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Review of Phelwana Game Lodge

On a recent visit to South Africa, my boyfriend and I were eager to visit Kruger Park for a safari experience in the hopes of catching the big five. Heck, any animal would have done really; we were just excited to visit the country. So for our stay to tour Kruger Park we had to make a decision on where to lodge. Among all the game lodges that were available (and there’s plenty online to make your head spin), we chose Phelwana Game Lodge for its price and accommodations. Here I will give you my review of the lodge and what we experienced.

Nice front entrance.
Nice front entrance. | Source

First Impression

Phelwana was absolutely wonderful. From the time we got there we had absolutely no complaints. The entrance gates to the facility looked really nice and gave me positive feelings about the place instantly. We arrived through the gates and straightaway we were wowed by game. It was so freakin’ awesome! I could barely hold my excitement in. From warthogs to zebras to giraffes. It was such a cool experience. As we drove along to the reception for check-in, our driver was already informative and accommodating. He told us little tidbits about each animal that we came across.

As we approached the reception office you couldn’t help but notice how well the grounds were kept. It stayed manicured by the grounds men on a daily basis and it completely showed. (Kudos to the Modelo and the other grounds keepers!) As we made our way to the office we were greeted with welcome drinks and a refreshing towel. How welcoming! Very charming indeed. We then met with some of the office management to go over our stay. They informed us of the ends and outs of how things worked. They let us know mealtimes and what times we could freely walk the premises. Wait. Freely walk the premises?! Huh? Hello! Makes sense. There IS wild game walking around, you know. Which made things more real, yet still so very exciting. And to top my first impression of Phelwana off even more, they informed my boyfriend that they had especially stocked our fridge in our villa with his favorite beer. As well as some on reserve for the course of our stay. Wow! So FYI, if you lodge with them and receive the e-mail asking you if there’s a special drinks you’d like to have, make sure you let them know. I was under the impression that it was maybe to give it to you as a welcome drink. Uh…no. It was in order to stock it. Nice! After that pleasant surprise and getting things in order we were taken to our room.

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Toldja! This guy was spotted outside of our bathroom.
Toldja! This guy was spotted outside of our bathroom. | Source

Accommodations

Eh…I dunno, accommodations were alright. Are you kidding me?! It was amazing. It was the cutest, semi-fenced, single roomed villa with a thatched roof. No worries, sounds flimsy but it’s rainproof. It stormed a day we were there and not a single drop came in. The main area to the villa was spacious with plenty of windows all around for catching spur of the moment views of something that may be shuffling among the trees. We were grateful and excited every day for the animals that we caught shuffling about. My favorite moments were the giraffes that were just feet away from our privacy fencing.

The bathroom was a self-contained area with a door and ceiling. That may sound like something weird to include but my boyfriend and I have become quite particular about having our privacy when it comes to bathroom time. We have stayed in plenty of places where it’s been a smidge less private than we like and it’s an embarrassing nightmare to deal with no matter how long you’ve been together. Even the upscale hotels and villas seem to be doing it nowadays. What’s up with that? We’ve experienced bathrooms with bamboo sticks for doors, no ceiling or even no doors at all! Not here. The bathrooms are a nice size and include a shower (hot water was not a problem), well-functioning toilet and sink. All aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Believe it or not, some of our best wild sightings were actually seen from the bathroom window.

Though we came at a time where it was spring and things were somewhat still a little chilly outside there was a private pool to the villa. Oh, I wish we could have swam but it was too cold to enjoy a good splash. But it wasn’t too cold to enjoy a nice sit down at the lounge chairs that were provided along with a glass of wine and a good book. Though I must admit, I was too occupied with every shuffle of sound I heard from a bush being kissed by the wind or tree branches whimsically rubbing against one another from a bird taking flight to notice any words on the pages of my travel novel. Just knowing animals are freely frolicking the grounds will do that to ya.

The furnishings in the villa were among the best I’ve seen in any hotel. The large king bed was comfortable with its duvet and sheets for any chilly nights that may arise. There was an extra faux fur blanket to snuggle with also. Considering our room did not come with air conditioning we didn’t have that problem but at the same time nor did we have a problem with staying comfortable and cool. A ceiling fan positioned over the bed made everything comfortable. With the cone shaped style of the ceiling, I believe any heat we had went right on up and left us cool down below. If not having air conditioning just won’t cut it for you, I believe there are other villas or luxury tents that carry them. Considering my boyfriend can’t stand not having air conditioning or a fan at his disposal, he was quite comfortable.

Other amenities to the villa were an easy to use safe, mini fridge and night stands. A table is also provided that can double as a writing desk or vanity. Two comfortable sitting chairs with an accompanying coffee table centered the room; giving the room a comfortable homey feel without crowding the room. There was also a mid-sized wardrobe for hanging a few pieces of your safari’ing attire. Free teas, coffees and cups were provided in the room including sugar. We felt everything we needed was provided in the room. We however did not see an iron in the room. We also didn’t find a need for one. So we are unsure if you can request one. But it wouldn’t hurt to ask during your stay. What I also found most useful was a sink that was near the coffee and tea area. It came quite useful while the boyfriend was in the bathroom and I needed to brush my teeth. And for the diva in some of us I found there were plenty of mirrors for checking myself before heading out the door. Though it was adult camping at its best, a girl still had to look her best for dinner.

Delicious breakfast. Eggs were always perfect to how we wanted them.
Delicious breakfast. Eggs were always perfect to how we wanted them. | Source
Always delish desserts.
Always delish desserts. | Source
Bunny Chow. Yum!
Bunny Chow. Yum! | Source
Yummy parfait.
Yummy parfait. | Source
Aaaah...refreshing!
Aaaah...refreshing! | Source
Beef Bobotie. I couldn't get a good enough pic of this with the lighting so it may not look as appetizing but it was wonderful. Almost like a meatloaf but quite delicious.
Beef Bobotie. I couldn't get a good enough pic of this with the lighting so it may not look as appetizing but it was wonderful. Almost like a meatloaf but quite delicious. | Source

Food

Impeccable. During our vacation, we not only stayed here at Phelwana but we vacationed in Johannesburg as well as Mauritius. Out of all our traveling those two weeks, Phelwana’s delicious entrees entered into our conversations at least once a day. There was always something to think back on and remember with savory splendor. Every meal was more worthy than the next. We never got the chance to thank the chef but kudos to them.

Breakfast was served between 7:00 and 10:00 if I remember correctly. Some people came promptly at 7:00, others came in as they pleased. It was pretty casual. You could eat from the menu or just enjoy the buffet of fruits, yogurts and croissants they had displayed. We ordered from the menu as well as chose from the buffet and received nothing less than deliciousness every time. Tea times were also a fun casual time. It was between 4 and 6. It was a time to either be social, with the other guests that you may have become acquainted with, or for spending some time enjoying the outdoors with a snack or two with just you and your company. (Nothing was ever forced. You could choose to mingle with others or not.) Tea times were pretty much buffet style with a nice array of snack foods to eat. And they weren’t hoity toity snacks. In combination with everything laid out, snacks became a meal and were pretty fulfilling. And I could go on and on about the desserts that came during tea time. Each one was simply pow!, mind blowing. I liked the desserts during this time more so than during dinner.

Dinner was always a nice as well. Every day during breakfast we were graciously asked what we would like to have for dinner which normally consisted of a vegan, beef or chicken meal as the choices. So by dinnertime our meal was already in the works and all we had to do was show up! Have I mentioned the dining room yet? It was just as interesting to look at as the manicured grounds. It wasn’t the size of it or the architectural design of it so much as what was in it. It was filled with all kinds of interesting treasures to stop and look at. Whether the items were new or old, I couldn’t tell but there was plenty for the eye to take in. The ambiance was a great mix of romantic candlelight and safari dreams. Quite charming among the wine and delicious meals. What’s next? Aaah yes, dessert. As I said before, I liked tea time desserts better than the desserts during dinner. Of course it’s personal preference what type of desserts you like but I found the desserts during dinner to be a bit froufrou for my liking. Something to tickle the pallet versus something substantial. None were nasty or questionable, just meager in size yet still delicious. Also, something else I thought was super cool was the fact that we asked if we could take a bottle of wine back to our room and were given a picnic basket with the bottle of wine and two wine glasses in it. Presentation is everything and they had lots of it. Real class act if you ask me.

*Side note: I didn’t describe lunch time here because my boyfriend and I didn’t have lunch at the lodge. We had planned activities pretty much every day during our stay there and were given sack lunches by the lodge. Which I thought was super cute. I’m not sure of the menus or lunch times at Phelwana.

*Also, food is included in the price of what you originally paid for, for your stay. Drinks are what are not included. Every night during dinner you will receive a bill totaling what you spent for that whole day on drinks. We never found anything to be too overly expensive but you will have to judge that for yourself.

Activities

You get two free game drives on the Phelwana property. No big five action but it's a nice way to see lots of other game as well as get to know some of the other guests there.

There are plenty of activities to choose from such as safaris, fishing or day trips. You have to schedule these through the front desk. These activities will be at an additional cost.

Our planned Kruger Park Safari was awesome.
Our planned Kruger Park Safari was awesome. | Source
Our day trip to Lisbon Falls among other places such as Bourke's Luck Potholes and an alternative to God's Window was scenic and nice.
Our day trip to Lisbon Falls among other places such as Bourke's Luck Potholes and an alternative to God's Window was scenic and nice. | Source

Staff

I could go on and on about the staff at Phelwana. From the time we got there to the time we waved goodbye, the staff at Phelwana was a prize. There’s Robert who arrived to pick us up, that always shared his knowledge and wit. Elvis and Jeffrey provided us with their top-notch service, poise and smiles. We never left either without a smile on our faces. Reinhart, who wore many hats, was very social with everyone and shared his knowledge and experience with us. It was most appreciated when our inquisitive minds went to work. And the office staff were all great as well. Even going out of their way, for instance, to coordinate a touring trip for us last minute. Never dropping the ball on communicating to one another what was going on. We couldn't have asked for a better team of people.

Aaaah...caught this right outside of our villa's fencing. Such an exciting moment. My favorite!
Aaaah...caught this right outside of our villa's fencing. Such an exciting moment. My favorite! | Source

Likes/Dislikes

Likes:

Everything from the grounds, animals roaming the grounds, friendliness of the staff to the activities and lodging were great. It was such a pleasure to stay here.

Minor Dislikes:

  • No television: In the beginning thoughts of not having a tv was a firm dislike (okay I panicked a little bit) but not a day went by that I noticed there was no television. I read a book, took long naps or enjoyed the time spent with my boyfriend. Actually appreciated the passing of time which can be rare in these times of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and whatever else tends to fill our days up to the very second. No tv in the room turned out to actually be a like.
  • No clocks: I rarely wear a watch on vacation so we really depended on our phones for knowing the time; especially when it came to dinner times.
  • No phones: This is probably just me but I like knowing a phone is in the room in the event we have questions or have an emergency but we survived without one.
  • Timed dining: This wasn't terrible but with being unable to walk the grounds at night you had to be up and at 'em because everyone was picked up for dinner at the same time. Sharp. This meant no oversleeping, no lollypopping and definitely making sure those clocks were right.

Things to Pack
...for day at lodge
...for night at lodge
...for safari
Shoes
flip flops/sandals/sneakers
flip flops/sandals/sneakers
enclosed shoes with hard soles. Flip flops and sandals can be okay.
Umbrella
if rain is in forecast at all
if rain is in forecast at all
if rain is in forecast at all
Jacket
not necessary
not necessary
spring mornings can be very cold
Sweater
for cool mornings at lodge
good for chilly nights
 
Met this guy during the Sundowner during the free game drive throughout Phelwana.
Met this guy during the Sundowner during the free game drive throughout Phelwana. | Source
They were always so kind to give us sacked lunches for each of our excursions.
They were always so kind to give us sacked lunches for each of our excursions. | Source
We were never shorted any sightings during our safari.
We were never shorted any sightings during our safari. | Source

Need I say that I really enjoyed Phelwana Game Lodge? Probably not. I couldn’t have expected a better stay. It was a really cool experience as well as relaxing. It was a dream come true for my boyfriend and I to go on a safari for one thing. But to pair that dream with Phelwana really made things special. We had the pleasure of meeting the staff that made the shine of Phelwana just a little bit brighter. We got the enjoyment of having conversations with people from different countries that shared the same passion we did for traveling. And above all, we as a couple had the enjoyment of sharing that moment in time together and gathering more special memories among the two of us. Would we still have had that enjoyment elsewhere? Probably. But Phelwana was definitely a great portion of that feeling.

Don't believe me? Check out the reviews from TripAdvisor.

If you'd like to know more about our itinerary on our two week vacation click here. Or if you have any questions or comments please leave them below.

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