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“One in a life time”

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Zulu Nyala Game Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed 30 June 2014

On our second morning my husband said, "This is already worth every penny we spent." We, like almost everyone else we met, purchased this trip at a charity auction. Hence, we spent our days in the company of caring, socially conscious people who had purchased this trip in support of a variety of causes. Our guide, Riian, was more knowledgeable than I would have ever expected - animals, birds, plants- his passion for them all was obvious. Our room was lovely. Other guests had encouraged us to upgrade, but we did not feel the need. Our room was a place to sleep and we did that comfortably at all hours of the day. Food was great - and I hate buffets. I always found something good to eat and the food never had that "picked over" appearance buffets often do. Concerned that drink prices might be high, we found them to be half of what we are used to. The staff were so warm and accommodating, I can't say enough. One evening I left my purse hanging on my chair in the dining room. Our server actually chased me down halfway through the lodge to return it to me; everything was intact. People have talked about the cost of the side trips. We had rented a car, so we saved on those expenses, but went to some of the same places. Hluhluwe is amazing and worth spending the money to go with your guide. We so enjoyed our trip that I just auctioned off two at a fundraiser I chaired. I have no qualms recommending Zulu Nyala to anyone looking for a photo safari experience.

  • Stayed: February 2014, travelled as a couple
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3  Thank Kari M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 27 June 2014

Breathtaking views, experienced guides and plentiful African plains game make this an amazing South African destination. The lodge is beautiful with great food to enjoy following a morning or afternoon game drive. Depending on which seat you chose, you may see warthogs or Nyala roaming freely around camp! Pay attention while sitting poolside on a hot afternoon and you might catch a glimpse of some elephants off in the distance...The only reason this experience lacks a 5 star rating is because you won't find all of Africa's big 5 here...only 4 (elephants, rhinoceros, leopards and Cape buffalo). The Zulu Nyala staff are very accommodating and will be happy to arrange a day trip for you to another game reserve where you have the opportunity to see Lions roam free...and if fortunate see them up close on a fresh kill!

  • Stayed: April 2014, travelled as a couple
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Thank ReflectiveEscapes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 20 June 2014

Like many people, my husband and I got our vacation at a charity auction. Coming from the US, the flight was incredibly tiring and we spent the first night at the Country Manor property, which we loved. Our first hiccup was meeting our ride from the Johannesburg airport to the Country Manor. Our driver was almost an hour late which was a little concerning, considering we were in a foreign country and had no international call plan on our phone. The driver did eventually arrive, and we did make it to our destination. The following day we were taken from the Country Manor to the airport and flew to Durbin for the leg of our journey that actually got us to Zulu Nyala safari property. Our second hiccup was again the driver. Our driver from the airport to Zulu Nyala was about an hour late.

HINT1: You should know that the drive from the airport to the safari property is over 3 hrs long, and you shouldn’t be concerned when you find yourself on an unpaved road – it’s all part of the experience.
HINT2: Have an international call plan on your cellular device and bring phone numbers so you can call for help!

Our next hiccup was the accommodations. Our time was split between the tents and the game lodge.

The tents were interesting. There was no floor-to-ceiling barrier between the general quarters and the bathroom. The bed was 2 twin beds put together, which separated somewhat during the night. There is also no climate control in the tents.

HINT3: When in the old tents, use earphones, play music or take a walk while the bathroom is in use.
HINT4: Avoid the old tents during hot/cold times.
HINT5: Just avoid the old tents all together, unless you’re a kid and don’t mind camping.

We then moved to the game lodge, but were unhappy with the room. It ran out of hot water in 10 minutes. The bed was 2 twin beds put together, which we figured would separate like the tent beds did. We were moved to an upgraded room when I contacted our coordinator and expressed my unhappiness. The room was much nicer, the hot water wasn’t an issue, and there was 1 mattress on the bed.

HINT6: When you make your reservation, make sure you know what your room will be like. Ask for a picture or something that will give you a clue. Also ensure that you read the information sent to you very closely. I was told we were offered to upgrade our rooms but declined. I likely would have made a different decision had I seen the rooms in advance.

Both locations had the same type of food – buffet. I did always find something that was OK, but the bottom line is that it was buffet. Truly, nothing to write home about.

HINT7: Don’t sweat the food. It’s buffet.

The staff at both locations was nice. There were pleasant faces all around. There were a lot of Americans and we made some great new friends.

HINT8: Talk to people – you’ll make new friends!

We did a couple of excursions. They are pricey, so choose wisely. We did the full day at Hluhluwe Game Reserve and can’t image how anyone could do the half-day option. Unbelievable scenery and great views of animals. We did the St. Lucia trip as well. If you decide to take the St. Lucia trip, get a seat at the front of the boat for the hippo viewing on the estuary to ensure you actually see something.

What makes or breaks the Zulu Nyala experience is the safari guide, and ours was the very best. Bernie was our guide for the morning and afternoon safaris, and she took us on our excursions. She had the best stories about the animals and kept us well entertained. We saw animals, birds, foliage, etc., and we had Bernie to explain it all. She had dinner with us on our last night.

HINT9: Get Bernie if you can! She doesn’t disappoint.

Room Tip: Get a picture of the room before you commit. You may not have an opportunity to upgrade. Avoid th...
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  • Stayed: May 2014, travelled as a couple
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7  Thank KW920
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 20 June 2014

This is one of the toughest reviews I've done and I've debated long between a 4 and 3 star review. First off, Zulu Nyala gets big points in our book because of their business strategy of using charity auctions to attract visitors. That's how we ended up here. A non-profit we care a lot about got a nice share of our bid price and it was the kick in the pants we needed to take a long-postponed first trip to Africa. We added some other stops (and recommend that you do, too), ended up with a magical visit to - and new-found affection for - South Africa, and are already planning the next trip. Without Zulu Nyala we might have put off Africa for many more years (it is a grueling trip from the West US coast when you can't afford 1st class!).

We stayed in early June, which was perfect. Warm but not hot during the day. Mornings could be cold but dressing in layers works well. No bugs that time of year, the grass is down so you can see more, and the animal babies are old enough to be out and about.

Here's the 4-star version: This is a perfect venue for anyone whose idea of a foreign adventure is a cruise line shore excursion. If you want to go on a safari but are nervous about getting outside your Western comfort zone and don't really want to rub your face in the local culture or get your hands dirty, this is your trip. I honestly mean that in a good way. My 75 year old mom would love this trip. A family that needs to keep it simple and easy and not too "out there" would love this trip. I recommend the Game Lodge over the Heritage Lodge. The rooms and grounds were beautiful and the logistics are a little easier to get to your game drives (though I hear the food might be better at Heritage...). Staff is very attentive, courteous, and helpful. Very nice wine selection at the bar. Beer selection was as good as SA gets (there's no craft beer industry in SA so it's all mass produced lagers).

There aren't large numbers of animals but there is a good variety and the smaller reserve size means you'll get many up close encounters. Yes, you'll see the same animals several times during your stay, but there is always something new and different going on. Your ranger makes all the difference. If all they do is drive fast looking for the cheetahs or the Big 5 (you might see a lion across the fence in Phinda) then it might not be so good. If you get a ranger like we did (Riaan) who slows it down and also focuses on the smaller species, birds, behaviors, and landscape, you'll have a really good experience. Tell them what you want; they can assume you are here to just to see the rhinos, elephants, and cheetahs. Don't constantly blow past active watering holes looking for something that MIGHT be out there today. Zulu Nyala is centrally located in an area of the country that has many, many great attractions nearby. A good base camp if you want to plan other stays or excursions.

Here's the 3-star part: Food is terrible. Everything (except the waterly scrambled eggs) was overcooked to toughness or in the case of the veggies, mush. Breakfast never varied and was English style EVERY DAY (even though a vast majority of visitors are not from the Commonwealth). Box lunches and breakfasts for excursions were horrid. You get 3 liters of free water each day in your room but are charged for water if you order it in the restaurant. I didn't find the bar prices to be bad, though, and coffee and tea are free ( but not available before the 6am game drives). There is no snack shop or other options to tide you over.

Staff is very good but some of the policies can be inflexible. Some others in our group were denied a 1-hour late checkout (and the resort was not that busy) so had to sit in the lobby for an hour waiting for their ride at the end of their stay. Check the bill. We didn't have any issues but heard about some oh-by-the-way charges from others. Laundry is super expensive ($1.65 for a pair of socks, $10 for a pair of jeans). Housekeepers are in an out of the room several times a day to clean, deliver towels, deliver water, etc.

The reserve does not have the strong conservation focus we saw at our other safari, and that's a big deal for us. The animals are there so you can see them. They are well taken care of and look to be very healthy - and their welfare is a genuine concern for the team - but there are at least half a dozen trucks pulling up to each of them twice a day almost every day. As I mentioned above, our ranger was fantastic so it's definitely cuts above a tourist trap or theme park, but this is not National Geographic high adventure. The trucks would occasionally "pile on" with the rangers not always sharing the best viewing spots with each other (they almost competed and jockeyed for position at times) so the trucks occasionally outnumbered the animals (but not near as bad as it can get in the public national parks). This didn't happen all the time or even a lot of the time, but just enough to make you wince on occasion. The trucks are filled to capacity so get to know your group so you can create a culture of rotating spots and sharing the wealth.

Excursions are waaay overpriced so choose wisely. The all day Hluhluwe-Imfolozi trip is long but worth it (half-day is too short - don't do it) and you'll miss a lot of you try this one on your own. Skip the local village and school tour. It's human zoo stuff and I felt like the people were uncomfortable with us there, if they acknowledged us at all. We donated school supplies (like just about every other tour group) and didn't even get a thank you from the school staff. The hippo/croc tour was beautiful scenery but the skipper was so busy racing up and down the wetland that we barely stopped to see anything, even bypassing a very active group of hippos so we could see the tail end of a croc napping in the shade of a tree. It's a nice boat ride but you could do this one on your own for $18. Skip Phinda. Not Zulu Nyala's fault but we were not treated well by the Phinda rangers since we weren't guests at their lodge (and thanks to their treatment of us never will be....). They ignored our requests and went chasing after what they wanted to try and find (and didn't).

Transportation. Transfers are crazy expensive ($300 one-way from airport to the lodge), and so are flights into Zulu Nyala's recommended Lanseria and Richards Bay airports. Fly into the main J-berg airport, catch your breath by staying at one of the airport hotels like City Lodge, then fly to Durban and rent a car. Cars are cheap, the road to Zulu Nyala is excellent (except for 5 miles of well-groomed gravel road at the end), and driving on the left side of the road is not too hard to get used to (and there's no city driving to manage). You'll save tons of money and have some flexibility to do some excursions on your own for much less $. (One smart group followed our excursion van to St Lucia in their rental car and bought boat tickets at the dock, saving 90% on the day for the exact same experience).

In the end, we very much enjoyed our stay except for the food. We won't go back but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to those for whom foreign travel doesn't come easily and want to stay in their comfort zone. And if Zulu Nyala is what gets you to South Africa, like it did for us, then that's a very, very good thing.

Room Tip: Rooms 51-53 are very big, have a great view, but don't sit right on the pool. We stayed in 52 a...
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  • Stayed: June 2014, travelled as a couple
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9  Thank MFKiesser
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 17 June 2014

I am South African and live 2 hours away. I bought this on a special at 74% discount thinking we'd treat ourselves to a little luxury.
I have thought long and hard about writing a review that is not all negative, but it has not been easy! I will start with the positives:
We found the staff friendly, helpful & courteous. The rooms were clean albeit basic, the beds comfy. The food was good to average - much what is expected of a buffet.
Negatives from a personal aspect is that this is not Africa AT ALL. The gardens seem to have been landscaped by a city dweller en masse. There was an obvious complete absence of bird baths. I quote another reviewer - much like a Holiday Inn in many ways. We did not use the tennis courts but the fencing was rusted through with collapsing poles. Not something one expects at exhorbitant rates. As Africans we felt trapped & claustrophobic. Used to game drives, one is not allowed to go anywhere without paying for guided tours - a small fortune as well. The restaurant has a beautiful view but the deck balustrade wires are slack and dangerous. Bar prices were ridiculous. Furniture is cheap and cheerful. Bedrooms are all in a row giving a low budget hostel feeling. Without going through the list I know of nearby places less than half the price and incomparably better whether one is local or not. Not Africa at all! I think they get away with conning the overseas market in to thinking they are paying good money for a real African experience. Won't be back, even for free.

  • Stayed: June 2014, travelled as a couple
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3  Thank Vanessa M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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...
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  • Stayed: June 2014, travelled as a couple
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4  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
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Additional Information about Zulu Nyala Game Lodge

Address: Msinene Rd, Hluhluwe 3960, South Africa
Region: South Africa > KwaZulu-Natal > Zululand > Hluhluwe
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Parking Restaurant Shuttle Bus service Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #3 of 33 Speciality Lodging in Hluhluwe
Hotel Class:4 star — Zulu Nyala Game Lodge 4*
Number of rooms: 52
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
An entrancing experience in a unique wilderness area. Zulu Nyala Private Game Reserve provides a unique bush experience in the heart of one of South Africa’s most diverse conservation regions. Nestled between the wilderness reserves of Mkuze, Hluhluwe and St Lucia, this lush stretch of paradise is home to a wide variety of game, from the majestic elephant to rhino, buffalo, hippo, giraffe, the shy and beautiful Nyala buck that is endemic to the region and the secretive leopard. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Zulu Nyala Game Hotel Hluhluwe
Zulu Nyala Game Lodge Hluhluwe, South Africa - Zululand

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