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“A wonderful choice!”

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Ezulwini Game Lodges
Certificate of Excellence
Larkspur, California
Level 5 Contributor
87 reviews
13 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 32 helpful votes
“A wonderful choice!”
Reviewed 3 June 2014

Purchased at an auction and not knowing what to expect we were absolutely delighted in every respect.
Rooms - suites - are new and wonderfully appointed. The lodge is warm - almost intimate in a way with a great deck, sky walk and patio that was perfect for sitting, looking, watching, dreaming. A pair of elephants happened to stop by within feet... monkeys were regular visitors.
Food was ample - well prepared - fresh. Menu choices were modest but there was always something we wanted to choose!
But the real thing to discuss is the animals --- now the animals - the Big 5 and others are all out there - but it is the skill and perseverance of your trackers that make ALL the difference. Ours - Rex and Frans - are beyond comparison -- expert, intuitive and most of all dogged in their pursuit. We saw all the Big 5 in just the first 48 hours... then we found them again and again and again... Lions with a fresh killed impala... both the white and black rhino, leopards three times! And more and more. You go for the animals and the experience.
The people were great - The owners were more than hospitable but actually engaged in our visit and assuring us that it would be special. Everyone there did their utmost to assure that our visit was a holiday, a success and a triumph. They really did a marvelous job.

Room Tip: If you can - opt for the suites.
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  • Stayed May 2014, travelled as a couple
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2 Thank nyc2cal
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Orlando, Fl
Level 3 Contributor
15 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 25 helpful votes
Reviewed 2 June 2014

This safari resort is not to be missed! I want to start by qualifying our taste in accomodations - my husband and I travel extensively and we choose to stay only at four and five star properties. Needless to say, my expectations going into this trip were high. Ezulwini did not disappoint!

You may want to consider dieting before taking this trip as they make sure hunger is never an issue! Non-stop delicious meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner are the rule - provided by their caring and conscientious staff There is even Africa's version of mealtime entertainment as squirrels and monkeys frolic in the surrounding bush wondering if they might be able to get away with a muffin or a biscuit! Not to worry though, as the staff has taken measures to ensure your meal is not disturbed by any uninvited guests. In addition to the daily fare, both properties hold a traditional boma dinner complete with delicious barbecue, a warm fire, as well as traditional song and dance performed by the talented staff. If that isn't enough, Billy's Lodge has an amazing wine cellar and if you are lucky (as we were), Lawrence ( a most gracious host) may invite you for a personlized, tasting of the delightful South African wines he keeps in stock. He will fascinate you with his descriptions of how the cellar came to be as well as the history of the wines he has carefully chosen. (As a sidenote, I must highly recommend the pinotage. It is delicious!)

We stayed 3 nights at River Lodge and 3 nights at Billy's Lodge. Both properties have a charming and cozy bar as well as a variety of locations including breathtaking skywalks replete with plush lounging areas to view the many animals that walk by, curl up with a book or take a nap. At both properties, we had upgraded to a suite (recommended) but I did look at the standard rooms which were just as lovely albeit a bit smaller. The beds were fabulous - so comfortable I fell into a deep dreamless sleep every single night without any issue. The rooms were absolutely spotless. We could tell that each day the housekeeping staff went out of their way to ensure that everything was pristine for our enjoyment.

Both of the lodges are equally lovely though somewhat different. River Lodge is more compact and cozy while Billy's takes up a larger expanse and therefore is more spreadout. Both properties afford you the ability to be as private or as involved as you wish.The views from the rooms are nothing short of amazing! Enjoy looking out onto the raw beauty of the bush through large plate glass windows designed for your viewing pleasure. You have your choice of showering indoors or take a walk on the wild side and bathe alfresco under the African sky. Suites also include a luxurious soaking tub. The first day while I was showering after the long flight, I was stunned to see an elephant lumbering by so close I could see its eyelashes! I have to say that I never thought I would be that intimate with a pachyderm! That was only the first of many up close animal encounters afforded by Ezulwini's prime location in the reserve. The list is long and varied: a variety of bright colored birds, guineau fowl, herds of impala, kudu, and cape buffalo, wilde beast, giraffes, warthogs, elephants, hippos, jackals, honey badgers, chameleons, crocodiles, monkeys, baboons, African squirrels, mongooses ( which are so adorable) and 3 lionesses with their 10 cubs ranging in age from toddler to teenager in size. In addition, due to the excellent tracking skills of our amazing ranger, Josh, and tracker, Richard, we were able to locate two leopards travelling together as well as a family of hyena with their adorable and brave pups who came right up to the rover! I didn't even need my binoculars because all the wildlife was so unbelievably close!

Taking into account our proximity to all of these amazing animals, our experiences were not limited to the visual; auditory wonders abounded as well! The mother hyena cried to round up her pups ( it does indeed sound like they are laughing) ; an elephant trumpeted as he waved his ears back and forth while walking in front of our land rover at the same time laying his trunk on our trappers lap before taking off into the bush; when the expertise of our guide brought us within literally several feet of 3 lionesses and their cubs feeding on a recent kill, we could hardly contain our excitement as we heard the cubs growl while fighting over which piece of impala they wanted.

While the daily schedule may initially come as a shock due to the infamous 5:30 wake up call, you will soon find the adrenaline that accompanies your excitement about what animals will be seen that day overcomes any misgivings. The drive will literally fly by and before you know it you are back at camp greeted by a hot towel and a continental breakfast. This is only the precursor to the hot breakfast made to order and served by the ever diligent staff. You then have free time to enjoy yourself by taking a jog around the running track, exploring the skywalks and observation towers, taking a nap, reading a book, lounging on one of the many comfy couches, taking a long, hot shower or a dip in the pool. Before you know it, it's lunch time. This meal is a bit lighter but that's okay because right afterwards is the evening game drive on which your experience is only enhanced by the daily sundowner ritual of a cocktail, snacks (yes, more food) and the ability to get to know your ranger better, and mingle with the other guests. Arrival back at the lodge is complimented by another hot towel and a welcome drink that you can use to cheer each other in regards to the sightings of the day! Just enough time to freshen up and then dinner is served! Afterwards, feel free to stay up and socialize! Enjoy a drink from the bar (you will be pleasantly surprised that the prices are much lower than what you would pay in the states) If you can't find the energy, make your way back to the room to rest so you can be ready to do it all over again the following day!

The most important advice I can give is to relish every moment because before you know it, you will be saying farewell to the extraordinary vistas, amazing animals, warm people and unforgettable experiences that make up South Africa and returning home to "normal" life.

A very special thanks from the heart to Josh, our "ranger extraordinaire", who made sure that we enjoyed each and every drive by sharing his extensive knowledge of the bush intermingled with his brilliant sense of humor. He was kind enough to join us for several meals during which he charmed us with his warmth and regaled us with amazing stories of his experiences. You will never meet anyone so genuinely passionate about what they do! HIs dedication, professionalism and integrity are unparalled in what is a tough and demanding industry.

Please be sure to take care of the staff and especially your ranger and tracker at the end of your stay. These people work extremely hard every day from before dawn to late into the night to make sure your safari adventure is one to remember. Do not hesitate to take this once in a lifetime vacation! I can honestly say I have never had a better time or met more amazing people than I did during my days at Ezulwini! I will forever carry the spririt of South Africa, its raw beauty and the warmth of its people in my heart!

Room Tip: Suites are worth the upgrade. Just do it, you will be glad you did! Bring a variety of clothing typ...
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  • Stayed May 2014, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
5 Thank Poshfloridagirl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Atlanta, Georgia
Level 4 Contributor
21 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 27 helpful votes
Reviewed 28 May 2014

A stylish girl's guide to a South African safari with a perfect score for Ezulwini:

The Animals (because that's what you're there for, right!):
Saw the BIG FIVE in less than 48 hours! Couldn't believe it...Elephants everywhere, several leopard and lion sightings including 9 adorable and playful lion cubs, herds of of Cape buffalo and one elusive, rare black rhino that we stumbled upon. But that was just the beginning. We also spotted monkeys, jackals, wildebeest, hyenas (and pups), zebras, kudu, buzzards, waterbuck, warthogs and impala (of course!). And as if that wasn't enough, we witnessed a hippo fight, broke up a giraffe fight and almost had a front row seat for a leopard kill! These are not far off visuals. In many cases, you are mere feet away from the wildlife! A huge thank you to Lorence and Richard (River Lodge) and Conrad and France (Billy's Lodge) for their amazing tracking abilities. I seriously believe these guys want to find animals MORE than you want to find animals. And they don't give up until they exceed expectations! Another big thanks to the owner of Ezulwini who keeps the roof on all Ezulwini vehicles. We pitied guests at other lodges with roof-less vehicles who were left to bake in the sweltering mid-day sun and soaking wet with sad little ponchos on the rainy game drives. We were cool in the heat and dry in the rain! Style Tip: While I was forced to abandon my slim fitting dresses and skirts, there's no need to leave your heels at home. As long as you can climb in and out of the vehicle, feel free to look fabulous! Closed toed heels, dresses and skirts with full hemlines and plenty of animal print is a MUST! I admit that I had one uncomfortably long gaze from a leopard, where I took a split second to pray that he knew the difference between my zebra print jacket and a real zebra, but other than that, I enjoyed every minute of my stylish safari.

River Lodge vs. Billy's Lodge:
First and foremost, regardless of the lodge you prefer, spring for the room upgrade. Showering outside and watching elephants from the comfort of your private pool can't be beat! I actually witnessed an impala fight while shampooing...dead serious! Billy's Lodge is arguably the "nicer lodge", but I preferred the coziness of River Lodge. River Lodge: Josh, Abby and Glory are AMAZING! Probably some of the best people on earth. They MADE our trip. Abby and Glory provided 5 star service ALL THE TIME. Josh joined us for several meals and entertained us with some awesome stories. They went above and beyond 24 hours a day including surprising us with a private, champagne brunch on our anniversary. I don't even remember telling them we were celebrating our anniversary! Pools were perfectly clean (don't believe past reviews that say differently). River view was stunning. Animals were spotted under the sky walk almost every day. Meals were not only beautifully presented, but also delicious. And I even teared up during the BBQ song and dance...what was the matter with me?!?! It's just so rare in life for something to live up to high expectations you set and in this case, I was overcome with the beauty, romance, kindness and spirit by both the Ezulwini lodge and staff. I cannot thank them enough and I WILL see them soon. On to Billy's Lodge: Everything is larger, newer and nicer, but somehow I still preferred the charm of River Lodge. The staff is incredible (as expected) and experiencing the wine cave with Ezulwini's owner was a wonderful treat. We booked 3 nights at River and 4 nights at Billy's. Most wouldn't agree, but next time I'll do the opposite. Bonus points for the maids who kept our room spotless. I know what you're thinking...isn't that what all maids do, but NO! This team organized every item you brought every day to make sure you were completely comfortable. My lipsticks were literally lined up by color!

The Schedule:
Wake up knock came at 5:30 a.m with coffee and biscuits served before the 6 a.m. morning game drive. Animal sightings will begin almost immediately. It's shocking how fast you stumble upon something awesome! It was a welcome break to stretch your legs and enjoy another cup of coffee or hot chocolate in the bush before the second half of your drive. "Cold breakfast" is ready upon your return...yogurt, cereal, an array of fresh fruit (some I didn't even recognize) and the most delicious muffins I've ever put in my mouth! But you're not done yet. Oh no! You'll still have the chance to order "hot breakfast" which includes eggs any way you want, sausage, bacon and toast with locally made jams. After breakfast (typically 10:30 a.m), it's your free time until 2:30 when lunch is served. Lay out at your pool, read a book, take a nap, admire animals from the sky walk, shower, get a massage...whatever you want. Lunch is on the lighter side, but after that big breakfast, you'll be grateful--wonderful salads, veggie pizzas, unusual cheeses, sandwiches, quiche, etc. The evening game drive starts at 4:30 p.m. Finding the perfect spot to exit the vehicle and watch the sunset with a glass of wine or cocktail in the bush was one of my favorite experiences. You'll return around 7:30 and freshen up for dinner at 8:00. Prepare yourself for a few choices in appetizers, entrees and desserts. We loved the 2 BBQ nights and the chance to try impala chops!

Overview:
This was the trip of a lifetime and we WILL be back. Sure we could try other lodges, but why would we when Ezulwini was exceptional. Luxury for a bargain! I'm still in awe and will forever be thankful to the Ezulwini team for creating the PERFECT South African safari experience for us. Thanks again to Josh, Abbie, Aubrey, Lorence and the rest of the team. Be sure to check out my pictures!

Room Tip: Upgrade to ensure you have a private pool and outside shower...you'll thank me later!
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  • Stayed April 2014, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
2 Thank dch31723
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Switzerland
Level 3 Contributor
18 reviews
16 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 15 helpful votes
Reviewed 2 May 2014

Most people we know visiting South Africa tend to opt for staying in the Kruger on the first leg of their journey and then go on to Cape Town/Garden Route for the second part. Each to their own, but, we think this is the wrong way around. That's because if you're really looking to chill at the end of your holiday, you can't beat the mixture of adrenalin and then the simple peace and quiet which is served up in the bush.

And, there's no better place to experience the bush than to visit the Ezulwini Game Lodge in the Balule reserve. This last visit was our 4th since 2007 and in a nutshell, tells you everything you need to know about this place.

The 2 lodges - Billy's and River - are beautifully situated, offering visitors an extremely sensual experience for those who like to be in tune with wild nature. Both locations - including River Lodge now too - have pier type constructions which take you out over the bush and offer glorious views of the wildlife just 8-10 metres below. And for those liking a splash of comfort, you'll really appreciate the luxury suites now available at both camps. Each suite is spacious, well equipped and has a lovely outdoor plunge pool for when you get back from the game drive. Despite this, they blend in beautifully with the surrounding nature and don't look out of place.

As ever, we are grateful to Laurence and Lauren who again were splendid hosts - and are great fun to be with too! :) Our thanks to Josh, who despite joining Ezulwini just 4 days before we arrived, did a sterling job - along with Richard - in guiding us for 2 days at River Lodge. Also to Rex and Franz who navigated us into a herd of 80+ elephants, all totally relaxed with our presence.

The best part of all though is in experiencing the rich wildlife and the surprising quiet of the bush, which after just a couple of days, has a wonderfully cathartic effect on your state of mind and being.

Despite wishing to keep it a secret, you can't help but recommend Ezulwini to others and so you can be sure we'll be back

  • Stayed April 2014, travelled with family
    • Value
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Helpful?
2 Thank SwissCandN
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Bethesda, Maryland
Level 2 Contributor
5 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
Reviewed 27 April 2014

We bought our stay at Ezulwini at a charity auction, having no idea that it had such high ratings, and knowing almost nothing about visiting Kruger. We could not have been more thrilled-- everything was as we would have wanted it to be. Ezulwini is elegant and lovely. Our suite at Billy's Lodge was beautiful (great design, spacious, with a private pool overlooking the watering hole, a gigantic bathtub and an indoor-outdoor shower); the food was delicious and beautifully prepared (including sinful iced coffee, homemade muffins, a wonderful barbecue dinner); the hospitality, especially from Aubrey and Abby at meals, and from the owner Lawrence Saad throughout but especially when he invited us to see and sample his special wine cellar, and the sensibility and atmosphere were welcoming and relaxed. But of course we were there for the animals, and that is where Ezulwini really shines. When you stay in "Greater Kruger" your tracker and driver can stay in the bush later in the evening (and we saw incredible stars at night out in the bush), and you can leave the road to follow the animals, unlike within the park itself. Our drivers and trackers-- Rex and Hector, and Franz and Conrad-- were plainly the best. Generally we found animals before the other lodges, and via radio the other Land Rovers caught up to us to see what we had found. And we saw absolutely amazing things-- a cheetah, who relaxed enough to lie down near our truck; a leopard, tracked in the dark and watched for a long time, that walked around our truck; groups of elephants, up to twenty or so, including many juveniles that played and frolicked right in front of us, and on another occasion, two that played in the watering hole and chased the hippos to a far corner; giraffe, many at a time, including one that walked over a tree repeatedly to scratch its belly and another that chewed thoughtfully on a bone to get some calcium; herds of Cape buffalo and impala and zebra; groups of baboons including babies sliding down a hillside to play; hyenas; jackals; two black rhino that we tracked for hours til we found them and observed for many minutes; warthogs and wildebeest and waterbuck and grey heron. I thought this was a once-in-a-lifetime trip, but after six drives I felt I could have stayed in the bush forever and we will have to go back. Ezulwini was the best spur-of-the-moment decision we have ever made.

Room Tip: We stayed in Romepole (sp?), the last cottage at the end of the lane. Quiet and lovely.
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  • Stayed April 2014, travelled with family
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Helpful?
2 Thank Leslie M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
JHB
Level 3 Contributor
18 reviews
9 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
Reviewed 31 March 2014 via mobile

As a South African, and having been to many game lodges in my life! I have never had such an awesome stay as I did at Ezulwini! Laurence and Loz were brilliant, with Awbrey as an epic host! Game drives were such fun with Franz and the team!

Rooms are super clean and spacious with a plunge pool to take the edge off the heat!

Food was Fantastic- good home cooked meals with an African flavour!

I encourage all foreigners to come and try this peace of Africa!

Stayed March 2014
Helpful?
1 Thank Liam C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Raleigh, North Carolina
Level 1 Contributor
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
Reviewed 30 March 2014

I just returned from a 9 day vacation with 2 of my closest girlfriends. We had an ABSOLUTE AMAZING Trip!!!!! We stayed at both the Ezulwini River Lodge & Ezulwini Billy's Lodge. The staff was most accommodating to all of our needs, and prepared fabulous meals morning, noon, & night. The variety of fresh fruits, homemade breads, & African traditions helped enhance the entire experience! The Owner of the Lodges added to a lifetime of memories by inviting us to his private Wine cellar, where we sampled African wines and learned about the history of the land. Simple Fascinating! In addition, we joined in on 2 Game Drives daily, which we saw the most magnificent animals. I felt like we were participating in a NatGeo Special. *Food, Hospitality, Accommodations, & the Adventure was all Top Notch! Truly Exceeded my Expectation! Excited to return in the Near future.

Room Tip: Upgrade to a suite. Totally worth it!
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  • Stayed March 2014, travelled with friends
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Helpful?
3 Thank KelliJS
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Ezulwini Game Lodges

Property: Ezulwini Game Lodges
Address: Ezulwini Billy's & River Lodge | Olifants West Section, Kruger National Park 1380, South Africa
Region: South Africa > Kruger National Park > Balule Nature Reserve
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beverage Selection Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Restaurant Suites Swimming Pool Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #8 of 20 Speciality Lodging in Balule Nature Reserve
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): ££££
Hotel Class:3 star — Ezulwini Game Lodges 3*
Number of rooms: 14
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Ezulwini, the Zulu word for 'Place of Paradise', is situated in the centre of the Greater Kruger National Park, Balule Nature Reserve section, where Africa remains unspoiled. Ezulwini prides itself on being able to offer an exceptional African setting, indigenous fauna and flora as well as unique character and charm, to provide you with an authentic experience. Ezulwini Billy's Lodge nestles deep in the heart of lion country and offers three standard chalets as well as three new luxury suites with their own lounge area, private deck and plunge pool, indoor and outdoor shower and super King-Size beds. Ezulwini River Lodge is on the famous Olifants River, with large riverine trees and wonderful sightings of elephant, hippo and crocodile. River Lodge offers 4 standard rooms and 4 Ultra Luxury Suites. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Ezulwini Game Hotel Balule Private Game Reserve
Ezulwini Game Lodges South Africa/Kruger National Park

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