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“Tembe Elephant Park and the Lodge are a MUST see!”

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Tembe Elephant Park Accommodation
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed 5 June 2014

We just spent four nights in the tent cabins at Tembe. I highly recommend this park and the lodge for many reasons:

Cabins:
We stayed in Cabin 1. Our bed was comfy and the cabin was clean. We didn't have any trouble with bugs (you are in a park, so I don't count a small spider or two as trouble). We had nice hot showers every day and the tent had zip-up canvas covered windows. There is netting on all of the windows.

Food:
The food was decent and there was tons of it. Each meal offered a couple of choices (you'll probably need to let them know in advance if you have special dietary needs). You eat your meals with other guests and it is fun to hear where everyone is fun, what they saw on the game drives, etc. The dining area is open air and is lovely.

Staff:
Super attentive and very, very, helpful. They are very quiet but that is the way of the Tembe people. We loved it that all staff were from the local area. We feel that it is important to support local communities when we travel and that definitely is the case at Tembe.

Game drives:
AMAZING! First, the guides are knowledgable and really care about the park. They know the wildlife, the local culture, the plants, and more. The drives - well, we visited another area (I won't say where in this review) and felt like we were on a zoo tour. Not so at Tembe! The animals at Tembe are there because that's where they really live...no animals placed there just for tourists to see. We had quiet, uncrowded drives where we had plenty of time for photos and observing wildlife. (Again, this is not the experience we had elsewhere...). We saw lions (including cubs), elephants,white rhino, buffalo, wildebeests, Nyala, impala, genet, birds of all sorts, giraffe, etc. We were close enough to most animals to see the expressions on their faces. The guides were respectful, though. They never crossed the line of stressing the wildlife.

This place is worth whatever effort it takes you to get here.

  • Stayed: May 2014, travelled as a couple
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3  Thank ocdizneygirl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 24 May 2014

We stayed at Tembe for the second time. Our first visit was in May 2013. We stayed in a matriarch tent, the same one as last year. The beds are comfortable and for the cold winter nights they have heating blankets. It felt like coming home. All staff are very welcoming. It amazed us some recognized us from last year. The game drives are wonderful, and in between game drives your guide is always willing to bring you to the hide, where you can try to spot animals at the waterhole. As for the meals: They are just wonderful. We learned from last year: Don't take seconds, since you'll feel full the whole day, and will gain a couple of extra pounds. Tembe Elephant Park is one of a kind.

  • Stayed: May 2014, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank Astrid_en_Frank
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 9 May 2014

Before arriving at Tembe, I was pretty confident we were going to enjoy our stay. We only stayed a couple of nights but our experience with the accommodation and park exceeded all expectations.

Firstly, we stayed in a Tusker suite and the accommodation was unbelievable. Looking at the "tent" from the outside made it hard to believe just how comfortable, tasteful and well appointed everything was inside. Further to this, as we were 300 metres from the main lodge, we couldn't see any other tents or guests, which I guess is mandatory for an outdoor shower!! (Which was absolutely amazing).

The service we received from lodge staff and safari guides was flawless. There was never anything we needed and the staff were extremely friendly and helpful, without being overbearing. The food was great and there was more than enough of it - nearly too much! There was always an opportunity to order a drink, even out on the afternoon game drive - and there was never a need for a room number, the drinks just ended up on our bill.

The park was also fantastic. The only other vehicles we saw in four drives were the other groups from the lodge and we were lucky enough to see plenty of elephants, lion, impala, nyala, wildebeest, giraffe etc etc. We didn't see as many animals as we did in Kruger, but we expected that and it makes the sightings more exciting. Our guide, Carlos, was the best we had in South Africa - he was just really courteous, pleasant and knowledgeable.

All in all, staying in Tembe was an amazing experience. We were there as a newly married couple and are already planning to one day bring a family back.

Room Tip: We stayed in Tusker Suite 14 and it was incredible. At the tent, it was hard to imagine there were a...
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  • Stayed: April 2014, travelled as a couple
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2  Thank Tassie4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 3 May 2014

My family has been visiting Tembe for over a decade and have always raved about it so on a recent trip to South Africa, I was keen to go myself. I've stayed in many of the SA parks over the years but Tembe added something different to the experience. The park is a community run project with backing from a Durban businessman and it is immediately apparent that the staff are very happy to have you there, aware that their own wellbeing hinges on making your stay the best that it can be, so that you go home and recommend it to others. They are clearly a noble and proud tribe the Tembe and from the smiling faces and African song that welcomes you on your arrival, to the incredibly knowledgeable game guides who take you out, it is obvious that they cherish their homeland and would love us to as well. I learnt more about the African bush in our too short 3 days there than I have in many years of visiting game parks. Tom and Carlos shared their experiences of growing up in the bush with us at every turn - our visit was after a good rainy season and so the dense bush made game viewing difficult but we were never short of interesting things to look at or learn about. From shampoo bush to the Honey Guide, their stories and teachings were enthralling. We were also lucky enough to encounter at close quarters some of Tembe's famous tuskers, although sadly we were there just before the old patriarch Isilo's body was found after being absent for 2 months and so we didn't get to meet this old gentleman of the forest.
The accommodation is clean, comfortable and more than adequate - it isn't opulent like some places but the tents are beautifully appointed and supremely comfortable and made the perfect place to lie at night with the night sounds of the African bush to lull you off to sleep. A powerful hot shower in the ensuite bathroom soon rouses you for the 5 a.m. game drive and a welcoming breakfast sets you on your way each day. Food is sourced locally and involved a game option each night (delicious kudu steaks one of my favourites) - again it isn't opulent or wasteful, just delicious and plentiful all served in an atmosphere of peace and tranquilty (and at night under the watchful eye of a hopeful Bushbaby).
In a nutshell, this was one of what I hope will be many trips to Tembe. I left feeling like I was one of the family there, such was the warmth and affection of its people and the place they call home.

  • Stayed: March 2014, travelled with family
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3  Thank Steve P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 26 March 2014

We took 5 nights at Tembe and although the weather was rather wet we saw lots of animals, the rain however did nothing to dampen the spirits of the staff.Tom was our guide, he was interesting, amusing & full of local knowledge. Our tent was superb, with an open air shower, the room service & meals was second to none.So sad to leave, want to return , one day, hope Tom & all the same staff are still there.V & Dave UK

  • Stayed: March 2014, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank playgirl70
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 24 March 2014

We stayed 5 nights in the Tusker Suites (10 & 11) for the long weekend, joined by a friend who is out from the UK. From start to end it was a really terrific experience. We were greeted by the ladies with a traditional welcome song, check in was quick & easy after which we were shown to our rooms. The tents are very comfortable, clean & nicely laid out, the outdoor shower is always a novelty. We found all the staff exceptionally friendly, helpful & they all made our stay a pleasure. All the meals were well prepared, extremely tasty with a nice variety & they cater to all tastes with any specific dietary requirements requested on check-in. Again Veronica, the resident chef & her staff do a fabulous job. Our guide Khulu was amazing, enthusiastic with a great sense of humour & very knowledgeable. His birding skills were very impressive & he identified birds by their calls, many of which we did not even hear. We had some wonderful sightings, remembering that being summer rainy season, this is not prime game viewing time as the bush is fairly dense, there is also a lot of water all over so the animals are not forced to come to the waterholes. In between which we were given loads of information on the landscape, the flora & fauna etc, so the drives were never boring. Hats off to Tom the lodge manager & all his staff for a smoothly & very well run lodge. We will certainly return just on the basis of the fantastic staff, but also because the park is extremely beautiful.

To us the only negative that we can think of is the seeming lack of communication from KZN Ezemvelo who "oversee" the park in conjunction with the Tembe people. It appears that they carry on in & about the park with little if any communication with the lodge staff & guides which we found somewhat disconcerting as the lodge staff are the people on the ground who interact with the guests & are also the ones working with/interacting with the animals on a daily basis.On our second day a group of them happened on us out on a game drive the KZN Ezemvelo lady was extremely rude to our guide with no regard to us as guests who overheard the uncalled for & seemingly unnecessary exchange. On this occasion they were there to dart some lions but from my understanding they had not communicated this to the staff or guides who were not aware of this & did not know to avoid the area they were working in. Very sad as this is supposedly a "joint" operation for the benefit of the animals & tourism.

  • Stayed: March 2014, travelled with friends
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2  Thank rozzie1Joburg
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 10 March 2014

This formed a wonderful start to our tour of northern Kwa Zulu Natal. Has we arrived in the camp car park, we were welcomed by all the staff with a traditional Zulu song which set the tone for our stay. The staff were very friendly a helpful, and Tom the manager ran the camp brilliantly. Caring for both us and his staff. Our luggage was swiftly taken to our tents and we were introduced to the facilities. We were a group of 3 and had two of the new tents, No's 10 and 11 which were built in the same area of bush, although not too close together. They were very clean and comfortable. The toliet and washbasin were indoors in a dressing area, with the shower outside on an enclosed patio. Plenty of hot water, but showering after dark would have been a little uncomfortable because of the huge bugs the lights and water attracted.

The food was fine, nothing exceptional but probably better than expected. At dinner your national flag was put on the table which I thought was a nice touch. The tables were nicely laid which added to the enjoyment. One evening, whilst at dinner, we were visited by a family of bush babies which was a delight. There are quite a number of the smaller animals and antelope living in the camp and you often catch sight of them, but one morning a bull elephant got in. He came right across the camp going past our two tents, at which point he met the electric fence. Not a problem, he just put his tusks on the top and bent it down then careful climbed over. We were standing out on my patio so it was quite an experience and very amusing.

Our game drives were fine, our two guides were prepared to be flexible about timing. They were both very knowledgeable about the flora and fauna, and were very good at recognising bird calls.
Nkosi who was actually a tracker, taught us quite a bit about reading the spoor. When they were in a good mood they were brilliant, but they could be sullen and uncommunicative as well. We never did find out how we upset them sometimes, or even if we had.

The big tuskers are enormous much larger than the ones we are used to in the Kruger etc. We didn't actually see Isolo, but we did see some of the other named elephants. We saw quite a lot of game in the reserve, but unfortunately no lions and no elephant herds, only the bulls.

Overall a very enjoyable stay and we definately felt appreciated by the camp staff and management. Right up to the moment when they collected to sing farewell to us. There are many memories which will endure.

Room Tip: If you are travelling in a small group and require two tents I can recommend 10 and 11
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  • Stayed: January 2014, travelled with friends
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1  Thank Lizzyowl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Tembe Elephant Park Accommodation

Address: 72 kms from Jozini, Tembe Elephant Park 3973, South Africa
Phone Number:
Region: South Africa > KwaZulu-Natal > Tembe Elephant Park
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Restaurant Spa Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 2 Speciality Lodging in Tembe Elephant Park
Number of rooms: 15

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