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“The most relaxing place in Malawi”
Review of Bua River Lodge

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Bua River Lodge
Reviewed 9 December 2013

I recently stayed at Bua River with a friend for a weekend. Both of us live and work in Lilongwe and Bua felt a million miles away from the city (I use the word loosely) and by the end of the weekend I was the most relaxed I've probably been all year. The camp is down a hill so you leave your car at the top car park and walk down into a valley, with the river in the middle. The view across the river is beautiful and the tents where you stay are dotted throughout the bush. We stayed in a riverside room, which didn't have much river as it was dry season. However, it was still lovely and the highlight was the outdoor shower, which was piping hot every time we used it.

At the start of our trip John, the owner, asked us what kind of weekend we wanted to have and we said 'very quiet and relaxed'. Along with his team, he ensured this was exactly what we got. We did a couple of walks to search for elephants (we didn't see them but the three other guests had seen them the day we arrived), had a sunset beer by the river and ate a lot of delicious meals cooked by the brilliant and friendly chef, Godfrey (who also gave us a bread roll recipe after we asked him how he made such good bread!). On the second evening we were treated to a very lovely surprise as our dinner table had been set up away from the main restaurant banda on a deck by the river. There is no electricity so the storm lamps everywhere mean you get an amazing view of the stars as soon as night falls. You can also sit on the bridge to the island for some top notch stargazing.

The whole team at Tongole work so hard to make sure every part of your stay in enjoyable and hassle free. We particularly liked our room tour by Johani (which was hilarious) and the walk with Clifford and Kingsley. Everyone else was also incredibly friendly and helpful, including John who checked in with us every now and again just to make sure we were ok. The team have got the balance between being helpful whilst not being in any way intrusive totally right. I am looking forward to returning to Bua very soon and both me and my friend would highly recommend a stay.

  • Stayed: December 2013, travelled with friends
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Thank zoedibb
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
buariverlodge, Owner at Bua River Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded 11 December 2013

Wow! Thank you so much for this wonderful review. We are delighted that we were able to help you relax so much. I will tell Godfrey you remembered him! Just one thing, we are the Bua team, not Tongole ;) Thank you once again!

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56 - 62 of 108 reviews

Reviewed 30 November 2013

You know that exciting feeling when you are almost there, the final 200 meters or so? What would it be, our accomodation for the night? Because we were travelling Malawi by public transport, the last few kilometers into the park were by taxi. Owner John of Bua River was on his way to Lilongwe that day but took the effort to provide us with details of possible taxidrivers from Nkotakota town.
We passed the park's gate and bush was all we saw for kilometers. Once we left the carpark, there's a small path going down to the river. And there it was, a little world on it's own; that beautiful restaurant/ stilted communal building which becomes even more attractive at night when lit by candles; a spacious field to pitch our tent while looking over the river; and all these paths and bridges over the river that instantly made us eager to explore the area.

We brought our own food, but wouldn't do that the second time around: the restaurant is so worth it to splash out. Bua is small scale, intended to enjoy the peace and quiet of the wilderness of Nhkotakota. We did visit their neighbours Tongole, not a bad place either ;-) Tongole had the feel as if it has been made with unlimited budget, in case you fancy a luxurious stay in the park. Bua River feels as if it is made with great care and devotion. We felt more part of the park here. And the luxury is in the service, the food, the atmosphere and brilliant adaptation to the location.

To close with a little advise: it was only when we got the bill, that we saw a long list of hiking opportunities and regretted we had to leave. Sure, we had a beautiful morning walk ourselves that morning, but would definately be interested to choose from the other options as well.

  • Stayed: August 2013, travelled as a couple
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Thank nienke b
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
buariverlodge, Owner at Bua River Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded 1 December 2013

Thank you very much for your wonderful review. We are delighted that we were able to help you enjoy the wonders of the reserve - and I mean "we". I share our TripAdvisor reviews with all the staff. Praise for the service our guests receive is truly taken to heart and is a huge encouragement to them. Thank you, once again!

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Reviewed 25 September 2013

We had a fantastic time here, the location is amazing and the food delicious. John and all the staff looked after us well and the guided walk was well worth it. I thoroughly recommend a visit.
We stayed in the backpackers accommodation which is very nice but the lodges are great if you want to splash out.

  • Stayed: September 2013, travelled with friends
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Thank Hannah2442013
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buariverlodge, Owner at Bua River Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded 28 September 2013

Thank you so much for your very kind review. Perhaps, next time, you'll choose one of the Island rooms!!

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Reviewed 22 September 2013

Staying with John at the Bua River Lodge was a delight. The staff were excellent. Of course when staying in such places we are in the animals territory, but at all times we were escorted and we never felt unsafe. The lodge and the accommodation is excellent. My wish is that the Government can do something about the poaching, but a big thankyou to John and his staff.

Room Tip: I stayed on the island although this can feel a little remote you do get a sense of real peace.
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  • Stayed: September 2013, travelled with friends
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Thank SandraChristine9
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buariverlodge, Owner at Bua River Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded 23 September 2013

Thank you very much for reviewing us! We really appreciate you taking the time. We are installing "walkie-talkie" radios in the Island rooms so guest do not feel too isolated!

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Reviewed 22 September 2013

The staff, the food, the lodges, the location, the nature.. everything at the lodge is just superb. John and his staff are so friendly, and did everything to make our stay wonderful with great attention to detail. The lodges are beautifully situated around the site. The huts are elevated and built around big trees, such that you can safely watch the elephants roam beneath you if they visit. While we were there we saw a big group of elephants bathe in the river. The food that is served at the lodge is simply amazing too: from the delicious bites served around tea time, to the luxurious evening meals and the packed sandwiches that we got when we took off for our next destination. The phone reception is a bit patchy at the site so don't give up when you cannot contact John straight away and try again later.

  • Stayed: April 2013, travelled as a couple
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Thank Lennart W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
buariverlodge, Owner at Bua River Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded 23 September 2013

Many, many thanks for your wonderful review. We are delighted that you enjoyed your visit to us so much. I will be sure to tell my staff how much you appreciated their service! Thanks again.

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Reviewed 16 September 2013

Whilst the Bua River Lodge is set in a beautiful location, and the Malawian staff are very attentive, the three of us staying there felt that the level of safety, and the concern for our safety, was minimal and unprofessional. During our stay on an Island Lodge a group of elephants came within metres of our tent, whilst we were sat outside. Unlike what is posted on their website, this was not a magical experience, we were very frightened for our safety, the staff could not get to us because the elephants were so close, so we had to think on our feet and try and manage the situation as best we could, whilst feeling very vulnerable. At no point had we been briefed that this could happen, or what to do if this happens, and the risks involved staying at the Lodge. When we expressed our concerns that night and the next day and the low levels of checks and balances for our safety and the risks, John came across as dismissive of our concerns, saying it was a great adventure for us and we would have a good story to tell when we got home. The subsequent posts on the BRL website have turned our concerns into a 'magical experience', which is was not. We would advise families to think twice about staying here as we felt our concerns for safety were not taken seriously, and we feel that people could be put at risk and made liable if a serious incident took place. As John said a few moments after we got away from the elephants, 'I'm new to all this'.... great comfort!!

Stayed: September 2013, travelled with friends
Thank SarahCoop
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
buariverlodge, Owner at Bua River Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded 18 September 2013

First, I have to apologise sincerely to the reviewer that I came over as dismissive of her and her friends concerns. It was certainly not my intention. I do understand that these situations, which are common in most lodges and camps in protected areas in Malawi and elsewhere, can be quite unnerving. I was simply trying to reassure the guests that they had not been in as much danger as they felt. However, I am surprised and concerned to hear that no-one briefed them as to what to do if this situation occurs. I will make certain that there is no repeat of this in the future. Certainly, in the notes for guests in their rooms, it says, if elephants approach, you should stay quietly in your tent until they have moved on. The chances of elephants attacking a tent are minimal. We knew elephants were around these rooms that evening and were busy moving them away, so that guests could safely come to the lodge for dinner, hence the delay in actually arriving at the reviewer's room to escort them to the lodge. We will, as a result of our guests'experience, immediately improve communication from rooms to the lodge. I cannot agree, however, that for most guests the experience of being close to elephants is not magical. Virtually all of our guests have enjoyed seeing the elephants. I believe that, provided our guidelines are followed, the lodge remains safe for individual, couples, groups and families. We have taken note of this reviewers concerns and will certainly review our operations to see if we can improve security further.

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Reviewed 5 September 2013 via mobile

I was very surprised to find such a nice lodge inside the Nkhotakota National Park. I was camping, but the place to put the tent was very nice with an excellent view of the river.
The toilette were clean and there were hot showers.
The surprise was the restaurant: I had a fantastic beef-stew (the meat was very good) and there was a good choice of dishes ( and cold drinks).
The owner is very helpful and he can organize, with the guides of the park, every kind of walk you prefer.
I consider it a nice option after many days in the lake.

  • Stayed: August 2013
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Thank micksanna
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
buariverlodge, Owner at Bua River Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded 18 September 2013

Many thanks for your review! I hope we see yu again here one day.

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Additional Information about Bua River Lodge

Address: 10 km Off the Main M5 Salima To Nkhata Bay, Nkhotakota, Malawi
Region: Malawi > Central Region > Nkhotakota
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free Parking Restaurant Room Service
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 11 Speciality Lodging in Nkhotakota
Price Range: £41 - £71 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Number of rooms: 6
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Bua River Lodge is a small and unique, owner-managed lodge, where you are sure to feel at home and guaranteed to relax. We are receiving very favourable reviews, commenting on the beauty of the location, excellence of service, friendliness of the staff, comfort of the rooms and quality of the food.The lodge is located just two kilometres inside the eastern boundary of Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve in Malawi, making access by saloon car, even during the rains, quite straightforward. The reserve, covering 1,800,000 Hectares, is the third largest protected area in Malawi and one of the least known. Largely miombo woodland, the reserve falls from around 1,000 m. above sea level to just 600 metres in the east. The beautiful Bua River, the second longest in the country, on whose banks Bua River Lodge is located, bisects the Reserve.The reserve is very much a wilderness area. Apart from the main M18 road, which runs through the reserve, only one motorable track exists. North of the river, there are no tracks at all.There is a considerable diversity of wildlife, including a healthy elephant population, buffalo, lion and leopard, as well as roan, sable, zebra and many smaller mammals, although it must be said that the wildlife is difficult to observe. Over 200 species of birds are listed, including Finfoot, Palm Nut Vulture and Black Stork. It is likely that Pel’s Fishing Owl also occurs.Bua River Lodge offers high quality tented accommodation at moderate prices, with three categories, Island, Riverside and Hillside, priced to suit most budgets. Currently, six units are available, consisting of purpose-made canvas safari tents, pitched on extensive wooden decks, shaded by thatched roofs. Each tent is pitched well away from the others, providing a degree of seclusion found in few other lodges in Malawi. On your own private deck you neither overlook your neighbours, nor are you overlooked. All you can see is the wilderness and the river! The Island tents, offering even more seclusion, are reached by a bridge and you have the option of breakfast on your deck and a personalized “butler” service.The accommodation comprises two luxury Island tents, measuring 6.5 x 4.5 metres, one twin-bedded, one with a queen size bed; two Riverside tents, 4.5 x 3.5 metres, one double, one twin; and two Hillside tents, 3.5 x 3.2 metres, also double and twin. All tents are well appointed with cane armchairs and occasional tables on the extensive decks, bedside tables and shelves. Bed linen is of high quality cotton and quilts will keep you warm on cool winter nights. All tents have open-air, but very private, en-suite facilities, with waterless toilet, wash basins and hot showers.The main camp site is serviced with hot showers and flushing toilets, a shaded deck with eating area, a barbecue, dishwashing facilities and a laundry area. Recently opened, a “wild” camp site less than a kilometre upstream from the main lodge offers a wilderness camping experience, with basic facilities. Overlooking a quiet, forest-fringed pool in the river, it is situated on the edge of a major elephant track.Two rooms near the camp site offer comfortable, clean, budget accommodation for backpackers.The main lodge, housing the restaurant, bar, reading and reception areas, is unique in Malawi. Built entirely of timber and thatch, right on the banks of the river, it has three main levels for dining and relaxation, as well as an upper viewing deck. Completely open sided, it provides shade and a cool breeze during the heat of the day, but you can dine under the stars in the evening on the open lower deck, or sit around the fire in the boma on cool, winter nights.Three delicious meals per day are provided within the price: a full breakfast, with fruit salad and cereal; a salad-based lunch; and a three-course dinner, with a vegetarian alternative. There is a well stocked bar offering beers and minerals, spirits and wines. A small selection of bottled South African wines is available.Lighting throughout relies primarily on paraffin lanterns although small solar powered LED lamps are used to provide illumination in the bathrooms and front decks of the tents and the Island and Riverside tents now have bright solar powered lamps inside. Taking the path back to your room after dinner, lit by the flickering flames of the lanterns is a magical experience. But bring a torch!Given the nature of the terrain and the density of the vegetation, vehicle-based wildlife viewing is generally unrewarding. Walking safaris are offered, with a trained and armed game ranger. Walks are tailored to the wishes of the guests, varying from short strolls along the river to a nearby waterfall, to all-day hikes, a combined vehicle safari and ascent of Chipata Mountain in the west of the reserve and, eventually, overnight safaris with fly camps. Sundowners at strategic points along the river are a particular highlight for many of our guests. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Bua River Lodge Malawi/Nkhotakota

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