Update: NZ lodge near Fiordland National Park

Update: NZ lodge near Fiordland National Park

*The two story property had four guestrooms, including a two-bedroom suite.

Under normal circumstances our articles are based exclusively on the experiences and photography of our contributors at a destination and voyage. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic we have halted travel. For those ready to travel now we are offering limited updates about destinations, properties and services featured in our pages in the past and whose representatives have responded to our questions and requests for updates. This series of updates began in 2021. We paused during the omicron surge and published our first 2022 update in May.

As New Zealand recently reopened its international borders for vaccinated travelers (see covid19.govt.nz/) we thought the following update of Cabot Lodge, a South Island family owned property we profiled in 2019 (prior to the pandemic) would interest some of our readers. The family owned lodge near the Fiordland National Park (see Fiordland, New Zealand by helicopter) was one of our contributor’s favorite properties on that trip thanks to the owners’ warm welcome and professional attitude, comfortable room, local sourcing and earth friendly policies, and many amenities, including an ample supply of delicious homemade toffee. Below are updates recently provided by Breidi Alexander, owner operator, Cabot Lodge, who responded to our questions via email.

Breidi Breidi and Brad Alexander, owners, Cabot Lodge

LTR: Are you are welcoming international guests?

BA: Yes – with New Zealand’s borders now open, we are thrilled to be welcoming back our wonderful guests from around the world.

LTR: Have you adopted policies and safeguards in response to Covid-19?

BA: Yes, we are Covid-Clean Certified by Qualmark NZ, implementing extensive cleaning and health and safety procedures for Covid-19.

LTR: Do you clean common areas, guestrooms daily?

BA: All common areas are cleaned three times daily. All guest rooms are serviced once daily, with an additional evening turndown service if requested.

Pomona Deluxe Suite, a 41 square meter room

LTR: Is there a water shortage ordrought or other conditions affecting facilities, guests amenities, etc?

BA: No – thankfully water shortage is not an issue for us, with two rivers crossing through our property, and the Lodge sitting on the boundary of Lake Manapouri and the stunning Waiau River. We are operating business as usual.

LTR: Are there updates to the property you care to share such as redecoration, refurbishment?

BA: We are delighted with the addition of our outdoor spa pool nestled among our Beech Trees above the Lodge, with stunning views over the mountains and Lake Manapouri. We now also provide fishing rods for guest use at our private fishing jetty on the Waiau River, which boundaries the Fiordland National Park. We have increased our staff to a team of five, with a new chef preparing our farm to plate cuisine. With the extension of our glass houses, even more of our ingredients are sourced directly from the farm. Our locally sourced ingredients don’t stop with our meals however – we are also providing homemade soaps and bath salts in each of our guest suites. With Fiordland’s move to become a Dark Sky Sanctuary, we have also overhauled our exterior lighting and undertaken an astronomy course, to ensure we are a Dark Sky Friendly Lodge, perfect for star-gazing enthusiasts. We received a number of accolades for the property recently, including two Trip Advisor Travellers Choice Awards, a Qualmark 5 Star Gold Certification for Boutique Luxury Accommodation, we were named as the top luxury escape by Stuff.co.nz, and we appeared on national television in season two of ‘Lap of Luxury’, a show celebrating the top Lodges across New Zealand and Australia.

There were two patios facing Lake Manapouri and a central courtyard.

LTR: Do you offer private accommodations for those guest that want a private or isolated stay?

BA: The Lodge can be booked exclusively, with rates for 1 – 4 guests, or 5 – 10 guests, perfect for couples who want to travel with the safety of complete seclusion. We are more thankful than ever to be operating a remote and small boutique lodge post-pandemic. Surrounded by a working sheep, deer and cattle station on the boundary of the World Heritage Fiordland National Park, Cabot Lodge is a private and luxury escape.

LTR: If you offer extended stay packages such as weekly or monthly rates provide details.

BA: We provide discounted rates for stays four nights or over, please get in touch with our team for rates and further information.

Cabot Lodge borders the Fiordland National Park

*Photos were taken during pre-pandemic trip, except for the photo of Breidi and Brad Alexander provided by Cabot Lodge in 2022

Botswana safari lodge, camps update

Botswana safari lodge, camps update

Photos* taken during pre-pandemic trip

Under normal circumstances our articles are based exclusively on the experiences and photography of our contributors at a destination and voyage. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic we have halted all travel. For those ready to travel now we are offering limited updates about destinations, properties and services featured in our pages in the past and whose representatives have responded to our questions and requests for updates. This series of updates began in 2021. We paused during the omicron surge and recently published our first 2022 update (see South Africa luxury safari property update).

Photos* taken during pre-pandemic trip

In November 2015 our contributors stayed at several Desert & Delta-Safaris properties, five in Botswana and one in Namibia. On their return home we published their impressions and photos. Follow the links to read their overall trip impressions in Why we liked Botswana, Namibia safari circuit as well as their thoughts about Camp Moremi in Luxury Travel Review. Find detailed profiles in Simon and Baker Travel Review of Savute Safari Lodge, Xugana Island Lodge, Leroo La Tau, Chobe Savanna Lodge and Chobe Game Lodge. Below are updates provided by James Wilson, marketing director of the property last month.

Photos* taken during pre-pandemic trip

James Wilson, marketing director, Desert and Delta

James Wilson, marketing director, Desert & Delta-Safaris

LTR: Are you are welcoming international guests?

JW: Yes – most certainly

LTR: What policies and safeguards have you adopted in response to Covid-19?

JW: Please see attached documents for information and the following link: Desert & Delta-Safaris COVID-19 Health & Safety Info (readers can find contact information for Desert & Delta-Safaris in the property profiles to request the document)

LTR: Maximum number of guests per game viewing vehicle

JW: 6 per vehicle unless a family group who wish to be together.

LTR: Do you clean common areas, guestrooms daily?

JW: yes. We have strict sanitation and cleaning schedules in place.

LTR: Is there a water shortage/drought or other conditions with the high probability to affect facilities, guests amenities, guest stay, etc?

JW: No.

LTR: Any updates to the property you care to share such as redecoration, refurbishment

JW:

LTR: Do you offer private accommodations for those guest that want a private or isolated stay?

JW: Depending on the guests needs we can offer private dining and private activities during their stay. Private activities are at an additional charge. Enquiries can be made into Xugana Island Lodge and Chobe Savannah Lodge for an exclusive island stay.

LTR: If you offer extended stay packages such as weekly or monthly rates provide details.

JW:

*Except for the photo of James Wilson provided by Desert & Delta-Safaris in 2022

South Africa luxury safari property update

South Africa luxury safari property update

By Elena del Valle

Under normal circumstances our articles are based exclusively on the experiences and photography of our contributors at a destination and voyage. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic we have halted all travel. For those ready to travel now we are offering limited updates about destinations, properties and services featured in our pages in the past and whose representatives have responded to our questions and requests for updates. This series of updates began in 2021. We paused during the omicron surge. This is the first update in 2022.

Photos taken during pre-pandemic stay at Chitwa Chitwa

“Chitwa Chitwa’s outstanding combination of a stunning waterside location, beautiful room, Big Five game viewing and luxury features made it a Sabi Sand favorite,” summarizes our team’s impression of Chitwa Chitwa Private Game Lodge in 2011 in South Africa’s famous Sabi Sand Game Reserve near Kruger National Park when we first profiled the property that year. Several years later our team was also pleased with the property. “We would recommend the lodge to friends and acquaintances who are fans of boutique safari properties, fine meals with a liberal dose of hot spices, and Big Five game viewing,” they said in our most recent profile of Chitwa Private Game Lodge 2015 published in 2016 following a three night stay late the previous year.


Photos taken during pre-pandemic stay at Chitwa Chitwa

Matthew Brink, marketing director, Chitwa Chitwa

Matthew Brink, marketing director, Chitwa Chitwa

In October 2021 Matthew Brink, marketing director at Chitwa Chitwa, replied to our questions about the property via email. Earlier this month he confirmed the information is still current.

LTR: Are you are welcoming international guests?

MB: Yes, our source markets are now able to travel to South Africa with better ease. This includes the likes of Europe, UK, and the US.

LTR: What policies and safeguards have you adopted in response to Covid-19?

MB: We have adopted new policies for Covid-19, I have attached our Covid protocol and policy below. (LTR readers can reach out to the property to request a copy – email information appears in the property profile on SimonAndBaker.com)

LTR: What is the maximum number of guests per game viewing vehicle?

MB: 6 guests per safari vehicle

LTR: Do you clean common areas, guestrooms daily?

MB: Yes, stringent health and hygiene protocol are followed

LTR: Is there a water shortage/drought or other conditions affecting facilities, guests amenities, etc?

MB: None

LTR: Are there any other updates to the property you care to share such as redecoration, refurbishment?

MB: We have been proactive throughout the various lockdowns and have maintained where necessary with skeleton crew at all times. All of the special Chitwa Chitwa experiences as if the environment was still normal, are offered in the safest way.

LTR: Do you offer private accommodations for those guest that want a private or isolated stay?

MB: All suites at Chitwa Chitwa are very exclusive and private, however for the very best exclusivity and privacy that money can buy, we offer the Chitwa House which is our Private Villa.

LTR: If you offer extended stay packages such as weekly or monthly rates provide details.

MB: We offer a pay 3 stay 4 special which offers free accommodation to one child under the age of 12, and it is applicable to one child per family sharing and children of all ages are welcome.

Photos taken during pre-pandemic stay at Chitwa Chitwa

Our teams stayed in rooms 1, 5 and 9. The 2016 property profile includes many photos of their rooms, common areas, meals, game vehicles, staff and some of the birds and game they sighted as well as their website address and contact information: Chitwa Private Game Lodge 2015

Iconic Africa company offers options for safari isolation

Iconic Africa company offers options for safari isolation

Lunch at Singita Ebony in 2017
We loved the riverbed side setting at Singita Ebony Lodge, photo from 2017.

As we mentioned at the beginning of this update series under normal circumstances our articles are based exclusively on the experiences and photography of our contributors at a destination and property. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic we have halted all travel. For those ready to travel before we are we are offering limited updates about properties we have featured in the past. To that end we are reaching out to properties our contributors have visited (often more than once) and requesting news and updates.

Over the years we have profiled Singita properties in South Africa and Tanzania. In 2004 we featured Singita Lebombo within South Africa’s well known Kruger National Park. In 2006 we featured Singita Boulders Lodge in the popular Sabi Sand Game Reserve adjacent to Kruger National Park. In 2008 we published an updated feature of Singita Lebombo. It was followed by a profile of Ebony Lodge, also in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve in 2011, and in 2017 we published new impressions following a stay at Singita Ebony Lodge.

Sabora Plains pool in 2007

Sabora Plains Tented Camp pool in 2007

In 2007 we featured Sabora Plains Tented Camp and Sasakwa Lodge in the Grumeti Reserve in northern Tanzania. Faru Faru was under construction. Soon after our team’s departure the Grumeti properties entered the Singita marketing umbrella. According to Lisa Carey, manager, PR & Communications, Singita in Cape Town, South Africa, who responded to questions via email, during the Covid-19 period Singita Sabora Tented Camp “has been completely rebuilt.” In addition the company introduced seven stand alone luxury safari rental properties across Southern and East Africa as the Singita Private Villa Collection (new website: singitavillas.com/).

Kataza House has its own wine cellar, cinema room and massage area. A stay there requires deep pockets. For example, as of this writing a 12-night two country package including Kataza House and Serengeti House Private Long Stay Package in Rwanda and Tanzania for up to eight guests starts at $209,239 or $26,155 per person. It includes accommodations, meals, drinks, game drives, onsite activities, private guide, private host, chef and house staff. The properties in the Collection are: Singita Kataza House, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda; in South Africa Singita Lebombo Villa, Kruger National Park (257,300 South African rand per night for up to eight guests), Singita Castleton (between 266,400 South African rand and 315,000 rand per night for up to eight guests) and Singita Ebony Villa, both in Sabi Sand; in Zimbabwe Singita Malilangwe House, Malilangwe; in the Serengeti in Tanzania Singita Explore, Serengeti and Singita Serengeti House, Serengeti.

Singita outlines its pandemic policies in a section on its website (see undated Covid Fact Sheet https://singita.com/singita-covid-19-protocols). According to Carey there is high speed internet access in the rooms and common areas “at all lodges, except Singita Explore – one of our villas, tented on the Serengeti plains.”

When asked about the decline in hotel services and amenities many travelers and travel articles report she replied: “To be honest, we have not had this problem at all. During lockdown, we went through an internal process of assessing every facet of the guest experience and refining, simplifying and making it better. Therefore at the moment, we have adapted many areas to be more in line with what the modern traveller values most – sanctuary, wellness, health, safety, connections in nature.”

Roosevelt's Cottage bedroom in 2007 at Sasakwa Lodge

Roosevelt’s Cottage bedroom in 2007 at Sasakwa Lodge (now Singita Sasakwa Lodge)

Singita Private Collection properties vary in size and amenities. Some have more than one pool. Prices fluctuate with the demand and season, according to her. Singita welcomes extended stays. When asked about weekly and monthly rates Carey said, “we will look at monthly requests on a case-by-case basis.”

Last month two provinces in South Africa suffered widespread rioting, looting at hundreds of locations. There were more than 300 dead (according to a recent article in The Washington Post) as a result of political unrest following the jailing for the nation’s former president. Further media coverage and reports from Singita representatives and other contacts in South Africa indicate the situation has stabilized.

Lindy Rousseau, chief marketing officer, Singita

“The protests were localised in the Kwazulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces and were not near Singita’s access points or lodges,” said Lindy Rousseau, chief marketing officer, Singita, via email (forwarded to us by Carey). “Singita’s five lodges in the Mpumalanga province (Sabi Sand and Kruger National Park) were not affected and operated normally during the unrest. Logistical access to the lodges was not impacted. The South African Defence Force and SA Police have restored order and security forces continue to be present in some areas.”

Singita Lebombo swimmingpool (2008)

Singita Lebombo swimming pool (2008)

Our Ebony and Boulders lodges visits in 2011 are described in Singita Sabi Sand properties in South Africa offered gourmet features, raised climate change awareness. We best remember Singita stays for distinctive, comfortable and luxurious accommodations. Our Singita Ebony experience in 2017 comes to mind. Our adjoining twin suites with private heated plunge pools in each were memorable. We liked the luxury property’s two full size swimming pools as well as onsite workout and spa facilities. The staff stood out for their friendliness and customer centered service. Ebony’s riverside dining area was a safari favorite. We also appreciated that property’s emphasis on conservation including a dedicated anti-poaching team.

From South Africa this week the latest update from Singita is that all is well. Carey indicated that there are “no problems getting to/from our lodges. It’s quite cold at the moment, so guests should dress warm!”

 

South Africa safari property reopens

South Africa safari property reopens

Earth Lodge Amber Presidential Suite

In 2017 our Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge guestrooms had private plunge pools.

Ordinarily our articles are based exclusively on the experiences and photography of our contributors at a destination and property. The near complete Covid-19 pandemic travel pause made it necessary to offer alternatives for those adventurous souls ready to seek new horizons or return to ones visited previously before we do. To that end we are reaching out to properties our contributors have visited (often more than once) and asking about their status and updates.

Our first Sabi Sabi profiles, of Earth Lodge and Selati Camp in South Africa, date to 2007. In 2017 our contributors returned to the Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve within the Sabi Sand Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger National Reserve, an area world famous for its quality game viewing. While there they spent one night at Bush Lodge and revisited Earth Lodge. Earth Lodge, Bush Lodge and Selati Camp are three of four Sabi Sabi properties. Little Bush Lodge is the fourth.

By July 1, 2021 three of the Sabi Sabi safari properties are due to be open and by August 1, 2021 all four are scheduled to be open, according to a Sabi Sabi spokesperson who replied by email to our questions. The properties can be reached via nearby airports (as far as we know there is commercial service to Mpumalanga, Skukuza and Hoedspruit) and road transfers, by road transfer from Johannesburg and via Federal Airlines from Johannesburg to the reserve, in the past our favorite option.

“There is wifi at all lodges, however it is important to note that due to the environment we are in, interruptions may happen due to wildlife or weather interference,” she said when asked about high speed internet access at the reserve. When asked about exclusive use accommodations, private vehicles and extended stays she replied that they are subject to availability and on request.

The Amber Presidential Suite had the amenities of regular guestrooms as well as extra space, seclusion, privacy and a bush and pool facing master bedroom.

According to an undated property brochure she provided Sabi Sabi has adjusted to the pandemic as follows: “Our daily routines and activities have been adjusted to ensure the highest safety standards are met. However, you will still experience the Sabi Sabi quality guiding and safari experience that we have crafted since 1979.” The brochure indicates the availability of round the clock medical response, quarantine facilities in the form of fully equipped suites, a doctor on call from a remote location, sanitizers and hygiene packs onsite; “dining areas have been increased to allow for safe social-distancing,” and a maximum occupancy of six guests per game viewing vehicle (eight for groups traveling together and requesting such conditions).

See details of our experiences and original photos at the three Sabi Sabi properties in 2007 at Selati Camp (we understand the property has undergone a renovation) and in 2017 Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge and Earth Lodge (At Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge excellent game viewing).  Earth Lodge was our favorite for its boutique features, outstanding meals, excellent game viewing and warm and attentive service. The Amber Presidential Suite had the amenities of regular guestrooms as well as extra space, seclusion and privacy. It also had a bush and pool facing master bedroom, extra large en suite bathroom and oversize walk-in closet. There was also a second full bathroom, library, living room, dining room and kitchenette. The attentive property managers, air conditioned workout room with glass wall facing a water feature (see photo in Earth Lodge profile) is one of the amenities we recall along with the many wildlife sightings from the main area of the lodge in between the twice daily game drives.

After year of closure luxury South Africa property reopening

After year of closure luxury South Africa property reopening

Ordinarily our articles are based exclusively on the experiences and photography of our contributors at a destination and property. The near complete Covid-19 pandemic travel pause made it necessary to offer alternatives for those adventurous souls ready to seek new horizons or return to ones visited previously before we do. So… we are reaching out to properties our contributors have visited (often more than once) and asking about their status and updates.

Leopard on a tree at Rattray's

Leopard on a tree at Rattray’s in 2016

Because they have consistently impressed us with their reliability and high standards in past stays over the years, and thanks to their representative’s speedy responses and willingness to answer questions MalaMala is first. Of the reserve’s three properties we have profiled two: MalaMala Rattray’s Camp (previously known as Rattray’s on MalaMala) several times and MalaMala Camp (previously known as MalaMala Main Camp) in South Africa’s well known Sabi Sand Reserve adjacent to the famous Kruger National Park. MalaMala Rattray’s Camp is reopening this month after a one year closure.

Once in Johannesburg, South Africa the MalaMala camps can be reached via direct flight from that city’s international airport on Federal Air (we are awaiting a reply from the airline with details) into the reserve’s airstrip a few minutes drive from the camps. Another option is on Airlink into Skukuza Airport. From there a road transfer is necessary.

“All our camps will be open from 01 June 2021 including MalaMala Rattray’s Camp,” said Alison Morphet, managing director, MalaMala by email about the reserve’s camps. “We are offering a pay 3 / stay 4 for travellers and yes there is high speed internet access in all the rooms. It is not available in the public area’s out of consideration to other guests enjoying their safari experience. A limited number of private vehicles are available and of course all our suites and rooms are stand alone. Guests may opt to have room service for their meals but with the relevant social distancing between tables, the outdoor nature of a safari experience and all our staff wearing masks, most guests choose to have their meals on the deck (and boma dinners when available).

The game viewing is better than ever and I am delighted to report that Covid has had some silver linings. We have had time to re think our product offerings and refine these over the long lock down. We have also relied on feedback from the South African market who travel extensively to Southern African bush destinations and their feedback has been invaluable.”

Minibars and in-room dining amenities are a godsend on days when travel or the excitement of the game drives leaves us spent, seeking comfort food and indoor relaxation. One of the MalaMala updates we like is the buffets were replaced with plated meals and a la carte dining. Having said that during past stays our contributors found Rattray’s willing to provide room service with no fuss.

At Rattray’s we fondly recall the intimate setting, spacious rooms with double bathrooms and private plunge pool, workout facilities, full size swimming pool, and service oriented staff. From the game viewing perspective MalaMala rangers drew attention to the creatures large and small in the bush while focusing on the Big Five, and one of our favorite features anywhere, Rattray’s four guest maximum per safari vehicle. That is as good as it gets shy of a private game viewing vehicle.

For details of our experiences and original photos at the two MalaMala camps see our profile of MalaMala Camp from 2006 and our most recent profile of MalaMala Rattray’s Camp from 2016 at Rattray’s on Malamala.