Lake Manze Tented Camp, Selous, Tanzania

Jonathan and Sophie check out one of Selous’ most popular lodges

Review by Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby.

You can often tell a good lodge by how long the managers have been there, and Phil and Trisha, Manze’s excellent hosts, have been here three years already. And their work shows.

Lake Manze is one of the more affordable lodges in an exclusive reserve, and the emphasis is on the informal and having fun. We arrive dripping in sweat as usual, as the season’s rains have yet to arrive and we’re shown to our rustic safari tents with a glimpse of Lake Manze through the palms. There’s no swimming pool here but in this heat it makes little difference – the only way to cool down is to shower then drip dry under the solar-powered fan. It works!

Lake Manze main area

Lake Manze main area

Lake Manze itself forms part of the Rufiji river system, which is the focal point of the northern Selous, and the Camp is one of several strung along this wetland, renowned for its game viewing.

We join guide Victor for an afternoon game drive around the shores, teeming with hippo, croc and some great aquatic bird life. As South African guides, we have lots of new species to tick off! We watch an impala give birth, a first for us, spell-bound as the tiny lamb stood up on shaky legs and started to run, tripping over its own legs, afterbirth still dangling from its mother.

Boat trip, Lake Manze

Boat trip, Lake Manze

Later, we find a pride of six male lions sheltering from the heat and plenty of ellies. In Selous you should have almost guaranteed sightings of lion, elephant and buffalo and a decent chance of seeing leopard and wild dog too. This has it right up with the northern parks including Serengeti, with the benefit of far fewer crowds.

Back at the lodge we enjoy a beer with fellow guests before we all sit down at one long table for dinner – the atmosphere works well. Maasai tribesmen escort us to our tents, armed with spears against any lurking leopards. Like it or hate it, this is a common feature of Tanzanian safaris.

View from Lake Manze

View from Lake Manze

Next morning we take a boat trip through the river system with Rasheed, an excellent guide, past sunning crocs, angry hippo and passing elephant – boat trips are an integral feature of safaris in Selous.

Lake Manze camp is one of the most popular in Selous and we can see why.

Our verdict – Good value, friendly camp in the exclusive Selous Game Reserve.

Good for – Sociable types who prefer an alternative to the crowds of the northern safari circuit

Not so good for – Sticklers for comfort (no power in tents except for fans) – Manze has very much of a bush camp feel.

Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

Francois talks about his family trip to Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

This is a destination not to be missed. The sheer expanse and beauty of the Sanbona gives one a sense of humbleness, a temporary release from the daily stresses of everyday living. Sanbona allows one to be at peace, to curl up with a book, seek solitude and do serious introspection.

At 54,000 hectares, Sanbona is one of the largest privately owned game reserves in South Africa.
 Sanbona Wildlife Reserve is only a 3 hour drive from Cape Town on the Route 62 and the ideal relaxation retreat with its two therapy rooms, steam room and a sauna. Winter evenings at Sanbona are awe-inspiring with the most amazing stargazing night skies around. Sanbona boasts
 54 000 hectares of undulating mountains and plains, indigenous flora and fauna, rock formations and rock art.

Klein Collection: How far is Sanbona from Cape Town?

Francois: About 250 km – but allow at least 3,5 hours to drive as there is a gravel road in the reserve that takes 50 minutes to get to the lodge

Francois and his family at Sanbona Wildlife ReserveKlein Collection: Why did you go to Sanbona? 
Francois: We decided quite impulsively to go to Sanbona with our kids (James and Francois Jr). Primary objective was to get away for two days, be spoilt in luxury and experience nature and privacy.

Klein Collection: What was your first impression of Sanbona on arrival?
Francois: Luxurious exclusive reserve and happy to have found it without getting lost!

Klein Collection: What was the service like?
Francois: Excellent service and attention to detail

Klein Collection: Is it child friendly?
Francois: Yes. Children policy on game drives allow allows children of 4 years and older.

Klein Collection: What activities are offered at Sanbona?
Francois: All-inclusive package meant amazing food and drinks at no additional cost. Very informative game drives (twice a day). The Sanbona reserve is 55 000 hectares large and has amazing wild life. We saw the big 5, game, bird life and open nature.
Sanbona’s Gondwana Lodge is very kid friendly and has a separate playroom for the children. The lodge’s menue also cater well for the children’s food preferences.

Klein Collection: What was the food like?
Francois: The culinary experience at Sanbona is really top end and it is one of the aspects of Sanbona that stood out for me.

Klein Collection: What was the highlight of your stay at Sanbona?
Francois: Seeing a hippo, a few lions, Cheetahs, and other animals at close range with our children – especially their reaction and the stories afterwards.

Klein Collection: What should potential visitors take note of?
Francois: Driving distance and to allow enough travel time to get to the lodge. I would definitely stay there for at least two nights – allow you to take it all in, relax as well as participate in game drives as well.

Should Sanbona tickle your fancy, contact Klein Collection at info@kleincollection.com to book your stay.

N’kaya Lodge, Thornybush Game Reserve

“Everyone feels right at home here,” – there’s no hesitation from Lianne, the super-friendly host at N’kaya Lodge, when we ask her to describe the atmosphere here at this small and intimate family-friendly lodge. Nestled among trees and with a big lawn surrounding the property, and with four chalets, this is the perfect spot for families or small groups.

The chalets are arranged in a semicircle around the crystal clear swimming pool, while the dining area and honesty bar are only a few meters away. During winter, expect a roaring fire as you sip your gin and tonic or sample one of the wines available from the small, but charming wine cellar.

Just a short stroll away you’ll find a small but popular waterhole – popular with game, that is. When we visited N’Kaya Lodge there was a beautiful male giraffe drinking and we had a great view of him from the hide (where you might be lucky to spot the family of bush babies living in the ceiling). This entire camp can be enjoyed while staying connected with the outside world – there’s full wi-fi coverage, even (fear not!) at the waterhole.

Enjoy!

What makes it different: Stunning chill-out spot by the waterhole

What we liked best: This unpretentious but very welcoming lodge is ideal for small groups and families.

Contact us to book your own safari experience today.

Email: info[at]kleincollection.com | South Africa Tel. +27 (0) 21 813 6961

Shumbalala Game Lodge, Thornybush Game Reserve

– Safari Review by Klein Companions, Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby, Klein Collection Safaris

Shumbalala means ‘Where lions sleep’ and you could well find one here, curled up underneath your deck or by the nearby waterhole. We were met by Isabel, Shumbalala’s charming hostess for a tour of the lodge’s 5 suites and one family room, all superbly furnished with exquisite furniture and an open fire. We were especially impressed by the view of the waterhole from the dining area, and the small touches, such as a bird guidebook in each room.

Our favourite though is the Presidential Suite which sleeps 4 in one of the most beautiful collection of rooms we’ve seen anywhere. At the push of a button, part of the private deck slides back, James Bond style, to reveal the personal plunge pool. We were standing on the deck as it slid back when a large herd of elephants wandered down to the waterhole to drink. There was a fine mist in the warm air and a faint rainbow was forming against the family of elephants drinking below. Watching that from your private pool – how can you beat that?

What makes it different: Shumbalala Game Lodge has its own quaint little wine cellar, stocked with top South African wines.

What we liked best: The Presidential Suite!

We would love to help you plan your own African safari. Contact us today.

Email: info[at]kleincollection.com | South Africa Tel. +27 (0) 21 813 6961

Sweni Lodge, Singita

– Safari Review by Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby, Klein Collection Safaris

Delightful, intimate Sweni Lodge sits next door to Lebombo and despite sharing the concession, guides and vehicles with its big sister, has a unique charm of its own. We popped down from Lebombo for lunch to check it out. See our review of Lebombo [link] for more about this Singita concession.

It’s a short stroll down the hill to this delightful little lodge right on the Sweni river. While Lebombo is set up high in the rocks like an eagle’s nest, Sweni Lodge has a more intimate feel with only six suites strung along the river either side of the lounge deck, dining area and a generously proportioned pool.

We’re greeted by the lodge manager, Kevin (who this week is also doubling as our sommelier up at Lebombo) and we’re immediately struck by the cosy feel of the camp. We settle down for a bite of lunch in the dining area which, like Lebombo up the hill, is surrounded by glass so you feel like you’re part of the bush even on cold winter nights when it’s too cold to eat out on the deck.

Singita Sweni LodgeThe style is contemporary but comes across as less of an architectural statement than Lebombo and it feels more homely. The suites are very similar to Lebombo with the interior design revolving around glass, wood and steel finishes. I have zucchini and parmesan soup as a starter, a parma ham and brie sandwich followed by fresh summer berries soaked in malibu with fruit sorbet. And since it’s a hot afternoon, I have the suggested rosé wine although as always, any wine from Singita’s vast cellar is available, all complimentary of course.

Good for: Small groups and families.

Not so good for: Lebombo better if you’re looking for something more striking.

Our verdict: Not quite as polished as Boulders Lodge and Ebony Lodge but more intimate – the friendly staff bring guests back here again and again.

Singita Sweni Lodge

We would love to help you plan your own African safari. Contact us today.

Email: info[at]kleincollection.com | South Africa Tel. +27 (0) 21 813 6961

Monwana Game Lodge

– Safari Review by Klein Companions, Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby, Klein Collection Safaris

With a broad smile and a wave, Christie gives us a heart-warming welcome to the 4-star Monwana Game Lodge. It quickly becomes clear though that it’s only technicalities, such as the size of the pool or type of lights that separate this lodge from a 5-star rating.

Monwana enjoys a superb location right on the Monwana River and from the boma you stand a good chance of spotting a leopard on the prowl. All suites except one overlook the waterhole or river, and they are all kept in immaculate condition. High tea is served most afternoons in the gazebo overlooking the waterhole. The beauty of Monwana Game Lodge is really the small and intimate feel that you quickly pick up – with a maximum of 12 guests, this lodge lends itself to social evenings under the stars.

What makes it different: Stunning honeymoon suite!

What we liked best: Location and friendliness of the staff – five star rating from us!

We would love to help you plan your own African safari. Contact us today.

Email: info[at]kleincollection.com | South Africa Tel. +27 (0) 21 813 6961

Ebony Lodge, Singita Game Reserve

– Safari Review by Klein Companions, Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby

Lavish African style, superb game viewing and amazing hospitality – we pop across from nearby Boulders for lunch and we’re hard pressed to decide which we prefer…

Located only a few minutes’ drive from Boulders Lodge, Ebony Lodge feels like entering a different world. Here the decor is full-on African theme but with a contemporary, classy feel. In the lounge a buffalo trophy hangs over the fireplace and bold African textiles set in warm yellow, red and orange tones compliment the majestic furniture.

Ebony Lodge, Singita Game ReserveWe walk along the wrap-around upper deck that gives access to the library and bar and stop to admire the large jackelberry tree (the African Ebony that so rightly has given name to the lodge) growing out of the deck below us. Ebony Lodge literally overhangs the Sand River – and from the lower deck, where we enjoyed a delectable three-course lunch, there are uninterrupted views of the river and bushveld. During lunch we chat to head ranger Mark Broodryk who gives us the 411 on the impeccable guiding quality on offer at all Singita lodges.

Ebony Lodge, Singita Game ReserveThe thatched suites at Ebony Lodge are smaller and less exorbitant than Boulders Lodge, but nonetheless with the same stylish feel. From the private plunge pool there are superb unraveling views of the river and you stand a good chance of seeing large herds of elephants or antelope close by. All the perks are identical to what’s on offer at Boulders Lodge – a fully equipped air-conditioned gym, a tranquil spa with steam room, a common pool, and of course a Singita wine cellar, albeit a tad smaller than the one at Boulders. Guests staying here are always welcome to visit Boulders for a distinguished wine tasting hosted by leading sommelier François Rautenbach.

As we wait for our 5-min. transfer back to Boulders Lodge, we chat to Debra, who epitomizes the essence of Singita’s level of service and hospitality. The staff at Ebony Lodge are loyal and everyone takes great pride in his or her work. Throughout the last 15 years Debra has worked her way from being a housekeeper, then a butler to now running the reception with a steady hand. I will never forget her smiling face! When staff members stay that long, they’re happy and when the staff is happy, so, inevitably, are the guests.

Good for: Families especially, but we’re quite sure that anyone will enjoy Singita’s oldest lodge.

Not so good for: Hmmm…

What we liked best: The location right on the river, with even better views than Boulders Lodge.

Our verdict: Simply stunning in all respects, but style-wise (in our opinion), Boulders Lodge is a cut above

We would love to help you plan your own African safari. Contact us today.