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Zulu Nyala Game Lodge
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All reviewsside tripscharity auctionzulu nyalagame lodgethe reservesouth africacape townindian oceanbuffet stylesafari experiencephoto safarielephant interactionrented a carwater buffalocheetah rehabilitation centerlocal charityupgraded room
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Reviewed 10 June 2014

We visited Zulu Nyala in 2012 after buying the trip at a charity auctions (like 90% or more of the others staying at Zulu Nyala). We went with another couple and had such a great time, we decided to go again and bought another trip at another charity auction.

We arrived on June 4th in Johannesburg and drove from Johannesburg to Zulu Nyala the next day. While the charity auction trips are normally 6 days, our trip was cut to 5 days by our schedule to visits Kruger National Park.

The first visit was wonderful and we later thought of it as a learning experience. This second trip allowed us to take advantage of everything we learned about what was available at Zulu Nyala and the surrounding area. (The first thing is rent a car and drive. It takes about the same time and gives you lots of freedom to experience the area.)

There are normally 2 game drives per day and at least one of them can be a night game drive. The first year we had the pleasure of having William as our main guide and Chris and Monty as additional guides when our group split up to do different activities. This year we had Janine as our primary guide and the only one we actually went on game drives with. There were no female guides two years ago and this year there were two and Janine at 23 was the youngest and probably the newest guide at Zulu Nyala. Having said that, she had an amazing knowledge of every animal we saw, including many many birds. During the morning drive, she had a small table and coffee and hot chocolate and cookies or biscuits for a morning break at different locations throughout the game reserve.

As others have mentioned, Zulu Nyala is a smaller gave reserve so you won't see a herd of 20-30 elephants at one time, but it also won't take you all day and you never see the elephants which can happen at the larger game reserves. Also, they don't have any lions, primarily because of the size, but they have many, many other animals and you continue to see many of them throughout the day, even on the main road going in and our of the reserve. If you want to see lots of different animals, Zulu Nyala is the place to go.

The rooms are nice and comfortable, and this year they have wifi in the rooms in addition to the lobby and dining area.

The food is good and plentiful and served buffet style. The selection for dinner normally changes somewhat from night to night. The breakfast buffet is mostly the same. In both cases, there is plenty of food and choices to choose from for breakfast and dinner. This year, due in part to our busy schedule and in part to the generous amounts of food available and breakfast and dinner, we didn't even eat lunch during our entire stay.

The staff is pleasant. We always greeted them with a good morning or good afternoon and we were also acknowledged in return. If we had a question or a problem, they also took care of it.

This year we looked at Zulu Nyala as our base camp. We would go out on the game rides, but we also did many other activities such as the Cheetah Rehabilitation tour, the St. Lucia hippo and croc boat ride, the Elephant Interaction, the tour of the Hluhluwe Game Reserve as well as several drives around the area.

You also form a relationship with the other members of your game party. The night left, we all had dinner together with our guide Janine and exchanged email addresses with each other so we can send the best of our pictures to each other.

At the end of the day Zulu Nyala is a very good choice to have endless interactions with wildlife of South Africa, although you will have to go elsewhere if you have to see a lion. In addition, most of the guests staying at Zulu Nyala bought their trip at a charity auction in the USA. This does mean most of the guests are Americans, but not all of them. It also means charities across the USA make probably $100's of thousands of dollars per year in revenue from the auction of these trips. These auction trips also introduce 100's of individuals per year to the beauty of South Africa and in many cases had they not bought their trip at the charity auction they might never have taken the leap to go.

Room Tip: Zulu Nyala has expanded over the years and added new and larger rooms. In most cases, if you have a charity auction purchase, you don't have a lot of say if what you get. Having said they, our first year we had room 52 which was one of the largest rooms available at the time. They now have a few newer and even larger rooms that were being constructed in 2012. This year we had room 14 which was a pool side room and just around the corner to room 52. They both have beautiful views.
  • Stayed: June 2014, travelled as a couple
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5  Thank 19Mark55
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 10 June 2014

I'll break down the services later in this review but there are two reasons for the average rating: the food is terrible and some of the excursions are super pricey for what you get.

The lodging: Nice big room. We had a great view and lots of space. The room was clean and quiet. Some other rooms are pretty small, but ours was great. Watch out for the "upgrade fee" that they may try to tack on if they arbitrarily give you a big room. This can occur even if you don't request an upgrade. We heard from other guests that this was a common occurrence.

The staff (all but the ranger - he gets his review under the game drives): The folks working here were nice enough. The dining staff will take your plate if you lay your silverware down for a second, but they really are just trying to give good service.

Spa services: Quite amazing! I got a massage and it was very perfect.

Food: this was the most disappointing part of the stay. This is a fairly expensive resort compared to others in the area. The food was American (this lodge caters almost exclusively to Americans who got the trip at a charity auction...) and it was not good. It is buffet style with almost nothing fresh (there is some fruit for breakfast and iceberg lettuce for salad). The meats were not good at all and the veggies were even worse. It would have been nice to have some authentic South African dishes or even just some really good food. This is the biggest issue we had with the stay.

Excursions: We did three - the school visit, Hluhluwe/umfolozi, and the St. Lucia boat ride. They were all super pricey, even with the max people attending. That said, I'd skip the school visit as it just was not good. Lots of enthusiasm by the local guide but we really didn't get a sense of the community. Earlier in our trip we did a township tour in Cape Town and expected a true snapshot of the community like we got in Cape Town. Didn't happen. We also visited Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Park. We did the full day and you really need to do that to see the whole park. The landscape is breathtaking, even if you don't see animals. We stopped for breakfast at a blind and spent some time looking at a watering hole. At one point, there were dozens of animals and six different species. We loved this excursion and felt it was well worth the money. The last excursion we did was St. Lucia. The beach is so beautiful and you can play in the Indian Ocean. The town is cute but very small. the hippo/croc boat ride was a nice boat ride but we didn't stope long enough at any one place to really observe the wildlife. Still, it was amazing seeing hippos, crocs, monitor lizards, and fish eagles. Tip: if you do this tour, when the captain tells you that you can sit on the front area of the boat, go! If you don't, your view will be blocked by everyone who does go! Not really worth the money but St. Lucia is a very pretty place to visit.

Game drives/ranger: Riaan was our ranger and he was really nice and knowledgable. My husband mentioned that we would be interested in seeing some of the birds of the area and Riaan did a good job pointing them out. He also tried really hard to make sure we all could see the wildlife and all got what we wanted from each game drove. There are two drives per day and we managed to see something new on every drive. The reserve is very small and the number of animals is fairly low, but you get to see them because they are easier to find given the size of the reserve. The vehicles are packed to the max - ten people in every truck - but we usually were able to see everything. Because we had done Tembe and then did Hluhluwe Park, we saw bigger reserves and more diverse wildlife. I recommend doing this so that you get a sense of wildlife in Africa. Otherwise, it could feel like you're just seeing a version of a wild animal park in the US. All in all, the game drives were really great because of the good job Riaan did explaining animal behaviors, what was happening on a larger scale to the species, and what was happening in South Africa regarding conservation. His enthusiasm made the drives great and the stay at Zulu worth it.

One last tip: get to know your group. You're with the same people all six days (the lodge did a good job making sure of this). I'm sure we made some new friends that we will see again and again.

  • Stayed: June 2014, travelled as a couple
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3  Thank ocdizneygirl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 1 June 2014

We had a wonderful stay. Our room displayed the charm you hope for on a game reserve. I had great experiences with all staff members I encountered. With so much to see and so little time, we were only there 4 nights, I was only able to do one spa service. I had my eyebrows waxed by a lovely lady from Libya. Beautiful woman with an even more beautiful soul - she gave me one more great memory to come home with. Our guide was Chris and we could not have been more satisfied. He was extremely knowledgeable, humorous, and easy to look at! The sunrises and sunsets were magical. Sunrises I enjoyed poolside with coffee and sunsets we watched with a bottle of house wine (loved the leopard leap merlot-shiraz blend) on balcony of restaurant. Restaurant staff was always helpful and friendly. Terrific Zulu show at dinner one night. The only negative thing I can come up is I am not a big fan of any food I had in S.Africa. That said the food at the lodge was some of the best on our entire trip. The BBQ or what they called Braai night was the best. Every guest we meant was American. I don't know if that is the case usually or just turned out that way. We did a lot of sightseeing in the area. St. Lucia for hippos (a definite must- the cutest little town with great vibes) After a sightseeing trip on the river we went to the beach. More hippos & lots of monkeys. Ate at the Anglers Club- sit out back and enjoy the view with your food. Everyone there was a local so we got some great history of the area. Making Zulu Nyala our base camp was an excellent decision. Would love to go again.

Room Tip: Stayed in the 40's and liked that location.
  • Stayed: May 2014, travelled with friends
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2  Thank lovtotravel334
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 28 May 2014

Want to see a lot of African animals? Want to stay in a beyond beautiful setting with first class food and service? Get yourselves to Zulu Nyala Game Lodge and settle in to pure comfort, great food and wonderful people!

My granddaughter and I stayed here for a week and were treated like royalty. With morning and afternoon game drives in open air but covered for sun protection vehicles that get you up close and personal with cheetah, rhino, elephant, kudu, impala, wart hogs, hippo, Cape buffalo and Nyala antelope. In fact, although surrounded by fence to protect you from the bigger beasties, the warthog and Nyala would feed right in front of our room. Plus we had the entertainment of blue tailed skink and other lizards taking care of business along the paths to our abode.

The grounds, including a swimming pool, is kept in pristine condition and is worthy of many a photo of strange and beautiful plants. There is even wi-fi for those of you wishing to keep in touch or brag to your neighbors what a glorious time you are having! Come casual and leave with more photos than you can possibly use! My rating for this Eden? Out of 10, I would give it a 20!

You will love the staff. All wear smiles as their usual feature and they speak English. Hopefully you will catch the Zulu dances and songs that we enjoyed one night at dinner! Fascinating! I cannot say enough about these wonderful friendly people!

And, P.S. the guides on your game drives are exceedingly knowledgable and keep you entertained while driving you safely through the herds of wildlife. For a really remarkable guide, ask for Chris, especially if you like to look at the birds, too.

What did my nineteen year old granddaughter think of it? She had the time of her life and wants to go back! Must have impressed her as she wasn't playing video games on her laptop during our entire time there and, there isn't any TV in the rooms. And, I am SOOO going back again!

Room Tip: Although there is a game lodge a little further away, all game drives are on Zulu Nyala land so stay where the action is if you can. Try May trips for optimum weather.
  • Stayed: May 2014, travelled with family
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2  Thank brabbie2002
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 26 May 2014

We got this trip through a charity auction with another couple that we knew. In the end, our group was five couples strong - all friends from across the U.S. We arrived at the Game Lodge after two nights at the Country Manor in Johannesburg. Our room was spacious and always immaculately cleaned. We were assigned to Bernie as our guide, and quite frankly, we attribute most of our love of this trip to Bernie - and the fact that we were actually lucky enough that the safari vehicles held 10 people-so our group could always stay together. We all not only saw the animals in their natural environment - the cheetah in the tree on the fist day-incredible! and the 3 day old giraffe and his (her?) mom - but Bernie taught us about their behaviors, why they did what they did, and how they lived their daily lives. We looked so forward to our morning and afternoon drives with Bernie just so we could spend time with her and learn. Thank you, Bernie for that - we are all so fortunate to have spent time with you! And thanks for being part of our group - we hope you had 1/2 as much fun with us that we had with you!
We took some side trips - you don't need all 5 days at Zulu Nyala - all of our day trips were great - from a river cruise in St. Lucia to the elephant and cheeta experiences - and the Hluhluwe Game Reserve - all must do's. Bernie accompanied us to the elephant and cheeta experiences as well as she was our guide when we went to the Hluhluwe Game Reserve - which was great and we feel enhanced our experiences.
Breakfast was always good, but lunch and dinner were just ok. I think they are working on the food quality... One thing is for sure though - you will never starve. We always found the staff warm and accommodating.
The property is beautiful and just being immersed constantly that close to nature was a real treat - my husband and I could not have been more pleased with the time spent at Zulu Nyala. For us, this was truly a trip of a lifetime!

Room Tip: We were in room 41 - in a stretch of rooms close to the main building - there were nicer rooms on the property, but we spent so little time in it, that it did not matter to us that it wasn't the largest and most luxiurious - it was clean, spacious, and had a very comfortable bed and large bathroom. The days start early and our ended late, and we came home to a great, clean room every night. What more can you ask for?
  • Stayed: May 2014, travelled with friends
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2  Thank Jillk5455
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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