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“Relaxed and Friendly”
4 of 5 bubbles Review of Gwalagwala

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Gwalagwala
Sydney
Level Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 31 helpful votes
“Relaxed and Friendly”
Reviewed 17 November 2008

We visited Gwala Gwala for 3 nights on our honeymoon. We were pleasantly suprised on arrival with the quality of the tents and friendliness of the staff. The tents were outstanding with lovely decks, immaculate cleanliness and a personal touch that made us feel really comfortable. We were really impressed with the trouble that the ladies went to in tidying our room and making lovely arrangements of petals on our bed of an evening.

Dinners and Breakfasts were excellent in the tree house, and we even had a romantic meal served on our balcony one night and enjoyed the sounds of the bush.

I must say that we were really impressed with what we saw on the game drives, however, we did find the guides on these game drives a little impersonal. There were no facts etc given about the animals and we were lucky we had already experienced such personal guides in the Sabi Sands prior to this, because it would have been a shame if these drives were your first experience in Africa and no facts were given about the animals.

In saying that, we did see all the big five and enjoyed our experience, it just felt a little rushed sometimes.

Ann, Dorian and the gwalagwala lodge guide Mike were all exceptional people. Very friendly and Dorian couldn't have been more helpful with our questions.

Only one thing I would say is that I think the Gwalagwala game drive itself (within the fences) goes for too long. It is a long time, 3 and a half hours, when your not viewing the big five. Great for bird lovers and bush lovers however.

Our honeymoon suite was absolutely luxurious, tranquil and gorgeous.

Wonderful place to spend a few nights listening to the sounds of Africa!

  • Liked — The feeling of being in a tent...but a luxurious tent!
  • Disliked — The gwalagwala game drive
  • Stayed October 2008, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check-in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
Helpful?
Thank Ozzielovers
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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41 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Sleep Quality
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 bubbles
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Italian first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
England
1 review
Reviewed 13 October 2008

My wife & I recently returned from Gwalagwala as part of a special 25 year wedding anniversary trip to South Africa. A close friend of ours had stayed there last year and couldnt recommend them enough. We are SO glad that we listened to him and booked there ourselves!!

The experience is one of the best things we have ever done - and we have travelled the world over. As previous reviewers have pointed out, Ann & Dorian spare no effort in making your stay personable, and highly enjoyable. All of the staff were marvellous and so friendly, nothing seemed like too much trouble.

Gwalagwala has just opened a new tented accommodation that they call the "Presidential" suite. It is larger and more luxurious than the others, so if you can, opt for that.

The big five game drives in nearby Thornybush were a truly unbelievable experience and we saw some unforgettable sights - the Big 5 but much, much more too. Gwalagwala is a smaller reserve that doesnt have the Big 5, but they do have loads of animals and experiences to enjoy. Its just done so beautifully, everything is calm & peaceful.

Cant recommend this place highly enough, its just wonderful.

  • Liked — Absolutely EVERYTHING
  • Disliked — Coming Home
  • Stayed October 2008, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check-in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
Helpful?
Thank Thepricedude
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Washington
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed 17 September 2008

My husband and I (mid-fifties, from Seattle) stayed at Gwalagwala last month: it was absolutely amazing! There is not room here to detail the outstanding experience that our hosts provided. It was simply superb -- providing both the thrill of safari and abundant creature comforts, all for a great price. The owners, Ann and Dorian, have assembled an outstanding staff that work unbelievably hard to ensure that you have a wonderful stay. Each day of your stay includes a safari drive in search of the Big Five at neighboring Thornybush: we saw the Big Five and much, much more within our first 24 hours. Your day also includes a game drive (or walk or birding) on their property, accompanied by their terrific rangers.

Because Gwalagwala is small (just a handful of tents), they are able to cater activities to your individual tastes. I observed them work out an itinerary for two young women from Japan and then a completely different day of activities for a family with teenagers from Scandanavia. For us, we wanted lots of time "in the bush," so they took us for a "walking safari" (their property contains no dangerous animals) and we tracked giraffe and zebra. Another day, the ranger took us to one of their hides where we spent several hours at the waterhole watching birds and animals come to drink. And, when you return from these activities, someone will be waiting to hand you a cool cloth to wash up and either a glass of warm, mulled wine (if it's cold in the evening) or a glass of iced rooibos tea if it's the heat of the day. It was utterly and completely magical.

The lodge area is also enchanting. The tents are lovely, with en suite showers and toilets. Each has its own nice, private deck area and ample room inside. You'll find flowers and candy on your pillow when you return in the evening, after a delicious meal served outdoors around a glowing fire. That's just after you've had Happy Hour in the Tree House.

My husband and I had a month long trip in South Africa -- our first stop was Gwalagwala. We were both so completely happy with the experience, we could have gone home then. I am sure you would love it, too.

  • Liked — Incredible personalized service in a beautiful environment
  • Disliked — That I couldn't stay there forever.
  • Stayed July 2008, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check-in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank Tosharoo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
England
2 reviews
Reviewed 13 September 2008

We are still unable to comprehend how something so basic and simple as Tented Accommodation can be turned into such a luxurious experience.

My Wife and I spent a mere three nights here and it was nowhere near long enough.

First Class Accommodation, excellent Culinary Experiences and a genuinely warm and welcoming family environment.

Nothing was too much trouble for both Staff and Guides and personal Greetings and Farewells by the owners Ann and Dorian made for a truly unforgettable visit to this wonderful and special place.

We would finally wish to extend our best wishes to all at gwalagwala for a successful and prosperous future.

  • Liked — Unique, Quirky and luxurious
  • Disliked — Nothing
  • Stayed September 2008, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check-in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
Helpful?
Thank Annandray
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Madison, Wisconsin
Level Contributor
12 reviews
8 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
Reviewed 11 September 2008

Twenty of us just visited Gwala Gwala for 3 nights and had a
wonderful experience. The tents were outstanding with lovely decks, immaculate linens and a personal touch that made us
feel like every small detail was considered. The food was great
and the treehouse bar and breakfast area were really exciting.

The game drives, trackers and guide were world class. We saw
the entire big five and a cheetah at very close range.

The staff was warm, friendly and catered to our every need. We
felt completely safe, it was a place where we could relax and not
worry about having to lock everything whenever we left our rooms.

There is a honeymoon suite that was absolutely luxurious, tranquil and gorgeous.

I hope to send many people to visit this treasure of a place.

Thanks to Ann and Dorian for making our trip end on such a
high note. I will be back for certain.

Helpful?
Thank lululight
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Leeds
Level Contributor
38 reviews
30 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 58 helpful votes
Reviewed 26 August 2008

Our original choice of place to stay was unavailable so our travel agent, Trailfinders, suggested we consider Gwala Gwala. This was so fortunate as despite my wife and I having travelled widely, this place quickly jumped to probably the most enjoyable place we have ever stayed in.

Recent reviewers have summed it up very well and it is all so true.

Accommodation:
=============
Tents are great and have everything you could need. The staff constantly do nice touches such as put on heaters at night. The beauty of being in a tent is that you can hear all the noises at night which is real experience. Despite this, we slept very soundly as so relaxed.

One night, we went back to tent after lovely meal to find zebras grazing outside the tent. During the night, we heard animals outside and the tracks in morning showed that it was giraffes outside the tent.

Food/Drinks/Social
===============
This place is just so relaxing. The food was terrific and highest standards. Nadia had joined a few weeks before and along with team in kitchen, we thought food aspect was very much 5 star. The bar is in a treehouse and it is so relaxing to have a drink and chat. Prices are excellent and they do not try to exploit the fact that you have no other options (beer is 70 pence, wine is about £6 to £20 per bottle dependent on choice). The atmosphere at dinner is great. There are only 6 tents so it will always be intimate but we shared with just one other couple. Evenings were fantastic sitting around fire and sharing stories.

Staff
====

You can get everything else right but with poor staff then everything fails. We have had fantastic South Africa trip and encountered excellent accommodation with high service standard. This place though is on a pedestal though as staff are so passionate about their jobs. All the team are first class and I can't name them all - they all excelled.

However, the two rangers Collen and Barend are just perfect for this job. They live and breathe the job and are just so passionate about everything. At no stage did it ever come across that they were doing just a job as they were so passionate about ensuring we got everything we could from the trip.

Barend is fairly new to the job and we have little doubt that as he develops even more knowledge then he will be truly outstanding (he is such a nice guy and with his passion to learn, if he can't answer you immediately, he will find out the answer).

As for Collen, this guy is as good as anybody that I have ever come across anywhere at their job. He was brought up in the bush and it is almost as if he speaks to the animals. He has a lovely laid back character and along with Barend, he gave us so much educational information that it made the trip. Over dinner, along with another couple, we were taking about hyenas and jackals. Collen advised that they were on the Gwalagwala property and he would take us out. We ended up driving around for an hour at night with Nadia (Kitchen manager) doing driving and Collen tracking down all sorts of nighttime wildlife for us - it was a priceless experience.

The Game drives
==============
The pattern is that you get a trip around the Gwalagwala reserve in morning (start between 5.45am and 6.30am) either by foot or by jeep. There are no big 5 here but plenty of other animals. However, this is a very educational trip and you begin to understand how everything works in the bush which then enhances the afternoon big 5 game drive. You get taught how to track animals and you also become experts in identifying animals by their droppings!!

The big 5 game drive is in the Thorneybush reserve. We stayed 3 nights so did 3 drives. On the final drive, we managed all big 5 within two hours which was exceptional. The leopard is the trickiest to find and no guarantees that you will see one. You would have to be unlucky not to see the others as the rangers in different jeeps are constantly on radio to each other and they are so good at tracking the animals. There are two prides of lions in the reserve and the jeeps get very close so sightings are amazing. We watched lion feeding on buffalo carcass from a day old kill. Whilst the animals are 100% wild, it is not true safari in the sense that animals are habituated to the jeeps that are used which allows you to get very close. This perhaps would not happen elsewhere as animals just ignore you despite being metres away in some cases. We had some sense of concern that rangers were taking people too close and affecting animals, however this is balanced by fact that it gives people 'big 5' experience whilst enabling some excellent conservation work to be financed.

  • Liked — Absolutely everything - tents, staff, food, location
  • Disliked — Nothing.
  • Stayed August 2008, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check-in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank Scubagary
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
13 reviews
9 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
Reviewed 15 August 2008

We had the most wonderful stay at Gwalagwala and really can't wait to go back. It was more than we had hoped for and was the highlight of our 2 month mini round the world trip. Excellent service and great value for money.

TENT: If you can call it that because it was the most luxurious tent we had ever seen. Raised off the ground on stilts, it had its own bathroom and a balcony which for us looked over a little river. We were there in winter and it was really cold but the tents had their own heater and electric blankets which was fantastic - especially as the housekeeping staff turned your blanket on for you while your at dinner.

FOOD: All food excluding drinks was included. In the morning before our first drive or walk approx 6-7am we would have tea or coffee and rusks - like biscuits. After our drive approx 10am breakfast was served in the tree house bar which was a hot/cold buffet. Lunch was quite light as it is prior to your drive and then dinner - which was always delicious - is a three course meal served around a open fire in a boma. As the camp is only small, about 6 tents, dinner was a great socialising time with other guests and your guides.

STAFF: The service here was amazing. As there were few guests the staff were extremely attentive and nothing was ever a problem, they went above and beyond, particularly the guides Byron and Collen. We spent most of our time with Byron and he was great. We wanted to do a sunrise walk so he was up at the crack of dawn with us and as they spend the entire day with guests he was up until after midnight the same day when we all decided to go to bed. We had never experienced this kind of dedication anywhere we have stayed.

ANIMALS: The camp itself is on a private reserve which had an abundance of wildlfie such as zebra, giraffe, impala to name a small few. It doesn't have the big 5 but the advantage of that is that you can go on bush walks either by yourself or with one of the guides - no extra charge. They organise a daily big 5 drive for their guests in the neighbouring Thornybush reserve and there we saw all the big 5 except the leopard - which was unlucky as it was around the day before we arrived. Each day we had a big 5 drive and either a drive or walk in Gwala.

  • Liked — Staff's attention to detail
  • Disliked — Nothing!
  • Stayed July 2008, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check-in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
Helpful?
Thank seethenew
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Gwalagwala

Property: Gwalagwala
Address: Guernsey Rd off the R40 | Klaserie, Hoedspruit 1380, South Africa
Region: South Africa > Limpopo Province > Hoedspruit
Hotel Style:
Ranked #65 of 100 Speciality Lodging in Hoedspruit
Number of rooms: 7
Also Known As:
Gwalagwala South Africa/Hoedspruit

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