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“A Great Experience in the Bush”

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Tembe Elephant Park Accommodation
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed 5 July 2014

My husband and I had planned our trip to Tembe for six months and it was a fantastic place to eventually be. The tented accommodation was great and spacious with en suite bathroom etc. A walk along a sandy path to get to the central area is a bit 'scary' at night. We didn't know what animal would be around. On one occasion when we were going to the diningroom we heard noises in the bush as we were walking from our tent. We shone our torch but did not see anything untoward. Once at the dining area we heard a man say his wife had phoned him saying an elephant was blocking her in and she could not leave her tent! So that answered the question as to what was making the noise we heard. One of the men from Tembe was told and he went along and managed to get the elephant away! The game drives were very interesting, as the driver was a local resident and very knowledgeable. He managed to find a lioness lying off the road and we drove close by to have a better look. She did not move away and it was a lovely sight. The driver found a number of elephant in an open vlei area and we sat in our vehicle watching them for a long time. When one of them made to come towards us, the driver drove off. We saw wildebeest too. My husband went on an early morning drive which he thoroughly enjoyed especially when they saw his favourite wild animal, the rhino. It is so sad to see rhino in the game parks, when they are being slaughtered by poachers. The whole stay was very comfortable and the staff very friendly and helpful. There is a lovely big water hole and we were taken there to sit and watch the animals coming down for a drink. We saw zebra, impala, kudu, nyala and elephant. They have a Webcam at the waterhole and I get a lot of enjoyment when at home watchihng the animals at the waterhole.

  • Stayed: June 2014, travelled as a couple
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Thank Jenny M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviews (237)
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Reviewed 24 June 2014

Lovely place to go to get away from city. Very relaxing and beautiful, amazing game drives got to see lion close up and lots of elephant. Also fortunate to see two rhino. Lots & lots of Nyala. Bird life is great . The food is absolutely fantastic lots of variety and well prepared. At night at dinner we were fortunate to feed bushbabies pineapple. We stayed 3 nights needed more was great. We had the elephant visit our tent one evening and stayed for about 3 hours was so incredible to be so close to a wild animal. During day it is hot and at night it is cold and they would turn on our electric blankets so that we slept well how nice !!!!

Room Tip: Room away from the main restaurant.
  • Stayed: June 2014, travelled as a couple
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3  Thank Loise v
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 16 June 2014

Our stay at Tembe was the highlight of a 3 week SA trip. I think this may be a well-kept secret as it is relatively remote, being in the NE corner of SA on the Mozambique border - but the roads leading to it are in great shape. Tembe was very helpful and responsive when we were planning our trip (which wasn't the case with other options we were researching). A great value and no pressure (or much opportunity, really) to upsell excursions or additional services.

Most important, I think, is that this park is taking on serious conservation work and is not an amusement park with animals. Tembe is an important source of local jobs and civic pride and an important part of a growing network of conservation-focused reserves.

The game drives were incredible with every one of the seven we took offering something special. There are at least three distinct habitats to include a beautiful wetland section so there's always something happening somewhere. Take advantage of the opportunity to hang out in the nearby hide between game drives for a relaxing morning/afternoon overseeing a watering hole where there is almost always activity (same one that is on the webcam). The rangers (all from the local community) are very knowledgeable and take great pride in the park. They often included mini-lessons from Tembe culture (i.e. medicinal plants, community practices, etc.). While they all worked hard to get us to the wildlife, it was never at the animals' expense. Although they have multiple vehicles we only occasionally saw or were viewing animals with another vehicle present.

The lodging is quite nice. The tent cabins are a perfect mix of comfort while still giving that feeling of being in the bush. A central dining, social, and bar area is well-organized and well-appointed. Food is pretty good and includes at least one venison or game option most nights. Lunches and dinners offer a nice variety day-to-day. Breakfasts are the ubiquitous English breakfast you can't get away from in SA :). Bar has a nice wine and beer variety, along with specialty drinks - and a made-to-order coffee bar that rivals any Starbucks! My wife had a massage from the spa services and said it was excellent. The staff are reserved (a cultural trait) but excellent and very friendly.

Late May/early June seems to be a perfect time to visit. SA residents are not on holiday, the days were warm but not hot, the grass was down, and the animal babies were old enough to be out and about. Mornings can be pretty cool (even cold at times) so dress in layers. A knit cap and light gloves would be good to have handy in the mornings.

We are already daydreaming about our next Africa trip. Tembe will definitely be part of the itinerary.

Room Tip: Cabins 1 and 16 are set apart a bit from the central dining area. This gives a nice feeling of bein...
  • Stayed: June 2014, travelled as a couple
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4  Thank MFKiesser
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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
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...
  • 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
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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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