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“Exceeded our (very high) expectations”

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Garonga Safari Camp
Certificate of Excellence
Harrow, United Kingdom
Level 6 Contributor
222 reviews
102 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 235 helpful votes
“Exceeded our (very high) expectations”
Reviewed 29 November 2009

We stayed for 5, sometimes very cold, nights in the middle of November. We had looked forward to visiting Garonga since we had booked in March and were delighted to read the continued high TA assessments given by visitor after visitor. But I for one harboured a secret doubt in my mind "could it really be that good?" Well the answer is a resounding YES. From the moment of our arrival until the last lingering farewell we were made to feel very special (despite the cold weather). A few days before travelling I had learned that Bernie, the owner, would not be in camp throughout our visit but in an email he assured us that the new manageress - Zele - would look after us. What an understatement! Zele was truly fantastic and she contributed immensely to our stay. Indeed, all the staff were amazing and the whole G Team played their part in making this a unique experience.

As various others have written the location, the accommodation, the ambience, the food, the wines (thanks Zele for the constant supply of house white!), and the service are all second to none. What was more surprising was that the game viewing was so good and special thanks to Japhet and Brian for their uncanny ability to search out the animals. I shall never forget our first drive when we found a lioness and her four cubs, or our last when we watched in amazement for 45 minutes whilst a cheetah ate a female impala whilst warily seeing off a predatory jackal. In between we saw elephant, rhino, and hippo as well as numerous giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, kudu, impala, baboons, grey duiker etc etc. My wife will never forget being parked between two bull elephants who took an interest in our jeep (and her in particular) at the same time; thanks again Japhet for the escape!

In conclusion, Garonga is a very special place indeed.

  • Stayed November 2009, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
3 Thank davethewasp
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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English first
York
Level 1 Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
Reviewed 14 November 2009

The second part of our Honeymoon, the first being a stay at Table Bay Hotel, Cape Town, (Check my other reviews).
The first time we'd ever been on safari and Garonga was recommended as part of a package from southafricandreamholidays.com.
We arrived by charter plane and were met by our tracker Elvis, who would remain our guides for the duration of the stay.
Arriving at the camp we were greeted by the Owner, Bernie who had cool face towels ready for us and freshly squeezed Lemonade - very welcome! We were then shown to our 'tent' which is more of a walled structure with a tented roof, absolutely fantastic. A Huge four poster bed, open air shower if we wanted it to cool down and en suite. The view from the front of the tent looked out onto a dry riverbed where we could relax and watch the animals coming down to drink at the waterhole - brilliant.
There are 2 game drives a day, 1 starting at 6am after a cup of tea, then 1 at 4pm. Your guide stays with you for the duration of the stay so he keeps track of what animals you have / haven't seen. You also have another tracker who looks out for tracks etc and keeps track on what you've seen too.
The guys were brilliant, we saw everything from a pride of Lions to elephants right up to the jeep. They were so knowledgable, being able to see the smallest animal in a tree and stopping so we could take photos.
I could type for hours and hours as to how good it was but I'll try to sum it up briefly.
The food was amazing, absolutely amazing.
The rooms were huge with a priceless view.
The other options available during the day (after the drive had finished) were fantastic, from a picnic in a tree to a massage and a bush bath!
The staff were possibly the friendliest people I've ever met.
We saw animals that we could only dream of seeing due to the knowledge and expertise of the trackers.
I cannot recommend Garonga enough, take a look at their website http://www.garonga.com

  • Stayed September 2009, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
3 Thank lukebroadbent
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
London
Level 3 Contributor
10 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
Reviewed 13 November 2009

We were lucky enough to stay at Garonga and Little Garango due to an upgrade due to travel agent error. The team at Garango were fantastic, the tented room had a wonderful view over the watering hole. The food was great and the lady (apologies I forget her name but she had just started as manager) was so helpful and pleasant. A great stay. After 2 nights we moved to Little Garonga and had the Hambelden suite. The room was amazing and we fell privleged to have to stayed in a such a lovely place. The main waiter Affrick was a like a gentle giant, a wonderful man who you felt just enjoyed doing his job. Everything was done with joy and he made it a perfect stay. CJ, Julius and Oboe were absolutely brilliant with the safari and we saw everything. Stalking Rhino will live long in the memory but the best bit was when CJ's or Julius's Bar opened at sunset in the bush. We thank the staff for a wonderful experience and wish you all the best. It made a wonderful honeymoon and I salute you for you great hospality. Finally the massages were wonderful and we left very relaxed. Graham and Julie.

  • Stayed November 2009, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
3 Thank GrahamandJulieessex
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Aberdeen, Scotland
Level 3 Contributor
13 reviews
7 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 12 helpful votes
Reviewed 13 November 2009

We stayed at Garonga in one of the tents for 5 nights from 30th October 2009. I have never been to a place, anywhere, where I would happily return as soon as possible. Generally, I am of the view that the world is too big to go back to somewhere and I never have. However, everything about this place is magical. Once you've tackled a fairly bumpy journey in, relaxation awaits. We were welcomed with homemade lemonade by Zele, the camp manager. It was only her first week but she was fab, very friendly and on the ball. The rooms are splendid, mixing the outdoors/indoors thing succesfully. Only room 1 gives a clear view of the watering hole but that doesn't matter, as from our room 3 deck we saw warthog, giraffes, elephants, various antelope and lots of monkeys. The air is one of relaxed comfort, with no pressure to do anything at all. However, you'll want to! Recommended are the bush bath, picnic in a tree and sleep out. The sala was also beautiful, looking out onto the watering hole. Massages (by freelancer Alana) were very good indeed and reasonably priced. The bar is always open - the drink is there and you take what you want, when you want. Food is also a complete joy - the variety of styles coupled with a very impressive competency level of cooking meant that every meal was something to get excited about. All homemade, some of the flavours were spectacular.

And I haven't even mentioned the drives yet. If you are lucky enough to get Julius (guide) and Obi (spelling? spotter) you are in for a treat. Julius has been there since the camp opened and he has an uncanny 6th sense for where to find the good stuff. He left us on a number of occasions to track, coming back every time having found rhino or a male lion. The one drive we missed they saw 3 leopards! This was some of the best game driving I've experienced, assisted by the time of year - the rains were late and most trees were still bare, meaning spotting was a little easier than it might have been.

Overall? Amazing. Everyone working there should be very proud indeed.

  • Stayed October 2009, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
2 Thank Mr_Twister07
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Worcestershire, England
Level 1 Contributor
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
Reviewed 1 November 2009

Just got back from 3 days in Little Garonga. I thought the reviews I read were going to be to good to be true, they are not!
I can honestly say this is the best three days of a holiday we have ever had. Incredibly relaxing from the moment we arrived and we did not want to leave. No TV or distractions, complete chill out.
All the little touches everyone mentions are spot on. The game drives are excellent, the food fabulous and accomodation of a very high standard. The hammock on your patio, the outside shower, the lovely surprise messages you are left, complimentary laundary, lovely friendly staff, you are pampered.
Picnic up a tree - brilliant, Bush Bath a lovely experience under the stars, we did not get to do the sleep out which is a shame as it was fully booked.
The owner and all of the team will make your stay magical.
Recomend the massage , an elephant came to say hello as I was having mine!!!
You will not see the Big 5- no buffalo but some coming next year our ranger told us. It made no difference to us, the animal encounters we did have were wonderful enough.
Trully a great experience which I wholeheartedly recommend. Thank you Little Garonga team, we will be back!

  • Stayed October 2009, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
5 Thank EnglandBesty
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
UK
Level 5 Contributor
75 reviews
66 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 125 helpful votes
Reviewed 28 October 2009

We booked Garonga after months research looking at lodges in the Kruger for our honeymoon based upon its great website, amazing looking tents, sleepout and great reviews on TripAdvisor. We had not been on safari before, and with it being our honeymoon, had high expectations. We were not disappointed!!

After a bumpy ride on a very, very small plane, we landed to find warthog wandering around at the end of the runway... the start to the many things we would see! We were taken to the camp by our ranger, Jaffer, and greated by Angela who offered us cold towels and a welcome drink. She briefly showed us everything we needed to know before escorting us to our tent and welcoming us for lunch whenever we were ready.

As someone who has never been camping, the idea of a tent did worry me somewhat... but the Garonga tents are like no tents you will ever see again! With clay walls and canvas roofs, gorgeous furnishings, a fully equipped bathroom and both indoor / outdoor showers, you don't feel you're in a tent at all! There were little notes left welcoming us to the camp, congratulating us on our honeymoon (complete with a bottle of champers) and lots of other lovely touches which made us feel immediately welcome and at home.

The food is nothing short of amazing - full english breakfasts in the mornings, a buffet or choices off a menu for lunch, and then in the evening a choice of starter and main course - not to mention the snacks you get on the morning drive, evening drive and the little snacks and cakes that are available for you to help yourself to during the day! In the evening, everyone socialises before going to separate tables for dinner - lovely when you just want a little alone time, particulary considering all the honeymoon couples that were staying there.

The game drives are never more than two people per row (6 people per vehicle) - one afternoon we had the vehicle to ourselves, and sat with Jaffer watching a male lion stalk warthog in the blazing sun - incredible. As other reviewers have said, if you want to tick box the Big 5, you won't do it here - we only saw two of the big 5 in the four days we were there - but what you will get is a lovely, relaxed experience and knowledgable rangers. We twinned the stay here with a camp inside the Kruger and saw the Big 5 there - if time permits, it's well worth doing the same - as you will struggle to find anywhere as homely, friendly and chilled as Garonga is.

It's the little touches that make Garonga so special. The sleepout (which comes highly recommended, albiet with a warning that you won't get a great deal of sleep!) is a once in a lifetime experience and is included in the price you pay (other lodges we saw offered something similar, but charged for it). You are left with a three course meal and everything you need. We were overwhelmed how well equipped we were, 25 mins drive from camp, up a tree!!

The picnic got great reviews (although this was fully booked) as did the Bush Bath. We got unlucky here - the only negative part of our stay - as the staff forgot we were doing it, and as such when we arrived (after dinner, so in the dark) none of the lanterns or candles were lit, the bath oils were empty and we were left slightly disappointed. The pool is large, with plenty of area to sunbathe, and kept very clean.

Overall, as a first safari experience for us Garonga couldn't be beat. It's Safari for the Soul - if you want a relaxed, special experience you wouldn't go wrong in booking here.

  • Stayed October 2009, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
5 Thank pontypool1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
London
Level 3 Contributor
9 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
Reviewed 22 October 2009

i look back on our honeymoon at garonga two months later and it feels like a dream. it was simply perfect. When planning our honeymoon back in January, I spent hours on trip advisor deliberating about where to go and for how long. After reading the fabulous reviews on here for Garonga and on the recommendation of James, our patient and helpful agent at imagine africa, we plumped for 5 nights here. At the time, I thought 5 nights might be a bit long, safari was all new for us, we're normally happy lying by a beautiful beach but it seemed like a great place to go.

After a rather tortuous journey from Mauritius, we arrived at Garonga tired and weary. On arrival, we were greeted by Alison who took us to our lodge, told us to relax, take our time, have a shower and then come back for drinks and dinner a bit later. It was magical, all candle lit, the sounds of nature and our room was a haven. After a generous gin & tonic by the log fire, we were completely relaxed and had the first of the many superb meals together under the stars. We were so tired the next morning, we didn't make the first game drive but didn't miss one after that! the drives were amazing, we saw all the big 5 other than buffalo (but who cares about that?!) and loved stopping for our evening gin and tonic and nibbles at sunset.

The staff at Garonga are amazing, totally relaxed, unobtrusive but excellent service. Bernie (the owner) was great, so welcoming and we are in awe of what he has achieved there. Alison was the perfect host, always there when you needed her and a pleasure to talk to. Housekeeping were top notch and there are lots of special touches around the place.

The best bit though has to be the food! You cannot believe that the staff are creating such stunning food, you're in the middle of nowhere! breakfasts were huge and the perfect thing to come back to after the morning drives (better english breakfast than back home!). evening meals were to die for, homemade breads, delicious starters and mains and puddings you would pay a lot for in a london restaurant.

it is the most romantic place, whether lazing by the pool listening to nature, having a sunset bush bath, sitting watching lions and elephants. I cannot recommend this place enough. My wife and I will never forget the time we had here and will definately be back. for now though, the memories feel like a dream.

Stayed August 2009, travelled as a couple
Helpful?
4 Thank eb02twhg
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Garonga Safari Camp

Property: Garonga Safari Camp
Address: Selati Portion 12, KT 143, Phalaborwa, 1390, Makalali Private Game Reserve 1380, South Africa
Region: South Africa > Limpopo Province > Makalali Private Game Reserve
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Restaurant Spa Suites Swimming Pool Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in Makalali Private Game Reserve
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): £££
Hotel Class:4 star — Garonga Safari Camp 4*
Number of rooms: 9
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Also Known As:
Garonga Safari Camp Hotel Makalali Private Game Reserve
Garonga Safari Camp South Africa/Makalali Private Game Reserve

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