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“Beautiful accomodations, fantastic service, incredible game drives!” 5 of 5 bubbles
Review of Lion Sands Ivory Lodge

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Lion Sands Ivory Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
Loudonville, New York
Level Contributor
7 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 16 helpful votes
“Beautiful accomodations, fantastic service, incredible game drives!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 24 March 2011

My wife and I booked Lion Sands Ivory Lodge as a prequel to a cruise that we had planned in South Africa last month. Our expectations were high after reading all of the wonderful reviews on Trip Advisor, but Ivory Lodge managed to exceed our expectations.

We spent the night in Johannesburg after our long Transatlantic flight and took the Federal Air charter to Skukuza “airport” the next morning to begin our safari. We were met practically on the runway by a representative from Lion Sands and we were on our way within 5 minutes of landing. On the way to the lodge we saw impala and Cape buffalo from the road which was only a small sample of what was to come.

After a short ride, we were greeted at the Lodge with moist towels and a welcome drink. Check-in was efficient and we were shown to our suite within a few minutes. All of the pictures and descriptions can’t do justice to the wonderful villa that was to be our home for the next 3 days, but I’ll add my description to those that have already tried:

The floor plan is two separate “rooms” which are quite large and surrounded by floor to ceiling glass panels on two sides. They are connected through sliding glass doors, across a large deck with a private plunge pool. On one side is the bedroom, facing the glass windows and overlooking the Sabie River. In the back of this building there is a large section with vanity, twin sinks, bathroom and shower enclosures, and a large bathtub. Further back it opens to a large outdoor shower. The other building has a large sitting area, fireplace, and “maxi-bar” with refrigerator and many wines/liquors and other drinks.

There are 6 villas connected by a slightly raised boardwalk, but they are well situated so that from your villa you can barely tell that there are others nearby. The view of the Sabie River from your deck is wonderful, and Kruger National Park is right across the river.

The public areas were beautiful and open, surrounding a very large shaded deck where most meals were served, all overlooking the river. There is an enclosed dining area for inclement weather, a boma for outdoor dining with a firepit, a bar, and a sitting area with free Wi-Fi which was a nice bonus.

Your day starts at 5:00 with a wake-up call and coffee delivered to the suite. There is a small box in the outer wall of your sitting room with inside and outside doors – so they open the outer door and leave the coffee service tray in there at 5:00, and you open the inner door to get it when you’re ready. So you have complete privacy, but still get in-room service. Nice!

At 5:30 you go on your 3-hour morning game drive, which is broken up by snacks and coffee around 7:00. Upon finishing, you freshen up for breakfast which is at your leisure and then you’re pretty much free until lunch at 1:30. Sometimes there’s a late morning activity such as a river walk to see the hippos, or you can catch a nap… After lunch you again have free time to lounge on your deck watching the animals play in the river. Tea is served at 4:30 and you’re off on the evening game drive about 5:00. After a stop for snacks at 7:00, you arrive back by 8:30 in time for cocktails followed by a leisurely dinner. Then off to bed, as 5:00 comes too quickly…

The staff was uniformly friendly and helpful, and by day 1 they all know your name and preferences. They struck a perfect balance between being there for your every need, without ever getting in the way, which was wonderful. From the moment we arrived until we departed, they did everything possible to make our stay carefree and enjoyable. For example, on the day we left they were so worried about us missing lunch that they packed a box lunch for each of us to take along – without us even asking for it!

Our ranger Landon and his tracker Eddie had worked together for 7 years and were incredibly skilled at showing us all the wildlife and other sights of the bush. The jeeps were comfortable and there were only 6 passengers in 3 rows of seats, so everyone had a prime spot for photography – no dreaded middle seat! You keep the same ranger/tracker throughout your stay, and we had the same group of 6 so we all bonded nicely.

The game drives were nothing short of spectacular though admittedly I have not done a safari previously so I have nothing to compare. The game was endless and there is so much interesting wildlife to see beyond the “Big 5” that we were never bored. Elephants were abundant as were giraffes, zebra, all sorts of antelope, and white rhino. We did get a fantastic leopard sighting the first night; at dusk he wandered along the road for about 10 minutes marking his territory while we followed him.

The highlight was watching the same pride of lions for 3 days as they interacted with each other. We saw their dynamics as they feasted on a fresh kill, watched the male keep the females at bay while he ate, and saw the pride fighting with each other when the youngest tried to steal a bite – the male attacked the cub, and the 3 lionesses jumped in to defend her. Being only a few feet from 5 snarling, biting lions was an unforgettable experience!

The food was amazingly good, and I’d put it on par with the food we had later on the Silversea cruise ship; I mean for this to be a real compliment. The cuisine was a creative blend of local ingredients with some familiar dishes, and there wasn’t ever a thing I didn’t like. We got to eat crocodile, which was interesting, and springbok, which was delicious, as well as traditional meats and fish. The portions were quite generous and the included wines from South African producers were a wonderful complement to the meals.

Breakfast and lunch are served at your leisure at small tables for 2. For dinners, we’d meet up in the bar for drinks first and then we’d all eat at the same time. They varied the setting; one night we ate by ourselves and once we had a group dinner with our ranger in the boma. The last night we all pulled our tables together and had a great dinner with our jeep-mates all in one group.

I would really have to think hard to come up with something I didn’t like. Perhaps I’d have liked some more structured activity in the late morning before lunch; we did a walk to the river to see hippos one day but otherwise we just hung out in our villa and read, looked at pictures, napped, etc. It was fine for us as we were still jet-lagged, but had I been awake all day I might have wanted to have something more to do. Be warned also; there are bugs around because you are in the bush… But there’s bugspray in the room and it works!

The only other quirk was paying for the room itself; I booked directly via e-mail with the Johannesburg office and they require prepayment. I had to fax them a credit card authorization form twice – once for the deposit, and once for the rest of the payment. A secure server for cc payment might be helpful – though I avoided international FAX charges by scanning the completed form into a .pdf and e-mailing it to the reservations office. BTW, Viola at the reservations office was incredibly helpful and answered all of my questions in a timely and pleasant manner.

In conclusion I’d compare the ambience, service, and amenities to a Four Seasons resort or similar. We are eagerly anticipating a return trip in winter, so that we can see the bush in a different state. In winter, I can imagine spending our days lounging in our lovely sitting room with a nice fire in the fireplace and a glass of wine from the maxi-bar, or lounging in the warm bathtub. Until then, I’ll have to content myself by looking at our pictures. Well-done, Ivory Lodge at Lion Sands!

  • Stayed February 2011, travelled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
3 Thank jpalbny
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 bubbles
Traveller tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (48)
Date | Rating
  • Chinese (Simplified) first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
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English first
San Francisco, California
Level Contributor
6 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 21 March 2011

Great service from our host to our guide and tracker. The kitchen crew even catered to our Gluten allergy, which was very appreciated. Rooms were nice, but not luxurious. Overall a great start to the safari portion of our trip.

  • Stayed February 2011, travelled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
1 Thank ajurich
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Johannesburg, South Africa
Level Contributor
3 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 16 November 2010

From here we get onto the land rovers ready to go back to Skukuza onto Lion Sands – Ivory Lodge

WHAT A LODGE!!!!!!!!

I have NEVER seen a lodge like this – just one thing, here the welcome towels you get given on arrival are lemon scented!!!! And who welcomes you is Oscar…. The manager, the most polite, soft spoken, kind and available person you have ever met…. When he tells you about the lodge he sounds like he is telling you a story…. But wait until you meet your butler – our was Aubrey reserved and kind, middle age, with a smile so sweet that you even feel sorry to ask him anything – they all look like if they came out of a Morgan Friedman movie…. In fact all the staff at the lodge gives you this feeling of friendship and peace, but yet again style and class…

But going back to the lodge – WOW and extra WOW!!! When you get to your rooms – they are not rooms, they are apartments, on your right is a lounge, with a door for your room service (because you always have a choice – not a very difficult choice once you see your room to have room service) a minibar (super stocked), stereo, huge couch, the structure is mainly glass … a big patio dividing the bedroom from the lounge and the usual plunge pool, in this case not too usual – as it is a huge plunge pool to be a plunge pool, definitely a very decent size, and deep enough!

The bedroom!!! Your bedroom is surrounded by glass – actually on two sides, on the back is a small wall and two steps that lead you to the toilet on the right, shower on the left (probably 2 ½ meters x 1 ½ shower) his and hers sinks and free standing bath and behind that…. Well … the most stunning open door shower you can imagine, in a inside garden, a sand garden, a bit like a Zen garden looking one…. With in the middle this huge shower…. Stunning!

For the game drive we joined the Festa group again, the drive was very exciting as we managed to see black rhino, very special, as extinguishing in the Kruger, and than elephants, hippos and various general game…

Got back to our lodge for supper – believe me, you do not want to be away from Ivory!

The food is divine, a la carte menu, but with a selection of game / fish, prawns, crocodile, anything under the sun….

You join the rest of the guest for supper, in our case I must say, we were a bit out of lace as we were at River for the game drive the other guest were kind of together already – that’s when Oscar noticed it and came to the rescue – sat a bit with us during aperitif and made us as comfortable as anyone! That’s the art of being managers!!!

Supper was set outside – but finally – a storm came – and with 43 degree everyone was very happy about it! In one second we got moved inside and dinner just carried on!

Back to our beautiful room, where you cannot do anything but sleep like a rock!

05 Nov 10

The following morning, after a sumptuous breakfast (a la carte) we unfortunately had to say goodbye to the Morgan Friedman movie set up… by far the best lodge I have visited, and believe me, when I tell you, I have seen lots of them!

  • Stayed November 2010, travelled on business
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
Thank micpinetti
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
New york
Level Contributor
76 reviews
33 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 38 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 15 November 2010

I stayed with my parents and two sisters (17 and 21) at the Ivory Lodge at Lion Sands for a week around New Year's and had an absolutely incredible time. If only luxury safaris were the sort of trip I could make every month!

After getting off of the plane, we were whisked on the open air (topless) jeeps to the lodge, were given cool towels and shown to the beautiful houses. The design of the rooms is very simple and clean, but extremely comfortable and perfect for resting in between safari outings (and the study is great for working as well). On the subject of post-safari activities, the plunge pool was also fantastic (we could even see hippos cooling off in the river as we were cooling off in our own pool). Upon our arrival, there were flowers on the bed to welcome us, and on the night of December 31st they were arranged to spell "Happy New Year!" which were very sweet touches.

The food was absolutely delicious and as abundant as anyone could hope for, with a plethora of non-meat options in addition to all the exotic meats available in Africa. They would deliver pastries and coffee/tea to the room before setting off for the dawn safari, then we would have tea/snacks in the 'bush,' followed by breakfast once back at the lodge (breakfast location changed daily, a very unique touch). After resting for a while, we had tea before setting off for the sunset safari outing, during which we stopped for cocktails and canapes in the 'bush,' before returning for cocktails and then supper. Though I generally tend to doubt the quality of food available in such large amounts/small intervals, the food was always absolutely perfect. The New Year's feast was as sumptuous as one could hope to see at any of America's or Europe's top hotels (with the added delight of all the exotic South African offerings!). We also visited the spa during our stay, which was very nice, also quite simply decorated. The fitness center performed its job well, too.

The highlight of Lion Sands, however, is of course the safari, and it certainly stole the spotlight from the safari I had been on before, and I would guess any others available. They are (one of?) the only lodges that has cars without rooves or those bars on top, which made for a much more exciting (though we never felt endangered!) experience. We were able to drive up unbelievably close to the animals (see pictures), and they had worked out a system so that your car would be the only one 'looking' at those animals at a time - fantastic! The night outings were incredible as well, watching the big cats hunt as the sun set, having the fleeing prey run around the car..! We saw all of the major animals and many rare ones. I can't imagine anywhere else could have a safari that compares to this one.

The staff were all incredibly competent, knowledgeable, and friendly, both the 'normal' hotel staff and the spotters/safari guides.

I am confident in saying that the experience of staying at Ivory Lodge at Lion Sands will blow you away. Though I came with family, it would be an incredibly romantic place to stay as well, and a fantastic place to visit with friends too! I highly recommend visiting at Xmas/New Year's time, but am sure that whichever time you stay at Lion Sands, you will not be disappointed!

  • Stayed January 2010, travelled with family
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
Thank NewYorkdaniela
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Perth
Level Contributor
355 reviews
51 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 251 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 3 November 2010

We spent three nights at Lion Sands Ivory Lodge after spending the same number of days at Londolozi - see separate review. We arrived at mid-day after an hours drive from Londolozi. After checking in we were shown to our suite and as the door was opened we were treated to the incredible sight of a herd of elephants just over the other side of the Sabie River coming down to drink. An unbelievable experience.

The suites in Ivory Lodge are very luxurious if showing a little wear and tear and perhaps in need of some refurbishment, for example the air conditioning is quite noisy and the pool could have been better maintained. But apart from this, everything was great and our morning and evening game drives were excellent, although they had an extremely hard act to follow after our trip to Londolozi. Nevertheless we saw the Big Five and a host of other animals and birds.

The food and wine was fantastic and our butler Solly catered to our every need. The first night was a communal dinner at the Boma - a large outdoor area with an open fire. A Hyena was an unexpected visitor. On the second we were taken to a bush location right after our evening game drive where they had set up a magical camp with tree lanterns and open fires with the tables set for dinner all around.

A minor negative for me was the lack of in-room Internet access, but this was available in the main lodge area.

Definitely not cheap, but all in all an unforgettable experience.

  • Stayed October 2010, travelled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
1 Thank rwlid
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Lion Sands Ivory Lodge

Property: Lion Sands Ivory Lodge
Address: Sabi Sand Game Reserve | (Shaw's Gate Entrance), Kruger National Park 1240, South Africa
Region: South Africa > Kruger National Park > Sabi Sand Game Reserve
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Business Centre with Internet Access Fitness Centre with Gym / Workout Room Free Parking Restaurant Room Service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #29 of 42 Speciality Lodging in Sabi Sand Game Reserve
Hotel Class:5 star — Lion Sands Ivory Lodge 5*
Number of rooms: 6
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Family owned since 1933, this international award winning private game reserve spans across the world famous Sabi Sand Game Reserve and Kruger National Park. Lion Sands has four lodges; Lion Sands Ivory Lodge & Lion Sands River Lodge (Sabi Sand) and Lion Sands Tinga Lodge & Lion Sands Narina Lodge (Kruger Park). Each has a unique style, but is a reflection of Lion Sands' five-star signature of sophisticated interiors, unique experiences and service excellence. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Lion Sands Ivory Hotel Sabi Sand Game Reserve

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