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.
- 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