What a wonderfully relaxing and enriching experience!
The management team of Johan and Jen were welcoming, friendly and helpful. The rest of the staff were equally friendly and helpful, as well as being wonderfully efficient. The rooms were spotless and nicely equipped, pretty much exactly as described in the information blurb on the website. I'm sorry Henry R, but nowhere on the website could I find reference to aircon and the ceiling fans were no more noisy that any others I have come across anywhere else - maybe you should actually go to the trouble of reading up on the places you choose to book at?
The reserve itself is absolutely beautiful! Pristine, unspoiled bushveld in a flat valley set between two ridges in the Waterberg. Game numbers seem to me to be about what I would expect to be appropriate to a well managed eco-system - plenty to see, but not to the point of numbers that would result in overgrazing. Despite this, Johan informed me that it is generally necessary to augment feed for about three months of the year. I'm writing this sitting on the veranda outside our chalet watching half a dozen blue wildebeest, a dozen or so zebra, a small herd of impala and a sounder of warthog - all with their young - grazing less that 200m from where I'm sitting. Henry R, perhaps you are confusing a zoo with a game reserve?
The game drives up to the plateau on the top of one of the ridges were very enjoyable and pretty much what we have come to expect - sometimes seeing a wide variety of game and other times not much at all. However, even when there is not much game to see, the differing vegetation in different areas of this small area is amazing and there is abundant bird life. Johan might not be the most chatty of of guides, but regularly pointed out interesting things on the drive, including stopping to pick "stamvrug" (wild milk plums) for those of us who hadn't tasted them before to sample, picking fronds of Boekenhoudboom (wild beech tree) seeds for those who wished to attempt to germinate them at home, venturing off road to get us closer to the eland and zebra herds and accompanying us all to view and discuss a pelvis and spine with attached skin spotted next to the road - in the absence of a skull, he eventually concluded that it was the remains of a particularly large brown hyena. He was clearly very knowledgeable and quite willing to answer questions in detail, being fluent in both English and Afrikaans (one of our party is a Brit). Monique717, I can fully understand your disappointment at your picnic being washed out, but on our arrival Jen very clearly explained to us that picnics are only available during off peak times when the lodge is quiet enough to enable them to arrange them (almost lucky you - we wanted to arrange a picnic too, but couldn't due to the lodge being fully booked), and that game drives were undertaken three times a day on a strictly first-come, first-served basis. I further understand that he people you saw going on a game drive after you were informed that no further game drives were going to take place that day was in fact the owner of the game reserve. Whilst I can fully understand your disappointment, I guess the owner is entitled to go on a game drive whenever he wishes to?
From what I could see, the walking trails on the reserve are clearly marked and vary from easy 2 or 4 km rambles, to hikes up into the ridges for the more adventurous - we were advised against trying these due to a couple of very active leopard in the vicinity (Jen explained to us that they very definitely prefer not to lose guests to the leopards :) ). Being somewhat lazy, we stuck to the easier rambles, which we thoroughly enjoyed - because no hunting is allowed on the reserve, the animals are very relaxed and do not startle easily, allowing one to approach to within 50 - 100m before they move off.
I was somewhat intrigued by Henry R's vitriolic criticism, given that this flew directly in the face of our experience and therefore decided to explore some of his criticisms. The chalet next to the septic tank he complained about did not smell at all of sewage and the group staying in the chalet confirmed that they have previously booked the chalet and have never experienced this to be a problem. On enquiry, Johan confirmed that the sewage line from the chalet to the septic tank did block whilst Henry R and his group were staying there, entirely due to the group flushing sanitary pads, tampons and condoms down the toilet, in direct contravention of the standard request in the bathroom not to do so.
As far as the complaint related to having to pay extra for extra guests staying in a chalet specifically designated to sleep a specific number of guests is concerned ... really? REALLY? Tell me Henry R, do German lodges (I understand that you are German?), allow guests to stuff as many extra guests as they want to into their chalets that are advertised to sleep two only, without extra charge?
Then onto the complaints of racism. There happened to be two separate black families staying at the game reserve at the time we were there. Both families were visibly surprised when I described Henry R's accusations of racism against management to them. One of guys I spoke to spontaneously responded "there must be something wrong with that guy!". On enquiry, I was informed that the unpleasantness appeared to have started after one of Henry R's party, who happened not to be white, seriously damaged the hoisting mechanism of the rather expensive umbrellas at the swimming pool, apparently due to not understanding how the mechanism worked. Reportedly when Henry R, as the head of the group, was requested to please ensure that his party did not do any more damage, but rather request assistance, he took serious umbrage and publicly and vociferously accused Johan of racism. Justified? The black families I spoke to did not appear to think so. Some people, it appears, are just impossible to please!
In conclusion, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay, find little or no merit in the complaints posted and would happily recommend Olievenfontein as an amazing venue for those seeking peace and quiet!
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