Djuma Vuyatela (Trip Report)

Jun 20th, 2003, 10:36 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 5,553
Djuma Vuyatela (Trip Report)

I write this on my final night at Djuma Vuyatela. I must say that Djuma Vuyatela has been quite a letdown.

The game viewing has been very poor compared to my time at Singita last year, Singita being just a few miles away. The entire Sabi Sand is stricken with drought after having only 25% of their usual rainfall this last summer (their rainy season).

If that was the only thing that Djuma Vuyatela had against it, I would not really hold it against them. However, there are more things that are completely within their control that they have dropped the ball on.

One of the most irritating things is that Vuyatela has trained their staff to constantly stick a drink in your face (drinks are not included). Even if you order something like a hot chocolate, it's "Would you like some Amarula in your hot chocolate, Mr. Rocco?"

The first night there were two separate groups of seven people (14 total). We were completely ignored, in my opinion, as the staff seemed to want to work hard on the final night of these two groups before tips were dished out. It was almost like a Twilight Zone episode as my wife and I, usually very outgoing and personable, were completely isolated. In all of our past lodge experiences we have always been around other couples and have managed to adapt.

Last night took the cake when the lodge emptied out from the two large groups and the manager and directors friends/family were here and despite the weather not being more than 45 degrees farenheit, we were served dinner on our deck outside our chalet, as if that was supposed to be a treat. We ended up leaving the candlelit table and taking our food inside where it was warm.

Deserving honorable mention was having one of the directors (owners) here this morning, eating breakfast at the same table as us, and being completely ignored by her. She didn't even bother to make eye contact and smile yet less get up and welcome us to Vuyatela. This after I have already had three emails from the Twelve Apostles Hotel thanking me for my stay and inviting me to stay with them again for the same low rates whether or not I am able to find an auction featuring their hotel again. Now that is class, something that should be a required course here at Vuyatela.

Instead, here at Vuyatela, we were basically "sent to our room", like naughty children to eat dinner in the cold on our deck while old (non-paying) friends reacquainted for a private dinner.

Our ranger, Chris, has been one of the only highlights of this trip. He's a really nice 24 year old, down to earth and very knowledgable ranger.

I will not hesitate to say that the accomodations at Vuyatela are very nice and that the housekeeping staff is excellent. Our rooms, as the rest of the lodge, is spotless.

The environment surrounding the lodge cannot even come close to the natural beauty of South Luangwa, and as I mentioned earlier is drought stricken and elephant ravaged (although in my three nights I have yet to see a SINGLE elephant).

My grades for Vuyatela are as follows:

Accomodations: 9.0
Food: 7.0
Gameviewing: 6.0
Service: 6.5
Value: 7.0
Cleanliness: 10.0

This really has the potential to be a wonderful lodge, but I, personally would never return again. Not only do I believe I received poor service from the onsite management, but when one of the owners fails to even take a second to greet me, then I will not donate a single penny to them again.

Roccco is offline  
Jun 20th, 2003, 10:55 AM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 102

Sorry to hear abour your bad experience, but happy that you have been honest about it for the benefit of all here. That is what makes these boards for valuable. I know you really searched long and hard and were quite excited about Djuma Vuyatela, although you were being honest in sort of expecting a possible 'let down' after Singita.

Hopefully the rest of your trip will have a few highlights.

melissaom is offline  
Jun 20th, 2003, 12:34 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Very interesting post, one that I was awaiting b/c I was completely unfamiliar with Djuma Vuyatela, and I thought I knew, at least by reputation, all of the top lodges in Sabi.

Glad to hear, though, that Kafunta was excellent, and that the hosts were gracious and friendly. They made me feel very welcome.

thit_cho is offline  
Jun 20th, 2003, 12:34 PM
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You know, I do think I was a little unfair on a couple of the scores and having just had a very nice (final) dinner with our ranger, an assistant manager and some other guests, I would revise my scores to the following:

Accomodations: 9.0
Food: 8.0
Gameviewing: 6.0
Service: 8.0
Value: 8.0
Cleanliness: 10.0

Still, with the current ownership, I would not return. I would NEVER ignore one of my customers, no matter how small a contract they gave me so I have a hard time understanding how one of the owners could ignore a couple that travelled from 10,000 miles away to come to Vuyatela.

At Kafunta, I easily spent nearly an hour a day with the owners and never felt like I was getting in their way. In gratitude, I offered them countless suggestions, told them what I liked about their website, talked about what I felt needed improvement and just tried to offer as much insight as possible.

The rooms at Kafunta were NOT spotless, the food was NOT great, there was no telephone or interet, but it was in a beautiful location and there was about a 3/1 staff to guest ratio and it felt a lot more like REAL AFRICA rather than Vuyatela which feels more like a manufactured Africa.

Also, the other guests at Kafunta were a much better travelled group and we didn't have to suffer through any large groups or from friends/family of the owners that seemed to receive preferential treatment.

About the game, while I did get some great photos of a leopard, this leopard was so tame that I was tempted to get out of the vehicle and pat it on the head! We had to work a lot harder at Kafunta to get close encounters with the animals, but when we accomplished this goal, it made all the more worthwhile.

At Kafunta, we must have seen literally one thousand impala and puku daily, came across a herd of 50+ buffalo and 30+ zebra, came across a group of 12 Thornicroft Giraffe, had numerous spottings of elephants, came across a lions den of 10+ lions and cubs, saw two separate leopards, and of course saw HUNDREDS of hippos, many of them right outside our chalet, just 3 - 5 meters from where we were sleeping.

There is really no comparison in the game viewing at Kafunta to Vuyatela, although I have the feeling that someone very near and dear to me will try to tell you otherwise (oh how I long for the days when I had Fodors all to myself in my household!).

This has been a wonderful trip for the most part and even my time here at Vuyatela has not been horrible, but I do wish that Vuyatela had lived up to my expectations.
Roccco is offline  
Jun 20th, 2003, 09:27 PM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 33
WOW Roccco! I'm I have been receiving Djuma's web updates, reports, etc and they are always so positive and friendly.
I pictured a world class resort with the friendliest of people in luxury surroundings and ample game.

It would ruin my stay as well, if i thought my wife and i were being overlooked. Having clean rooms, and good food is a great thing, BUT if the service is not genuine and warm...I would feel uncomfortable and not at ease.

Your posts are invaluable. I'm not going to entirely base my decisions around your opinions, but I will think long and hard about my trip to africa as I know you are an honest fodorite!

Looks like i may put off africa for a few years until i can afford to do it right (singita or londolozi).

Glad to hear 12 Apostles was awesome.


Matty A
MattyA is offline  
Jun 21st, 2003, 09:56 AM
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I must say that after a very nice final dinner and breakfast and a very successful morning game drive, that I am very torn on Vuyatela.

It is never wise to write a review on a place when the stay is only 2/3 complete but that is exactly what I did.

Had I done the same at Kafunta, my review would have been positive but not glowing. Like at Kafunta, the most successful game drive, by far, was the FINAL game drive.

Admittedly, I was a little tired and had gotten a little ill upon my arrival at Vuyatela. There is still nothing to excuse an owner from greeting a guest, however, the entire staff at Vuyatela were great, especially after the two large groups of seven persons each left after the first night.

I would hesitate to return to the Sabi Sand Reserve anytime soon, but if I did, I would definitely consider Vuyatela for approximately $500 per night ($250 per person per night) before I would consider Sabi Sabi, Mala Mala, Singita and many others.

About the Sabi Sand, by the time you catch a flight to Hoedspruit or Nelspruit and pay your vehicle transfer fees, you may as well fly to South Luangwa. The scenery at South Luangwa was spectacular and if you don't require internet or telephone to keep you entertained, there is absolutely no comparison between a safari in South Luangwa and Sabi Sand.

In South Luangwa, you KNOW you are in the middle of Africa. With the Sabi Sand, you are "kind of" in the bush, but at the same time a very safe distance from Pretoria/Johannesburg/Sun City.

Staying along the Luangwa River was nearly as magnificent as staying along the Zambezi River at Matetsi, but without all of the politics to worry about with Zimbabwe. Also, if you think that Kenya does not persecute people mercilessly, read "Dark Star Safari" by Paul Thoreaux and think twice before you badmouth Mugabe and those that visit Zimbabwe while you may choose to visit or advise others to visit Kenya.

Wishy washy, I know, but I am going to write my final ratings on Vuyatela, which is a great place to go if you do not wish to venture beyond South African borders, but cannot compare to the natural beauty of South Luangwa:

Accomodations: 9.0
Food: 8.5
Gameviewing: 7.5
Service: 9.0
Value: 9.0
Cleanliness: 10.0

And there it is. I look forward to figuring out how to post my pics the same way that Kavey posted her pics from her last trip. Cheers for now, it's off to board our flight to New York and then onto home, sweet home, Los Angeles!

Roccco is offline  
Feb 18th, 2005, 05:35 PM
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ttt for Atravelynn.
Roccco is offline  
Feb 19th, 2005, 03:05 PM
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Thank you, Rocco, for calling my attention to these posts. Interesting and insightful. As I read them it unfolded like a mystery novel. Glad things improved at the end.
atravelynn is offline  
Jun 19th, 2010, 12:57 PM
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Seven years later I must respond, having just returned from Vuyatela. I found it lovely and plan to go again. The rooms were spotless and lovely, the food was delicious, the service was very good. The game drives were wonderful. In the cool mornings we were supplied with hot water bottles and wool blankets and given coffee and very good snacks halfway through the drive. During the evening game drives we had whatever beverage we requested and very good snacks. Dinner was at a beautiful table and consisted of superb food. In fact, all meals were excellent, and the chef easily accommodated a variety of dietary restrictions and tastes. Additionally, no longer are drinks extra; only the premium brands will cost guests. Staff was always watchful and helpful.

I was more than happy at Vuyatela, one of the best spots for viewing leopards, and I saw more wildlife than I could imagine, even though I had just come from Namibia and Botswana. The guides were very careful to ensure we saw all the wildlife possible and that we had more than enough time to take photographs.

Vuyatela is now a real five-star place. You should go.
Durrell is offline  
Jun 19th, 2010, 03:35 PM
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Seeing who the OP is, I clicked on this right away! And no, he's not back.
LAleslie is offline  
Jun 19th, 2010, 05:31 PM
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Posts: 509
I've been hanging around Fodor's so long (although admittedly on other forums recently) that this slick and glowing "update" - after a five year gap on the topic - made me click on durrell's name. Seems to be a first time poster...who sounds just like a copy writer.
skibumette is offline  
Jun 19th, 2010, 07:21 PM
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Posts: 91
Rocco - Just curious--are the Owners you speak of Jurie and Pippa (can't think of their last name)? I am shocked to think that they ignored you all.
DanaPhx is offline  
Jun 19th, 2010, 08:12 PM
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And I thought, he was back .....
HariS is offline  
Jun 19th, 2010, 08:41 PM
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How time flies.
atravelynn is offline  

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