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“Once in a lifetime family trip”
Review of Pondoro Game Lodge

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Pondoro Game Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
Duluth, Georgia
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
“Once in a lifetime family trip”
Reviewed 1 August 2014

In July 2014 My wife, mother and 2 kids (14 and 12) spent 4 nights at Pondoro in Balule Game reserve adjacent to Kruger National Park. I spent 2 years researching Game lodges and finally decided on Pondoro based on a number of factors including location, price, Trip advisor reviews and their ability to accommodate gluten free for my daughter who has celiac.
Upon arrival we were blown away by the level of service and attention to detail. We were warmly greeted by the staff and immediately felt like we were part of a family.
We booked the Rock and Tree Suites and they were the best rooms we have ever stayed in (the rooms were superior to hotels like Grand Wailea in Maui, Four Seasons LA, Waldorf Rome, Waldorf NYC, Ritz Carlton San Francisco). If you are looking for luxury I promise Pondoro will not disappoint.
As far as the food it was amazing. As I mentioned my daughter is gluten free and the effort they went to to make sure she was taken care and of was unsurpassed. Meals would compare to any of your favorite upscale restaurants.
On our trip we saw all of the big 5 multiple times. We saw lions and lion cubs 5 out of the 8 drives and were blown away by how close you can get to these animals in their natural habitat.
For our game drives we had Robbie and Sam and their knowledge and passion were inspiring.
Robbie and Lize were amazing hosts and what we thought was going to be a once in a lifetime trip will hopefully become more than that. It has been 4 weeks since our trip and we are already trying to find ways to get back to Pondoro. If you want luxury accommodations in a beautiful setting with amazing food and great service along with seeing amazing wildlife up close and personal in their natural habitat Pondoro is where you should stay. We feel so strongly about Pondoro that this is the first review I have ever written. Thank you Robbie and Lize for an amazing experience. We will see you again.

Room Tip: I highly recommend one of the suites. They have amazing decks with a Jacuzzi overlooking the river.
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  • Stayed July 2014, travelled with family
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
2 Thank John F
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Pondoro, Owner at Pondoro Game Lodge, responded to this review, 10 September 2014
Dear John F,

Thank you very much for taking the time to write a review and going the extra mile in making Pondoro your first.

It has been a pleasure to host you and your family and glad that we assist in providing your daughter with a gluten free diet. I passed your review onto Lize who was elated with your remarks regarding the food and rooms.

We are looking forward to your next visit.

Greetings from the bush,

Robbie and Pondoro family
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Rating summary
  • Location
  • Sleep Quality
  • Rooms
  • Service
  • Value
  • Cleanliness
Traveller tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (161)
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English first
Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
96 reviews
38 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 60 helpful votes
Reviewed 30 July 2014

Being that i work in the Tourism industry, it is very easy to fall into the trap of having huge expectations and being cynical when i travel on my own holidays.

With that said, Pondoro is one of the rare instances where an operator hits the sweet spot in hospitality. Cost-effective, wonderfully warm yet efficient staff, well organised safaris and other activities... but the standout for me was the food. Oh my god, the food... i think i put on 4 kgs in 4 days.

The game drives were well done, we saw everything we came to see and managed all of the 'big 5' although my favourites by the end of the trip weren't on the big 5 list.

Thoroughly recommend Pondoro to anyone looking to experience the bush!

  • Stayed July 2014, travelled with family
    • Sleep Quality
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
2 Thank ropate01
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Pondoro, Owner at Pondoro Game Lodge, responded to this review, 10 September 2014
Dear ropate01,

Thank you very much for taking the time to write a review.

It feels really nice to get a recommendation from someone with years of experience in the tourism industry. Glad that we could deliver. You are right going on safari is so much more that just the Big 5. They are nice and great to see, but so many other incredibly interesting animals frequent the bush making a safari a journey and learning experience.

Greetings from the bush,

Robbie and Pondoro family
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Level Contributor
11 reviews
7 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
Reviewed 26 July 2014

The thought and detail we encountered at Pondoro exceeded our wildest expectations. We stayed in the Tree Room. It was well appointed, VERY comfortable and spacious! The Tree Room, as with some other rooms, is outside the electrified fence providing guests much privacy the caveat being you must be escorted at night to your room as there may be wild animals nearby! On one occasion a small group of elephants were feeding outside the room and were merely feet from the deck! One elephant moved around to the front door blocking us from going to dinner! This was a great reason to be late for dinner!

The food was excellent! There was plenty of variety, fresh ingredients, very helpful staff with smiles everywhere! Each dish was expertly prepared, visually stunning, and very tasty! They even accommodated my vegetarian wife without hesitation providing her equally delicious dishes. There is an excellent wine list from which to choose and the bar is also well appointed. Walking out to the dining area at night was breathtaking! Tables were neatly arranged, decoratively topped, and wine glasses shimmered in the light of the fires stoked for warmth! Stunning!

Our games drives offered no less attention to detail. In the morning we were greeted by our Ranger and Guide with heated bean bags to keep us warm in the cool winter air. The blankets were exceptionally warm as well. Upon arriving back to the lodge from the evening drive you are again greeted with warm towels to refresh yourself and also a nice shot of sherry!
In advance we prepared ourselves with the idea that the animals are wild and unpredictable and therefore we may not see all we wished to see. We were greatly surprised when Rul and Sam lead us to the most incredible animal sightings I have ever experienced! Large prides of lion, males and females and some lions feeding on zebra. Elephants, kudu, buffalo, blue wildebeest, white and black rhino, springbok, hippo, baboon, monkey, giraffe, zebra, birds, crocodile, impala, and even a leopard in a tree feeding on an impala! We saw it ALL!!! The lion and elephant were sooooo close it was unreal!

The whole experience at Pondoro was so amazing you can rest assured your time here will leave you awestruck!

Room Tip: Our only experience was the Tree Room and it was awesome!!!!
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  • Stayed July 2014, travelled as a couple
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank Pete M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Pondoro, Owner at Pondoro Game Lodge, responded to this review, 10 September 2014
Dear Pete M,

Thank you very much for taking the time to write a review.

I bet of all your excuses of being late for dinner an elephant blocking your route to the restaurant must be the best! It really looks like to animals came out for you as the sightings seem to have been phenomenal. You are right Sam and Rul make a great team and they really know how to find and track even the most elusive of animals.

Greetings from the bush,

Robbie and Pondoro family
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Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Level Contributor
92 reviews
31 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 45 helpful votes
Reviewed 24 July 2014

The owners & staff are very friendly. The driver & tracker we had really knew their stuff & went out of their way to follow recent tracks. We saw the Big 5 because of the way the driver & tracker did their thing. The suite we stayed in (Earth) was fantastic. The food was varied & delicious & Lise went out of her way to provide even the fussiest in our group with the food he wanted. Over was GREAT experience.

Room Tip: Pay the little extra & get one of the suites. They are well appointed, you get an escort back t...
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  • Stayed July 2014, travelled with friends
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank Graham B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Pondoro, Owner at Pondoro Game Lodge, responded to this review, 10 September 2014
Dear Graham B,

Thank you very much for taking the time to write a review.

I am so glad to see how much you and your group enjoyed your stay with us. I saw that your group got some fantastic photos as well.

Greetings from the bush,

Robbie and Pondoro family
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Frankfurt, Germany
Level Contributor
19 reviews
19 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
Reviewed 23 July 2014

The entire experience was top notch, from the welcome refreshments to the heated pack on your seat every morning drive Pondoro takes care of every detail which made our experience something we truly enjoyed.

We loved the game drives and walks and took advantage of all three opportunities each day of our visit. The trackers and guides were outstanding, very knowledgeable and friendly. Ral and Andres went above and beyond what was expected to make sure we had great angles for pictures whenever we came across an animal.

The setting and our accommodations were great. We were fortunate enough to see multiple elephants, crocodiles, baboons and impala while relaxing on our porch in the afternoons. Dinner down by the river was also a nice touch and a memorable setting.

We couldn’t have asked for a better experience on our 1st safari.

  • Stayed June 2014, travelled as a couple
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
2 Thank kbhst3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Pondoro, Owner at Pondoro Game Lodge, responded to this review, 10 September 2014
Dear kbhst3,

Thank you very much for taking the time to write a review.

I am very happy to read that your 1st safari to Africa lived up to your expectations and that you thoroughly enjoyed the experience from the knowledgable guides to the accommodation and small touches.

Greetings from the bush,

Robbie and Pondoro family
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Cape Town Central, South Africa
Level Contributor
30 reviews
12 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 35 helpful votes
Reviewed 23 July 2014 via mobile

We had a wonderful stay in this lodge. Having now visited 5 lodges in this price range, I think I can fairly compare. The food and service is the best I've experienced. The chalet rooms are small and in need of a bit of upkeep compared to other lodges I've stayed in. My only reason for not giving 5 stars is the game drives. We had some wonderful sightings but our ranger barely spoke a word to us. In other lodges, rangers engage with guests and show them all sorts of things in the bush from plants to birds. Our ranger simply drove until we came across a large mammal and all he said was its name. The game concentration is very low so it means long periods of driving with nothing being said or shown. Pity as the ranger and tracker we clearly very good but simply didn't interact with the guests.

Stayed July 2014
Helpful?
4 Thank rwjames1uk
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Pondoro, Owner at Pondoro Game Lodge, responded to this review, 24 July 2014
Dear rwjames1uk,

Thank you for taking the time to write a review.

I am glad to see that you had a wonderful stay at Pondoro and that the food and service is the best that you have experienced. Your recommendation regarding the chalets are noted.

I am disappointed with the engagement and interaction from your guide and have addressed the problem. It is certainly not the kind of experience that we want to provide for our guests. It is always wise to notify management of issues during one's stay as we can only resolve what we are aware of and I would have loved for you to have an even better experience.

Please note that the largest concentration of animals in Kruger are in the central parts between the Sabi and Olifants river. Pondoro is located inside this corridor. Our concentration of general game like giraffe, zebra and other antelopes, as well as all the Big 5, are on the high end of the scale for private reserves in this game rich region. The following Big 5 sightings were seen at Pondoro during the period of your stay: elephants 5 times including a group of more than 30 animals crossing the river next to the lodge and an elephant bull standing inside our reception area, buffaloes 4 times in groups of up to 200, white rhinos 5 times, the very rare and endangered black rhino once, lions twice including a male and females. You had 4 cheetah sightings that includes witnessing a cheetah busy strangulating an impala. Hyenas were also seen twice. I have answered this part in detail as I believe your comment about game concentration to be genuine but lacking of substance and experience.

Greetings from the bush,

Robbie and Pondoro family
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Atlanta, Georgia
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed 22 July 2014

Our family stayed at Pondoro last week. After doing an extensive amount of research into various game lodges throughout Kruger, I settled on Pondoro based on the reasonable price and the exceptional reviews they had received on Trip Advisor. Pondoro absolutely did not disappoint and managed to exceed even the highest of expectations I had going in. I’ve never before written a review on Trip Advisor, but felt compelled to do so in this instance.

My wife and I have traveled extensively, and the hospitality provided by Robbie and Lize and all of the staff far exceeded anything we have ever experienced. They absolutely make you feel as though you are part of their family and they can never do enough for you…from warm towels after a game drive to your local news at breakfast. The food, breakfast especially, was fit for a king. Both the presentation and taste of our meals were exceptional throughout our visit. The pride Lize takes in the meals truly shows.

We felt very fortunate to have Robbie and Sam as our ranger and tracker, and it was a pleasure learning from them throughout our stay. The passion, love, and expertise they have for what they do is easy to see, and we thoroughly enjoyed watching Robbie get excited on more than one occasion as we witnessed rare sightings. Robbie seemed to know exactly where to drive through the bush so that we had just the right angle as the animals approached the vehicle. Sam’s tracking skills, especially at night, were unbelievable…he was able to spot a chameleon, in a tree, at night, with just a brief moment of spotlight.

I did not want to get my hopes up in terms of viewing the Big Five as I knew spotting various game can come down to chance, so we felt very lucky to have had the opportunity to see the each of the Big Five (some numerous times) and to have witnessed so many unique sights…watching a male lion and his cub feast on a kill; having a lone elephant block our path and then attempt to charge at our vehicle; watching a leopard hide in a tree while three lionesses stalked it from below.

Our stay at Pondoro was better than we could have ever dreamed. Thank you to everyone at Pondoro for making our trip the trip of a lifetime!

-Anthony M. & Family

Room Tip: Our family stayed in the Buffalo, Water, and Tree suites, the three farthest from the lodge, respect...
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  • Stayed July 2014, travelled with family
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank Anthony M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Pondoro, Owner at Pondoro Game Lodge, responded to this review, 25 July 2014
Dear Anthony M and family,

Thank you very much for taking the time to write a review.

I am very happy to see that we could exceed your expectations and that you rate our level of service so high. It has been an absolute pleasure to drive all of you around during your stay and I loved the enthusiasm and eagerness to learn and experience more about nature. I will pass your remarks regarding the food over to Lize and the other chefs.

Greetings from the bush,

Robbie and Pondoro family
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Pondoro Game Lodge

Property: Pondoro Game Lodge
Address: Balule Private Nature Reserve, Kruger National Park 1380, South Africa
Phone Number:
Region: South Africa > Kruger National Park > Balule Nature Reserve
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Fitness Centre with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #3 of 19 Speciality Lodging in Balule Nature Reserve
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): ££££
Hotel Class:5 star — Pondoro Game Lodge 5*
Number of rooms: 8
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Set on the cool riverine banks of the Olifants River (largest in Kruger) in the 40 000 ha Big 5 Balule Private Game Reserve inside the greater Kruger National Park, Pondoro offers its visitors comfort, sophistication, elegance and a canvas on which to create a truly unforgettable African safari.In this small, very exclusive 16-bed lodge ( owner managed ) you will discover the only way to experience the African bush. In addition to luxurious accommodation and the caring attention from trained professionals, our visitors are lavished upon with international fare and humble African hospitality.Meals are an extraordinary culinary experience where Traditional African Cuisine fuse effortlessly with modern European trends.To compliment the food, select any of our fine wines from our extensive wine cellar. Vegetarians are specially catered for. All meals are served on a wooden deck high up in the tree canopy overlooking the Olifants River (weather permitting).Between game drives in open safari cruisers, nature walks and peaceful afternoon naps, enjoy a dip in the sparkling rock pool, a spot of sun bathing or browse through the library. The Pondoro bar is the ideal spot to quench your thirst and grab a snack. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Pondoro Game Hotel Balule Private Game Reserve
Pondoro Game Lodge South Africa/Kruger National Park

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