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“Not a 5* experience”
Review of Clifftop Lodge

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Clifftop Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
Level Contributor
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
“Not a 5* experience”
Reviewed 29 June 2009

This is quite a detailed review and is actually the letter written to the lodge together with their "response"...you decide...

Dear Sir/Madam

As a guest having taken my partner for his 50th birthday, we spent 3 nights at one of your lodges, I would like to share with you, our extremely disappointing experience at Clifftop Lodge recently. Being regular visitors to various game and country lodges in S.A., we are quite familiar with the levels of service that a guest at a five star rated lodge can expect.

We arrived expecting a very different lodge atmosphere to what we were greeted with, as the website does not look anything like the lodge does now, certainly not what we were expecting or had been looking forward to, in fact I could not help noticing some old deck chairs untidily stuffed in under the decking just on the right of the main entrance of the lodge when we walked in, hardly the picture we had in mind of this exclusive lodge. However, each one to their own, I guess it clearly appeals to some. On inspection of our room, we were greeted with even more disappointment and amazement. Being in winter, a cozy room with a fireplace was one of our must have's when we chose the lodge, clearly visible on your web-site, but is no longer present after the current makeover. A meager air conditioning unit on one wall, that was by no means able to heat the unit sufficiently was all the room had to offer in that department. It was with shock and amazement that we saw a toilet placed in the centre of the bathroom area, with not even a partition surrounding it, or the luxury of a door to supply a bit of dignity or privacy. But alas, too late, we were already there. We unpacked and after a long frustrating search for the safe mentioned in the brochure in the room, gave up and locked our valuables in one of our lockable suitcases. The waiter informed us that there were no safes in the rooms, as no-one there stole anything. This is a first for me, I have never stayed anywhere before that does not have a safe in the room for guests to protect their valuables, especially not at a five star exclusive lodge.

As it was a special birthday, I had arranged a cozy private dinner in the wine cellar. Hardly cozy it was to be, as the air conditioning unit down there did not work on warm air, so we ate with the heavy jackets on that we had on the game drive. We mentioned it to two of the staff members that visited us down there that evening, neither seemed too concerned, I wonder if it has been rectified, or if it was even reported to management or maintenance. On inspection of the wine list, we were shocked at the completely outlandish markups on the wines. We all expect to pay more for a bottle of wine at such an establishment, but R 355.00 for a bottle of Theuniskraal Riesling that costs R 32.99 at a local liquor store is a bit over the top.

Meal times were stressful to say the least. We inquired as to the times for breakfast and were informed that they served breakfast from 08H30, as we chose not to take the morning game drives. We duly arrived for breakfast at 08H30, only to find, that the tables were still in the process of being laid, there were no glasses for the fruit juices, or plates for the pastries or cereals etc. It took until 09H00 to manage to get coffee and butter on our table, by 09H10, we managed to get serviettes. There were also no jams available at all, after another request and long wait, we managed to get some orange marmalade in a bowl. By 09H30 we managed to secure a cooked breakfast, but on a cold plate, which spoiled an otherwise very pleasant meal. We tried a different approach the second morning, to try and avoid the frustration of the previous morning and arrived for breakfast at 09H00, well, as you can guess, it was not much better, and still took another 20 minutes to get coffee, and we had to ask for jam again for the croissants, which took another 15 minutes to get there, once again decanted into a large bowl. On three separate occasions at meal times, we returned crockery that was dirty, with either oily residue or greasy smudges on the plates and lipstick marks on the wine glasses. The food was fine, except that the food was always cold and the plates were never warmed, I never had a single meal there where something was not cold that should have been served hot. We were not the only guests that were annoyed, we shared our dinner area the last two nights with two other couples and we all shared the same views. In fact when guests complained about the service and delays in getting food and about the food being cold, the waiter reiterated that the chef said that he was very stressed, as he had a full camp (16 guests in total) and could not cope. When a guest complained about his garlic snail starter being cold, he was simply told that the chef said it was meant to be a cold starter. I have to give the waiters their due, they tried hard and they were taking all the flack for the kitchen's mismanagement. The staff were definitely not trained and were very inexperienced. Each night there was a fish as a main course choice and each night the fish was described as "Sole, a type of frozen fish, Alaskan Salmon, "also a type of frozen fish" and so it went. Our wine was never topped up ever, in fact, when we ordered it, it was brought to the table with the glasses, placed on the table and not even opened, let alone poured for tasting. Meals were sent back regularly, either to be heated or corrected. We sent back our fillet on one occasion, as it was done very rare in place of medium, it was returned about 10 minutes later, no better, just colder. It was also very uncomfortable trying to eat off a plate that was wobbly on the place mat, none of the plates have flat bottoms, or sit firmly on the solid wood place mats. On both occasions that we had dinner, the room was freezing, as the fire had not been lit in time for dinner, in fact on both occasions we ate there, I assisted and lit the fire while the waiter did his best to handle the other guests requirements. Although there was someone on duty each night to oversee the evening session, we never once had any interaction with the general manager, he was basically never seen and did not interact with the guests at all. In fact the guests on two occasion mentioned it to the person on duty, but nothing changed, they in fact asked that their discontent be relayed to the general manager about the food and service in general etc., but we still never saw the general manager's presence or had him address any of the guests concerns.

In general, we were extremely disappointed. The staff were very inexperienced and lacked management leadership, there was no-one taking control and no follow up, no one seemed to care, clearly a complete fall down on behalf of management. At establishments such as Clifftop, I am used to seeing management interacting with guests at all times, showing interest in guest satisfaction and continually correcting situations where necessary and assisting their staff at all times, this however does not happen at Clifftop. Would I recommend Clifftop to anyone else, or would I ever return ?, after our past experience, certainly not.

Kudos do however go out to Pierre, the head game ranger who was incredibly polite and knowledgeable, making the game drives a truly memorable occasion. Thank you, Pierre.

Thank you for your e-mail with regards to the problems you experienced and for your valuable comments regarding the service you experienced during their stay.

It is with regret that I learned that things did not go according to the standards that we pride ourselves on at Clifftop. I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to you for the inconvenience caused due to these issues.

I would also like to apologise for the delay in replying to you, but unfortunately I was travelling and I needed to get some feedback from our management at Clifftop.

I would like to use this opportunity to reply on some of your concerns.
The lodge has recently been refurbished by one of the country’s award winning interior decorators. However in saying that I can agree that it is very different and will appeal to some and not to other people. The fact that the website still had the old pictures on will be addressed ASAP with our website administrators.

I have taken note of your comments on the room heating and the safes and I will be addressing these issues with the shareholders, to ensure that we cater to the needs of our guests.

I am quite disappointed with the fact that we dropped the ball in terms of our food and beverage service. This is one area where we pride ourselves on, and it was very disappointing that I learned that things did not go as planned. I have also had discussions with our Chefs, and I assure you that we will address all your concerns to ensure that this does not happen again in future.

As mentioned I have had intense meetings with Wiets Cronje, Manager at Clifftop, and he and his whole team has taken your comments to heart and I am confident that the team will be able to address all your concerns.

I would also like to thank you for your positive comments on Pierre and I have conveyed this message to him.

Management appreciates all feedback from our guests, as this ensures that we may strive to anticipate your need and continually improve on service excellence.

Please accept this as an apology and a thank you for the time taken to bring these issues to our attention, we sincerely hope it hasn’t affected the essence of being here at Clifftop Exclusive Safari Hideaway.

Yours sincerely,

Wouter Pienaar
General Manager
Kingfisher Resorts

  • Stayed June 2009, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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3 Thank Sandtontravel
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
CSWalker71, Director of Sales at Clifftop Lodge, responded to this review, 22 January 2013
Clifftop Exclusive Safari Hideaway has received outstanding feedback in the past 3 years. We have addressed any issues raised in this feedback and we are delighted to report that the lodge is a superb experience with unique setting and warm hospitality.
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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253 reviews from our community

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1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed 13 February 2009

Lovely Lodge with great ranger Steven.
Unfortunate about the recent revamp; everything painted white, including tiles, an absolute No Go!
Male serving staff excellent. Management lazy. Food was decent apart from "dirty" appearance of the chef who was not cleanly groomed.
Big Damper on day of departure: Our travel bag was broken into. Management of Lodge refused compensation by hiding behind the indemnity clause and barely offered an apology.
PLUS we got overcharged for every drink during the game drive.
Conclusion: will not go back and will certainly no recommend to anyone I know.

  • Stayed January 2009, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
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1 Thank 888Traveller888
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Level Contributor
1 review
Reviewed 28 November 2008

We spent 4 nights at the Clifftop Exclusive Safari Hideaway in September 2009.

On arrival at the Lodge we were met by the hostess and a butler (with towels to refresh ourselves and a welcome drink). The hostess showed us the main lodge and explained the daily routine to us while the butlers took our luggage to our suite.

The main lodge has an indoor & outdoor dining area, a few guest lounges (also indoor & outdoor) with really comfortable couches, a small rim-flow pool & hanging baskets to sit in everywhere. Although there is no library, there are great books & binoculars scattered around the lounges for those that feel like reading or checking out the game/birds that they saw on the game drive. The lodge only has 8 suites, which means 8 couples will always find a private area to chill in the Lodge (not that it is necessary to leave your suite at all).

The suites are located next to each other along the cliff edge. The cement path to the suites is decorated with imprints of animals and lanterns. Since the lodge is not fenced in guests are not allowed to walk between suite & main lodge alone when it is dark (a butler will walk with you).

The suites are spacious & amazing! The bed is huge and really comfortable, there is a little lounge area with birding books & binoculars, the bathroom consists of double basins, a separate toilet, a huge (two-seater) bath with stunning views, and a rain shower. The suite’s private deck area has an outdoor shower, two sun loungers, comfy couches & a table underneath a gazebo as well a splash pool.

The main lodge & suites have recently been redecorated and it looks really amazing now. It looks like a luxury beach house in the bushveld. The décor consists of mostly whites, greys & silver and they used natural material everywhere, e.g. the chandeliers are made of ping-pong sized balls made from wood, beads & fairy lights, the coffee tables resemble huge white beach pebbles, they used tree branches as dividers between areas and behind the beds, etc. All the guests that were there with us commented about the stunning décor.

Time passes really quickly at the lodge . At dinner your personal ranger will ask whether you going on the morning game drive. We were given a wake-up call by our ranger at 5:30 every morning and the morning game drive departed at 6:00. Game drives last about 3 to 3.5hrs. After the game drive, breakfast is served. Then there are only a few hours to relax, before the evening game drive departs at 16:00. Dinner is served afterwards and then it is off to bed. The times differ depending on time of year and the game drives are voluntary, so guests can relax at the Lodge if they want instead.

Food is included in the price and you will never go hungry at this lodge. Before the morning game drive there are homemade cookies and coffee (prepared by the Rangers). During the morning game drive, there is a coffee stop: the ranger will make the hot beverage of your choice (plunger coffee, hot chocolate, or selection of teas) and it is served with rusks, muffins & fresh fruit. After the morning drive, breakfast is served. Breakfast consists of a cold buffet (muesli, yogurt, fruit salad, cold meats, etc.) and the butler will inform you about the other options on the menu. Hot breakfast is made to order by the chef. In the afternoon, there a light lunch (buffet style) served in one of the outside lounges. Guests can just come and go and grab a snack to eat if they want (and have space in their stomachs) During the evening game drive there is a sundowner stop: you will get your drink of choice (they ask you want you want before the game drive and take it with in cooler boxes) and a selection of hot/cold snacks. After the evening game drive, we received something to drink (port, sherry, etc) and then it is off to enjoy a 4 course dinner. The chef recited the menu choices to us each night. There was always one soup, and then a choice between 2 starters, main meals & desserts. The starters & main meal usually had a choice between game meat (we got served ostrich, kudu & springbok during our stay) and either fish or chicken.

The butlers are very friendly, down-to-earth and always there when you need them. Chantelle, our Hostess, was always around the main lodge to just chat, answer our queries or try and accommodate any special requests. The rangers (Pierre & Zjak were great. They are extremely knowledgeable and will go out their way to try and show you the animals that you want to see.

If you only go to Clifftop as part of your safari holiday and this is the first time you’re going on safari I would recommend staying 5 nights. The game drives consumed so much of our time, and we didn’t want to skip them since that would mean that we might miss a great sighting (like the leopard and the cub we never saw because we missed our first game drive) that an extra day to just relax in our Suite would have been great.

  • Stayed September 2008, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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Thank raindanc3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
South Africa
1 review
Reviewed 18 October 2008

We went to Cliftop for our annerversary and thought of it as a nice romantic getaway. The food was good and the service and staff friendly and good. The rooms has been revamped and whitewashed in silver and white tones and the tiles have been painted (NO!!) I don't think it's going to last long but at least it Looks great at night !!.

I have a lower back problem and would advise anyone going there with the same problem to reconsider. The ONLY thing to do there is 2 game drives a day. The open game-viewing landrovers has got no shocks or they are worn out. Anyone that has been to Welgevonden would know that this area is very rocky, and hilly, not a good idea.

They do not offer any other activities, no bushwalks or astronomy etc. We went for 3 days and personally I think this is way too long. A day and a half would have been enough.

As for the game drives, the game was great, the vegitation is not as diverse , ther are no Acacia or thorn trees, only about 6 types of trees . Birding is ok but not a hot spot . We have been to most of the Private reserves in SA and this reserve must be the one that I would not want to go back to.

For South Africans I think they are ripping us off with the wine prices, a bottle of Porcupine Ridge Sauv Blanc for instance would cost you about R35 at the most in a Liquor store, they charge R140, a 300 % mark up.

Personally, for the price of your stay and with the fact that there is really not much to do, I think there is much better places than this.

  • Liked — Bed, bath and shower
  • Disliked — Painted tiles
  • Stayed October 2008, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check-in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Thank cs1234
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Clifftop Lodge

Property: Clifftop Lodge
Address: Welgevonden Game Reserve | East Gate Entrance, Welgevonden Game Reserve 0530, South Africa
Region: South Africa > Limpopo Province > Welgevonden Game Reserve
Hotel Style:
Ranked #4 of 16 Speciality Lodging in Welgevonden Game Reserve
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): £££
Hotel Class:5 star — Clifftop Lodge 5*
Number of rooms: 8
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Clifftop Exclusive Safari Lodge is an exquisite bushveld hideaway, a unique resort, where service is understood and luxury is elegantly understated. The setting is breath taking and provides a beautiful African backdrop for a world of easy going elegance.All 8 suites have a private deck with plunge pool,thatched sala and indoor and outdoor lounges. The en-suite bathrooms have both indoor and outdoor showers, separate bath and bath consumables. The suites are non-smoking and have air conditioning, direct dial telephones, hairdryers, hotel stationery, mini bars, room safes, electric blankets and tea/coffee making facilities. Private Wine Cellar dinners are available by prior arrangement.The Lodge is situated in the 36000ha malaria-free Welgevonden Game Reserve in the Waterberg Mountains, offering the Big 5. Gate entry fees are applicable and are charged per person per night.Halaal, Kosher and any other special meal requirements are catered for by prior arrangement. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Clifftop Hotel Vaalwater
Clifftop Lodge South Africa/Welgevonden Game Reserve

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