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“Wonderful experience but not seven stars”

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Karkloof Safari Spa
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed 12 February 2014

Ok, this is going to be a bit longer and I had to do some thinking about it so for those of you who want to have the gist up front (the others will be able to get a more detailed review in several paragraphs): It is (especially with the rand devaluation) fully worth the money and we will most likely come back nevertheless there are area which could and imo should be improved.

So that you know what my comparison is: Southern Ocean Lodge in Australia the Nam Hai in Vietnam, Woodall in South Africa, Tawi in Kenia, Mandarin Oriental and the Anantara in Thailand and some others are my referencepoints when it comes to judging 5 or 7 star hotels and clearly Karkloof wants to play in that league.

After finding this resort in a travel catalogue I was set to trying it out and with a nice flight offer to South Africa the chance came up. Lawrence as a reservation manager dealed with me fast, efficient and very friendly and even though with the 4 night package there came a lot of mails exchanged nothing seemed to be too much for him or too complicated.

The flights were booked without trouble and we arrived in Petermaritzburg and were greeted by lovemore, our driver also for the next days who took care of our luggage and dorve us up to the lodge (the last couple of kilometers is a bit rough but the car was good enough for it). At the reception we received another warm welcome, a nice drink and just behind the buildings we had zebras, nyala, impalas and rhino so all started extremely well.

Now I am going through it a bit area by area:

The Spa: Let´s start with the diamond of this lodge. A very large, bright and sunny area with a charming, friendly, helpful and professionell staff. The treatment rooms are very big and bright as well and it was very fun to have a pedicure and see the nyalas outside or having a lunch close to some warthogs. We had 7-8 treatments each and we enjoyed them very much. If you want to they drive you to and from the Spa, I recommend walking it makes for nice wildlife encounters.

Game driving:Lovemore turned out to be a birding enthusiast and so we had a wonderful time together. We saw all kind of big mammals we even had a jackal howl at us from 5 meters away while we had our GT sundowner, rhinos, giraffe, zebars, you name it. Also lots of birds and the big advantage to other areas is, the animals are not frightened so you can really have close encounters. Giraffes within 20m , zebars and impalas within 10. There even are some nyalas and warthogs who made the ground their residence so close encounters are pretty often. Lovemore did a wonderful job.

Lodging: Large villas in an african earthen decor with a large bath includinh shower, double sink and bath tub, a large minibar (free of charge) a/c, a wonderful view out to the river with some monkeys on the terrace as regular guests, A large bed and a good wifi and all needed and wanted amenities. In the evening port gets brought out and caddles are lit. I recommend having a dinner on your own terrace. Much to be enjoyed with the one main weakness that the ac is blowing directly upon the bed.

Public areas: Well kept in a wooden african decor, a large terrace (perfect for the breakfasts) a nice library and bar and a walk in wine cabinet (very good choices to be had) a lot of nice areas to sit and enjoy the area. A not too big pool with some nice shade from the trees. A very nice garden surrounding everything.

Food: Here we start, there are some points in the a.m. areas as well but the food has a big part for giving only 4 stars: With one notable exception it was well prepared and tasty and it included some local meat (warthog for example) and the chefs as we have seen in a very remarkable moment were more than willing to change as the customers want.

But... it lacked something memorable. Take one example, there is a cheese platter in the evening which is very nice more than generous (as all food is, forget about the salads being light) but it is the same every evening. So what do you do on the third evening? As we said there was no food on the menu that we could not have cooked ourselves and it was far from what we have seen at other 5 star etablissements. Do not get me wrong, it is not bad food in anay way, it is good food but it is surely not 7 stars food.

Staff: Once again do not get me wrong: All the staff we met was more than friendly, more than helpful and very easy to have a nice interaction with. What is lacking for a 5 or 7 star ressort is efficiency in communication and training. One example: The resort has the second most generous all inclusive bars I have ever seen (the best one being southern ocean lodge in Australia) but my request for a Martini led to me showing them how to mix one! Also sometimes there was a language barrier,

There are some more flaws. If you ask people questions during the booking, this should have a result, Living ants in my villa are africa, several dozen dead ones over two days is bad housekeeping as well as not checking regularly what must be replaced or refilled at the villa (minibar!). Not being able to coordinate housekeeping with breakfast times is bad efficiency/training. Do you remember the point of the shade under the trees at the pool? That also lead to fruit etc. raining down.on the loungers! It is very nice if someone comes up and asks you what to drink the moment you go to the pool but cleaning the loungers, replacing spent towels (having some spare ones for guests would help as well) would be as nice as well. But that did not happen (also not in the Spaarea)

This is not asking for things like a cold towel when returning from a game drive or similar luxuries which are in my experience provided in other 5 star hotels, there is I think some lack of attention in areas which are not the Spa and they show. They do have the hardware in place for 5 stars (not 7 again) but the software is closer to 4.

All in all, you get a very good value for money and I recommend a stay there. But for 7 stars, there is a way to go and therefor only 4 stars in my review. It is much about managing expectations.

One last recommendation: There is a wonderful landscape all aorund with lots of animals and as nice as the spa is. Do not miss this part. The waterfall is wonderful and well worth the walk.

  • Stayed: January 2014, travelled as a couple
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5  Thank Florian254
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 2 February 2014

Our third stay at Karkloof Spa. This is an excellent SPA location. Great food, great service. Our last visit was September 2013. It was quiet, great food, fantastic massages, good fishing, great service, good peace and quiet. This is just what one needs if one wants a break from the hustle and bustle of city life. I would highly recommend at least a three night stay. Food is included and so is wine and drinks and they do a good package of you stay three or four nights. The best holiday location in SA in our opinion.

Stayed: September 2013, travelled as a couple
Thank Goodtaste73
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 24 January 2014

My husband and I have just returned from two days and nights at Karkloof Safari Spa. Wow! It is a unique experience: a magnificent setting, superb staff and total relaxation. Our room overlooked the valley; it was cool and peaceful--all we could hear were the numerous bird calls and at night the frog chorus. The food was perfect--very healthy and beautifully presented. We managed to fit in two spa treatments each. The Thai masseurs were exceptional and very professional. Last, but not least were the game drives. The amount of game is amazing and our guide, Makoni , was a gem. All in all it was a great two days. We will definitely be returning! Lesley Savage.

  • Stayed: January 2014, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank Lesley S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 21 January 2014

We have just returned from amazing 3 day stay at Karkloof. This is the 3rd time we have been there as we love the place so much. It is truly the most 'indulgent " place on earth . it restores body, mind , and soul. The whole experience is amazing from the superb setting , luxury accommodation, excellent cuisine with amazing presentation and flavors , to welcoming chatty staff who are ready to take your experience to another level .
The Spa experience is exceptional with various treatments to offer and experience. You find time is of no essence as you embark on this indulgent experience - and you leave fully de stressed
This time on arrival and on our journey to the lodge we saw Giraffe, Rhino , warthog, Zebra, wildebeest all coming out to welcome us.
such a special place to visit i have made a promise to return soon

Room Tip: The rooms have different themes - and dont think you can do wrong with any of them . It is handy to...
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  • Stayed: January 2014, travelled as a couple
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Thank Corinne B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 2 December 2013 via mobile

It was my wife's birthday and we decided to visit Karkloof Safari Spa over a four day period including a weekend.
From the moment you arrive you are treated like royalty. The friendly staff can't do enough to make you comfortable and happy.
The setting is exquisite and peaceful and you immediately start to relax.
After settling into our luxurious room with tranquil view of the private valley we decided to take up the offer of trying out the many and wonderful spa treatments. Your rate includes as many as you want and initially you feel guilty in your over indulgence but that soon passes and you realise what you have been missing in your life.
The food and drinks selection is varied and suits your lifestyle and pallet. If not they will prepare what you want or get it.
The private game viewing and a must see of the falls left us agape that we almost had the place to ourselves.
The staff are there when you need them but never seem to be around.
We reluctantly left after the four days knowing we would be back soon rather than later.

Stayed: October 2013, travelled as a couple
Thank Pabby2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Karkloof1, Public Relations Manager at Karkloof Safari Spa, responded to this reviewResponded 3 December 2013

Thank you for taking the time to write about your wonderful experience at Karkloof. We are delighted that you indulged in the spa treatments, afterall, unlimited treatments, unlimited meals, game drives and timelessness, is our gift to you. We look forward to having you stay here again. Pampering awaits...

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 24 November 2013

I have just returned from the most amazing 5 days at Karkloof Spa. From the moment I arrived, there was nothing that was to much for the staff of Karkloof to accomodate you. The main lodge building just welcomes you with its luxury decor but yet a warm feeling. Owner Fred welcomes you with open arms and says if you want to lay back and relax kick up your feet as this is your experince. The magnificent decor is in really good taste. My suite exceeded all my expectations and was luxurious and attention to detail is paid. I never wanted to leave!. I enjoyed my time relaxing at the spa which was really good and could no comment on one thing. zexcept I had bamboo dancing with Turn but I was not made for bamboo dancing. I liked the treatments more. I loved the 90 minute yoga massage I experinced that a few times. The quality of the treatments was way above average. All the staff was always friendly and so accommodating. I relaxed on the deck with the vista of the Karkloof cliff faces and lush vegetation spread all around me and the thrushing waters passing over the gardens. Karkloof will certainly see me for many years to come. Thank you guys! feel honered to have stayed by you

Room Tip: request villa 4 this is a wonderful villa
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  • Stayed: November 2013, travelled solo
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Thank cschuleman
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Karkloof1, Public Relations Manager at Karkloof Safari Spa, responded to this reviewResponded 3 December 2013

Thank you for taking the time to write a review on Karkloof Sfari Spa. We are delighted that you have come all the way from the Netherlands to experience the magic of Karkloof. We look forward to having you stay here with us again.

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Reviewed 20 November 2013

having just had the privilege of a weekend away at the Karkloof Safari Spa, I can highly recommend it in every way, from friendly attentative staff to authentic Thai massage and treatments, yoga, meditation, hot baths, steam rooms, all beautifully presented in the most idyllic setting. The spa was unparalleled in service ambiance and facilities. The food, decor of the lodge and rooms are all of the highest standard yet one feels comfortably at home. The wildlife, bush and waterfalls make this a complete and unique experience well worth it to restore your soul..thanks Karkloof Safari Spa for an unforgettable time! Colleen Trotter.

  • Stayed: November 2013, travelled as a couple
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Thank Colleen T
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Karkloof1, Public Relations Manager at Karkloof Safari Spa, responded to this reviewResponded 22 November 2013

Thank you for your great review on Karkloof. We look forward to having you stay with us again.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Karkloof Safari Spa

Address: Otto's Bluff Road, Pietermaritzburg 3231, South Africa
Region: South Africa > KwaZulu-Natal > Pietermaritzburg
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 31 Speciality Lodging in Pietermaritzbu...
Price Range: £430 - £1,579 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Number of rooms: 16
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Surrounded by the cinematic splendor of the Karkloof Valley, this modern and contemporary wellness and wildlife retreat is enhanced with the big heart of African sensibility. Karkloof Safari Spa offers a selection of supreme secluded lodges complimented by the finest cuisine and impeccable international standards. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Karkloof Hotel Pietermaritzburg

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