We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

“billy's lodge great/river lodge disappointing (purchased trip from a charity)”

Best prices for -
Check In dd/mm/yyyy Check Out dd/mm/yyyy
Prices are for 1 room, 2 adults
Show Prices
Compare best prices from top travel sites
and 5 more sites!
Ezulwini Game Lodges
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed 20 April 2010

We purchased our trip from a charity auction. Upon reviewing this place on tripadvisor, we decided to book 2 nights at ther river lodge and 3 at Billy's. Upon arrriving though we were told that we were booked in 3 at the river lodge. It wasnt until we arrived at Billy's Lodge that we realized what had been cheated out of a great Lodge. We 1st arrived at the River Lodge for what ended up being 4 nights. We were told that the host at Billys Lodge had an emergency and that we would have to spend and extra night at the River Lodge, later we found out that that was not true, which was very disappointing. a The river lodge is further away so we started our trip here.
The RiverLodge is Rustic! not very clean and our room had the smell of sewer coming out of the drains (luckily we were only in the room to sleep) The room is in the bush so I do realize that there will be bugs but Billys lodge was MUCH cleaner and less cobwebs and bugs. The food was great with the exception of one lunch. The staff ws very friendly and accomadating. We had a great time seeing a pride of 17 lions, elephants,giraff, zebra,impalla, water buck. Not much to do between drives. We asked if we could go for a walk and were told no. We asked for a educational walk with a guide and were told they cant. So there wasnt anything to do between drives. It was amazing and except for the accomadtions being dirty and not much to do between drives the rest of the trip was great.
Billys lodge was much nicer than the river lodge. The food was much nicer, they actually had a bar, and the guide and tracker actually tracked the animal instead of just driving around endlessly. The rooms are very nice. There was observation decks to look out of during the afternoon between drives. It was just a beautiful place
We had a great time all around we just felt like our reservations were switched up on us and we were not told. It wasnt until later that we realized that they changed our reservations up which ment we spent more time at a lower class lodge....beware of this when you go. I would recommend and make sure you stay 2 nights at the river lodge and 3 nights at Billys

Cheers

Stayed: April 2010, travelled as a couple
2  Thank monetgirl14
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Write a ReviewReviews (281)
Traveller rating
Traveller type
Time of year
Language

247 - 253 of 281 reviews

Reviewed 30 March 2010

We stayed at Billy’s Lodge, in the Balule Game Reserve, for just one night in February.

Firstly, getting here … true, we stayed in Dullstroom (Critchley Hackle) the night before, so we knew we only had a relatively short drive that morning, but even so, it was less than 3 hours from here via the Strydom Tunnel (tunnel ?? … ha ha … blink and you will miss it !!), so from Jo’burg I reckon it will take about 5-6 hours only if you are driving. If you fly into Hoedspruit Airport, however, you are looking at about a 30 minute drive / road transfer.

To enter the reserve cost us just R60 (although the published entrance fee is R70 - but I wasn’t going to argue with them !! ), and then from the gate to the lodge was very easy … follow the road, turn left at the sign … and we were there! The road was perfectly OK to drive in a saloon car (we had a Toyoto Corolla).

Upon arrival, we parked in the shaded parking area, and were greeted by a cold drink and a face cloth. And had our first wildlife sighting … a tiny tiny bush baby, who had made its home in the thatch just above the main entrance !!

We had to wait for our room to be finished, but that was no hardship at all … we were taken out onto the wooden viewing deck where we just sat and just enjoyed the sounds of the bush. There is also another viewing platform, up high … great views but I don’t like heights very much, so climbing up there and back down again via the wooden staircase was not something I particularly enjoyed !!

Lauren, the manageress, came to find us when our room was ready … what a great girl. The lodge is actually her family home (her mother, Tess, runs the Reservations Office from Johannesburg), so she has lived here all her life … lucky lucky lucky !!

Our room was lovely - rondavel style, so round in shape, with a small tea / coffee station, a comfy bed complete with romantic mosquito net, and an en-suite bathroom with a large walk-in shower.

The lodge has just 4 rondavels in total, so a maximum of 8 guests, so it really is an ‘intimate’ safari experience.

And very reasonably priced … between now and the beginning of December (excluding the World Cup period), their published rates are just R2,195 per person per night, including all meals, and morning / afternoon guided game drives.

There were just 4 of us for our game drive, and we met our ranger, Jonathan, who had just joined Billy’s only recently from another reserve / lodge. Again, great guy … friendly, knowledgeable, enthusiastic … all the qualities you want from your ranger really !

No sooner had we driven out of the camp, we met a giraffe, and then tracked a MASSIVE bull elephant, who later that evening reappeared back at the camp, and wandered around immediately under the viewing deck … we were able to stand VERY quietly on the walkway looking down on him … I swear we were only a few feet away.

The highlight of the drive was tracking the lions tho … we tracked them this afternoon, and caught a fleeting glance of 2 lionesses just before they disappeared into the bush, but the next morning we actually tracked and found the 2 male lions of the pride, lying in the shade of a bush and who really didn’t care whether we were there or not … so we got some great photos !

That is one advantage of a safari in this reserve (aside from it being ‘fences down’ with Kruger and also being home to Africa’s Big 5) - because the reserve is also ‘home’ to less lodges, your ranger and tracker have to ‘work’ that much harder to find the animals (versus a lodge in say Sabi Sands, where you have more lodges, so therefore more vehicles out on game drives … so you can go on a drive and just wait for the sightings to be called in over the radio by the other rangers !!) … in Balule, however, you actually do some proper tracking … it is so satisfying !!

True, the vegetation is thicker than you will see in other reserves such as Sabi Sands - there are definately more bushes and trees and not so many open spaces, so the slight downside is that you won’t get to see such large herds of wildlife together here. If you like birding, the birdlife is extremely good.

Oh yes, another nice touch was that when we got back from the afternoon game drive, Lauren ‘hosted’ a wine tasting for us all down in the wine cellar - I believe she offers this to all new arrivals, so we were not just singled out for special treatment.

Before we left the reserve the next day, we were taken up to their other lodge, Ezulwini River, for a quick look around. Ezulwini River is much further into the reserve, so from the gate I reckon it will take about an hour to drive here through the reserve. Again, another great lodge - lovely rooms, great guest areas.

It was my first time to Balule, and I sincerely hope it will not be my last. I enjoyed it immensely, I would have NO hesitation in recommending Billy’s, Ezulwini River Lodge OR the reserve to anyone, and overall, 10 out of 10 for everthing.

  • Stayed: February 2010, travelled on business
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
1  Thank TravelButlers
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 10 March 2010

My husband and I stayed at Billy's Lodge and the River Lodge for a total of five nights and six days. From the moment we arrived, it was everything we had hoped for and more. Not to be mistaken for a 5 star hotel plopped down in the bush, this is a more rustic and much more enjoyable way to see the animals, eat good food and sleep like a log under mesquito netting. No mesquitos, by the by. However, some rather large orb spiders were near enough to convince us the netting was a good idea. We had a lovely private cabin with great shower and beautifully furnished. Our guides and trackers were fun, informative and very good at finding game. Unlike a tour bus atmosphere where the busses pull up and the lion trots out, we actually tracked the great cats for two days before finding them. Thus, the joy when the brothers were spotted in the bush was even more satisfying. It was a spiritual, joyful, awe inspiring trip and one we will remember for all our lives. The service, the sweetness of the staff and the wonderful amenities were exactly what we wanted. Thanks to all the lovely folks at Ezulwini.

  • Stayed: March 2010, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Thank luciesmom
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 27 January 2010

What a great place this is!

The rocky road to River Lodge needs careful negotiation (low clearance vehicles are not recommended for this!) but the journey is well worth it. On arrival we were given a warm welcome by our hosts, Antony (also the ranger) and Amy, and tracker Richard, and presented with a delicious glass of iced tea to enjoy while we cooled off and checked in. Our first introduction to the lodge was the entertainment area, with a bar and a lovely thatch-covered lounging area – perfect for retreating to if it rains or if the sun gets too hot. Adjoining it is the inviting pool (which we may good use of when the heat of the day was at its peak), terraced braii area, and viewing platform. River Lodge is in a beautiful setting, near the banks of the Olifants River, shaded by huge trees and surrounded by African bush – with plenty of animals immediately outside the compound!

Our room (in a rondavel) was simple but charming and very comfortable, with everything we could possibly need, including mosquito net, air conditioning, fridge, hospitality tray, and an extensive selection of toiletries.

Our stay at River Lodge took place in January after the summer holidays had ended – a quiet time for accommodation providers – and we were thrilled to be the only guests at River Lodge during this time, although I’m sure the lodge is still a tranquil retreat even at full capacity (14 guests). Antony and Amy are terrific hosts – excellent company and very thoughtful to their guests’ needs.

We enjoyed 4 wonderful game drives with Antony and Richard - 2 early morning drives, and 2 late afternoon-evening drives. As we were there in the rainy season, we knew that the vegetation is much thicker and that viewing animals was likely to be a lot more problematic than in the dry season. With that in mind, we kept our expectations realistic – unlike one previous reviewer, we are fully aware that there are no guarantees when viewing wild animals. If you need a guarantee, visit a zoo! Having said that, thanks to the efforts of Antony and Richard, we saw a huge number of animals, birds and interesting plant life – far beyond our modest hopes. Their sharp eyes seemed to be able to spot the most infinitesimal movement or camouflaged shape through the bush. Antony’s zoological, ornithological and botanical knowledge was extensive, and with his passion for the wildlife and ecology of the area he was a brilliant communicator, making every drive a fascinating experience. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but some of the animals we saw included a large pride of lions (several times and in quite close proximity), giraffe, zebra, impala, wildebeest, a leopard! (heard one evening when we were back at the lodge – Antony swept us into the Landrover and a couple of minutes later we spotted it!), rhino, various antelopes, monkeys, baboons, jackal, owls, eagles, - and many more. (No elephants or hippo during our 2 day visit – but we saw both the next day when we drove through Kruger Park after leaving the lodge.)

We found River Lodge to be excellent value – a really high quality experience at a much more affordable rate than many of the other private game lodges. Our stay at River Lodge was a wonderful experience, providing us with some very special memories, thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of Antony, Amy and Richard.

  • Stayed: January 2010, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
1  Thank KikiBeech
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 17 January 2010

The game reserve is actually 2 different lodges, and you can split your time between them if you should so desire. Although we originally planned on doing that, we decided to stay at Billy's for 6 nights. Accomodations and food are good, but not spectacular. The service and graciousness of the staff were outstanding. This is not a four star facility by most standards, but its shortcomings in that regard were easily made up by the staff.

The real strength of this place is the game reserve and safari. If you want an experience to see wild animals, in their habitat, this is the place. These are not chipped, caged animals so no guarantees are made in what you will see. However, via the excellent tracking of the rangers and communication among surrounding lodges, excellent opportunites to view animals in their habitat are always present. The open reserve ecology philosophy of this reserve and the surrounding reserves represent the hope for these animals. As time will hopefully allow expansion of these private open ranges, accompanied by protection of these animals, the future of these animals remains bright..

Frankly, if you want a guarantee to see the Big 5 or Big 7, go to your local zoo, or an enclosed reserve where the animals are microchipped and essentially in an large enclosure. The experiences of this last week I will never forget

  • Stayed: January 2010, travelled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
1  Thank slowmohs
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 2 January 2010

We have truly never experienced a more memorable travel experience. We stayed at Billy’s Lodge at Ezulwini. The atmosphere, service and experienced game drivers were the highlights of Billy’s Lodge.

Atmosphere: Directly out of a fairy tale. This is an intimate place, as Billy’s lodge can house only 8 people total (I believe). The small setting lends itself to a very personalized, cozy experience. We stayed in our own thatched roof hut, which was beautiful, quiet, clean and romantic. We loved the lodge itself, and spent a lot of time watching the birds and animals from the various decks raised high above the bush. We also enjoyed spending time on the main terrace reading through Lawrence’s library of wildlife books. The atmosphere was relaxed, quiet and very comfortable. Little details like turning down our beds in the evening made us feel pampered and well cared for.

Game Drive: Patrick (Driver) and Conrad (Tracker) were truly the highlights for us. Patrick is a human encyclopedia of knowledge regarding the various animals, birds and vegetation. He enhanced our appreciation of the fragile eco-system of Kruger Park, and taught us a great deal about the interdependencies of the flora and fauna. Patrick also has a fantastic eye for spotting animals, and a deep respect and love for them. We especially cherish the day Patrick spotted a Wildebeest giving birth. What a rare opportunity for us to appreciate and witness this process. Conrad is incredibly tenacious and down-right brave! Many times he disappeared into the bush on foot looking for the animal whose tracks he had spotted. Conrad’s love and fascination for the wildlife is truly infectious.

Service: We were completely awed by the level of service, and the staff in particular. We were spoiled by the excellent food and drink, the romantic meal setting the staff always seemed to prepare for us, the happy hour snacks for the game drive, and of course, the “welcome home” port and Amarula after the night drives. The staff at Billy’s Lodge are beyond just “excellent employees” – they are excellent people with great hearts. We were nearly in tears when we had to leave. The owners Lauren and Lawrence, our host Cozzie, and Chef Elliot taught us a great deal about South Africa, and we left with our hearts and minds forever enriched.

Heather and Khaled
Austin, Texas USA

  • Stayed: December 2009, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
1  Thank HeatherAustin_Texas
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 6 August 2009

Simple but clean rondavel. Pool and relaxation area was super. food a little under par, but Ive just come back from Mohlabetsi!!! Massi is doing a great job out there.

  • Stayed: July 2009, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Thank Krzys
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Hotels you might also like...
Also consider these accommodations in or near Balule Nature Reserve
17.4 mi away
Kapama River Lodge
Kapama River Lodge
#3 of 4 in Kapama Private Game Reserve
1,835 reviews
20.4 mi away
Kapama Buffalo Camp
Kapama Buffalo Camp
#2 of 4 in Kapama Private Game Reserve
418 reviews
3.5 mi away
Kurhula Wildlife Lodge
Kurhula Wildlife Lodge
#1 of 2 in Balule Nature Reserve
289 reviews
Show Prices
Show Prices
Show Prices
4.1 mi away
Pondoro Game Lodge
Pondoro Game Lodge
#2 of 21 in Balule Nature Reserve
754 reviews
22.5 mi away
Thornybush Waterside Lodge
Thornybush Waterside Lodge
#2 of 12 in Thornybush Private Game Reserve
274 reviews
19.2 mi away
Elandela Private Game Reserve
Elandela Private Game Reserve
#63 of 176 in Kruger National Park
380 reviews
Show Prices
Show Prices
Show Prices

Been to Ezulwini Game Lodges? Share your experiences!

Write a Review Add Photos & Videos

Additional Information about Ezulwini Game Lodges

Address: Ezulwini Billy's & River Lodge | Olifants West Nature Reserve, 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 21 Speciality Lodging in Balule Nature Reserve
Price Range: £635 - £1,201 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
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 
Reservation Options:
TripAdvisor is proud to partner with Expedia, Hotels.com, Booking.com, TripOnline SA, Ebookers, Agoda, HotelsClick and Cancelon so you can book your Ezulwini Game Lodges reservations with confidence. We help millions of travellers each month to find the perfect hotel for both holiday and business trips, always with the best discounts and special offers.
Also Known As:
Ezulwini Game Hotel Balule Private Game Reserve
Ezulwini Game Lodges South Africa/Kruger National Park

Is This Your TripAdvisor Listing?

Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.

Claim Your Listing