- Overall Impression
- Common Areas
The family owned and managed Five Star Big Five safari lodge within the private Kapama Game Reserve near Kruger National Park was established to help support Jabulani and later 14 other elephants. We liked the lodge’s intimate and elegant ambience, creature comforts, original art, water feature, attentive dining room service and gourmet dining. We appreciated that for every meal Dylan Frost, the executive chef, came out to the dining room to take our order personally and answer any questions we might have; and that he paid special attention to dietary preferences and restrictions. We were delighted with our expansive 424 square meter comfortable three bedroom, three bathroom Zindoga Villa with living room, dining room, covered terrace, three fireplaces, kitchenette, two plunge pools and plenty of amenities.
We looked forward to private game drives with Dean Wilkinson, our erudite ranger. His descriptions and explanations deepened our understanding of wildlife at the reserve. We especially liked his emphasis on high quality sightings that took into account animal behavior and environmental conditions, and that he angled the vehicle for optimal viewing and photography. Whether it was watching the property’s rescued elephants, enjoying homemade and locally sourced snacks while waiting for a striking sunset or discussing ancient artifacts he found within the reserve we always returned from our time with him feeling enriched. We would easily return to Camp Jabulani and recommend it to friends for its uncommon elephant encounters, outstanding game viewing, luxurious and serene accommodations and gourmet meals.
Class of Accommodation Five Star Luxury Safari Lodge
Connectivity There was complimentary WiFi property wide although the staff recommended we go to the main area for optimum speed. We were able to connect sometimes in our suite. The property was connected through a wireless network with 4 megabyte bandwidth. Download speeds were approximately 1,000 bits per second and upload speeds were around 300 bits per second, depending on the amount of traffic.
General Manager Christo Rachmann and Wilma Rachmann
Handicapped Access Yes, the main lodge was wheelchair friendly and staff were available to assist guests with disabiities, according to a spokesperson.
Length of Stay Two nights
Location Within the private Kapama Game Reserve in South Africa near Kruger National Park. The property was 22 kilometers from Hoedspruit, the nearest city.
Managed Camp Jabulani Pty. Ltd.
Number of Employees 84 including the elephant section
Owned Adine Roode, managing director, and Lente Roode, director
Size Camp Jabulani, situated within the Kapama Game Reserve, a 16,000 hectare safari reserve with four other safari lodges, was 41,400 square meters large. It housed six double occupancy Chalets and Zindoga Villa, a three bedroom, three bathroom suite with capacity for up to eight guests.
Year Opened and Date of Most Recent Renovation The property first opened to the public in 2004. In 2012, the Villa was renovated. The most recent renovation was the Chalet roofs in 2016.
There were Ardmore Ceramics and art by Stephen Sutherland. One notable original art piece, we found out after our departure, was Shawu by Danie de Jager, a South African artist. Shawu was the largest of the famous Magnificent Seven, large bull elephants renowned for their massive tusks. Shawu held the record for the elephant with the largest recorded tusks in South Africa.
Room We stayed in 424 square meter Zindoga Villa, Camp Jabulani’s luxurious, spacious and comfortable three bedroom and three bathroom suite. It had a large foyer, two large bedrooms, a small bedroom, adjacent living and dining rooms, kitchenette, two plunge pools and spacious outdoor decks. The kitchenette had Samsung microwave, Siemens oven, two burner Miele stove, Defy refrigerator and sink.
I stayed in Limpopo and my travel partner stayed in Klaserie, the two largest of the three bedrooms. The third bedroom had twin beds and was closest to Klaserie. There was separate access for Limpopo from the main path.
In addition to the air conditioned space, the Villa had 225 square meters of decking, some under roof, and the two plunge pools with access via the large bedrooms. There was original artwork, including framed photography, oil paintings and sculptures. There was a gas fireplace in each room and one in the living room. The suite had thatched roofs and high ceilings, plastic flowers, fine fabrics, comfortable well cushioned furniture and a mix of wood and polished concrete floors.
At night the staff spread the mosquito netting that hung from the ceiling around the fourposter beds, removed the light white bedspread and replaced it with a synthetic duvet. There was a complimentary fruit platter with fresh and dried fruit. Each bed had four synthetic pillows. Blackout curtains covered the sliding glass doors and screen doors that provided access to the decks and plunge pools.
“Our dishes at Camp Jabulani is pretty simple we aim to please and impress guests with dishes that you would never really try before,” said Frost via email. “We do a lot of experimenting and I would say that 95 percent of the time the dish is successful. We will never give a guest the same dish during their stay at Camp Jabulani. We are fortunate enough to have varieties of ingredients at our disposal and we like to use every item that is available to us.”
Frost began his career at the Plettenberg Bay Hotel, a sister Relais and Chateaux property in South Africa. Over time he was promoted up the ranks and moved to the Cellars Hohenort Hotel (sister hotel of the Plettenberg Bay Hotel) in Constantia near Cape Town and back to the Plettenberg Bay Hotel. He started working at Camp Jabulani January 2014 and by November 2016 was promoted to executive chef. Alex Van As, assistant head chef, and Zandrie Boucher, chef, were part of the kitchen staff.
Pool Zindoga Villa’s two rectangular plunge pools, each 15 square meters and 1.3 meters deep, were accessible via its large bedrooms. There were two cushioned metal lounge chairs by my plunge pool and four Lounge chairs by my travel partner’s plunge pool. There was also a metal table with matching armchairs. Although with nighttime fall temperatures dropping into the low 40s Fahrenheit the water was too chilly for my taste the pool deck was one of my favorite places to spend time in the suite.
Shop The air conditioned Art Gallery and Curio Shop in the main area sold branded clothing (limited size and selection), jewelry, accessories, cards and books; and featured South African art such as oil paintings and metal sculptures, the work of Jean Abrie, Johan Koch, Gert van der Merwe, Stephen Sutherland and ceramic company Ardmore. There were also products from the Out of Alex Embroidery Project and the African Children’s Community Education and Feeding Scheme (ACFS) community initiatives. Items ranged from post cards for 25 rand to art pieces for 4,6000 rand.
Fitness Center and Spa There was a 21 square meter open air treatment space with two treatment tables. I appreciated having a massage in the privacy and comfort of my suite. However, I was cold (the blanket she brought was thin and there was no heating pad). The was a 53 square meter workout area equipped with the following: Johnson multipurpose machine, static bicycle and rowing machine, Trojan treadmill, free weight dumbbells and Detecto scale. There was also a new looking six square meter sauna with a glass wall.
There was also a cute cloth sewing kit hanging in the closet, cloth laundry bag, individual size Occitane toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, body gel, body lotion), shower caps, extra thick towels, house perfumed body lotion, soap and shampoo in glass bottles, shower caps, and vanity kit. At turn down the staff left a one-page bush short story (How Leopard Got His Spots) and bottled water. The night before our departure they also left fudge, and a printout with the weather for the following day.
We saw the following animals: buffalo, bush baby, elephants, giraffe, hippopotamus, impala, kudu, lion, nyala, rhinoceros, scrub hare, warthog, waterbuck, wildebeest, agama.
We saw or heard the following birds: African hoopoe, brown-hooded kingfisher, crested barbet, go-away-bird, green woodhoopoe, helmeted guineafowl, lilac-breasted roller, red billed hornbill, red-crested korhaan, southern yellow-billed hornbill, white crested helmet shrike.
On the responsible tourism side, Camp Jabulani participated in a recycling program; urged guests to use water sparingly (for example towels were only replaced upon request in order to save water on laundry); and purchased local produce to support the surrounding community. The property had received a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence every year between 2013 and 2016. Camp Jabulani was best known for its herd of trained African elephants and the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre. Camp Jabulani was constructed for the sole purpose of providing a means of income to protect and care for Jabulani (the elephant we met the day of our arrival), a herd of elephants rescued from Zimbabwe and others born at the lodge or who later joined them. According to a spokesperson, monthly expenses for the herd ranged between 30,000 rand and 40,000 rand per elephant.
Date of Last Visit May 2017
Article by Elena del Valle
Photos by Gary Cox
Service Our suite was serviced twice daily. Shadrick, who looked after us and all guests in the dining room in the morning and at lunch, was friendly and service oriented. Other staff we met, Schalk Candide and Ansie Grobler, were likewise friendly.
Would You Stay Again? Yes