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Reviewed 24 February 2016

While I had looked at the pictures online, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect when my friends and I arrived at N'Kaya Lodge. Whatever I imagined, N'kaya far exceeded my expectations. N'kaya only has 4 rooms (which are absolutely beautiful) which made our stay very intimate. We were the only guests our first few days, which was amazing! Here are my thoughts:

The Lodge: The rooms were beautiful and equipped with deep soaker tubs, mosquito nets, high thatched roofs, comfy beds, and of course, baboon locks. We were totally comfortable and the cleaning staff did a great job. The main room where we ate overlooked nature and we often had dinner guests with antlers. The bar is a do it yourself job most of the time, which made the whole lodge feel like an extension of my living room. There is a nice little pool in the middle where you can swim while watching monkeys hanging out in the tree above you. But the main event for us was the hide overlooking the watering hole. There was CONSTANT activity of amazing animals stopping by for a drink or to cool down. We spent most of the day hanging out in the hide watching who came by from 11 elephants at once, to herds of zebras, giraffes, baboons, impalas, nyalas, a lazy cape buffalo, warthogs, etc, etc.

The Food: The would not stop feeding us fantastic food! There were appetizers for breakfast, no joke. We loved everything!

The Staff: We had Andre as our guide and Andries as our tracker. Lene runs the show back at the lodge. All three could not have been more accommodating and awesome. Andre answered hundreds if not thousands of our questions about the animals, life in South Africa, cameras, etc. Andries found us incredible animals nonstop and even managed to spot us a chameleon in a tree, at night, from a moving vehicle! Lene was in charge of meal planning and running everything at the lodge, and she really made sure everything was perfect. We became very friendly with everyone and it really enhanced our experience.

The Game Drives: We saw every animal we could think of, multiple times and babies of almost everything. We were able to get super close to lions, leopards, elephants, and even watched two cheetahs make a kill. We saw rhinos, hippos, tons of antelope varieties, zebras, giraffes, etc etc. We loved our drives, especially when we off-roaded it. We also loved the evening stops for wine while watching the gorgeous African sunsets. A+++

Overall: I could not have asked for a more perfect place to experience a safari. The hotel was luxurious but cozy; the food was fantastic; the staff was incredible, fun to hang out with, and very knowledgeable; and the animals were life changing! I would highly recommend N'Kaya to anyone traveling to this area. I really miss being there already!

I have no negatives what-so-ever except for somewhat spotty (but still mostly functional) internet connection, which I really didn't want to use anyway.

Room Tip: There are only 4 rooms which are all the same. They are all great!
  • Stayed: February 2016, travelled with friends
    • Value
    • Sleep Quality
    • Service
Thank Alexa K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
NKaya_Manager, Manager at N'kaya Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded 11 March 2016

Alexa, thank you sooooo much for this great review. Yes, we had a good time with you and you friends, and would love to see you all back here. Thank you for sharing so much about your country with us, we have also learned a lot from your group. Stay well.

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Reviewed 1 January 2016

We were not supposed to stay here because we wanted a more luxurious lodge - Jackalberry. But East Cape Tours and Thornybush Reservation Department (Diane and Michelle Naidoo especially) were very incompetent dealing with our request for Jackalberry. We fully paid the 4 nights at Jackalberry and we received the confirmation voucher from Thornybush Reservation Department for our 4 nights stay. (I have the proof of email and attachment sent by Michelle Naidoo). Less than 3 weeks before coming here, Thornybush Reservation Department represented by Diane Naidoo and East Cape Tours (travel agency) send me an email stating that they don't have how to accomodate us for 4 nights so they made a proposal to stay at a cheaper accommodation N'Kaya. I was in London during that time and it was really painful for me to communicate with them knowing that they messed up our fully paid reservation. In the end we decided to go for N'Kaya because there was no availability for a better lodge inside Thornybush.

The Lodge and The Management
It's located in the north-eastern part of Thornybush Game Reserve, 20 mins drive away from Thornybush Reception Area. It has only 4 cottages so you will feel like home. The lodge is protected by electrical wire but this doesn't scary nyalas which are almost permanently living inside the lodge area. When we arrived we were greeted by Andre which together with Lene make the management team. Andre is quite a nice guy, he gave us all the information needed, he spoke with Lene while she was in town to buy a new kettle because the one from our room was not functioning. Lene and Andre are taking very good care of their customers, always helpful and very receptive to the feedback customers give.

Accomodation
There are 2 rooms which comprise bedroom and sitting area. Rooms are very well equipped with A/C (much needed during South African summer), comfy bed with mosquito net, safe, torch, insect repelent, UK and european electrical plugs, coffee and tea making facilities. There are 2 bathrooms one with shower and one with bathtube. Cleaning is done twice per day (when people are in safaris) so you can imagine that we were very satisfied.

Food
All meals are included in the paid package. Breakfast is served after you come back from the morning safari. Eggs are prepared as you like and they are served with bacon, tomatoes, mushrooms. Different types of cheese, ham, jam and pastry complete a very rich breakfast. As drinks water and smoothies are supplied. We are not big fans of smoothies, we would have appreciated more a fresh orange or mango juice.
At 3.30 pm a light lunch is served. Variety is the word that describe the best the light lunch: during our stay we have eaten mini pizzas, quiche, pork ribs. Also the deserts were very appreciated by all the guests during our stay.
Dinner is served after the afternoon safari and it's the most important meal of the day. It includes starter, main and desert. There was a variety of dishes that we tried during our stay: sweet potato pie, springbok steak, kudu, chicken breast, local fish. Last night was a special one: we have eaten in the boma and it was the best night of our stay. Our guide Dean entertained us with wildlife stories and with the actual political situation in SA. It was a bbq dinner and all the employees tried hard to make us feel special.

Drinks
There is a honesty bar just near reception area from where you can serve yourself with drinks whenever you like. Prices are more than decent: a glass of Shiraz wine 40 R, a Courvoisier shot 40 R, a beer around 20 R (Castle Lager, Lite, Windhoek draught), refreshing drinks 15 R, rum 30 R. There is a list with all 4 rooms where you write the items that you took from the bar if nobody from the lodge was at the bar when you picked up the desired items.

Other facilities
The lodge offers wifi for 70 R per device per stay. The wifi is very unstable and you need to relogin several times per day. I think this is an area where the management should improve.
There is also a cottage near the electrical fence from where you can see the animals coming at the waterhole especially built by the lodge. We saw zebras, wilderbeests, capped buffalos, nyala, impalas, giraffe coming here when thirsty.

The Game Drives
There are 2 game drives per day. The morning safari starts with the sounds of nyala horn that Dean makes to wake up everybody. Dean our guide and driver will do the impossible to take you to see The Big 5 during your stay. Andres the tracker often gets off the car to inspect the tracks of lions or leopards. We didn't manage to see a leopard in our first 3 game drives and Dean and Andres made it possible on the fourth drive with the help of Regi the guy from maintenance which was passing an area where a 2 year female was waiting for us.
What I love most on safaris made within private game reserves it's the fact that animals are not stressed and you are just 1-2 meters away from them. Also the covertible 4x4 vehicle makes you feel part of the game. Of course there is also the negative side of not seeing the same number of animals that Kruger or Masai Mara is offering. We were lucky to see 7 black rhinos (including a female with a baby), 6 white rhinos, more than 20 elephants, capped buffalos, 3 leopards (including a female with cub), 6 lions (2 male, 3 adult females and one female cub of 8 months old), wilderbeests, impalas, lesser kudus, nyalas, warthogs, steinbok, zebras, giraffes, cameleons, monitor lizard, squirrels, vervet monkeys, herons, vultures, eagles or storks.

In the end I would like to say a Big Thank You to Dean, Andres, Lene, Andre, Regi and to the kitchen team which did everything to make us feel as we were home.

Room Tip: There are only 4 rooms, all rooms are facing the pool area so there is no difference between them.
  • Stayed: December 2015, travelled as a couple
    • Sleep Quality
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
5  Thank Mikiduta
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
NKaya_Manager, Manager at N'kaya Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded 11 March 2016

Thank you for taking time to write this review. It was very nice having you here and I am sure you have a lot of photos to share with friends and a lot of interesting stories. Very glad that you got to see the elusive leopard.

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Reviewed 28 December 2015

I stayed at N'kaya Lodge over Christmas. Nkaya is a little lodge comprising of four rooms. It is very homely and the couple who run the lodge, Lenai and Andre are a huge part of the reason why this lodge scores highly in my review. The suites at Nkaya are divided into two sections, the bedroom and the sitting area. The suites also have both a bathtub and an independent shower. They are a good size and comfortable. The food was really good and had a home cooked feel to it. It was hearty and tasty. A lot of trouble is gone into with the preparation and presentation of the food. And it was really touching that the hosts went into great pains to make Christmas eve dinner so memorable with Champagne and a beautifully decorated Boma. Dean was our guide and Andries was our tracker. Dean is quite a character and will entertain you with stories of his guiding exploits. Andries is a first class tracker and will often get off the jeep and go for a wonder in order to find you game. He did this and tracked down a pride of lion. The game viewing in the reserve is exceptional and you might see the big five in a single drive. The lodge is located on top of a hill and as such there isn't much of a view from any of the rooms but a very comfortable and well run lodge.

  • Stayed: December 2015, travelled with family
    • Value
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
1  Thank Amrit R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
NKaya_Manager, Manager at N'kaya Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded 11 March 2016

Thank you very much for the nice review, we are glad to hear that you have you had a great time with us.

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Reviewed 30 November 2015

Have just found time to write this review as we traveled to N'kaya lodge back in July. What a great peaceful place to go see the big 5. The lodges are very roomy and comfortable as are the grounds with the small pool for a quick dip and the water hole which we spent much of our free time by. Andre and Lena are great hosts and love what they are doing and it shows. Nothing is too much trouble and when my wife showed a reaction to the malaria tablets she was taking Lena phoned the pharmacist and got things sorted. The game drives were fantastic and with Andre and Andrew in control we soon found the big 5 2 days running. I love the fact that the animals are not put under pressure by the rangers and are never surrounded which leaves them very chilled out when you find them. Food was excellent and the self service honesty bar was another lovely idea. A big thank you for the birthday celebration from you and the staff . After 4 days safari we had a transfer to a much bigger lodge in the Kruga and we realized that N'kaya was so much better.Would definitely return when my grand kids are bigger as I know they would love it. Many thanks from me and Jan.

Room Tip: all rooms are the same and have wi fi and safes
  • Stayed: July 2015, travelled as a couple
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Service
Thank akpLondon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
NKaya_Manager, Manager at N'kaya Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded 25 December 2015

Thank you for a great review. We are glad to hear that you enjoyed your stay with us and it is always nice getting people back for another visit.

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Reviewed 30 November 2015

We stayed here for two nights, 9th and 10th November and I thought this lodge was exceptional. To get there you have to drive yourself to the main lodge, which is quite exciting, especially when you spot your first giraffe - bizarre how easy it is to miss them! We were then collected by our tracker Andres who took us by jeep to Nkaya.

On arrival we were met by Andre with fresh cool face cloths to clean the dust off our faces, in fact he was waiting with these after each drive which was a really nice touch, and a drink. We were later introduced to his partner Lene who runs the camp with him.
We were given an orientation of the camp whilst our bags were taken to our room. It's great that there's an electric fence all around which keeps out the predator animals, and means you can wander around unescorted at night.
ROOM:
I can hardly begin to describe how happy we were with our lodge. A beautiful and very very comfy bed, a bathroom, a shower room, and a lounge. Mosquito protection was also provided. It was beautiful. Also had a little veranda outside.
POOL:
We jumped in here shortly after arriving and had a lovely couple of hours cooling down and watching this warthogs before tea.
HIDE:
For this reason alone I hope to come back to Nkaya. Between breakfast and high tea I spent hours in here readying a book and watching the waterhole. It's pretty big and fairly comfy. I saw at the waterhole elephants, rhinos, buffalo, various antelope, baboons, warthogs, and numerous birds. If early morning drives are too exhausting for you, don't worry, you wont be disappointed if you spend a few hours here.
FOOD:
I admit I am extremely fussy and have a very sensitive pallet, so I wasn't expecting to put on any weight. That was before I had the mandarin cheesecake. Wow. That was just awesome. So a cooked breakfast after the morning game drive, a buffet high tea before the evening game drive (that's you when you get the cook's divine tarts), and then dinner. You only get one option for dinner, and although I prefer things a little simpler, it was very good. I think they're trying to hard and they really don't need to.
GAME DRIVE:
This was the only let down, not because we didn't see the big five, we did, but because our tracker did very little and our guide came over as a little petulant, and was more interested in taking his own photos then ensuring that we were getting good shots. It was nice when we drew up to other Jeeps so we could listen to the other guides, our guide had very little to say about anything. I gave up trying to engage him in conversation. We spent a lot of time getting to animals - directed there by other guides - and then five minutes later we were off! I appreciate they don't want to crowd the animals, but this was very unsatisfactory. You can see why I loved the hide so much!

I hope I'm wrong, but I feel that when they found out what other lodges we had stayed at and were going to, the staff were a little defensive. Which is a shame because I'd give this lodge got 9.9 out of 10.

  • Stayed: November 2015, travelled as a couple
    • Location
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Thank Samantha B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
NKaya_Manager, Manager at N'kaya Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded 25 December 2015

Thank you very much for the review. I have had a word with the guys about dropping the ball on your stay, and I trust they have picked up the standard to where we want it to be. Thank you for reviewing, it would be nice to have you back here any time.

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