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Naledi Game Lodge vs Rhino Post Safari Lodge

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We're looking at going on safari at the end of June 2013 and we narrowed it down to two lodges. We are wondering which one is better for game viewing, Rhino Post Safari Lodge in Kruger or Naledi Game Lodge in Baule Game Reserve. As far as we can tell, both lodges have good reviews but what is most important to us is the quality of game viewing.

Any info about both lodges and reserves are appreciated.

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    On any map, you will see that Thornybush, Kapama, Balule, Makalali and Karongwe reserves are quite far to the west of Kruger (I'm just mentioning the biggest reserves here). The further from Kruger NP, the less animals (generally).

    Plus they are "closer to civilization", so you may hear a road nearby or see the city lights at night. All this can lessen the safari experience a bit ...or a great deal.

    To counter the fact of having less animals, most reserves that are further west have fenced their land. Combined with artificial waterholes, they got their game count up. All beforementioned reserves with the exception of Balule did this. So those reserves can deliver a fantastic safari experience, but you just have to keep in mind it's a little bit fake; elephants and lions on the pill, for example.

    Apart from having less animals, Balule also has another flaw; it's not like the other reserves, in the sense that most land is shared, and only the building plots (Typically 21Ha) belongs to the owners. As such, most game drives there are conducted on the road, without the possibility to go off-road. Unless some lodge has got agreement with the odd owner of 1000Ha who allows traversing (and off-roading). But that is the exception rather than the rule. I know some lodges there even organise trips to Kruger NP instead of their own reserve.

    If you want a safari experience on an unfenced reserve (with open borders to Kruger), far from the city lights, and with the ability to go off-road for big 5 sightings, you have to stick to Sabi Sands, Manyeleti, Timbavati, Umbabat or Klaserie.


    Ciao,

    J.

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    Thanks so much Pixelpower, that's very helpful. We absolutely want to be able to go off road and would prefer a 'real' safari experience. If money was no object, we would stay at Mala Mala but I don't want to take out a second mortgage on my house :). What lodges would you recommend in those reserves? We're looking for one that won't break the bank but also offers a private vehicle/guide. This will our 4th time on safari (twice in Kenya, once in Botswana) but for some reason we're at a loss when it comes to chosing a camp in SA.

    Your help is greatly appreciated.

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    There is no question as can be verified by their reviews that Naledi game lodge is the top destination in the entire Kruger region, and that most certainly includes the quality of the game viewing. pixelpowers comments are really extraordinary and make no sense - all of the private reserves run along Krugers western border - Mozambique is the eastern border !
    All of the reserves pixelpower mentions with the exception of karongwe have been unfenced from Kruger so long the boundaries
    are entirely blurred and irrelevent. In the case of Balule for example, there is no way anyone can see a main road or any
    sign of civilization. Also game viewing has nothing to do with
    how far or near from "Kruger" (especially as all the private reserves are IN kruger - it has everything to do with carrying
    capacity, vegetation, rainfall, water and even things like soil and rock determine how much game can be sustained, at what time of year and the visibility from a gameviewing point of view.
    Also pixelpowers observations relating to how the reserves are owned actually applies to ALL the private reserves not just Balule - lodges like Naledi for example have traversing arrangements with other landowners that enable them to travel
    privately on often 1000's of hectares, all of it off road.
    Kruger Park does not allow off-roading. All the private lodges go off road to view game up close, they do use the roads on their reserves to get from point to point.For all private lodges in Balule this is the rule and NOT the exception.Pixelpowers of observations of fencing, waterpoints and game stocking apply to NONE of the private reserves included in Kruger National Park !

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    jannb, please inform yourself before you say my info is incorrect.

    My observations all come from personal experience, and from close friends in the industry (mostly lodge owners, guides, trackers, and one Cape Town-based TA as well).

    Based on all the above, I made maps that show all the reserves and even traverse rights. I am the only guy on the web with maps that has maps that show correct traverse rights in Sabi Sands and Timbavati. Plus they work on tablets/smart phones. Here's a link:

    http://safaris.marulacamp.com/maps/SA/KR/SA-KR-MAIN1.php

    Before you check it out: I specifically point to the map on my own site now, because when I point to idem map on my friend's site (the TA) I get the heat here. I also want to make absolutely clear I target my services to Dutch-speaking people only. So please, all, do not ask me to assemble an itinerary for you, or make you an offer. I will not respond. My info here is to help. I have no intention to do business here, I got an IT job to pay the bills.Now that we got that out of the way...

    As you can see, all the private reserves are to the west of Kruger. THAT WHOLE SIDE is fenced. That is why you pass "gates". It's fenced to keep animals in, and people (poachers) out. Note that there's plenty of people living there. I am not talking about Kruger's east side (Mozambique) at all.

    The question one has to ask hims/herself is; where is that fence on the western side? Is it just at the border of Kruger NP territory? Or is it west of those private reserves?

    The answer is; it is west of SOME reserves, not ALL. As I said; Thornybush and Kapama are 100% fenced all around. That's their choice. They keep their game numbers optimal, and lions and ellies are on the pill. And Karonge & Makalali are fenced as well, but are not even connected to Balule. Which means they can't even claim to be part of the "greater Kruger area". Between those reserves and Balule is a big tar road, the R40. Karonge & Makalali are fenced as all around them is farmland.

    The map I linked above is clickable. Klick on "private reserves" to see a detailed map; you will see where all reserves are exactly. Click further to see all lodge locations within a private reserve, their own turf, and the plots they can traverse on (if applicable).

    I write "if applicable" because not all reserves work in the same way. It depends on what rules all the owners have agreed on:
    - In Klaserie, Timbavati and Sabi Sands, the owners have big plots, 500Ha to 6000Ha. Some contain lodges, some are privately owned. These plots used to be farms. They agreed to drop all fences between them, and agreed on a set of rules to protect wildlife. Some lodges agreed traversing rights; they share plots and sightings, but again using a set of rules. These rules are also about the right to go off road.
    - Manyeleti is community owned, and the four lodges on there have the right to go anywhere on the reserve and to go off road anywhere. They pay to the village that's located next to the lake.
    - Balule is a bit special because there's plenty of small plots that are only 21Ha big. Some of these building plots can be commercialized, some can't. Lots are privately owned. Check any real estate site and you'll see that there's still plenty of 21Ha plots for sale. There's owners with big plots as well, but these are certainly not always owned by the lodges. As a result, very few lodges there have the right to go off road, and traversing rights are never spoken of. Naledi may be the exception. But then you still have the other disadvantages I spoke about. Like being close to the road and townships. There's even a railway line going right through the reserve, from Hoedspruit to Phalaborwa mining town.

    About presence of wildlife: I hear what you're saying, and indeed most species can be found anywhere. Plus all lodges made sure to construct plenty of waterholes to keep them there. But that does mean your chances are optimal for ALL species. Buffalo herds and the bigger elephant herds tend to stay away from the western fence line, for example. Then you have the aspect of wildlife being used to tourism. Not all cats, and certainly not leopards, allow the vehicle to drive close to them. In Klaserie, Timbavati and Sabi Sands I was able to drive to less than 5m from a leopard. By contrast, some friends and owners of a lodge in Balule (Parson's block) admitted never to have seen a leopard while on game drive. The go to Kruger NP for that.

    Bottom line of all the above; most of the times you get what you pay for. And it's no coincidence that Balule's prices are on average lower than Klaserie/Timbavati/Sabi Sands. Most lodges have raving reviews on TripAdvisor. They're easy to get, as a visit to such lodge is often the climax of a trip to SA, and people without any safari experiences are easily swept off their feet. Of course here on Fodors, we are used to a bit more, and are a bit more picky.

    "You get what you pay for" does not mean you have to take another mortgage on your house, moru100 :-D Prices also depend on the level of luxury, and on the reputation/name of the lodge. There's good bargains to be had if you look for them.

    In Sabi Sands, the northern block is the best if you look for lodges that still are affordable and that have sufficient traversing rights. I'm thinking of Elephant Plains and Arathusa. But even better is a visit to either Klaserie or Timbavati (or a combination of both). They are close to Hoedspruit airport, so you can cut significantly in transfer costs. Good and very affordable lodges there; Simbavati River Lodge, Gomo Gomo, and my favorite nThambo. And if you look for foot safaris (combined with regular drives in the afternoon): Africa On Foot and Shindzela. The latter has the better location, but AOF has got traversing rights while Shindzela only has their own plot of about 3000Ha.

    Hope this helps,

    J.

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    Well it would seem pixelpower's insistence on his/her level of expertise is unwaivering - the second reply gets more complicated and more convoluted even than the first !
    A rational response to 90% of the reply would take more pages
    than fodor can supply and probably isn't worth it given that
    tripadvisor reviews clearly indicate that most of pixelpowers
    observations are pure fantasy and entirely misleading. Naledi
    is a terrific lodge, suffering none of the maladies pixelpower
    reports, Rhino Post also suffers none of them - there are numerous pictures of leopards taken by guests at Naledi on tripadvisor and numerous narratives - the story of Parsons region is very interesting but would take hours to explain - Parsons is nowhere near Naledi - there is no township adjacent to Balule either. But the best thing to do is probably contact the lodges direct by email and ask !!
    Pixelpower adds no value to any decisionmaking process !
    jannb

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    jannb, I never said Naledi was crap. Nowhere did I say they never saw leopards. And I never said anything about Rhino Post at all. I only focused on the private reserves, as I do not know the concessions within Kruger NP all that well.

    So the only thing I did was give a summary of what is to expect, on average (!), in each of the private reserves around Kruger.

    - The reserves that I said are fenced, ARE fenced. No use denying that.

    - The proximity of "civilization" matters too. No need denying that either. When I'm on nightdrive at nThambo (Klaserie), I can still see (indirectly) the lights of Phalaborwa, but they are not disturbing. Now, Phalaborwa and it's mines, as the crow flies, is 25-30km away from nThambo. In comparison, Naledi is much closer to civilization (ic the R40 road and the railroad next to it). Please note that I know exactly where it is; I've got a Google Earth KMZ file with all lodges in Africa on it. Naledi sits in a cluster of small 21Ha plots with other lodges (Amukela, Toro Yaka, Ezulwini and Sausage Tree Bush Camp), all of which are just a mere TWO kilometer from the R40 road. You don't need the KMZ file to check this yourself; the GPS coordinates are on Naledi's page. Drop them in GE and see for yourself. If you think you're in pure wilderness there (without interference from the railway line for example -> elephants pick up the vibrations of these trains with their feet), then you have a good suspension of disbelief.

    - There is no use denying that gamedrives in Balule are conducted in a different way , with much less possibility to go off road, than in Klaserie, Timbavati and Sabi Sands. Plots are much bigger in these other reserves, and traversing rights are much more established. Balule mostly has "shared areas" where one can drive but not go off road. Such things do not exist in the other reserves I mentioned.

    - And lastly, the prices tend to go up when you pick a lodge closer to Kruger and/or in a reserve that is much more known. Again, it's no use denying this. I'm not just making this up, for the pure fun of it. Just click on a few lodges on the maps I pointed out in a previous thread. Then check out their web site for their rack rates. But as I said; luckily, there's exceptions if you know where to look. I saw Naledi's prices now. Well, from the top of my head I can say that Africa On Foot, Shindzela, Gomo Gomo and Elephant Plains have very similar prices.

    And THAT is the whole point of what I wanted to say; Naledi may be OK, it may be the best lodge in Balule for all I care, but it does have a few small downsides compared to some other lodges that are priced idem. Note that I'm not speaking about "maladies" (which makes it sound as if their offer is sub standard), but merely small downsides in comparison to some other lodges in that area.

    What's wrong with pointing out that there's better to be had? Is that not the point of this board? I've been there a dozen times now, and run my own small thing. I think I know what I'm talking about.

    And I don't see you bringing on evidence that I am wrong. So why do you say my info is misleading? Could it rather not be the TripAdvisor reviews that are misleading a bit? In the sense that all lodges in the whole Kruger area get about the same reviews. Case in oint; Naledi has slightly better reviews than all Singita lodges. Do you conclude from that that Naledi is better than the place where the whole "private safari" thing started? Singita costs 10 times as much for a reason...

    I hope my info has helped the TS. In the end, he/she must decide what's best for him/her. If it was me, I'd know where to go. I would choose the places of legendary Fgasa level 3 guides like Courteney or Dave above a lodge offering something that looks similar, but much further "downstream", in an area where ecotourism is less developed and that is much closer to the city.

    Ciao,

    J.

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    My family and I have been to the Balule Reserve very often during the last 6 years. Before that, we’ve been to various other lodges (and various camps in the respective Reserves) like Londolozi, Sabi Sands, Dulini, etc. since 1993. I am very convinced that I, from all this experience, can judge a report – as given above by “pixelpower” and “jannb” – objectively, subjectively and professionally.

    My most recent visits were during 2011 and 2012, and I cannot follow the comments made by ”pixelpower” at all. I honestly cannot imagine that he’s actually been to the area recently, nevermind sitting down with various lodge operators and discussing the whole setup. Nor has his Cape Town based TA for that matter - otherwise the information given would be more correct. On the other hand, “jannb” is very clued up on the happenings within Balule.

    I do not want to get into an argument with “pixelpower” but would only like to advise “loru100”, and any other persons wanting to experience the wild animals and the whole “wildlife and nature” phenomenon, to just take the time to read through the reviews/comments made on TripAdvisor (i.r.o Naledi Lodges) and also to look up Naledi Lodges in Facebook. All these comments, and photos, are from guests that have stayed at Naledi’s two (2) lodges. You will also find that the game viewing is excellent, that off-road game viewing is practiced very much and guests do get very close to the animals. From comments and photos you’ll also be able to see that all Big 5 are seen regularly, including leopards and black rhino!

    Judging by the comments from “pixelpower”, he still is, for example, unaware that Naledi has two (2) lodges in Balule, both being highly rated. On Naledi’s game drives – and their game vehicles do drive over a vast hectarage, not only on "plots" – you will never come across a tarred road, “civilisation” (i.e. a town) or more than 2 vehicles at any one sighting. I looked up Rhino Post Safari Lodge’s TripAdvisor comments and photos – this is the other lodge being questioned about by “loru100” – and also looked up its homepage, and have come across photos of animal sightings, but with a tarred road in the picture. This is impossible at Naledi.

    I went into the link provided by “pixelpower” of his marketing, or mapping of the area and the lodges in the areas. I only went to Balule’s map, as I know Balule very well. Dear “pixelpower”, I’m sorry to say, but your lodges are plotted in the wrong positions! And Ezulwini’s Paradise Camp (one of the plotted lodges) is/was no lodge but was used exclusively for scientific research and conservation purposes.

    As I said before, I’m not going to argue topics with someone who thinks he knows Balule. Rather than trying to make untrue, or warped, points he should rather invest time in visiting the lodge in question, namely Naledi Lodges. For everyone else, and “pixelpower”, of course: JUST READ THROUGH the reviews and comments on TripAdvisor and Facebook on “Naledi Lodges”.

    On closer comparison, you will notice a lot more differences between the two lodges in question, namely the prices, the buildings (- Rhino Post Safari Lodge is a tented lodge), the facilities (- Rhino Post Safari Lodge has no air-conditioning, as written in its’ website), etc. Then ask yourself why Naledi Lodges on TripAdvisor is no.1 (out of 123) in the Kruger Park area, having had 360 (!) reviews the last time I looked. Rhino Post Safari Lodge is only no.61 (out of the same 123) in the same Kruger Park, and only has 44 reviews.

    I hope this will help to see things clearer and to decide on where to go.

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    not having a dog in this fight, i was at Naledi in March 2012 and here's my take. my comparison is Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania, this being my first visit to a safari camp in SA.
    Civilization - you definitely have a feeling of not being far from it. There are massive power lines that go through Balule and it's hard to take a picture without them. The lodge (the main one) is also fenced (it's a low fence, but still). There's AC and wifi (negative for me, but maybe a plus for some). The food was excellent and the design is very nice. The manager/owner is great (forget his name).
    Gameviewing - the area around Naledi is pretty thick brush, which makes finding animals more difficult. Overall, it's the weakest of all the other places we visited (although not sure it's a fair comparison). We usually saw individual or small groups of animals at a time (1 elephant, 1-2 lions, 1-2 bushbucks, etc). Driving was offroad, but there clearly were transversing rights as we were trying to follow an elephant and couldn't continue because we weren't allowed on neighboring property (but no fence, the guide just knew that past X tree we couldn't go). There were also some private areas that were completely fenced, so it was strange to be driving around and then come around to a fence. To be clear, these were smaller private plots that were fenced in from the rest of the reserve, so we were on the "outside" of the fence.
    the pluses - easy to get to from the airport, good accomodations and food, reasonably priced.
    For us it was a last-minute booking, so many other lodges were full. We knew what we were getting into and it was fine as a quick break from capetown. Our first choices were Elephant Plains and Arathusa. But for our next trip, we are returning to Kenya/Tanzania and I'm still dreaming of Botswana.
    I do agree that you generally get what you pay for.

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    Yes, Lerasp, there is one farm - and only one farm - that is fenced in. But this doesn't influence the migration as most animals move past it, on all sides. There is just one line of powerlines that go through Balule, and this is in one valley only. Interestingly enough, this is exactly where we've seen lots of lions, leopards and black rhino on numerous occasions!
    The wifi should not be negative to you if you don't want it. It doesn't jump on you! You just simply do not need to switch your cellphone/computer on. It's your choice, and at least you have a choice. Many tourists need to stay in touch with their emails, etc for up-to-date information pertaining to the next destination.
    The thickness of the vegetation is also seasonal. The best time to go has and will always be in the winter months, i.e. June - August/September. This applies to all the game lodges in the whole of Southern Africa.
    Since March 2012, when "lerasp" was there, Naledi's traversing rights have grown, as have a few of the smaller lodges. Of course, there are no fences - except for the one farm mentioned in the beginning. The "fence" around the lodge itself is purely for the protection of the guests and the servants, so that they may walk around the rooms and lodge, pool, etc free of fear. However, at night, various animals have been known to be able to enter the lodges despite the fences. So, one has to be careful in any case. The fence around the lodge (i.e. buildings housing the guests)has no influence on the game viewing at all.
    The private areas (of a few smaller plots) are fenced in purely for security. I'm sure, wherever you live, you probably do not have any alarm system against burglars, intruders, etc., or??? Look at your own home, and of your neighbours...no alarm, no security system in place?

    I didn't want to get involved in this petty argument.... There will always be positive comments, and negative comments. I just love this Naledi lodge in Balule. I've just experienced sooooo very much there... My heart doesn't long for any other place. Sitting at the pool at Enkoveni, watching the river, the sunrise, the animals...listening to the night life, the lions roaring in the dark, the owls hooting, the insects chirping...it is such tranquility and peace I feel deep within my heart...that I just take in a deep breath, slowly breath out and murmur "ah, I'm at peace"!

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    @lerasp; thanks a lot for sharing your personal experiences. At least now the TS can understand what I'm talking about, and hear it from someone else.

    @Kath; indeed! I was thinking about the same thing.

    @LuvNaturPur; you're turning it into a black vs white argument (on purpose?), which it isn't. I never said you cannot go off road in Balule. I never said there were tar roads. I never said you can't see the big 5 there. I just spoke about the chances you will have to go off road, the chances to get traverse onto neighboring properties, and the chances of ending up in a place where there's no electricity poles, no railway line or no light pollution at night ...in sight. And I didn't even compare Naledi in particular, but just the reserves in general.

    FYI I know Balule like the back of my hand, and know all about it's layout and reserve rules. At one point I've been looking at some properties which I wanted to buy. So it's pretty silly to say that I don't know the reserve and that my maps are not correct. The small scale of the map may cause icons to get moved slightly, for visibility, but that's it.

    For your information; Ezulwini does have THREE lodges, and they are all three marketed internationally. I will not reference to the site of the TA I'm connected with, but instead I will reference to another TA; ATR. Here's a page showing all three Ezulwini lodges (amongst others). The locations are idem as on my map.

    http://www.africatravelresource.com/africa/southafrica/northeast/kruger/krugerr/balule/

    And yes, I know perfectly well about Naledi having two lodges, but the TS did not ask about Enkoveni. He/she spoke about the regular (main) lodge. The main lodge is placed correctly on my map, and this can be verified in GE. It's coordinates are S24 12 19.7 E30 53 17.4 Just copy these in GE's "fly to" bar and you will see it is 2 km from the tar road next to the reserve (*). Enkoveni's coordinates; S24 10 34.4 E30 52 09.7 This used to be Singwe River Lodge. Location is slightly better as it's on the banks of the Olifant's river. But the fence is just 2km away, and one km further is Mica, with that big factory near the railroad.

    (* not that the tar in itself is important, but all the people living nearby and all the cars driving on it certainly are. For example; there's a tar road that demarcates the border of Klaserie and Timbavati, but only lodge owners drive there, so you don't hear or see it at night. Not even from Baobab Ridge, which is certainly the lodge that's the closest to it)


    Ciao,

    J.

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    Conclusions;

    Are the Naledi lodges a bad choice? Certainly not.

    Is there better to be had? I think so (and I pointed out some).

    Are scores on TripAdvisor useful? Yes they are, but they certainly should not be the only parameter to base your lodge choice on, as about every similar other lodge in the whole Kruger Area has equally high scores.

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    902,

    Your reply is a bit besides the topic of this thread, but you are 100% right in your remark. The TA I work with is based in Cape Town, has at least 15 years of experience, and co-owns a number of lodges.

    That's the kind of people you need to get decent info from, and solid proposals that can be trusted and are priced correctly. TripAdvisor can merely be used as a rough guideline to weed out the places that are really sub-par.

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    Or you can go to ww.casartgamelodge.com, in the small reserve (with a lot of wild animals) of Grietjie. And nearby Phalabowra gat, so you can drive yourself or with a ranger.

    Look at Tripadvisor Caart Game lodge are no. 1 one of Limpopo province and there are really good. We were there just a few ago, for 4 nights. The best ever!

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    See now the above is exactly what I mean!

    People will always defend their purchase. It's a proven fact. Everyone does it. We need to do it. It's to make ourselves feel good about the choice we made.

    But as a result, everyone says that the lodge they've been to is "the best ever".

    Remember the lodge I spoke about in one of my posts higher up? The one where they never saw a leopard during a game drive? It's almost next door to Casart! As far as I know, you cannot go off road on either Parson's or Grietjie blocks.

    Not saying Casart is bad. It offers great stuff at an incredible price. And it's the perfect proof that there's something to be found for everyone in Kruger area. But obviously it's not "the best".

    Ciao,

    J.

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