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.
- 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
- Reservation Options:
- TripAdvisor is proud to partner with Booking.com, Hotels.com, Agoda, TripOnline SA, Cancelon and Evoline ltd so you can book your Karkloof Safari Spa reservations with confidence. We help millions of travellers each month to find the perfect hotel for both holiday and business trips, always with the best discounts and special offers.
- Also Known As:
- Karkloof Hotel Pietermaritzburg