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“Wonderful Experience”

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Zulu Nyala Game Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
North Bend
Level 5 Contributor
64 reviews
15 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 50 helpful votes
“Wonderful Experience”
Reviewed 5 July 2014

We stayed 3 nights at Game Lodge and 3 nights at Heritage Safari - I would recommend splitting as we did. GL - probably a bit nicer facility with restaurant, hilltop views, and pool layout but we also really enjoyed HS which had a nicer bar area, and George the Zebra. Breaking the experience down into sections:

Overall - best vacation for our family by far ever. Watching the animals up close was imply amazing. Kids loved it (10 and 13), and we loved it.

Accommodations were really nice at both 4 star - we had family room at GL which had large bed, then sitting area in middle (loveseat, chairs, fridge) and then the kids area (2 twins side by side) - very large room. Nice terrace area to sit outside at both GL & HS. Pools are not heated and fairly cool but you get used to them. Rooms were well maintained & clean. They bring you one large bottled water per person which was plenty. No TV's in the room - bring a book, watch tv in the bar/library (world cup was on so we wanted to see, otherwise, really didn't want to watch tv).

Food - 3 star but good. Definitely not gourmet but you have a nice variety of choices each meal served buffet style. Plenty of fruits, vegetables, meats/fish, and deserts. Each dinner you could choose from a roast (lamb a couple nights, turkey a couple nights,) plus a fish dish, chicken, and some type of stew (I think we had nyala one night, impala another). They do repeat items a lot - rice, potato wedges, same type of salad but enough variety that you can avoid some of the repetition. Overall, as good as you will make yourself at home and good for a buffet but not like going to upscale gourmet restaurant. For breakfast, they can make you an omelette and you get bacon, sausages, breaks, cheeses, fruits, etc. Bar drinks - wines and beer very inexpensive (200-300 rand per drink). Cocktails I got a kick out of - a single is carefully measured 1 oz, and a double is 2 oz so not a generous pour but prices were reasonable relative to size.

Service - 4 star. I have seen some complaints about service but I didn't experience anything negative. Everyone was super friendly - from bartenders, restaurant staff, front desk, maids......... people great you and are happy to converse. I think you just have to put forth a bit of effort. I saw a few folks/tourists who had more of an "affluent" attitude who to be honest, if I were waiting on, I wouldn't be super friendly with either. The staff was very outgoing and went out of their way to chat with my kids (10 and 13).

Safari Guide 5 star- we had Deon who was amazing. He was super knowledgeable about the animals & birds and did a great job of answering all questions and provide a ton of insight. What we loved about this park - unlike the public parks (we visited Hluhluwe-Infolozi and iSimangalio Wetland Park), you can go off road and get real close to the animals. You drive through the bush to get up front and personal. We had an elephant come within about 2 feet of us on a couple occasions, even putting its foot on top of the jeep. Deon was also super accommodating - we weren't looking forward to waking up the kids for a 5 or 6 am game drive so we went out at 8 most days based on everyone in our group agreeing to the schedule. You see the same animals and get more rest. Everyone we talked to in other groups really like their guides so I don't think you can go wrong. In addition, compared to a guide we had at another park - these guys were so much more knowledgeable about the animals, birds, etc.

Reserve - not huge at 6000 acres but plenty to see. We had the pleasure to see a 6 week old rhino which was amazing to watch with his mom. 3 elephants only but they were great to watch - one day we sat there about 30 minutes just watching them eat. We had the great fortune to track down one of the two cheetahs right after a nyala kill - he was still panting and slowly ate his meal (and we came back later for evening drive and he was still there). A ton of zebra, giraffes, warthogs, impalas plus kudu and nyala. No lions but you can go to H-I or Pinda to see them. We did not see the leopard but on our last day, he came right up to the game lodge and one of our group saw him briefly (they scared each other).

Some of the side attractions are a bit expensive - rent a car and do them yourself. If you don't rent a car, do Phinda - others in our group went, saw lions and a lot of elephant. We booked Heritage Tours (see St Lucia attractions) for Hluhluwe-Infolozi game park tour - met at Nyalazi gate (1.5 hours from game lodge) - $95 per adult for 1/2 day at HI and 2 hour Hippo/croc boat tour at St Lucia (I think about 75-80 for kids) and saved about 1/2 price vs booking through ZN. We also did a self drive at iSimangaliso Wetland Park (see St Lucia attractions) which was a nice contrast to ZN. I think 3-4 days of game drives at ZN and 1-2 at other places is a good mix. We also visited Cheetah Rehabilitation center (less than 30 minute drive) on our own and much cheaper (not sure it would be worth the ZN price)vs I think about $18 per adult (kids 1/2).

Overall, a great experience - no regrets and we will remember for a lifetime. There weren't a ton of kids - I think most buy at auction but you can add kids on for a reasonable price - they will have an experience they will remember forever. If you have any questions, shoot me a mail. We were fortunate to find another previous visitor who sent us a ton of general info on Africa, ZN, etc. so happy to share.

  • Stayed June 2014, travelled with family
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9 Thank gocougsNorthBend
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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English first
Annapolis, Maryland
Level 1 Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed 5 July 2014

If you are hesitant to visit Zulu Nyala- don't be. It was a once in a lifetime trip and truly enjoyable. My husband and I took our three children (ages 13, 11, 8) and spent 5 nights at the Game Lodge. The views are incredible, the staff is wonderful, and the game drives are really amazing. Our guide was Welcome and he was incredibly knowledgeable about the animals and life at Zulu Nyala. I do recommend doing some of the side trips as the reserve is somewhat small and you will see the big 4 (Rhinos, Elephant, Cheetah, Cape Buffalo) by day 2 or 3 multiple times. You will never get tired of watching Elephants up close. Very close- my 13 yr old son was touched by the elephant's trunk as she walked by our truck. Welcome was very knowledgeable about the elephants behavior so we never felt unsafe. For side trips I recommend the Elephant Interaction, The Cheetah Rehabilitation center (how often can you say you have pet a wild Cheetah- and they are still wild), and Phinda to see the Lions. If I had to do it again I would have tacked a 1 or 2 night stay at Phinda onto the end of our trip because it is a beautiful game reserve. I would still have stayed a Zulu for the 5 days but ended the trip at Phinda. Also, the school village is a must see. The children are beautiful and love to have their pictures taken with you. It was very special.

If you go during the winter months keep in mind that the early morning game drives are very cold. I did pack layers and a light winter jacket but could have used my heavy winter jacket. For example I wore 2 wool long underware shirts, a t-shirt, a vest, a fleece, and my lightweight northface jacket and was still cold. By the afternoon I was peeling off layers and soaking up the sun in shorts by the pool. Also- don't bother with anti-malarials we were there at the end of June and didn't see a mosquito. It is also a low-risk area and has not had an incident of Malaria in 22yrs. There was no one more worried about malaria than me and I stopped taking the meds 4 days into our trip. There was no need.

I would never have taken the leap to go to South Africa if it weren't for winning the trip in an auction... that being said don't compare what you paid with other guests because you might be disappointed that someone else got a "better deal". In the end it doesn't matter it is a win win situation. You get to go to Africa and a charity got a nice donation.

  • Stayed June 2014, travelled with family
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Helpful?
2 Thank Amy W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Long Beach, California
Level 5 Contributor
51 reviews
12 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 28 helpful votes
Reviewed 2 July 2014

This is a very nice game lodge situated in an area that affords fantastic vistas across the Zulu landscape. The accommodations were very nice and airy. We stayed in what they called a "tent cabin", but there was no canvas to be seen. It was in the "tent cabin" area, but had solid walls and roof. The dining hall/bar area is in the ground floor of the main hotel section, which was an old train stop hotel (I think). The food was very good, proven by the weight I gained. Though you should not go to an African game lodge if you're picky, whiny American wimp! Our guide was very good, and very fun to be with. He cared a lot about his animals, and made our time out on our game drivers very enjoyable. My only regret was that this was the second game lodge we stayed at, after Mala Mala which was amazing. Though the price reflects that.

Room Tip: Go for the rehabilitated "tent cabin".
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  • Stayed June 2014, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
2 Thank ratboy1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Barrington, Illinois
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
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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Helpful?
3 Thank Kari M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Waterford, Michigan
Level 4 Contributor
43 reviews
12 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 18 helpful votes
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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Helpful?
Thank ReflectiveEscapes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Hartford, Connecticut
Level 3 Contributor
20 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
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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Helpful?
7 Thank KW920
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Laguna Hills, CA
Level 4 Contributor
34 reviews
9 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 27 helpful votes
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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Helpful?
9 Thank MFKiesser
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

Property: 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 31 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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