) journeys back home, or wait around "hoping" to receive some communication from the staff of Maliba. We waited... we chatted... we contemplated... we tried to make the best of a real situation... (we were hungry, as the drama unfolded just before lunch & it was now close on 15h00...)... we watched people who were supposed to have been checking into Maliba on the day being turned away, & having to leave only minutes after their arrival... & then word somehow reached that the fire had reached the main lodge & that it was pointless going back.
So now, upon our journey back home, & after having crossed the border already, I finally received a phonecall from Andrew of Maliba lodge, who states, "the fire has been contained, the lodge is fully operational, guests were asked to evacuate only as a matter of safety, you can return to the lodge"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! To which I state that that isn't the message we received, or what staff at the loge communicated to us at any stage, & that we've already passed the border & cannot go back at that stage. To which he sticks to his guns, saying "the lodge is fully operational & we are open". So I enquire as to a refund, to which he replies, "I cannot comment on that because as far as I know, the lodge is open & the evacuation was temporary"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Okaaaay, right, it obviously doesn't mean anything to them that their guests spent the better half of a day actually off the Maliba premises, and totally clueless in terms of communication from their staff!
DID THE STAFF ON THE GROUND AT THE LODGE AT ANY STAGE GIVE US ANY DIRECTION / ANY MEANINGFUL FEEDBACK / COMMUNICATION??? Nope. In fact I would've recommended this establishment in a hearbeat to anyone wanting a beautiful, peaceful holiday away, save for the shockingly dismal & totally unprofessional handling of emergency situations by the staff at Maliba! Oh yes, I shudder at the thought of the fact that we set out hiking in the very same mountains just an hour before the chaos broke loose, but that we returned due to totally unrelated reasons!! The staff did not even take a count of the guests, to establish who was where, etc!!!!!!!!!!!! People were driving around trying to locate their family members, while the staff's "priority was the fire". Need I say more?
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Based within the borders of Tsehlanyane National Park, Maliba River Lodges are self catering retreats set in a pristine wilderness valley deep in the North of Lesotho's breathtaking Maluti/Drakensberg Mountains and only 4½ hours from Johannesburg. The River Lodges offer modern, self catering and serviced accommodation which is perfect for larger families, groups of friends or even couples that want an affordable getaway where they can relax in peace and serenity. Activities include hiking, pony trekking, 4x4 trails, skiing at Afriski, birding, swimming in natural rock pools and community visits.Gourmet meals, bar facilities and internet access is available at the Mountain lodge which is on the same property. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Maliba River Lodge Lesotho/Tsehlanyane National Park