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“Excessive road noise, complete rip off and very disappointing”

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The Phantom Forest Eco-Reserve
Ranked #10 of 30 Hotels in Knysna
Certificate of Excellence
New York City, New York
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
“Excessive road noise, complete rip off and very disappointing”
2 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 27 February 2012

Having had high expectations of this place, it was a very disappointing stay. The positives are that the concept is great, the tree houses are nice and the food is good. Sadly there are more negatives, the room prices are crazy for what you get, we stayed in much better places at a fraction of the price. The whole place looks tired and in parts very neglected. The worst issue was the road noise, you are paying for a forest expereince which you would think is quiet and peaceful, you are in reality facing the N2 motorway and hear road traffic at an excessive level all the time. Lots of people come in for dinner, which is a good idea as the food is good and you sit inside so cant hear any road noise. Staying there was not good value and very disappointing.

  • Stayed February 2012, travelled with friends
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Helpful?
6 Thank OJennyJo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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344 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
Traveller tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (49)
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English first
Kentucky
Level Contributor
80 reviews
54 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 38 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 12 February 2012

We very much enjoyed our "tree house" room. The space was lovely and the bathtub view was great. We especially loved the our porch (although solid lounge chairs would have made it much more comfortable) for it's peaceful view. Peaceful that is, until we were visited by three monkeys who were intent on getting my gin and tonic! It was great fun and we were able to get some terrific close up photos. We were also visited several times by the Knysna Lorrie - what a beautiful bird!

The lounge area and pool were also highlites with wonderful views and the restaurant dinner was amazing.

We thoroughly enjoyed our overnight stay and only wished we had been able to stay longer.

Stayed February 2012, travelled as a couple
Helpful?
1 Thank binkybird
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Cape Town
Level Contributor
6 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 7 February 2012

We enjoyed a 4 day stay at the Phantom Forest Eco-Reserve for our Honeymoon. This is a great place to stay, if you want peace and tranquility. We thoroughly enjoyed it. The whole lodge is a collection of wooden buildings under the forest canopy, linked by wooden board walks.

We stayed in the Upper Tree Suites (Watsonia), but also looked at the Moroccan Suites - they were both spectacular! The rooms are in the forest, on stilts - not technically tree houses - but we knew this in advance. You have very nice privacy - rooms are far apart. The rooms are stunning - the upper tree suites have a outside bath (with jacuzzi jets) on the deck. The shower and bath inside also are surrounded by glass, so you really feel like you are outside. The rooms were perfectly clean and beautifully decorated - and blended in with the natural surroundings.

The staff were great - very friendly and helpful. From the barmen, to the cleaning staff - all extremely polite and helpful. They made as feel relaxed and at ease as soon as we arrived.

The food is really unique and of a very high standard. The chef is extremely creative - even the breakfasts were very good, and never boring. The restaurant only offers a 6-course dinner in the evenings, but each evening, a new menu is printed, from which you can make your selection. They made a separate menu for my wife as she is vegetarian, and she too was very impressed.

The views from the Chutzpah (pool area) and Lounge/Bar area are fantastic - a view over the Knysna Lagoon and estuary.

A few things to note:
* As the rooms are amongst the trees/vegetation, you don;t always have a view of the surroundings - you are under the canopy of trees. You loved the atmosphere, but some might prefer more expansive views - those are only from the Lounge/Bar/Pool areas.
* As the rooms are spaced for privacy, you have to walk a short distance to the restaurant - but the walk is along beautiful board walks.

  • Stayed January 2012, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
3 Thank Greg_SA
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Preston, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
40 reviews
13 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 28 helpful votes
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 5 February 2012

Four of us stayed there end of Jan 2012 and so looking forward to our stay. We have been to S. A. three times, our friends twelve. We always choose one place to stay as a 'treat ourselves'. I have read the previous review and in the main have to agree. There are no views from the rooms. If the trees were to be cut sympathetically then the magnificent views of the Estuary could be enjoyed. There are no gardeners employed so it is wild. The rooms are on stilts. There are board walks between the huts and restaurants (one was closed due to not being busy), reception etc which are lit up at night, but it is the ony place we have stayed at where there is a curfew at 11.30 as they cut the electric off. The evening meals are superb, with good wines a bit dearer than we normally pay in S.A, and breakfasts were excellent too. You have to sign a DISCLAIMNER IN ORDER TO STAY HERE, in case you get bitten. We had a green snake in our room. Saw monkeys at breakfast which the staff keep away with what looks like a paint ball gun and some large ants.

  • Stayed January 2012, travelled with friends
    • Value
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Helpful?
7 Thank Vivienne F
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
London
Level Contributor
36 reviews
21 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 19 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 4 February 2012

I planned this as a treat for my wife and myself as this was out of our budget in every normal sense. However, the "Special" of 3300 Rand per night was really worth it (check their website for deals).

We received bed and (a vast) breakfast each day plus a complimentary 6 course meal on the first night. The meal on the second evening was the same quality and complexity, 6 courses, for 300 Rand a head (excellent value for the quality of food - the chef is great and she spoke with us before the second night and on both nights during the service); all we had to pay for was the drinks but the wine list was not extortionate at all (we expected a hefty mark-up but it wasn't bad at all).

In addition to this, a delicious packed lunch was included in the deal for the second day. We were so full from breakfast that we forgot all about it and sunbathed at the Chutzpah at the top of the camp - we were totally on our own. Bliss! We asked the management if we could have the packed lunch on the day we left and there was no problem - we dined like kings later, half way up a mountain pass on the R62!

The tree house we had in the camp was "Watsonia". We couldn't have asked for much more. The bed was good, linen excellent and the glass surrounding the shower and bath gave ample opportunity to look out at the bird AND occasional monkey-life! Privacy was complete however from other houses and if we had wanted to parade naked on the veranda and jacuzzi, I think only the wildlife would have complained. I had expected a little more of a view from our veranda but as it's an eco-forest, maybe they have restrictions on what they can and can't cut down. Perhaps some small "sculpting" of branches would enhance the views but this really didn't bother me as the view from the Chutzpah was spectacular.

The vervet monkeys were playing around breakfast time when we ate outside, looking for food, but one of the staff is on hand to shoo them away - it was all part of the fun on a sun-baked morning. My wife went back to our room on the second morning, only to have two of the monkeys play with her like kids do (literally!).

Yes, you could occasionally hear the main road from down the valley (sound carries) but it really didn't cause me any angst. When the lights were turned out on the first night, we just listened to the forest to send us to sleep and on the the second morning we were woken up by the monkeys tumbling on to our roof! We went on one of the forest trails on the second afternoon and all I would do differently is perhaps go earlier in the day as quite a few midges were out to get us. It's a forest so this is going to happen!

Overall, the staff were just SO friendly and, when we spoke with them, so genuinely happy to be working in such a magical place. It was a wonderful two days.

  • Stayed January 2012, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
3 Thank DocCrooner
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Level Contributor
3 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
1 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 2 February 2012

There is no denying that this is a great concept, and the resort has good qualities such as friendly staff, good food etc. We called and got a room the next day. It was busy, but not full. We were also aware it was expensive, but you get what you pay for - don't you?....The rooms are not strictly tree houses, and have a dated design about them with rattan walls, but are very clean and have a comfortable bed. The forest is a nature reserve, but is not particularly interesting in terms of wildlife activity or stunning trees.There is no proper swimming pool at the resort, just a z shape moat around a north african bazar type rest area at the top of the hill. we stayed 2 nights, thinking to relax at the resort all day given its hefty price tag - we assumed total eco luxury in a place of beauty with simple elegant design ( as one finds at the better Game Reserves), but the room was too small to stay in for a day, the balcony was uncomfortable with no furniture to relax on outside, no views either through the foliage - odd given its sold as living up a tree. and the north african bazar had a strange atmosphere we thought. so other than lying on the comfortable bed in the room ( with first rate linens it has to be said) - where else to relax for the day? certainly not the hippy rooted sauna/hot tub/gym area - a very tired spot, or the bar area with its lurid 80s decor and furnishings . also odd we thought was mid summer having underfloor heating in the rooms 24/7 given its eco status, and the sound of traffic from the main road i did not expect in our quest to be at one with nature.
we met some travellers who just came for dinner, and that struck us as a smart move. the food is well priced at 300R for 5 courses, and was delicious. but the rooms and rest of the resort is just not worth the money at 4,000R per night!!! Thats the crunch - its way too expensive for what is on offer. There are gorgeous places to stay in SA for less than this! We are totally up for paying top rand, but expect top in return, not just a comfy bed and good breakfast.

Room Tip: choose to save your rand, and just go for dinner.
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  • Stayed January 2012, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
7 Thank Hardtopper
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
London
Level Contributor
8 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 16 helpful votes
2 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 13 January 2012

We have just returned from a fantastic trip in South Africa. We travelled the Garden route, from Plett to Cape Town. We booked the trip ourselves, and selected places to stay based on friends recommendations and Fodor's travel guide. Phantom Forest was by far the most expensive place we stayed. Whist we found the staff friendly, the food very good (and fairly priced at R300 for a 6 course dinner), and the 'idea' of staying in tree houses exciting - the reality (after the initial arrival, and walk to our treehouse room) was disappointing. The tree houses turned out to be Huts in the woods. The decor of the huts is tired & dated. Although the beds were comfortable and the rooms clean and private, there is no real lounge area to relax in and there was an overall claustrophobic feel - the showers are great and look out to the trees. The outside decks to the rooms are small, and there are no comfortable loungers to snooze on, just a couple of grubby deck chairs. We had a room that promised an outside jacuzzi - realistically this is an average sized bath tub cut into the deck with jets. Once I found the plug for it, the only way to get it out to release the water was to use the tongs from the ice bucket!
Phantom is sold on its Ecological standing, but there is little evidence of that whatsoever, with petrol buses to ferry you up & down the hill, un-ecological bath products, constantly heated towel rails & underfloor heating in the middle of summer.
The huts are not up in trees, they are on the edge of the hill with stilts supporting the decks. There is no proper view from the huts, because the trees and scrub are completely overgrown. The trees are not managed, and are not what I would call dramatic or interesting, and the wildlife was literally bugs and the odd bird, and I really looked!
Phantoms facilities are tired and dated. The Bar area is decked out with garish furnishings and cheap african nicknack tut. The Sauna & bubble tub is a very small seedy swingers affair, the Morrocan inspired main pool (what has this to do with anything?) is no more than a plunge pool around a clubhouse, that offers some unappealing seating areas. You would not want to spend a day here relaxing. Again, because its overgrown & not been thought through, you had no sense of view from the loungers or seating areas.
Phantom is expensive. For the money that it cost, this place should be stunning. You should not want to leave. We stayed for 2 nights - and whilst it was not ghastly, we felt utterly ripped off. I would not recommend Phantom to friends.

Room Tip: they are all much of a muchness. take a chainsaw if you want a view.
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  • Stayed January 2012, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
14 Thank bentimbobdin
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
KitKnysna, Owner at The Phantom Forest Eco-Reserve, responded to this review, 1 February 2012
In response to "rip off". Having won the 'Leading Green Hotel Africa 2010, 2011 and 'Leading Eco detination Africa 2007, nominated (one of 15) for the World's leading Green Resort 2008,2009 by The World Travel Awards, considered the 'oscars' of the travel industry, I feel the writer has entirely missed the boat and has no real understanding of Eco principles and 'touching the earth lightly'. Phantom Forest is in and on the fringes of a pristine piece of Afromontane forest, where no indigenous trees were cut (aliens were used in floors roofs, doors, furniture etc ) during construction (which took 8 years !). No wet cement in forest sensitive areas, even small plants were conserved and re-planted. Sites for the 'Tree-suites (65-75squ m) were selected with rigid criteria, one being where a tree had fallen leaving a 'gap'. We do not interfere with nature. Water is puymped from a borehole, fresh and pristine while sewage is completely re-cycled by our own plant, eventually returning to the ground as clean potable water for all, flora and fauna alike.
As to 'African tat' I am sure the young artists we have supported in the making of all lights, paintings, sculpture etc, would be most dismayed by this ill-informed comment, when many pieces are made from re-cycling,... quirky and clever. The furniture in the Eyrie Bar is all made from sustainable bamboo, cane or alien vegetation gleaned from our reserve. The suites are refreshed every year and any 'tired' softs replaced. Only the very best percale bed linen, American synthetic goose down duvets (we do not use feathers as many guests are allergic).
All guest amenities and cleaning products are fully bio-degradable.
In concluson I am frankly puzzled by the vehemous tone of this cit, especially as we have had no communication either verbally or written as to the dissatisfaction of this client either during or after their stay.
Kit (owner)
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about The Phantom Forest Eco-Reserve

Property: The Phantom Forest Eco-Reserve
Address: 27 Phantom River Street, Knysna 6570, South Africa
Region: South Africa > Western Cape > Knysna
Amenities:
Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Restaurant Spa Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
#2 Spa Hotel in Knysna
#7 Romantic Hotel in Knysna
#9 Luxury Hotel in Knysna
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): £££
Hotel Class:5 star — The Phantom Forest Eco-Reserve 5*
Number of rooms: 14
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The award winning Phantom Forest lodge and boma restaurant is situated in a private reserve on the Knysna River estuary, a magnificent setting of indigenous forest, fynbos and estuarine wetland. Designed to create only the lightest footprint , Phantom Forest offers superb luxury in complete harmony with nature. Accommodation consists of fourteen evocative "tree suites", perfectly integrated into the forest. Nature lovers can explore the reserve via forest and fynbos trails or canoe trips along the river. The Boma restaurant offers international cuisine served in the classic style while the body boma wellness spa provides a range of natural treatments. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
The Phantom Forest Eco-Reserve Hotel Knysna
Phantom Forest Eco Reserve Knysna

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