I stayed at Pondoro Lodge for 3 nights after a recommendation from a friend and travel agent. The greatest compliment I can give is that I so wish I'd been able to stay for longer.
It's a wonderfully designed lodge located among some trees down by the Oliphants river, bursting with character and little touches that show how much care and love the owners, Robbie and Lize, have put in to the place. I stayed in the Rock suite, one of the luxury chalets, and it was great. The room was large, spacious, excellently furnished and had great character. It was river facing (although the view is obscured a bit by the trees the lodge is situated in) with a large terrace.
Erik and Ryno, our tracker and ranger respectively, were top class. Friendly, knowledgeable and always willing to go almost anywhere and stay out as long as it took to help us spot the wildlife. Each game drive lasted 3 and a half to 4 hours with morning tea and sun downer stops. When we got back from the evening drives, the staff would be waiting to greet us with warm hand towels and complimentary sherry. Perfect.
Balule reserve has relatively a lot of bush compared to other parts of the Kruger I've heard so it can be harder to spot and get close to the animals. I've got no complaints. Erik and Ryno did a great job. On my game drives, I saw and got up close to 4 of the big 5 (no leopard alas although some others who'd been there longer than I, had seen them the day before) as well as plenty of all the other major animals. The highlights were a testosterone fuelled elephant getting very, very close to us, ending up being surrounded by 70-80 water buffalo, coming across a herd of elephants feeding at night, and tracking a pride of lions at night by just spotlight for 2km.
Special mention must go to Lize, her kitchen staff and the food! The food was excellent and unique. Slow roasted lamb shank, wilderbeast curry, impala fillet. It was wonderfully presented, tasted great and filled me up. It's a shame I arrived too late and left too early to sample the Ostrich and Kudu I heard about! It's definitely worthy of some of the finer restaurants and hotels I've visited. It's all served on the main open deck with a view of the river (we did get to see some hippos from it). My final dinner, instead of being served in the main dining area, was instead served at a lantern lit table set up in a clearing down by the river. A clear night sky above us, man high river grass next to us and the sounds of the wild all around us. It was stunning. It's apparently done every 3rd night, if the weather's good, and I'm glad I lucked out.
Thanks to Lize, Robbie, Chantelle, Ryno, Erik and all the others for making my too brief safari experience a great one.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Set on the cool riverine banks of the Olifants River (largest in Kruger) in the 40 000 ha Big 5 Balule Private Game Reserve inside the greater Kruger National Park, Pondoro offers its visitors comfort, sophistication, elegance and a canvas on which to create a truly unforgettable African safari.In this small, very exclusive 16-bed lodge ( owner managed ) you will discover the only way to experience the African bush. In addition to luxurious accommodation and the caring attention from trained professionals, our visitors are lavished upon with international fare and humble African hospitality.Meals are an extraordinary culinary experience where Traditional African Cuisine fuse effortlessly with modern European trends.To compliment the food, select any of our fine wines from our extensive wine cellar. Vegetarians are specially catered for. All meals are served on a wooden deck high up in the tree canopy overlooking the Olifants River (weather permitting).Between game drives in open safari cruisers, nature walks and peaceful afternoon naps, enjoy a dip in the sparkling rock pool, a spot of sun bathing or browse through the library. The Pondoro bar is the ideal spot to quench your thirst and grab a snack. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Pondoro Game Hotel Balule Private Game Reserve
- Pondoro Game Lodge South Africa/Balule Nature Reserve