- Overall Impression
- Common Areas
Our accommodations, the service and the facilities were so nice that time between game drives flew at the lodge. Although we did not meet the owners we noticed their hand in the decorative touches and the happy staff who introduced themselves and welcomed us warmly during our stay. We looked forward to meal times as much for the yummy food as for the dam side setting where we enjoyed them. And we throughly enjoyed our spacious and well appointed rooms each with a private plunge pool and a view of the dam.
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. We look forward to returning at the first opportunity.
Class Of Accommodation Boutique safari lodge
Connectivity The only internet access at the property was on the staff computer at reception. The manager kindly invited me to borrow it which I did on one occasion to check quickly for any urgent issues at home. A property wide system was in the works, she explained.
General Manager Charl Brink
Handicapped Access The property welcomed handicapped guests. There were steps scattered throughout the common areas and our suites.
Length Of Stay Three nights
Location The lodge is in the northern Sabi Sand Reserve near the Gowrie Gate. It is about 500 kilometers from Johannesburg including a 25 kilometer stretch on gravel roads which were, we were told, generally in good condition. The lodge estimate for the drive was seven hours.
Lodge Manager Shannon Mc Clean
Owned Charl and Maria Brink
Pets Allowed No
Size Forty-two employees worked at the 2,500 hectare property with traversing rights to 6,000 hectares. There were eight rooms including Chitwa House.
Year Opened-Renovated In 1979, Chitwa Chitwa was built on a farm owned by the Brink Family. In 1991, the family decided to open the property to paying guests. The property, as it today, was established in 1994 and the most recent renovation took place in 2008.
Straight down from the library there was a large open deck facing the Chitwa Dam next to a large indoor area with soaring ceilings that housed a winter dining room, a lounge, and a bar. The deck was home to an open sitting area under roof peppered with comfortable furniture in front of a swimming pool that looked onto the dam.
The property was designed in a Euro-Chic style. Maria Brink, an artist who has exhibited her work in international galleries, had many of her paintings at the lodge. There were also antique west African sculptures and masks in the interior walls.
We noticed whimsical accents around the property and modern large oil paintings. Noteworthy decorative elements included giraffe, elephant and kudu bone chandeliers, table top decorations and stand alone pieces scattered throughout the lodge. There were also beautiful lamps and tables made of leadwood, South Africa’s third heaviest wood. The open deck main area was one of our favorite places to spend time, watching the animals and birds that congregated by the dam. The bar area, with plenty of indoor seating, was adjacent to the furthest wall. There was an indoor dining area in the back of the building and ladies and gentlemen’s bathrooms on the left past the bar.
My travel partner’s bathroom was slightly different from mine. The bathtub was parallel to the window (mine was next to an inner wall although it had a view through the glass walls), facing the pool and the dam beyond. The outdoor shower was next to the wall (mine was next to the pool).
My room, Makanyini, was to the left just past reception down a sandy path. It offered an excellent space to spend time between activities and was so comfortable and pretty that it was tempting sometimes to just relax in the room or by the plunge pool. Thinking of the quiet oasis of my room I didn’t feel nearly enough regret when our afternoon game drive was cancelled due to a heavy downpour. The bush facing room with a soaring thatched roof was decorated in earth tones. There was a cow hide in the middle of the room as well as large fibre carpets in the living and sleeping areas set over polished concrete floors; there were colorful rugs in the dining corner and atop the wood floor in the covered area of the outdoor deck. The room had off white walls and a shady indoor ambiance with an emphasis on the bush view. The decor was a mix of Africa with animal elements and eclectic modern touches like an oversize lamp shade lamp above the living area, animal bones, black and white framed photos of oversize insects (a similar set was in the bathroom above the bathtub). The living area was centered around a tall stone fireplace.
In the corner, diagonal from the entrance, there was a mini refrigerator filled with beverages and three small bags of salty snacks. Next to it, on a wall side table, there was a cold water pitcher on a platter and a self service hot beverage set up.
The sleeping area was two steps up the concrete floor behind the living area. A comfortable queen bed with leatherette headboard and fresh scented sheets stood below a square mosquito net frame which was spread around the bed at night. There was a brown bench at the foot of the bed and wood and glass square night tables with lamps on either side of the bed. There was also a wood dresser and a small rectangular wood framed mirror to the right of the bed. I especially liked that from the bed I had a clear view through the living area, past the sitting area of the deck and plunge pool to the bush and the dam beyond.
A remote controlled unit allowed me to turn the air conditioner on and off and adjust the temperature. At times, especially when the outside temperatures were cool, I enjoyed shutting it off and listening to the birdsong and bush sounds. It was also helpful to keep the temperature similar to the ambient outdoor temperature so my camera would not fog up during the game drives. When the blazing sun rose it was necessary to turn the air conditioner on to take refuge from the worst of the midday summer heat.
Immediately past the entrance there was a round wood dining table and two chairs; to the left of it there was a living area facing a fireplace. A cloth sofa faced the fire place, next to it there was a small table and behind it a bench. In front of it there was a square coffee table and on either side of the table there were two armchairs. A tall framed mirror leaned against one corner next to a narrow rectangular glass top table with two lamps, and there was an iPod dock with speakers and a telephone across the room from the mini bar and hot beverage platter. In the center of the room, above the sofa and bench, there was a hanging lamp with an oversize lamp shade that matched those in the common areas of the lodge. Gauzy see through white curtains were tied at either end or could loosened. I left them tied to enjoy the view of the bush and dam.
Wood and glass doors opened on to a partially covered outdoor deck, my favorite corner of the room. In the covered area which was under the same thatch as the suite, and right in front of the doors, there were two comfortable cloth khaki colored armchairs facing a rectangular wood coffee table. To the left there was a round wood table with two wicker armchairs. The area that remained was occupied by an open deck next to a small swimming pool, and two metal cushioned and adjustable lounge chairs with a stump of wood in between in place of a table. From the deck I had an unobstructed view of Chitwa Dam and of the back left corner of the Lapa where we had breakfast and lunch.
My travel partner’s room, although similar in décor, seemed slight larger indoors and had a different layout for the room and the bathroom, a dining table for four, oil paintings (mine had oversize insect illustrations) and two adjustable lounge chairs in the shade (without an outdoor sitting area like mine).
At 1 p.m. a set plated lunch (there were two main course options, an appetizer and dessert) was served. Lunch one day, for example, was a nice Caprese salad followed by a chicken kabob (a favorite) and side salad with tiramisu to wrap up the meal.
A plated dinner, served outdoors on the wood deck under the shelter of the roof, was from a set menu with two main course options: a spicy ginger soup for the starter and for mains steak with a small salad and a mustard dressing (or chicken) with mushroom risotto; for dessert there was grenadilla pudding. Dinner on our second night was on the moonlit deck. There were two groups totaling eight guests and two rangers sitting and chatting under the stars. We had potato and leek soup with tasty croutons followed by a twice cooked cheese souffle; for mains there was fried dorade (fish) or ostrich kebab and for dessert there was chocolate tart. We had been eating so much that we skipped dinner the third night.
On return from the night game drive one of the staff offered us a Springbok drink, peppermint liqueur at the bottom and Amarula liqueur on top.
Facilities Guests had access to a main swimming pool, Lapa (outdoor roof covered dining space), deck dinning area, bar, gift shop, fitness room and spa.
Fitness center and spa There was a small sunlit gym with several machines, art and a glass wall. Next to the work out room there was a spa area with an indoor treatment area, a bathroom and a patio.
Pool In addition to the private pools in our rooms there was a swimming pool (about 10 meters long by 4 meters wide) beneath a large tree on the open deck of the main area.
Wake up was at 4:45 a.m. for a 5:30 a.m. departure. In the afternoons, we would meet for tea at 3:45 p.m. for a 4 p.m. game drive departure. At most there were three vehicles per game sighting. There were six game viewing staff and three game viewing vehicles.
The maximum number of guests per vehicle was six or seven depending on lodge occupancy. The first game drive was cancelled due to heavy rains and we skipped the second one because of the rain (although other guests went out). For the afternoon game drive we met up at 3:45 p.m. for tea and returned to the lodge at 7:45 p.m. Wake up the second morning was at 5 a.m. followed by tea and a game drive. We returned at 9:20 a.m. Smoking and cell phones were unwelcome during game drives.
During our four game drives we saw the following animals: Cape Buffalo, bushbuck, African civet, elephant, large-spotted genet, giraffe, scrub hare, hippopotamus, impala, side-striped jackal, kudu, leopard (two females fighting for territory), lion, banded mongoose, dwarf mongoose, vervet monkey, white rhinoceros, tree squirrel, warthog, waterbuck, blue wildebeest, Burchell’s zebra, golden orb spider, community spider, female diadem butterfly, and olive toad.
Birds we saw (or heard) included: crested barbet, southern carmine bee-eater, European bee-eater, dark-capped bulbul, golden breasted bunting, grey headed bush-shrike, orange breasted bush-shrike, kori bustard, yellow-fronted canary, red faced cisticola, Burchell’s coucal, jacobin cuckoo, spotted thick-knee, water thick-knee, Cape turtle-dove, emerald-spotted wood-dove, white faced duck, African fish eagle, tawny eagle, Wahlberg’s eagle, southern black flycatcher, crested francolin, Natal spurfowl, Shelley’s francolin, Swainson’s francolin, Egyptian goose, common greenshank, white-crested helmet shrike, green backed heron, African hoopoe, African grey hornbill, southern ground-hornbill, red billed hornbill, hadeda ibis, pied kingfisher, woodland kingfisher, black bellied bustard, go-away-bird, yellow throated longclaw, fiery necked nightjar, square-tailed nightjar, black headed oriole, red billed oxpecker, brown headed oxpecker, bushveld pipit, blacksmith lapwing, crowned lapwing, Senegal lapwing, black-backed puffback, red billed quelea, European roller, lilac breasted roller, double banded sandgrouse, common sandpiper, wood sandpiper, lesser grey shrike, magpie shrike, red backed shrike, sparrow, Burchell’s starling, Cape glossy starling, greater blue eared starling, barn swallow, red breasted swallow, black crowned swift, groundscraper thrush, white backed vulture, African pied wagtail, African reed-warbler, blue waxbill, red billed buffalo-weaver, village weaver, and Bennett’s woodpecker.
Reptiles we saw: southern tree agama, Moreuau’s tropical gheco, Turner’s thick-toed gheco, giant plated lizard, Nile monitor, rainbow skink, serrated hinged terrapin, leopard tortoise, bushfeld lizard and Nile crocodile.
Check out time was at 10:30 a.m. I filled out a laundry form and left it in the laundry basket the afternoon of my arrival. It was returned by the time I returned from my game drive the following day. No underwear was accepted by the laundry service.
The lodge ran on regular electricity although there was a back up generator in case of a power failure. Water was from a borehole beneath the property. Once on the surface the water was purified and made potable. In 2008, the owners of the property established The Chitwa Chitwa Trust, a non profit organization, to raise funds toward “conservation and community upliftment.” The two main projects centered on the Dixie Cultural and Skill Development Centre to support the local community and orphans and establish a 600 square meter center for them; and the Dixie Shelter for the Homeless, a facility for the children of the Dixie village that had become orphans due to AIDS. Plans were underway to build a 3 million rand shelter for them.
Sustainable Tourism The property adopted green initiatives and was committed to operating a sustainable lodge. The concept the owners strived for was that a guest stay at the lodge have as small an impact on the environment as possible.
There was LED (light-emitting diode) and compact fluorescent lighting in 75 percent of the property. Eighty percent of the rooms had solar water heating systems controlled through “geyserwise” intelligent electronic devices to improve their efficiency. Exposed piping had been insulated for maximum heat retention. Pool pumps were replaced with “VF Intelliflow” variable speed pumps reducing the power consumption by 90 percent.
A gray water recycling system allowed laundry water to be recycled for garden irrigation. Chitwa Chitwa recycled glass and plastic and waste was removed weekly to reduce the property’s carbon footprint.
Air conditioners were fitted with “airco saver” energy savers designed to reduce the energy consumed by the units by between 20 and 35 percent. The cleaning materials used were environmentally friendly and washing powders were free of phosphates. The property relied on Natal highveld grass roofs as an insulation layer to reduce heat in summer and heat loss in winter.
Date Of Review March 2011
Reviewers Article by Elena del Valle
Photographs by Gary Cox
Service On our return from the evening game drive the staff offered us sherry. Our rooms were serviced twice daily. Clarah in the Lapa shared a Kuamukele (welcome in Shangaan) greeting the first day we arrived and introduced herself, smiling and shaking my hand. Claudioninho in the bar also introduced himself and offered to share a few words of Portuguese prompting me to ask if he was from Mozambique (he was). Shannon, the property manager, and Phila, a proud Zulu therapist, greeted us on arrival.
Would You Stay There Again? Yes