Monday, May 6, 2013


MAXMOM here...

South Africa

I have just completed a number of very positive blogposts about our recent visit to Tangala Private Lodge in the Thornybush Game reserve, Mpumalanga, South Africa.  (I encourage you to read these posts and to share my journey.  You can find the links in the left hand toolbar of this blog)  

As my readers will know, I love my country and I love its natural heritage.  For this reason, I generally choose to write about the ‘positives’ and leave out the ‘negatives’ in my various posts. The intention in my blogs is always to inspire and encourage.

I realise, however, that I may have overlooked the importance of also writing pragmatic, general reviews about the places I visit.  This applies, in particular, to our four-day stay to Tangala. 

So here are my ratings of the establishment, and my comments:

Dates visited: 21-25 April 2013

Environment: 10/10
Tangala private lodge is located in the heart of the renowned Thornybush Game Reserve.  It is a beautiful setting and home to some of South Africa’s “BIG 5” - Lion, Leopard, Buffalo, Rhinocerous & Elephant . The lodge is unfenced and wild game is free to wander around, so there is a general need to be aware of one’s environment and keep safe.  During our stay we were able to watch impala, warthog, buffalo and rhino at the waterhole adjacent to the lodge.  This is a very attractive feature indeed.

Travelling to and from facility: (unrated - outside Tangala)
We visited this little lodge during the period 21st-25th April 2013, driving 5-6 hours from our home in Johannesburg.  At times, the travelling was tricky because many of the roads in Mpumalanga are strewn with potholes.  We travelled via Lydenberg, Origstad and the Strydom tunnel and arrived at our destination in the early afternoon. There is an airstrip at nearby Hoedspruit, so air-travel is an alternative option.
Although recent rains have played havoc with the roads, the road between the main gate and the lodge was passable and comfortable.

Friendliness of staff: 9/10
On our arrival, we were welcomed by a very friendly cook and a housekeeper who showed us to our room.  Unfortunately, the current lack of a manager at the lodge ensured that some of the smaller details were overlooked – like signing an indemnity form and a courteous enquiry about our room and general comfort, sometime during our visit.  Nevertheless, it was obvious that Tangala’s staff are happy, affable and are a strong team – dedicated to trying to ensure the comfort of their guests.

Comfort and Amenities: 5/10
Tangala only has accommodation for 10 guests at any given point in time.  In my opinion, the private guest rooms need a thorough overhaul.  The design of the private rooms makes the lack of electricity a serious drawback for the comfort of its guests:  Most of the time you struggle to find things in your room because of lack of light. Torches aren't provided either. 

Tangala is “electricity free” and rustic.  Light is provided by paraffin lamps only. The camp is unfenced so game is free to wonder in and out at all times.  It seems odd that the paraffin lights along the footpaths are also put out during the night - when the ranger retires to the staff quarters - making the whole environment extremely dark indeed. The lack of readily accessible light makes one feel very vulnerable.  Obviously, one is confined to ones’ room at these times. 

Luckily, my husband and I had brought along our own torches, as well as a gas lamp.  We ended up relying heavily on these two objects in our room - running out of torchlight and gas during this time.  Camera batteries also had to be given to the ranger for solar-charging.  In my opinion, the paraffin lamps are inadequate – making it extremely hard to walk around the room at night without the fear of potentially standing on creepy-crawlies. Selecting clothes from a dark suitcase also becomes problematic - especially when getting up for the early morning game drives. Inserting contact lenses is almost impossible.  The rooms are old and dark, and some serious refurbishment and thought is needed regarding upgrading the facilities. 

Décor, Housekeeping and Cleanliness: 5/10
The décor is outdated and the mosquito net in our room was grey and sticky. Odd suitcases which were placed around the room – supposedly for aesthetic appeal - but they defeated the object and become obstacles in the darkness.  I also question why a game lodge, whose primary function is ecology and conservation, would choose to use animal skins for carpets.  This didn’t sit well with me at all. Although my own bed was comfortable, my husband’s was broken.

Unfortunately our shower was also unacceptable – taking approximately 7 minutes before a comfortable temperature was attained in the tiny trickle of water which emerged from the shower head.  Some taps in our en-suite bathroom were also broken.  The shower curtain was “well used” and the window frames rusty. These are all small things which could be quickly corrected with better management.

We were told to close all windows and doors at all times – to keep out the unwanted creatures – but this ensured an uncomfortable and stuffy room.  There are no insect screens so little air flows in the rooms.  It becomes very claustrophobic.  Unfortunately, without electricity there can be no air conditioning, nor ceiling fan.  During the day we chose to spend our time under the comfortable deck instead - overlooking the waterhole.

The kitchen staff are extremely friendly and go out of their way to do their best within the limitations of the lodge. They work late into the night and are up well before sunrise.  I imagine that it is very difficult for them to perform their jobs in the inadequate lighting. The meals portions (at night) are far too generous, heavy and lack variety and finesse.  A bit of training for these willing staff would go a long way to allow them to soar in their work. The setting however – next to the camp fire – is very pleasant and attractive.  The stars too add to the ambience.

Game drives: 10/10
I cannot fault the game drives at all.  Our trackers and rangers were professional and enthusiastic.  The vehicle too was comfortable, but would probably not be so when it rains. (open-topped).  Yes, they do go "off-road" into the bush, but that adds excitement.  Every effort is made to ensure good game sightings.  These people should be commended because they are the glue that holds Tangala together.

Entertainment during the day: 5/10
You have 5 hours to watch the water-hole and refresh yourself from the ‘honest’ bar.

Cost effectiveness: 8/10
Having described both positives and negatives, I must say that our holiday was very cost-effective indeed.  We took up one of the ‘Daddy’s deals’ offers and got more than what we paid for.

Booking procedure and administration: 9/10
Also efficient – although no credit card facilities are available at the lodge to settle the final bill. Make sure that you have sufficient cash with you!

Safety: 7/10
I felt safe at all times but must also say that, at no stage, was I required to sign an indemnity form.  This I would imagine is essential to the lodge, but was entirely overlooked in our case.

My general comment about Tangala is the following:



“Despite the lack of attention to general amenities at Tangala, their staff, trackers and rangers make up for it with their homely attitude and their excellent game drives.”

I am sincere when I say ‘Thank you’ to the management and staff for their hospitality.  I have full faith that, with a little cash injection, they will be able to turn TANGALA into a true South African treasure.


Mrs. JP said...

That was exactly what I had imagined. With no electricity there are draw backs and one has to adjust. But, the up-side is you had a front row seat to nature.
Like you said, with a few fixes it could be a much better place. But, in their defense, I am sure expenses on the trucks and staff are high too.
Aren't you so glad you took those extra lanterns? I bet when it was lights out you couldn't see your hand in front of your face! All in all it sounds like a wonderful place and it also sounds like they have much the same challenges many places have here in the U.S.
Great Job taking us on your Safari!

Furry Bottoms said...

Was that elephant sitting on the jeep?! Looks like you had a great time. It would have been very very exciting to me to see all those wild animals.

How Sam Sees It said...

I sort of imagined it like camping, but in nicer tents.


NanaNor's said...

Hi my friend, I loved hearing about your holiday in the bush!!! I love seeing the photos and hearing your honest(thank you)evaluation on the game reserve. I think your feedback on some of the necessities missing was done in a positive way-you were very nice about it.
I have missed the rest of your trip and will go back and read your past days. Oh to see those animals in the wild-what joy!
Sending love your way today.

Emily and Laura said...

Thank you so much for all your posts about this wonderful adventure! Even the drawbacks of the camp were written fairly, and I must say your wildlife viewing was truly spectacular. I really appreciate being an "armchair tourist" along with you on your game drives -- I can barely even imagine how fantastic it would be to see so many of these beautiful animals where they belong, in the wild!

Two French Bulldogs said...

What a great review. The animal skin carpets and suitcases strewn about was quite interesting
Benny & Lily