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“Unique and friendly lodge”
Review of River House Lodge

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River House Lodge
Ranked #5 of 11 Malelane B&B and Inns
Certificate of Excellence
Kruger National Park, South Africa
Level Contributor
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“Unique and friendly lodge”
Reviewed 16 November 2012

I have stayed at River House Lodge in Malelane and after reading boudecca’s review feel I have to share my experience. I feel (s)he is being unfair towards the lodge. The décor wasn’t to their taste but that is not sufficient reason to launch into a personal attack.

The lodge is interesting, and although the décor may not have been to boudecca’s taste it is by no means “junk” or “filthy”. They are antiques and collectables which I found a quirky aspect of the lodge and refreshing. Many lodges and guest houses begin to look alike with similar décor trends being followed and mass produced furniture used… not here, it is unique and cosy.

The location of the lodge is excellent and the main reason most people visit this area, is for the Kruger National Park. River House sits right on the park border (Crocodile river). The room balcony afforded the chance to step out for our early morning coffee or night cap and a glance into the park and at the main deck we did our wildlife viewing, from where we saw various animals e.g. hippos and elephants.

My husband & I as well as my parents found the lodge great, service friendly and attentive and the large breakfast, delicious.

  • Stayed September 2012, travelled with family
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank LoveSafari
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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90 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
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Traveller tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (15)
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Earth
Level Contributor
228 reviews
69 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 117 helpful votes
Reviewed 12 October 2012

Our expectations were high after a long drive from Swaziland as we pulled into a lovely middle class neighborhood full of upscale houses. That was short lived.

Our misadventure began when we pulled up in front of the worst ramshackle house in the neighborhood, crying out for TLC. We exited our car and headed for the front door. The door opened just a crack with a faceless voice demanding to know who we were and what we wanted. Clearly, we were not expected even though the room had been paid in advance and confirmed through a travel agent. When the door finally opened after a lengthy delay, we were greeted by a grubby old unshaven man with a cigarette butt hanging out of his mouth. He hustled us to a desk which looked like it hadn't been cleaned since Winston Churchill was writing in Ladysmith during the Boer War. After shuffling through the mess, he still could not find our reservation. Finally, he found a scrap of paper which seemed to authorize our stay.

During this fiasco we could not take our eyes off the filthy common area which looked pretty much like a garage sale from the psycho mansion. Everywhere you looked was prized junk knee deep in dust and which had not been moved in years. Chairs were covered in faded fabric and springs were hanging from the bottom. The walls were covered with junk. Junk as far as the eye could see.

Our experience in the common room was nothing compared to the horror of seeing the sunny "luxury suite" with balcony overlooking the Crocodile River that we had booked. After creeping up a narrow winding staircase behind a maid who was summoned by yelling, we arrived at the darkest room we have ever seen. The miniscule window leading to a13 inch balcony was literally covered with a rag. The balcony was so narrow that it was not possible to sit on it to "watch the animals on the Crocodile River" -- more false advertising. There was a small (not king size) bed tucked under the eaves topped by a thread bare cover, one light with a bare bulb, a filthy decrepit chair and a bathroom that has never been remodeled.

We trundled down the stairs practically stumbling on the uneven stones and told the proprietor (who was not able to climb the stairs) that the room was unsatisfactory, not as advertised and that we would like to see another room. We asked for the room we had booked with a balcony, not a 13 inch inaccessible ledge. The grubby proprietor then started waving his hands and demanded that someone named Michael get a tape measure and go upstairs to measure the balcony which he insisted was 15 inches and not 13 inches. This bizarre reaction was countered by my husband telling him he wasting his time because regardless of the precise size, no chair would fit on the balcony because there really was no balcony, just a ledge.

We then demanded to see another room since we had prepaid. We were led to a
ground floor room which was even darker than the room on the top floor. When I told him I had booked a bright sunny room, he testily informed me that "this is Africa -- no one has windows". Clearly, this man had a scary grasp of reality.

By this time, it was clear that we had been lured in by false advertising and a clueless travel agent. Since the proprietor was unable to deliver the product we had been promised, I asked him to return our money and we would find alternative, more appropriate lodging. He angrily told us that we could leave but he was not going to return the money. We then called the travel agent. The two of them had a lengthy conversation in Afrikaans, the gyst of which was that the rooms are perfectly acceptable, there is something wrong with us and you aren't getting your money back.

This place was so hideous we opted to forfeit our $250 rather than stay in fourth world conditions with this unsavory, unstable person.

Stay away! There are lovely properites all over South Africa with gracious owners who work hard to provide a hospitable stay. This is not one of them.

Room Tip: None of the rooms are acceptable. False advertising. Note all the accolades on the web page are fr...
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  • Stayed July 2012, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
5 Thank Boudecca
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Johan D, Owner at River House Lodge, responded to this review, 16 November 2012
I am……………, director and co-owner of "Africa's Worst Lodge", according to a lady by the name of………………., who posted this comment on the TripAdvisor site and I now deem it necessary to respond to her rather scathing report, requesting yourselves to publish my following comments unaltered and unabridged.

That ………….. experience of River House was less than satisfactory I find regrettable. As I was not present when her "misadventure" occurred, I cannot comment on her views of my business partner and co-owner of this establishment. That is best left to him, should he even find it proper to comment to personal insults.

As far as her comments about the building and interiors are concerned I deem it my right and duty to set the record straight, if not for Ms………….., then at least for the benefit of future prospective guests who may be able to enjoy their stay at this establishment, as innumerable guests have done over the years and whom return regularly.

It was with extreme annoyance that I first read Ms. …………… extended tirade. Fortunately that turned to amusement when I realised that the whole point of what this establishment is all about had been completely lost on this lady.

To state that their "misadventure began when we pulled up in front of the worst ramshackle house in the neighbourhood, crying out for TLC" is a bit like saying that the pyramids of Giza are crying out for TLC.

For Ms…………….. information, River House was lovingly constructed to create the impression of having been around for a long time. As owners we travelled far and wide to procure antique building materials for the house and incorporated into the building balconies, doors and windows from India, sandstone pillars from the Union Buildings, carved granite lintels and slabs from a demolished Victorian building that was on Church Square, Pretoria and much more.

That the somewhat unusual architecture of River House will not appeal to average taste was never a concern of mine, but the wish was that a number of people would appreciate and enjoy the buildings for what they are and in that respect the exercise has been successful. Naturally the chance that someone may loathe the building style always exists, but the old adage "you cannot please all of the people all of the time" certainly holds true.

I do find Ms……………. comments about the interiors particularly offensive and take it as a personal insult. To refer to the collections of antiques, Africana, memorabilia and original art as "junk knee deep in dust" is untrue and downright rude.

I shudder to think what a governor of Ilha de Moçambique would think learning that some person in 2012 is referring to his 18th century chairs as "junk", not even considering a Jan Smuts whose autographed photograph is also proudly displayed in River House.

Salvador Dali and Walter Battiss may have found reference to their art as "junk" amusing, whilst treating the statement with the contempt it deserves. However I do wonder whether Alexis Preller, amongst other artists represented in my collection, would have been impressed by same...

Yes, Madam, there is indeed such a collection of "junk" on these walls in River House, some even illustrated in South African art books and fortunately appreciated by people who know the Eiffel tower in Paris is not a copy of the one in Las Vegas.

Personally I am particularly grateful that I was not in residence at the time of Ms…………….. unfortunate experience at River House, as her departure from my house may not have been voluntary had I been here.

For fear of ending up retaliating with melodramatic ramblings similar to the comment posted, I shall refrain from airing my views any further, with one small exception:

Ms……………, your stating that you forfeited $250 rather than staying in this "hideous" place is as untrue as many of your other statements, as we were told by the agent that they had charged you ZAR1400 which at the exchange rate at the time of your reservation translated to approximately US $175.

River House Lodge - Malalane
Postscript. For certain people possibly not familiar with references made to places and people, pyramids of Giza, Union Buildings Pretoria, Africana, Ilha de Moçambique, Jan Smuts, Salvador Dali, Walter Battiss, Alexis Preller, Eiffel tower Paris and Las Vegas can be Googled. Unfortunately, no information of the antique African art in River House will be found on the web. Neither will there be reference to Greek and Roman antiquities, geological specimens and gemstones, fossils and more in the River House collection, having been classified as "junk" by certain individuals from the United States of America and as a result the search will be negative.
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Johannesburg, South Africa
Level Contributor
22 reviews
15 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
Reviewed 19 January 2012

We stopped here on our way to and from Mozambique and just wished we could have stayed longer. Our room was spacious and comfortable with a private braai area outside. Sitting on the deck watching the sun going down with the Crocodile River flowing by was a magical experience, made even more special when 3 elephants wandered out of the bush and made their way to the river grazing peacefully. As we were leaving before breakfast a packed one was supplied which was much appreciated. On the way back we had time for the cooked breakfast which was delicious. We'll definitely come back and spend more time here.

  • Stayed January 2012, travelled with family
    • Value
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Helpful?
Thank FlamelilyForever
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Dexter, MI
Level Contributor
53 reviews
14 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 70 helpful votes
Reviewed 10 October 2011

We arrived at the River House Lodge and the first thing we heard upon arrival was that there were elephants out back. We rushed outside and there on the river were a bunch of elephants and some rhinos down on the water, too. The lodge itself is quite beautful - full of a number of interesting antiques and other memorabilia. The resident cats, Gas and Diesel, are adorable - very friendly. The proprietors are really friendly, too. A very relaxing place to stay and close to Kruger Park as well although I think you could stay at the lodge and see nearly as much wildlife as at Kruger. I highly recommend this place for it's beauty and location and the friendly, relaxed atmosphere. The rooms, while simple in style, are very comfortable and come with all the necessary amenities, including a coffeepot. I slept very well there.

  • Stayed October 2011, travelled with friends
    • Value
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Helpful?
Thank PKFelix
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Pretoria, South Africa
Level Contributor
6 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed 15 July 2011

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay! We made two day trips to the Kruger Park, and spent one day on the deck at River House from where we saw elephants, a hippo, a leopard with its kill, crocodiles etc. The interior is just out of this world - a touch of humor everywhere! And our two hosts were professional, friendly and could not do enough to ensure that we had a wonderful stay. The breakfast is HUGE and delicious!

Stayed July 2011, travelled with friends
Helpful?
Thank Nicolene
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
San Francisco, California
Level Contributor
61 reviews
33 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 26 helpful votes
Reviewed 7 April 2011

River House lodge is a great spot to relax and enjoy peace and quite of the Crocodile river while watching hippos swim in the river and other animals graze nearby. The hotel is located few minutes from Malelane gate of Kruger National Park and will arrange Safaris and other excursions. The hotel is small and owners Johan and Duffy are very friendly and are there to help you with any questions. Accomodations are simple but comfortable and have balconies from where you can enjoy the stary sky of the bush.

  • Stayed March 2011, travelled with friends
    • Value
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Helpful?
Thank akolt
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
The Hague, The Netherlands
Level Contributor
5 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
Reviewed 23 March 2011

Interesting location with lots of hospitality from the owners. Location on river is superb. You must like antiques and 'curiosa' to stay at this place! Breakfast was splendid! Good stop on your way to Swaziland.

  • Stayed March 2011, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
Thank JK_en_AU
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about River House Lodge

Property: River House Lodge
Address: 27 Vis Arend Street | Kruger National Park, Malelane 1320, South Africa
Region: South Africa > Mpumalanga > Malelane
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free Parking Suites Swimming Pool Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #5 of 11 B&Bs / Inns in Malelane
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): £
Hotel Class:4 star — River House Lodge 4*
Number of rooms: 12
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
We are situated on the border of the Kruger National Park which ideally situated to view and explore the Big 5 Game (Buffalo, Leopard, Lion, Rhino and Elephants). We are close to the borders of Mozambique and Swaziland. The KMI airport is only 40 minutes drive from our property. Our property is quirky decorated with personal collections offering old fashioned hospitality. From our furnished covered deck it overlooks the Crocodile river where you can view game drinking and bathing right in front of our lodge. Twitchers can also explore the huge array of birds that frequent our area and on the river. Enjoy a cocktail watching the sunset over the Khandizwe Hills. Open Safaris/ game drives into the famous Kruger National Park can be arranged directly at our lodge or on self drives from Pestana Kruger Lodge (Malelane Gate). Our Twin and Double rooms are tastefully furnished with en suite bathrooms, air conditioners, tea and coffee facilities and private balconies. Golf can be arranged at the famous Leopard Creek Golf course situated 7 km for our lodge. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
River House Lodge Malelane, South Africa - Mpumalanga

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