We were on our 3 week African honeymoon and spent 3 nights at Honeyguide’s Mantobeni camp. Shortly after arrival we became extremely disappointed as it was clear to us we had been misled by the Honeyguide website and brochure regarding the 4 star status and customer service. Coming from a 5 star lodge to a 4 star camping lodge we obviously expected things to be more rustic. However we spent 2 nights at Inchgo River Lodge on Impaliia Island in Namibia which is also a 4 star tented camp and Honeyguide fell a long way short of providing a similar level of accommodation and service.
We were collected from our previous lodge (Kampama River Lodge – which was excellent) and transferred to Honeyguide. The road into camp is absolutely atrocious. The area suffered severe floods in January, however these roads have been left in ill repair for some time. We found out from another transfer company we used later in our trip that they refuse to transport tourists into the camp grounds as the roads are so bad. A member of Honeyguide staff has to meet them at the gate for collection.
When we arrived, there was no one around. Our transport driver actually showed us the entrance of the camp and went and found the manager. This was a poor start considering lodges we had been at previously always had someone present on arrivals to greet guests and offer a refreshing drink.
After we met Amanda, we were told that we were to be transferred to Mantobeni, the adult’s camp. We were currently at Khoka Moya, the ‘kiddies’ camp. Craig (who was to be our guide for the entirety of our stay) transferred us and our bags the ten minute drive to Mantobeni.
We were greeted by Vickus at Mantobeni standing in front of a large purple wall. He showed us around the corner and into the main lounge and dining area. We sat on the old cane couch with a filthy old rug under our feet. The bookshelf in the corner was in danger of falling to the right and the doors were partly unhinged. We were given a very brief orientation which included being told not to feed the vervet monkeys or he would have to shoot them as he has had to do so in the past. Not a good start.
We were told that after dark we would be escorted to our tent as the camp is not fenced. There is a whistle in each tent to raise the alarm should there be an emergency. However there is no phone or radio should you require assistance without the need to wake up the entire camp. You are on your own until morning.
When we enquired as to internet access we were told there is only one computer and it is at the Khoka Moya camp.
We were shown to our tent (number 9) which was the very end tent. There was obvious damage from the January floods. Our “carefully positioned tent” had a view of a dry riverbed with debris scattered everywhere and we were unable to see any wildlife due to the dense foliage at the top of the riverbed. Some of the floorboards had been replaced, however the remainder were warped from water damage and the whole flooring really needed replacing. The new stairs and railing were anything but secure. The “welcoming leather couch” was hard and cracked and the see through worn out rug should have been retired many years ago. The king bed was draped in mosquito netting that had holes in it. There wasn’t very much room down either side of the bed and there was no area for our bags to be laid out for easy access.
There is a very good reason you won’t find any photos of the “ensuite” on the website or in brochures. The so called “large custom made bath” is simply a cement hole which had dirt in it. The “double shower” is useless as hot water can only supply one shower head at a time. The shower and sink fitting were covered in lime scale. The toilet paper sat on the ground as there was no holder and there was a maintenance worker still working on the electricity and broken toilet when we arrived!
On the morning of check out when we did a quick and final check of the tent before leaving, we discovered the faulty shower head and tap had been draped in handtowels, indicating, much to our annoyance, that staff where aware of the problem.
The wakeup call for the morning game drive was announced with the beating of drums at 6:00am, followed by the announcement for lunch at 2:00pm and dinner at 7:30pm. The meals were pretty much served right on time so you’d better be present at serving time or as we discovered, you risk getting a cold meal. It’s not like a lodge where you can make your way to meal times between 1:00 and 2:00 for example. However on our second day I was suffering a headache and had to lie down. I asked for my lunch to be served later which wasn’t a problem.
We were disappointed to discover that all meals are communal dinning so we wouldn’t be able to enjoy any romantic dinners here. We were further disappointed and frustrated when we were told that each night, the camps join together for dinner (meaning the adult camp suddenly becomes child friendly) and that every second night we would have to be transported to the Khoka Moya camp for dinner.
The food was very fresh and received positive comments from all the guests. Being vegetarian was not a problem as the chef spoke to me personally on the first day regarding my meals. However one night at Khoka Moya the entrée was calamari and a tiny side salad. My entrée was exactly the same as everyone else’, a palm sized serving of salad in the far right corner but nothing where everyone else had calamari.
On our first night we discovered the only warmth provided in our tent was a hot water bottle. The front flaps of the tent come down but are only fly screen mesh, not canvas to keep the cold out. The ‘ensuite’ has no roofing of its own, it is completely open. It is just the massive tent canopy that towers over the entire tent to keep the moisture, leaves and monkey pee/poo off the main tent roofing. Cold air, bugs and the odd vervet monkey are free to come in all day and night. We discovered that the other guests showered at lunch time as it was simply too cold to shower in the mornings or evenings.
When the morning drums are beaten as a wakeup call at 6:00am, it’s a wakeup call for the monkeys too, knowing that tea, coffee and biscuits are on the way to the tents. They come running to the tents and the brazen ones even come in under the canvas hoping to steal a biscuit or two. Some guests were scared of the monkeys however for us, their early morning antics where the first thing we had to smile about.
When the staff delivers you your hot morning drinks, they have to undo the tent zipper and actually come into your tent while you’re still in bed to deliver it to you! So we had to remember to be aware of our early morning visitor and dress accordingly.
On the morning of day 2 we mentioned to Vickus that our toilet continued not to work to which he responded ‘Not again!’ and stormed off. Not exactly the customer service we were used to receiving. It certainly wasn’t our fault that thing never worked.
After breakfast we went to the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. It contributes to the conservation of endanger species and the rehabilitation of injured and poisoned wildlife. Working within the animal industry within Australia we would definitely recommend the trip. We saw a larger variety of animals there than in 15 hours of game drives at Honeyguide. We saw a number of birds of prey, leopard, lion, cheetah, wild dogs, serval, honeybadger and even an 18 week old white rhino. Other than Moholoholo and game drives/walks, your only other options are the pool or reading/ board games from broken bookshelf in the lounge area.
On our second night we discovered that since housekeeping went home after lunch and didn’t bother returning (as we had to dine at Khoka Moya for dinner) no one got hot water bottles. Not exactly a big deal but as your only source of heat from the cold, they were definitely missed. The next morning guests mentioned to the guides that they missed having their ‘lifeline’ from the cold. We were told that they would speak to housekeeping because they ‘become lazy sometimes.’
The game drives are 6:30 – 9:30am and 4:00 – 7:00pm. Craig has a broad knowledge of African wildlife and delivers information in an enthusiastic and captivating manner however his tracking ability appeared very poor. Our ‘tracker’ Brilliant was more of a spotter than a tracker. Manyeleti is a large reserve however the area is crossed by numerous marked roads. Not once did Craig or Brilliant stop to check the movement of the game in the area. The radio was the main aid in finding game and it was deflating hearing Craig ask ‘any updates’ a number of times. Although we appeared to be driving aimlessly through the bush, we did manage to see the big 5 (although they only have the white rhino, not black) we have no doubt it was by pure chance and not in part to the skill of our tracker/guide. The leopard actually jumped out in front of the vehicle and another guide found the lion, while a guest spotted the Rhino before Craig and Brilliant.
The pool in a simple rectangular plunge pool, not a ‘lap pool’. The deck chairs are worn and face the brick wall behind the pool. The Honeyguide brochure states “you have a view of the waterhole”, you don’t. The water hole was completely obscured by foliage and is not visible from anywhere in the lounge, dinning or pool area.
Outside meal times it was difficult to find a staff member for assistance. Some staff’s English is very limited. On one occasion I asked one wait staff what the entrée was, she didn’t understand me so grabbed another staff member. He understood but didn’t know what it was so had to ask the chef was it was they were placing in front of us.
All drinks are included in you stay, however at meal times only water and wine is offered, you have to request soft drink and beer.
In conclusion, we found the customer service, accommodation, attention to detail and game viewing severely lacking for a place with a 4 star rating. 2.5 Or 3 star would more accurately reflect what is essentially camping with electricity and indoor plumbing, not “creature comforts to satisfy the luxury loving animal in you”. We would not return and would not recommend it.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Luxury Tented Safari Camps in the Manyeleti Reserve in the Greater Kruger National Park. Stay either at Mantobeni the more classic camp with its Nehru tents on wooden decks set in a forested water course or the contemporary designed Khoka Moya camp with its larger tents and which welcomes children of all ages. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Honeyguide Tented Safari Camps Hotel Manyeleti Game Reserve