South Africa Trip Report

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Dec 1st, 2004, 12:49 PM
  #1
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Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 40
South Africa Trip Report

I'm a bit late in sending out this trip report. In fact, with the holidays in full swing I am going to cut and paste the report I sent back to my travel agent, and if anyone has any questions about any of the lodges, I'll be glad to answer them. We had a fabulous time, and even better yet; I think hubs finally got bitten by the Africa bug...this ensures future visits. Yay! Here's the report:

Starting with the airlines - Swiss Air was amazing in first class. The entire
flight flew by (no pun intended), with superb service, food, comfort, etc.
They have flat-bed seats with ottomans that move forward or backward to
accomodate any size passenger; a great bonus for husband, who is well over 6".
Their business class seats, however, were very uncomfortable (we flew business
on the return trip). There was quite a discrepancy in food and service. We had one leg on American Airlines on the way over, due to the
cancelled flight and re-routing, and we were surprised to find that American
Airline's business class outperformed Swiss business class.

Okay, now on to the good stuff.

DUGONG LODGE
Loved them.
The rooms were very comfortable, and their service was even better.

The Shangaan (sp?) people are an absolute pleasure to be around; it amazes me
that people living in such poverty (witnessed on the ride from the airport) can
be so kind and generous. The staff truly completes the experience and Gavin,
the manager, went out of his way to accomodate us.

Hubs and I spoke with a travel agent who was previewing the property while we
were there, and she worded it well: lodges in Mozambique may need to be aware
how they advertise the properties, as those arriving from safari may expect the
same level of service. These lodges, thought beautiful and with wonderful
staff, are obviously still in the early stages of achieving a true 4/5 star
experience.

Upon arrival we were placed in the bungalow closest to the lodge, flanked on
either side by the lodge pool and another bungalow. They were more than
gracious when we requested a more private room, and moved us to the very end
bungalow facing the beach - just beautiful. The sandbars in Mozambique are gorgeous! The rooms were rustic yet luxurious, though there was no air conditioning. It wasn't bad at this time of year, but I cannot imagine being there in the heat of the summer. The mozzies are unbelievable. It was warm enough that we needed to leave our windows and sliding doors open at night for
the breeze, and even with the mosquito netting around the bed, they found their
way in. They seemed to quite enjoy the cocktail of blood and Peaceful Sleep.
=)
The property gets its electricity from a generator, which they switched off at
night. John requires electricity to run his breathing machine so he can sleep
at night, so the lodge accomodated us and kept the generator running.

Again, these are things that are just fine if guests are expecting them. The
things that distinguish a true 4/5 star property is the ability of the
establishments to anticipate guest needs, which Dugong could improve upon a
bit. For instance, the pilot light was nearly always out, and it took several
days of cold showers for us to remember to request it be lit before retiring to
our rooms. It's understandable that the winds would blow the pilot lights out,
but perhaps sending an employee around to check and re-light them twice a day
would be helpful; morning and evening?
Also, fresh towels weren't provided unless requested, which in itself was a
difficult task as most housekeeping staff didn't speak English. At a beach
resort, fresh towels on a daily basis really are a necessity. Once the small
bars of soap disappeared (by day two...what can I say, we lather...) they were
not replenished. However, once the staff understood what was needed, they were
always so quick to respond.

The food during the first two days there was absolutely AMAZING. Delicious.
After that there was a distinct change, and I assume that perhaps there was a staff rotation and the first chef went on leave. Prawn and Calamari seemed to be staples after that. The only other thing I can think of that the lodge may want to consider would be providing more shade (umbrellas) at the pool. I don't think there were any,
and there was only one shady spot, so the pool was deserted most of the time
while everyone opted for the shade of their deck. Also, they have these
beautiful grass-thatched umbrellas on the beach, but no lawn chairs underneath
them, so I never did see anyone making use of them.
I can't emphasize enough how wonderful the staff at the resort was, though. I
was definitely not disappointed with our stay there.

Next -
LION SANDS IVORY LODGE (!!!)
AMAZING, AMAZING, AMAZING!!
My husband actually preferred it to Singita! I think Singita perhaps is a bit
more polished, but the experience at Lion Sands was more intimate. The lodge
is new, just opened in May of this year, and is just stunning. Really unusual decor - a modern feel in the middle of the bush. Each lodge sits on the bank of the river - not a dry river, either. Water buffalo and lion were frequent visitors. The setup of each bungalow was that when you entered the front door, the 'entryway' was actually the deck which contained your viewing area (viewing
telescope on tripod provided) and your plunge pool. On either side was a glass-
enclosed room; living room/bar/fireplace/dining on one side, and
bedroom/bathroom on the other.

Each room had a unique cubbyhole which opened up from the inside and the
outside of the bungalow. This allowed staff to bring trays of food or coffee,
slide it in, and ring a bell to alert you to its arrival. You could then
access your tray from the inside of your bungalow without ever having to see
anyone. It was wonderful!
The bar was fully stocked with an enourmous selection of food, spirits, soda,
fruit, etc. Very impressive.

The lodge's main dining area was spectacular, on a beautiful deck overlooking
the river with trees growing through, providing shade. The landscaping of the
Ivory Lodge exceeded that of any lodge we've visited, and the atmosphere of the
place was just very intimate and private - I'm overusing these words, but I
can't think of any other way to describe it.
The food was excellent - what a variety! The first night we were able to
choose from zebra, ox tail, crocodile, and warthog in addition to steak and
curries and all the wonderful side dishes.

The game drives were exciting - we saw the big five, and our ranger, Courteney,
had such a passion for his work that it showed...was quite contagious,
actually. In fact, game viewing was so good that by the time we moved on to
the Royal Malewane we ended up opting out of half of the game drives there as
we'd seen it all already and were ready to relax!
Even their sun-downers were over-the-top; what a spread! I had to discipline myself or I'd be full by the time we reached camp for meals.

I just can't say enough about Lion Sands Ivory - talk about anticipating every
possible need. Even the Land Rovers were equipped with a console in every seat
which contained a game book, a bird book, sunscreen, insect repellent, and
binoculars for guest use. If the lodge is able to maintian their facilities at
this level, we're convinced that they'll be as difficult to get into as Singita
before long. We will definitely be back to this lodge.

Finally, the ROYAL MALEWANE
Beautiful lodge! This lodge is obviously established - no kinks for them to
work out! Excellent management, too. In fact, one of their current managers
(Tracey) had only been transerred in to the Malewane three days before our
arrival, but we would never have known had she not told us. Exceptionally
professional. Great food - they really excelled at surprising guests with a
different theme dinner each night - from in-room dining to Boma (sp?), or 'bush-
dinners'. All staff were well trained and very gracious. Each bungalow also had its own plunge pool, though the pools were not as well kept as Lion Sands. Part of the problem may have been that the elephants enjoy stopping for drinks out of the pools on their way to the watering hole, which
made for some great photo opportunities, just dirtied up the pool water; a
trade-off we were willing to take!

Game drives tended to be long and relatively uneventful. The morning drives
were especially tedious and we opted out of the morning drives for the remainder of our stay. I thought that if we stopped the Land Rover one more time to look at a bird or impala I would come out of my skin! [Sidenote: we had an "interim" ranger who who traveled between lodges when they are shorthanded. As he wasn't as familiar with the landscape, I am sure we missed some sightings that the lodge's more experienced rangers would have found; the parties in the other Land Rovers came back with some great tales.} The rooms were so nice that we did not mind spending the extra time there.

The guests at the Royal Malewane seemed to consist more of well-seasoned travelers, more of the blue-bloods of the 'lodge circuit' than other lodges,
but very friendly and interesting.
On our final day I asked for some Amarulla to take home, and they sent a large
bottle along with some other extra items, complimentary. Very nice, very
classy. (They also remembered our anniversary with a bush-dinner and a specially-wrapped photography book nicely presented.)
I think that we expected the Malewane to be spectacular, and it was, so we got
what we expected.

The difference was that we did not expect Lion Sands to be quite as amazing,
and it most definitely was, so we were really blown away.
The staff at the Malewane is obviously more polished and established, but the
staff at Lion Sands left nothing to be desired either, and we have nothing but
the most wonderful memories.


Thanks to all you Fodorites for helping us to plan such a wonderful trip!
By the way, our travel agent was Lise Kaargard with Go2africa, and she pulled it together at the last minute...did a fabulous job as always (even with phone calls to her personal cel phone at odd hours.)
Will post pics when I get them downloaded!
Buffyp73 is offline  
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Dec 1st, 2004, 01:19 PM
  #2
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 33
buffy, wonderful review, thanks for taking the time...your stay sure was extraordinary..r/wes
colonelwes is offline  
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Dec 2nd, 2004, 08:43 AM
  #3
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 20
Buffy - ok i am concentrating on your review of the ivory lodge (sounds just unbelievable). my wife and i are headed there - any specific things we should know about Ivory...? how long were you there and when. we have never beed on safari let alone africa.
alos any thoughts on cape town beach hotels...? thanks!!
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