"Great setting, but could be so much more!"
02/24/14 Pieman2014 London, United Kingdom
We spent a couple of days at the the self catering Buffalo Thorn Lodge within the Black Rhino reserve. The facilities were great, with all areas covered from a jacuzzi,swimming pool,gas bbq (braai), satelite TV and AV unit, pool table, ice machine etc etc. All the facilities were definitely 5 star and what we expected. My only reservation with young children were that the loft accomodation was not child friendly and would fail the health and safety police in the UK and the jacuzzi also did not work properly for the whole stay but this really did not detract from the overall place. The Lodge is run by a husband/ wife team. Whilst being friendly this most probably for me is where the lodge falls down a bit. With all the gadgets, whistles and bells you'd have expected a tour of the complex with a tuition on each aspect of the facilities but unless you asked you were pretty much left to your own devices. This meant working some of the things like the television, jacuzzi etc yourself. The other part that irked a few of the party we were with was that during the stay staff (cleaning and gardening) were always omnipresent during the day which took away from the total privacy aspect. At other lodges all the work was done whilst you were out on your drive. The game drives in the reserve were another area where you are better served staying in the main Pilanesberg area or going to another reserve. A lot of our drives skirted the perimeter fence of the conservation area which took a lot away from the drives for me. Secondly like the accomodation unless you asked you were not always given clear updates on what the ranger was after or instruction as to sightings etc. The ranger was very well versed on all park matters and when asked was very insightful and knowledgable but you did have to draw the information out which really should not be the case. General game viewing was sparse. We stayed in the main park too and game there was far more abundant. Drives can be a bit hit and miss but if you are after a pleasant drive with numerous sightings of different game them black rhino is not for you. That said we did see 4 of the big five. Maybe it was just our timing but the overall feel for me of Buffalo Thorn was a well drilled machine with little character or charm. Drives were 21/2 hours almost exactly, though we enquired about walks or night drives these were not offered; the initial introduction to the facilities was poor and one felt like the couple were going through the motions or maybe in need of a break. Maybe we caught the lodge on a poor week, but given the price and other options available I will not be chancing it again. In short nice facilities, sparse game and sightings with lots of perimeters game drives and in need of some personality and extra vitality. PS getting to the reserve is also a bit of a nightmare and the gate attendant in serious need of a public relations training but these are already well documented by others.
"Great Bush Break"
02/23/14 Simon C Cape Town Central, South Africa
The drive to the lodge is a rather treacherous road with potholes everywhere - but makes for an adventurous start to a superb weekend in the bush. Staff were great and service was just superb. All meals were buffet, but what a great selection there was. Game drive was insightful with some great animal sightings. Accommodation was wonderful with a nice outside patio - from where I saw some Kudu in the veld. The outside shower makes for an awesome shower there is an indoor one too if it does get too chilly in winter. Overall a fantastic stay - most definitely recommended for a relaxing stay in the bush.
02/20/14 EstelleR736 Johannesburg, South Africa
I had the opportunity to stay at the Black Rhino lodge last weekend (February 2014). The rooms were lovely, very spacious and well decorated. Absolutely LOVED the outdoor shower and walking into the airconditioned room after a game drive with temperatures well in the 30's was fantastic. The staff was very friendly and helpful and the herd of elephants that came to the watering hall a few hundred metres from the verandah on our last day was an added bonus.
"wow wow wow"
02/19/14 Travelmum620 Johannesburg, South Africa
We booked black rhino for my mum 60th family holiday and all I can say is WOW , we were treated like royalty by staff and would highly recommend that everyone stays there. They even accommodated our fussy eaters (the kids) .The game drives was out of this world everyone of them unique with friendly knowledgeable rangers - don't hold back and book your family in !
02/04/14 roisin_corr Johannesburg, South Africa
Only stayed at the Black Rhino for one night but had a fabulous time and can't find any fault. Lovely friendly welcome from the offset from the staff and the monkeys in the trees above! Just before heading off on out first game drive a large herd of elephants, complete with babies, descending on the waterhole right behind the lodge. What a wonderful start! Had a near miss with an angry bull elephant which caused for great conversation afterwards and the game ranger handled the whole thing very calmly and professionally. Saw Lions, Rhino, Giraffe and plenty of Elephants. Dinner that evening was very tasty as was the wine to wash it down. Sitting on the veranda of our room afterwards, in the pitch blackness we could hear something munching right in front of us but couldn't see anything. Only enhanced the whole safari experience. Knowing it was a leaf eater however, calmed our fears!! Would recommend for a short stay safari without any doubt.
"I skipped the game drive with the lion"
10/31/13 erikb1978 Planet Earth
Other than skipping the game drive where lions were spotted I had a great time, and I can only blame missing the lions on my self. The rooms at the lodge were very comfortable and spacious with very nice furnishings and a good sense of design. The room also had an out door shower which would be nice on a warm summer night but it was a little too cold for out door showers during my visit. The only problem I with the rooms was my friend's room had no coverings or other covering over her bathroom window (basically a glass wall) which was open to the path going behind the lodge, my room had a privacy fence but hers did not. We told the lodge about this and it was resolved by the time we got back from our first game drive. The stay included 2 game drives a day and all meals/ non alcoholic drinks. The game drives were done in open sided converted land cruisers offering a good view of the animals but they packed as many people as they could into each vehicle (3 rows of 3) which made it difficult for the person in the middle to see the animals well. It would have been nice if they used an extra vehicle so that they only had 2 people per row. The game drives stayed in the Black Rhino private reserve but they are allowed to go into Pilanesberg. The food was served buffet style and was rather good with a variate every night. I'm a sometimes food blogger so you would think I could come up with more than that but I can't think of anything else to say on it right now. Our stay happened to align with a meteor shower and this is a great pace to watch as there is very little noise pollution. We just dragged our blankets outside, lay out on a couple pool chairs and watched the show for a while. All in all the trip was very enjoyable and I hope to return some day.
"Under the age old Tamboti Trees."
10/21/13 KittyLamprecht Cape Town Central, South Africa
Black Rhino lodge is located under some of the oldest Tamboti trees. Each room was really a suite with a generous sitting area and the bathroom is a dream . There is a double shower, huge bath and if that is not enough there is an outdoor shower too. Our room was so close to the electric fence that when we woke up it seemed that we had an elephant on our stoop ( Porch) What a wonderful sight. The food and service was absolutely excellent. Sundowners under the trees while watching the animals come to drink and the sun set- what a wonderful experience. Game drives were very informative and the guides knowledgable. Comparing to other lodges in the Pilanesberg areas this one is definitely better value for money and strongly recommended.
10/20/13 Burgeropinion Dunedin, New Zealand
We only had time to stay for 1 night, but enjoyed the stay tremendously with 2 game drives. The property is well maintained and luxurious. We loved the outside shower under the african sky. The road to Pilansberg was a challenge indeed but hopefully it would be worthwhile, once finished. Next time i would stay at least 3 or 4 nights to enjoy the wildlife and lodge.
"Some work to do..."
09/27/13 DLady69 Johannesburg, South Africa
We stayed at Black Rhino for 3 nights. Unfortunately, we arrived very stressed as the last 8km of public road going to the reserve was horrible. The road is under complete reconstruction, so the temporary road is nothing more than driving on the shoulder with huge potholes, broken edges of pavement, and single lane wide and traffic trying to go both ways, vehicles either coming straight at you expecting you will drop your wheels 6 inches onto the next level or they swerve around you. Took over 30 minutes of white knuckle driving to get through it, and even then wondering would a tire be flat or some damage to the undercarriage had happened. Amazingly it did not. After that, road in the reserve to the lodge is fine. I just wish we had more notice that the road was so bad instead of being told "there is some road works, so be careful" when we called from Sun City. We wanted to visit Pilanesberg as we had already visited Madikwe, Dinokeng, Welgevonden, Marakele, and Thaba Tholo (see our previous reviews). We had hoped that by staying in a private concession, we would avoid any crowds and rude behavior that one might find at public Pilanesberg since it is a self-drive reserve. However, I would have to say that more game is seen the closer you get to the public Pilanesberg side of the reserve, so ask your ranger to take you into "old Pilanesberg" and on into the public park if possible if sightings are light on the main concession area. First of all, kudos to the rangers, Robert and Ross (Robert for 5 drives, Ross for 1), as we did see the Big 5. I would probably have to say that our leopard sighting would have been much better (just saw the back end) if one of the rude owners of a private lodge, who was also the driver of the game vehicle (Pilanesberg Private Lodge to be exact), had observed the rules of only 2 vehicles at the sighting and not blown past us to get closer to a leopard's kill. (And here I thought the rude people would only be in the public park). The leopard had made a fresh impala kill and the our game vehicle and another were staying a respectable distance away to see if the leopard would reappear. This guy comes up and then just drives on past us to get closer to the kill, without any respect that we were already there and waiting. Then, when the leopard did reappear to claim its kill, his guests were snapping photos with flash and hmm, do you then wonder why a leopard runs away from its own kill to go hide in the bush? Well, you know what they say about karma, so be it. Our ranger acted properly, and we are not guests who want a ranger to be rude to others just so we can get a better sighting or jump ahead in a queue. We did get a glimpse of the leopard as it slunk away to hide and wait for us all to leave, leaving its kill by the road. We saw many many white rhino and had a wonderful morning break on top of a mountain on the public Pilanesberg side where we could see a huge breeding herd of elephants way down in the valley below (with binoculars of course). One bad thing was the weather refused to clear up (except the morning we were leaving), so it made for difficult photography. General comments: Main Lodge - Comfortable, with a good view of the lodge's watering hole. We saw an elephant drinking there and a few rhinos as well, along with impala come up to drink. Family Suite - we stayed in the Satellite camp, approx. 700 meters from the main camp. One thing is that when we arrived and then followed the manager down to our suite, he asked us if we "needed any help" with our bags. I guess I am just used to having staff handle our luggage at all the previous lodges we've stayed at, so this caught me off guard, but our bags have wheels and the walkway paved so we managed, so I just chock that up to expectation. They do offer transportation to and from the satellite camp at pre-arranged times (such as morning game drive time, lunch time, afternoon game drive time), but they did forget to pick us up twice, both times for lunch. You do keep your own car with you, so that is helpful if you leave something in the car and need it...or if they forget to pick you up. Or you can walk. The room was modern, bright, comfortable and clean. The bed was comfortable as well. Our son was on the sleeper sofa and did fine. There are your standard accoutrements, and a small fridge. There will be one bottle of water in it, so bring extra water or be prepared to buy it from the lodge. There is also a TV. There is also aircon in the room, but personally I think it might not keep up on a very hot day as the fan speed runs very low (even set on high) and no other fans are in the suite to move the air around, especially with such high ceilings. Perhaps one floor fan could be added. It was 33 degrees the day we arrived and it took a long time to cool down the suite (perhaps they could have turned the aircon on before our arrival, just a thought with summer approaching). A cold front did come through that night (making it cold and cloudy the rest of our stay), so that was the only day we had to worry about the aircon working and probably the only reason the suite cooled down. Also there is a small pool there at the satellite camp, but it had not been properly cleaned in a long while, perhaps this was only because the spring season had just opened and seasonal maintenance not yet done. I hope so. Again, there is satellite TV with limited channels, but we are not ones who go to the bush to watch TV. However our 11 year old son wanted to de-stress a little bit , but there was not one single children's channel authorized on the service. There was Discovery and Nat Geo, but hey, we were in the bush, didn't need to watch that. So I think having children's channels would be nice so kids could relax a bit, especially those not totally enraptured with driving around on trucks twice a day or watching the mountains in the background.. :) One big issue I want to bring up. The camp is fenced so you are free to walk around, but if you are going to walk around the satellite camp, there is a lot of old construction debris and litter lying around (boards, old PVC pipe, even saw a dust mask, etc.) and also some of the boards have nails and screws in them. I moved several to hopefully a safer place where no one will step on them. There is also quite a bit of trash in the woods around the camp, beer and wine bottles, paint cans, things like that. Just be aware of it if you plan to do any "game walking" around the lodge. If you don't, then you probably won't even notice, especially when it greens up. Oh, yes, indoor/outdoor shower nicely done, but it was too cold to use the outdoor one. Also, the entire suite is "open plan", so there is a wall between the main area of the suite and the bathroom...but there are no doors between the main area and the bathroom. Food - Most of the food was not to our liking. It was served buffet style, so there was plenty of it, but it was either bland or just not tasty to us. Too many heavy sauces on main courses at dinner (perhaps put sauce on the side so people could leave it off if they don't like it?), too much repetition (lettuce salad ALWAYS had feta cheese and red onions in it, so if you didn't want to pick cheese and onion out of your salad every time, you stopped eating it). Add more salad dressing variety too, instead of just balsamic, vinegar/oil, and some another vinaigrette (either Italian or Greek). Maybe add some kids' choices, like mac and cheese or a hotdog maybe. Also, to me, watermelon in a lettuce salad (I thought it was tomato!) needs a different dressing or maybe just leave the watermelon out? Some food was undercooked at lunch (chicken legs were "chewy" and were red inside when pulled apart, ugh), but there was fresh bread (delicious) and even though bread pudding was served as dessert every night, it was good. Breakfast was both a continental to start and also English made to order, but if you got back later than everyone else from your morning drive, most of the continental was gone and not replenished, so you had to wait on the hot breakfast, but it was good. Service- the staff was friendly, but a few "restaurant management" things could have made service better. Our first dinner there, we went to find a table but did not find one with 3 chairs. One of the staff actually asked a couple to move from a table for two to another table for two, so they could add a chair and seat us there. I have never really seen someone being asked to move from their table and it embarrassed me a bit. Secondly, it was very windy and the only outside lighting was candles which would not stay lit, making it pitch dark to eat. (Closed lanterns might be an alternative for windy days like that). Another peeve was that a fire had been lit in the firepit, but with the wind, the smoke was blowing directly on us the entire time, and we all smelled heavily of smoke when we finally got back to our room. Also the manager and the chef hover around the buffet table way too close, I don't know why, maybe to answer "what is this" when you can't tell due to the heavy sauces? But gave a crowded feeling around the buffet table. Game drives - The rangers are knowledgeable and friendly, albeit things tended to be quiet on the private concession side while we were there. There is no fence between the concession and the public park, so I think the animals are just mostly on the public side. On the morning game drive, coffee and tea is of the instant variety with long-shelf life milk, so not the best and it was also self-service. Some of the long-shelf milk was spoiled. There was a box of rusks and a box of biscuits, serve yourself as well. Nothing freshly baked or home made. Sundowner drinks on afternoon drives were good, snacks standard (note: the drinks made at the restaurant were extremely watered down both times we ordered). I don't blame the rangers for the morning service as they are trained to provide service at a certain level, but perhaps a thermos or two full of hot brewed coffee might be nice and not cost too much. One annoying thing is that we arrived back at the lodge from the afternoon game drive after dark, and no one, including the manager who stood there handing out wash clothes, turned on a light or had a flashlight so you could see how to step down out of the vehicle. So be very careful doing that and just feel your way down. I thought that perhaps on the first night maybe someone just forgot, but this seems to be the way it is, as the same thing happened all 3 nights. Could someone just have a flashlight and greet the guests so no one breaks a leg? One other thing on game drives. It seems that they allow children of all ages (even under 4) on the game drives. If you are not used to this and this is not your preference, then talk to Riaan, the general manager and ask if he can arrange something different for you. But only ask Riaan, no other manager, as he is the person who schedules the drives and he will try to accommodate you (if possible, but not guaranteed, just know that before you go, that you might have a two year old on your drive). If you are a family WITH young children, then you should be able to them along on the regular drives, there are no special children or "bumble" drives. I might suggest to management that if there are a large number of children there at any time, perhaps they could offer a "bumble" drive for the kids and parents in that slot after breakfast and before lunch, there is plenty of time for a short drive just geared towards children, which might make the regular game drives more pleasant for those without young children. I will have to say that overall, compared to our other experiences at the various reserves, we will not return here. Even seeing the Big 5. We were looking for an inexpensive weekend trip to Pilanesberg, but between the rough road to get there and back, and several of the things we mentioned that were either just disappointing to down right annoying, and all over only a space of 3 day, we left more stressed than relaxed. I am sure that the overall gloomy and cold weather did not help with it, but I don't think sunshine would have saved it either. So just consider this review along with the others you see, if you see common elements, then you know the lodge still has some things to work on. I did leave guest comment card, but it would have taken too long to list everything I have listed here, and I do feel that the general manager is sincerely willing to listen on how to improve the lodge and its service to guests. Hopefully there will be a few things in here that will help and they have a goal to improve.
"Well maintained property"
09/24/13 ShareKhan4 Johannesburg, South Africa
We stayed at Black Rhino Lodge recently on a trip to Pilanesberg National Park. The rooms were huge and well maintained. We went on a couple of game drives and our guide, Ross, was friendly, informative and entertaining. He spotted a couple of lions from really far off and we tracked them till they cross the path in front of us, making for a good viewing. The food was quite good, some of our group were vegetarian and the chef took the trouble to ask us what they could have. The only area where Black Rhino needs to improve is the service in the dining area. They never came to take our order for drinks at dinner and at breakfast also did not come to our table. We had to go ask for what we needed on both occasions.
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