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“New management”
Review of Woodlands Lilongwe

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Woodlands Lilongwe
Blantyre, Malawi
Level 2 Contributor
9 reviews
7 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
“New management”
Reviewed 13 September 2013

Since new management have taken over the lodge it has been a great improvement, I stayed over for a four day business trip. Food was excellent and Lara and Brett are wonderful hosts, staff are very friendly and always willing to help. I can highly recommend The Sanctuary Lodge.

  • Stayed May 2013, travelled on business
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    • Sleep Quality
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Helpful?
1 Thank Erika D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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46 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
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  • Sleep Quality
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Traveller tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (8)
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English first
Level 3 Contributor
24 reviews
13 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
Reviewed 28 May 2013

The setting is amazing and the infrastructure is good and promises great things. The services were wanting.

You could say that 'this is Africa' but the other places we stayed in Malawi got it right, why can't this hotel?

So here goes with a list of shortcomings, all totally avoidable...

We were left to find our own chalets and there was nobody to explain the various functions of the room. There was no hot water - but then we found a switch. This gave about 5 mins hot water, barely enough for 2 showers but adequate. The TV didn't work and neither did the telephones. We had 3 chalets and the phone was Dud in all of them. This was made worse by the warning signs about not opening the door to strangers in the night but phoning reception for assistance - How?

There was only one pool towel in our chalet and none in the others. A very nice waiter promised to get us some towels so in we went. The towels never arrived.

I mentioned the phone and tv in reception and a manager rushed off to see. He came back and said the phones needed a re-commission and we should phone him on a mobile if we needed help. He fixed he Tv but then left the fridge in the middle of the room

We returned to the chalet after a very nice meal, although they charged us for drinks we didn't have. We unfurled the mosquito nets and found they didn't fit over the twin beds. Thats why they had been left furled i guess, they promised protection and delivered nothing at all. They were single bed nets. This is unforgivable in a malarial country and the same issue raised in 2012 on this forum.

Breakfast service was a joke. We eventually had a nice meal but getting it was like Fawlty Towers. What you want for breakfast. What is there, do you have a menu? The menus were provided but there was nothing in them about breakfast, no wonder the waitress looked bemused at being asked for menus. It was a bit of a laugh really but not god service.

We went to check out. This was our last day in Malawi so had scant little Malawi Kwacha left as you can't take it out of the country. Never mind, they take credit cards -not! The machine hadn't worked for a month but they hadn't fixed it. They asked for USD but we only had GBP which they didn't want (everywhere else in Malawi accepted GBP or USD). We had 30 minutes before leaving for the airport so the bank was not an option. After complaining to a manager, who turned out to be the receptionist, they agreed GBP but at a derisory exchange rate. If you don't accept credit cards, don't advertise that you do and don't wait until the customer checks out to tell them the credit card machine doesn't work so they won't accept them!

This was our last night in Malawi and it took the gloss off of an otherwise fantastic 2 weeks here and in Zambia.

This hotel has the makings of a first rate destination but not until they get their act together. They MUST get those mosquito nets sorted and then the credit card machine and then they can start on the other selection of minor issues which mount up to make a sows ear out of a silk purse. All of these points seem to have been raised in other reviews from 2012 so I am not sure they have got the point yet.

  • Stayed April 2013, travelled with family
    • Value
    • Location
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    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
3 Thank Jandamart
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Lara P, General Manager at Woodlands Lilongwe, responded to this review, 3 June 2013
Hello. Sorry for the mishaps that happened during your stay here. My husband and I have recently taken over the Management at The Sanctuary Lodge and are presently fixing all the problems that you encountered. I do hope if you are ever back in Malawi you will stay here again and see a big improvement. Lara
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC

Travellers are raving about these Lilongwe hotels

Johannesburg, South Africa
Level 2 Contributor
7 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
Reviewed 28 March 2013

I stayed here after a week in Kasungu, so I suppose anything would have been an improvement. But, I was pleasantly surprised. The rooms are spacious, the food was really good and the staff were friendly. Plus I didn't have to wait an inordinate amount of time like elsewhere in Malawi, to be served.

I didn't try out the wireless, though there was a subscription service available.

I liked the remote feeling of it, but I suppose it can be a little off-putting to be so cut-off. Also, walking back to your chalet after dinner feels a bit daunting (I kept looking for snakes - but didn't see anything). There's a very annoying little Jack Russell dog on the premises which barked at me every time I walked past.

I had the same experience as one of the other reviewers where the Credit Card machine didn't work. Super annoying because I had also spent my last Kwacha's not intending to have any left on my return.

I wouldn't want to stay longer than 1 night. I think it would be very pleasant with children.

Room Tip: Some of the rooms have DSTv - others only the local Malawi TV.
See more room tips
  • Stayed March 2013, travelled on business
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank leonie38
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
London, United Kingdom
Level 1 Contributor
3 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
Reviewed 9 June 2012

We stayed here for 1 night before flying back to the UK. Although the "hardware" of the hotel seems very good (i.e. spacious rooms, decently built chalets, great location) we were disappointed by the service. A couple of examples:

- After checking in we went for lunch outside in the nice garden. A receptionist later walked over to say that we had to pay the room in advance. This was a bit surprising and gave the place a cheap feel. Couldn't they just pre-authorize my card? Apparently not. Despite advertizing via every possible medium that they accept Visa they told me that it had been out of service for the last month. As it was our last day we didn't carry enough local currency (MK) and we were just short in USD so we had to go to a bank. Despite the fact that they failed to deliver a service that they advertized -the adverts were even still standing proudly on the reception desk- they offered no solution to solve the problem they created but just pointed us in the direction of the bank about a kilometre away. Although we were not impressed with that "solution" given that the hotel prizes itself to be a top end option, we were even less impressed with the on duty manager's comment that it is the guests' responsibility to always carry several alternative means of payment. In the end we agreed to come back in the morning to preview the bill and get exactly the amount of MK we needed as we didn't want to have excess MK. He would be at the reception from 8am on. At 8:30am we left for the bank without having seen the preview as he wasn't there. When we did see the bill in the end it turned out that the rate quoted had been $160 instead of the $150 I had heard over the phone and that the taxi cost more than previously indicated so we had to tap into the USD and got MK in change... Not a big deal, just annoying because it was entirely avoidable. Other things seemed to be unnecessary as well and could also have been avoided if managed properly:
- We waited 1 hour for 2 simple main dishes to arrive
- The warm water wasn't working in our first chalet. We tried to call reception on the hotel phone only to find that the phone was not connected (actually there was no cable to connect the phone in the first place) so we ended up calling with our mobile.
- We were moved to another chalet where we found that the satellite TV and safe weren't working (the latter was still locked by the previous guest?).
- Finally, when we wanted to turn in we discovered that the mosquito nets didn't fit the beds and that one bedside lamp was broken.

This could be a good hotel, but it would need a) a more customer oriented approach and b) some simple checks in advance before letting guests into the room. It was certainly not a top end option in Malawi when we stayed there. For that we would recommend Mvuu lodge in Liwonde National Park.

  • Stayed June 2012, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
3 Thank Oro_1976
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
cumbria
Level 6 Contributor
167 reviews
51 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 46 helpful votes
Reviewed 14 March 2012

Didn't actually stay here but came here a few times for food, portions are a good size and reasonably priced. Staff are friendly & helpful. We did have a look in 1 of the lodges and it was very nice.

  • Stayed March 2012, travelled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank MaisieMooD
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
In-Town Atlanta
Level 5 Contributor
51 reviews
46 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 174 helpful votes
Reviewed 1 January 2012

We stayed for a week in August. Pluses: large, comfortable and well-appointed bungalows, interesting setting (including inquisitive monkeys peeking through the windows), central location to government buildings, etc. Decent food with a fairly varied menu and a nice, open-air restaurant venue. Minuses: a feeling of being isolated, particularly for those traveling alone, could be a disadvantage.

Stayed August 2011, travelled on business
Helpful?
1 Thank ATL_Mommy
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
London
Level 2 Contributor
7 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
Reviewed 27 September 2010

Set in woodland not far from everything that matters in Lilongwe the Sanctuary Lodge is a bit faceless but has friendly efficient staff, about 10 large comfortable 'bungalow style rooms', a clean swimming pool and a restaurant serving very good standard international style food. Not cheap but an excellent base from which to start a trip to Malawi if you have to stay in Lilongwe.

  • Stayed August 2010, travelled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
2 Thank whitneydh
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Woodlands Lilongwe

Property: Woodlands Lilongwe
Address: Youth Drive | City Centre, Lilongwe, Malawi (Formerly The Sanctuary Lodge)
Region: Malawi > Central Region > Lilongwe
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Business Centre with Internet Access Free Breakfast Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Room Service Suites Swimming Pool Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #5 of 48 Speciality Lodging in Lilongwe
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): ££
Hotel Class:3 star — Woodlands Lilongwe 3*
Number of rooms: 10
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The Woodlands Lilongwe previously known as the Sanctuary Lodge is a boutique hotel built in a river fronted nature reserve in the heart of Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi, 'the Warm Heart of Africa' and land of the 'Lake of Stars! Under New Management, the hotel offers luxurious accommodation in lilongwe in a pristine indigenous natural woodland of miombo trees spread over 9 hectares. Individual chalets offer secluded and exclusive accomodation each with its own private veranda set in a protected wildlife park with a prolific birdlife as well as monkeys, bush pig, buck, porcupines, bush babies and crocodiles. The Woodlands Lilongwe hotel is the perfect place to work or play for guests and visitors alike. It's an idyllic location for business meetings, lunches, dinners, wedding receptions, birthday parties, or simply meet for a casual drink after work. A fabulous campsite set apart from the main buildings and the chalets is equipped with excellent ablution, washing and cooking facilities with banks, restaurants, supermarkets and shops located within walking distance making this an ideal location for campers, overlanders and backpackers. ... more   less 
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