Anybody stayed at Leopard Hills in Sabi Sand?

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Feb 3rd, 2006, 02:40 PM
  #1
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Anybody stayed at Leopard Hills in Sabi Sand?

If so, what was your impression and would you return?

www.leopardhills.com

Thanks.
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Feb 3rd, 2006, 02:59 PM
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Rocco, I stayed at Leopard Hills during my first safari in 2001, so some things may have changed. The management was very attentive and they had a wonderful chef. However, the accomodations were average. Keep in mind that only one chalet has that breathtaking view, as the rest look out on dense brush (no view, really). The other disadvantage is that you are required to drive around on LH's small property the first hour of EACH game drive. If there is no game, it gets pretty tedius. After the first hour, you then move out onto shared properties. Although the leopard sightings were strong, I would not return to Leopard Hills. I would very much like to return to Londolozi, which has better leopard sightings and the wonderful Tree Camp.
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Feb 3rd, 2006, 03:18 PM
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Girlpolo

Good information on the first hour of the game drive, I don't remember seeing that anywhere else.

I did have a ranger at Makanyane who had worked at Leopard Hills for a few years. He did NOT spend a lot of time trying to convince me to go there instead of Mala Mala.
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Feb 3rd, 2006, 03:40 PM
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napamatt: well, I think that speaks volumes.
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Feb 3rd, 2006, 04:08 PM
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Hello,

Interesting to hear about the game drives -- sounds like it could get pretty monotonous after awhile. Do you happen to know which other properties they share traversing rights with (Inyati, Exeter, Ulusaba, Dulini, Savanna)? Do all the properties have to abide by this 'first hour on our own property' rule?

If so, it seems that this would be a good reason to avoid camps in this area -- it's very restrictive.

Cheers,
Julian
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Feb 3rd, 2006, 04:54 PM
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girlpolo,

Thanks for the feedback. I do believe that Leopard Hills has been refurbished as of early last year, but to what extent, I do not know.

It does seem a bit misleading to show that view from the one chalet, while the other chalets do not have nearly as nice a view, reportedly.

My earliest memory of Leopard Hills is sharing a FedAir light air transfer with a foursome of guys in their late 30's. They seemed to think they were hot $*** because they were going to Leopard Hills. "Sorry, never heard of it" was their response when they asked me where I was going. Where was I going? SINGITA!

We'll see how it pans out...I have the opportunity for an educational at Madikwe Hills and since I will already be in the Sabi Sand, I thought it may be a good idea to also pay a visit to Leopard Hills. A lot will depend on Mateya and Earth Lodge availability, although Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge also looks luxurious, but does lack the plunge pool. If I get the itinerary I want, 14 nights (all my non-Kwando lodges) will feature accomodations with plunge pools, and this in mid November to early December, when they will be the most useful.

Here is what I am considering for the moment, but I am really building around the core of Kwando and Islands In Africa, those dates already being confirmed. With this itinerary, I would shave a day off at the end from Ntwala Island Lodge, but since this is more of a chill out type place, I see it as the most appropriate place to cut a day.

Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge (3)
Leopard Hills (3)
Madikwe Hills (2)
Mateya (2)
Susuwe Island Lodge (3)
Kwando Lebala/Lagoon (4)
Kwando Kwara Island/Kwara (4)
Ntwala Island Lodge (2)

23 consecutive nights on safari, from start to finish. Only the high luxury of most of these lodges allow me to even dare such a feat. Kwando will likely offer the best gameviewing and most remote areas, so the lack of over the top luxury does not bother me, especially since I will have two final nights of luxury at Ntwala Island Lodge, a very exclusive lodge with only four chalets.

One very interesting bit of trivia:

Mateya claims on its website that it is the only lodge EVER to receive a perfect score of 100 by the South African Tourism Grading Council.

While I would love to stay at Mateya longer, the fact of the matter is that it will be too expensive for most travelers, and while Madikwe Hills is also expensive, it is at least within range to a few more travelers.

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Feb 3rd, 2006, 08:06 PM
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Rocco,

So, u are taking a 23 day break from all the running? if you already do a marathon prior, then......i guess you deserve a break!!!
 
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Feb 3rd, 2006, 10:51 PM
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Hari,

23 day break from running??? I have taken a 3 year break from running!

Just because I keep planning marathons, doesn't mean that I have not been a complete couch potato for the last 3 years. My last race worth mentioning was nearly two years ago when I finished dead last in a 20 mile trail race!

Hopefully, however, upon returning from Tanzania I will start training again. If nothing else, I just bought a new bowling ball and all the necessary accessories. The way I bowl, it is quite a little workout, as I do not sit the entire time and prefer bowling alone. Almost like doing squats with a bowling ball for an hour or two straight!

Okay...I am going to set a goal...I get back from Tanzania on March 19th. On May 13th, I will complete this grueling event in the 14 mile category:

www.trailrace.com/events.html#anchor1

Then the plan will be to run this race four weeks later (15 mile trail race at high altitude)

http://www.holcombvalleytrailruns.com/

With those two races, consistent training and a couple long training runs of 19-20 miles, I will be in a position to run the San Francisco Marathon on July 30th.

http://www.runsfm.com/home.html

4 months is really rushing training along, but I am confident that I can do it. It's all about proper pacing, mental toughness and a bit of masochism doesn't hurt, either!

The reason for the trail races is more for the soft surface than anything else, but the nice scenery is just a bonus. If I were to start running at my current weight for more than a few miles on asphalt, I would likely get injured. However, other than breaking my ankle or falling off a mountain, trail running will not be as hard on my body, although it will really slow down the pace.
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Feb 3rd, 2006, 11:33 PM
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Hey Roccco,
I don't recall, have you ever been to Mala Mala? If not, you should. Mala is THE safari camp by which all others are judged. (In my opinion, anyone else's?)
regards - tom
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Feb 3rd, 2006, 11:51 PM
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Cary,

So far, I have only visited three Sabi Sand lodges...Singita Boulders, Vuyatela and Simbambili.

Although great gameviewing is obviously important, I also place a high emphasis on accomodations, especially since my wife sits out half of the game drives and likes to soak up the environment of the lodge.

While I do not question that Mala Mala is excellent for its wildlife, I do not think the accomodations of Mala Mala's main camp are up to the standard of luxury I expect out of a permanent lodge. I am obviously more forgiving on seasonal bushcamps like Kafunta Island Bush Camp and even tented lodges like Kasaka River Lodge and Chongwe River Camp.

Ratrays does look very luxurious...I just have a hard time accepting golf carts in game lodges and the televisions in the rooms would be a distraction.

I am sure I will get to Mala Mala one of these days, but for now it is not yet registering on my radar screen. Just one of those things...my loss, I am sure, as it certainly has some very passionate past visitors, but I just, for whatever reason, have no burning desire or curiosity for Mala Mala at this time.
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Feb 5th, 2006, 09:50 PM
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Tom,

I do not agree with your comment that "Mala Mala is THE safari camp by which all others are judged."

To be honest, I look at Mala Mala main camp as a good budget option...okay, not as budget as a few others, but not far off, either.

Now, Ratrays obviously takes Mala Mala to another level, but rather than sharing a traversing area with all the guests at Mala Mala main camp, I would sooner stay at Singita Boulders or Ebony than Mala Mala.

Tom, have you been to Singita? Which other Sabi Sand lodges have you visited? Which other lodges outside of the Sabi Sand have you visited?
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Feb 5th, 2006, 10:02 PM
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Tom,

I have answered my own question...you have been to exactly four safari camps/lodges including Mala Mala. Given that your other camps/lodges were Nsefu, Tena Tena and Khwai River Lodge, it is not surprising that you would crown Mala Mala as the king.

Had you visited Luangwa River Lodge or Puku Ridge in South Luangwa or a Wilderness Safaris or Kwando camp instead of an ORIENT EXPRESS lodge (???) you may have a harder time choosing.

I have been to triple the amount of South Luangwa camps and triple the amount of Sabi Sand lodges, as well as visited numerous Lower Zambezi camps and other camps.

Tom, Singita is about $2,300 per night right now. How about going to your tour operator and whether THEY have actually visited or not, book yourself into Singita and then come back and report whether or not Mala Mala is better. Thanks for playing.
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Feb 5th, 2006, 10:08 PM
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Rocco,

You know my opinion on Mala Mala........i'd stay away from the sabi sands area, unless i wanted to get some great leopard viewing......Main camp, is nice......just too crowded in camp....the bar/lounge area is very very nice (even compared to Botswana!!!)The rooms are nice......but nothing extra-ordinary.

But to answer your question, on game drives and sharing the same traversing area........the area is sooooo big, that you rarely see many vehicles at sightings......not at any of the leopard sightings, were we with another vehicle....from memory, the only time we did share a sighting, was at the lion mating......that's only because we were parked at the same spot for the entire evening......

And unlike Kwando......they do like to get back to camp in time for fixed time dinners.....we were out on our final night with the Selati Pride of lions and they were on the move, supposedly hunting......but we had to get back to camp (our guide said, we were too far out and couldn't stay longer!!!)....and yes, we were a party of 4 and had our own vehicle.....

The food was good.......although, nothing out of the world (nothing like Mombo or anything gourmet.......)

But people talk about MM and good for game viewing......are they talking Leopards and lions??? Leopards, in my opinion can be viewed anywhere in the SSGR.....and lions anywhere in most places across Africa (Bots, East africa etc).......and i doubt ppl travel to MM to see impala and the other antelope...although they have some fantastic nyala that are hard to find elsewhere.....
 
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Feb 5th, 2006, 10:25 PM
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Hari,

I don't believe it. You mean you visited Mala Mala but you are not proclaiming it the best game lodge on the planet Earth?

Seriously, however, thanks for sharing your experience. My fear with the bigger companies is exactly what you have told of...too regimented. While there are no escaping certain rules at some places, as far as I know the vehicles in the Sabi Sand do not have to be back to the lodges in time for dinner!

While I was at Simbambili, we were basically split into two groups. There were six Americans, all of us in our 30's, as well as my tour operator from Joburg who joined us, and then there was a group of about six older Brits. The group I was in was always back later to camp, and, if memory serves me correct, we even had completely separate dinners...almost like a cruise ship...they had the early dinner adn we had the late dinner, but it was because we had such a cool game ranger, Jaco, and we all agreed to stay out late. If what you are saying is accurate, we would have never had the chance to stay out later had my stay been at Mala Mala. Mala Mala or not, at Simbambili, by the second game drive we had already seen the Big Five and in my three night stay, I believe there were seven separate leopards, including the matriarch leopard with her 7 month old cub, as they ate a fresh kill atop a termite mound! We tracked rhinos on foot, tracked cheetah on foot, watched lions attempting to hunt, saw jackals, saw a Mozambiquen Spitting Cobra slither across the road and so much more...and ALL OF IT IN 5 STAR LUXURY for not much more than the price of Mala Mala main camp. I have no regrets, whatsoever, of making my third consecutive Mala Mala-less visit to the Sabi Sand.
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Feb 5th, 2006, 10:27 PM
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Roccco,
I have not claimed I'm close to your experience with safari camps, you are right. I know that you have been to ten times as many safari camps as I have. I know the price of Singita and it is out of "my league". And I can't compare game viewing between Mala and Singita- but neither can you. If your client(s) has their own chauffer, a Learjet, yacht in Mykonos, etc. then they must have Singita. What I am saying is - How many books can you find on Mala Mala and Singita? I have three hard bound books on Mala, two you can find on Amazon. There are none for Singita (that I'm aware of). About every other TV program on African wildlife is filmed at Mala Mala. National Geographic has a resident photographer at Mala.
Anyway it has been fun, but I think I'm going crazy with two concurrent threads here on this stuff. So it's "over and out" for me. Take care.
regards - tom
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Feb 5th, 2006, 10:33 PM
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Before anyone points out what a small area that Simbambili has and what a large area that Mala Mala has, it is mostly meaningless...Simbambili shares traversing rights with Chitwa Chitwa, Elephant Plains and more. Also, Mala Mala on their maps will take the liberty of showing areas that are actually off limit to guests, making it smaller than it appears.

I will say that the traversing area that Simbambili enjoyed was completely sufficient for our 4 hour game drives. Only for that special sighting of the mother & cub leopard kill and for an absolutely huge tusked elephant putting on a display of knocking down trees, were there ever more than one vehicle on a spotting.

I expect to have similar game viewing at Sabi Sabi and/or Leopard Hills later this year.
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Feb 5th, 2006, 10:49 PM
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Besides the luxury lodges, I know good trip reports when I read them. Kwando is one of the best regarded safari operations in existence, and for about half the price of Mala Mala, visitors are able to visit Kwando's camps between December 01st - March 31st. I will certainly be there later this year.
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Feb 6th, 2006, 02:51 AM
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Hi Hari,

I'm frankly amazed that a party with a private vehicle had to leave a sighting just to get back in time for dinner. I've never encountered that sort of regimentation at Londoz, whether or not I had a private vehicle. When guests wanted to stay at a sighting, they did, regardless of whether it was time for a meal. On my last trip, I was always the first person out and the last one back, and never felt any pressure to return to camp to meet some arbitrary dining schedule.

I've been impressed by recent reports on the game-viewing at Mala Mala, but this information puts quite a damper on it -- what's the use of having spectacular game-viewing if the meal schedule takes precedence over a great sighting?

Cheers,
Julian
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Feb 6th, 2006, 07:40 AM
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It doesn't. In my experience Lions who are hunting are great to follow, but if the plan is too follow them until something happens, you'll have a long wait, also at MM seeing Lions hunting is considered a pretty usual sighting, there is nothing exceptional about it.

Back in early 2004, there was an amazing sighting of 5 Leopards, the details of which are somewhat hazy to me, and I can't be bothered to check the cyberdiary. That night most guests gopt back to camp after 11pm and had the choice of dinner or bed.

"Also, Mala Mala on their maps will take the liberty of showing areas that are actually off limit to guests, making it smaller than it appears."

Rocco can you elaborate on this?
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Feb 6th, 2006, 09:07 PM
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Napamatt,

Hi! Perhaps, lions hunting is a pretty usual occurrance at Mala Mala......but the fact remains that, i have yet to witness a successful kill (in my 6 trips to Africa).....although i have seen several attempts (all missed)...

My point is......yes, we were a long way from camp, but we wanted to stay with the lions on our final night.....we did spend some time with them while they were still lying down, but the moment they started walking and checking around.......we only spend about 20 mins and then our guide (who was fantastic) said that we had to return to camp otherwise we would be too late for dinner......we were still the last people back!

However, if i were to return to the Sabi Sands on a future trip.......i would not return to Mala Mala.....

I read one of the prior posts, saying MM had a lot of documentaries filmed on location......that is one of the reasons for my visit......but so has Londolozi.....i would consider Londolozi, Sabi Sabi, ngala, high on my list.......

Anyone visit Ngala?
 
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