Manyoni Private Game Reserve is a 23 000 hectare private game reserve in the heart of beautiful Zululand and just 30km north of Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park. We spent our honeymoon in Hluhluwe and I had my first real game drive there – which just grew my love for the South African bush. Our trip to Rhino River Lodge was just 2 days after we celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary, so it was the perfect place at the perfect time.
Rhino River Lodge is family owned and operated (something that strikes a note with me, the girl who’s been working in her own family owned and operated company for 15 years now). And this is truly what you feel like when you step foot into the lodge – like family, like you’re home. The staff are exceptionally welcoming and the lodge is relaxed and comfortable.
On arrival at Rhino River Lodge, we were greeted by our ranger Storm, who took us through to the main lodge, where we given a lovely refreshing juice and our indemnity forms to complete. At the main lodge, you’ll find the restaurant and bar area, the swimming pool, the campfire (which is perfection to sit and sip a sherry around post-game drive in the evening) and a small lounge off on one side to relax in.
We were then shown to our room – one of the gorgeous Deluxe Rooms that offer all the comforts of home and more. Decorated in a modern rustic style, we had an enormous king-sized bed (covered in the softest linen) with a large mosquito net, small indoor sitting area, tea and coffee facilities and a small mini-bar, as well as a private veranda that leads onto the main garden – that has buck and warthogs roaming freely. The bathrooms are newly renovated, with a huge shower.
In addition to the gorgeous Deluxe Rooms, Rhino River Lodge also has two Family Loft Chalets that can accommodate 4 people each, the Cottage, which can accommodate 6 people and the Homestead, which can accommodate 4 people and also has a kitchen, for those that might like to make use of a self catering facility.
Included in your accommodation is 3 meals a day, as well as a morning (with a tea/coffee stop) and an evening game drive (including a sun downer and snacks). What we also loved, was that looking at the wine and bar list, the drinks weren’t priced for international guests only (something we’ve often found at the various game lodges we’ve stayed) – the bar has a LOVELY wine list on offer, with some of our favourite wine brands, and all are so well-priced. Not only is this just fantastic value for money, it takes away the stress of organising meals while on holiday.
On arrival at Rhino River Lodge, you’ll be offered the afternoon tea, which includes delicious finger snacks and cake, with some fresh fruit – this is the ideal pre-game drive meal, as it won’t be so heavy that you’re uncomfortable while on your drive, but it keeps you feeling satisfied until dinner. Our first day we were offered the standard fresh sliced fruit, as well as beef sliders, chicken skewers and a luscious chocolate cake.
The afternoon teas vary beautifully too – our second afternoon was chicken drumsticks, ham and cheese open sandwiches on French loaf and the sweetest little chocolate lamingtons ever!
The morning and evening game drives are perfectly timed to see as much of the bush and the wildlife as possible, and your rangers play a huge part in this. Storm, our ranger, had the two of us and one other couple to attend to, and she made her best efforts to ensure that we all saw something we wanted. Luckily, the other couple with us and Nick were all avid birders (I myself am still learning to enjoy this as much as Nick, but I’m getting there slowly but surely – and I even point out birds to him now, asking what they are).
Storm also knew that even though the wild dogs were in the holding boma – due to them being Houdini-like in their escape attempts into the neighboring reserve – but ensured we were able to see them there for Nick, who’s had wild dogs on his bucket list of sightings for longer than he can remember. Seeing these beautiful animals for the first time really was incredible.
Here are some of our other beautiful sightings. While the elephants are (and always will be my personal favourite – and we saw the tiniest baby elephant on our last morning), the sighting we had of the lions was just exceptional. The male lion (pictured below) walked right past our game vehicle, on my side, close enough that I could probably have reached out and touched him if I had wanted to! I’ve included the Instagram Reel below if you’d like to see, but I also have an Instagram Story highlight of our stay HERE, where you see more of him.
The game drives are just spectacular at Manyoni Private Game Reserve, but the rangers from Rhino River Lodge just know how to make it so much more special. In the mornings you have a tea/coffee stop that always includes a little Amarula, some biscuits or rusks and a beautiful view – the perfect way to start your day.
The afternoon game drives are just as beautiful, and nothing quite compares to that sundowner stop – for us, a gin and tonic always hits the spot, along with tasty snacks and yet another beautiful view. You also return to a warm, moist towel to wipe your hands, a shooter or a small sherry and a seat by the campfire with a hot water bottle, while you wait for dinner to be served – it is just blissful.
After each morning game drive, you return to the Rhino River Lodge for a delicious breakfast that includes the cold buffet of fruits, pastries, cereal, yogurts and juice, along with coffee and your choice of hot breakfasts. That game drive really works up an appetite, so breakfast goes down a treat!
During the day at the lodge, you can relax in your room, on your private veranda, by the pool (if the weather permits) or in the guest lounge. It’s the perfect time to kick back, put that technology away and read a good book – or sit with your partner, crack open a bottle of bubbly and chat, which is exactly what we chose to do with our time.
However, should you choose, there are a number of excursions you can do (that are at an extra price, but so worth it – plus, if you want some one-on-one time with your partner from the kiddies, you can make use of the baby sitting service): –
2 hour night drive – R450.00 per adult / R350.00 per child (4 – 12years)
3 hour baby-sitting service – R400.00 per child (subject to nanny availability)
1 hour elephant connection – R580.00 per adult / R350.00 (4 – 12 years)
Rhino dehorning – R1200.00 per adult. No children under 12 years permitted (subject to availability)
Based on 2023 rates. Terms and conditions apply
When it comes to dinner at Rhino River Lodge – you have a delectable 3 course meal ahead of you, after the late afternoon/evening game drive. Starters and dessert are set (and catered to suit most palates), while you have 3 options for your main course.
Our first night was a delicious veggie soup with fresh bread and chocolate tart for dessert. Hubby then selected the pork fillet, while I chose a vegetarian curry that was just perfect.
On our second (and final) night, however, we were thoroughly spoiled. You are able to book a private romantic dinner setting in the small, private boma – where you sit by a campfire alone with your sweetheart, sip on wine and dine on your delicious 3 course dinner in a more intimate, romantic setting.
This time, we decided to share a starter and dessert, as 3 courses really is far too much for us on our own. The vegetable tart was delicious, hubby opted for the beef fillet and I chose the grilled fish, and we shared a malva pudding for dessert.
HONESTLY, our trip to Rhino River Lodge was one of the best I have ever been on – the perfect blend of relaxed comfort and luxury, laughter and incredible sightings. The staff, the venue, the food and just everything was wonderful, and we hope to go back soon!
You can check out the rates for the different accommodation options at Rhino River Lodge HERE. Alternatively, if you’d like to contact the lodge with any queries, head to this link HERE.
P.S. There are some FABULOUS spring specials for SA Residents available at the moment too – so head on over and check those out HERE.
You can take a look at my Instagram Reel here, which shows a tour of Rhino River Lodge and our room, as well as the gorgeous sightings on our game drives: –