Reviews of Kulala Desert Lodge
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Disappointment in the desert
I completed a detailed evaluation sheet including the points below and discussed them in outline with the management before we left. They represent a fairly unsatisfactory experience of what is described in your brochure as a distinguished establishment.
(i) The food was badly prepared and presented. Vegetables were overcooked and distasteful, often cold and even unrecognisable - a pat of rice, grey and lukewarm, for example; meat was either tough or unattractive; puddings were ordinary, obviously frozen, and unappetizing; one first course, described as 'bruschetta', two pieces of sponge slopped with plum sauce, was inedible. We have never experienced anything quite as awful as this in a public restaurant, let alone one that was so fulsomely written up.
Both my wife and I were, on different occasions, quite seriously ill with clear symptoms of food poisoning; the manager put it down to a change in drinking water ('even when I go to Swapokmund I get a stomach upset through drinking a different kind of water') and this despite his earlier assertion that his water was entirely safe. It's never easy to link eating habits with food poisoning and we can only suspect; contenders as potential culprits were warmed rice and inadequately stored cream. So, a suspicion that this menu was not only unappetising but potentially dangerous. Our symptoms persisted long after leaning Kulala.
Kulala's problems stem from poor management. Causes for concern, beyond the kitchen:
(i) Security; there is no sign of this; we complained twice, without any response, of a forced and broken bolt on one of our room doors. We asked about locks on the doors, again a question treated with indifference. This may seem an odd enquiry since we subsequently stayed in 'tents' without even walls let alone doors. There, though, there were in force clear security precautions. And, anyway, I wonder how an insurance company might respond to a claim for lost or apparently stolen goods from an unlocked room. This may not be the point; but it's crucial that if guests have concerns of this sort that at least they sould be addressed. Risk has to be managed not ignored. One of the toilets in the public area was without any sort of lock.
(ii) Early calls were either late, very late or entirely ignored. In the latter case, this happened before a ballooning trip which was the responsibility of another organisation some distance away. We might have missed our booking had we not woken independently - once bitten.
(iii) There were three organised trips. Two of these were very expensive and poor value for money. The dull visit to the Sesriem Canyon, a long way with a dull subject and an uninformative guide at that, and the nature drive in the evening which constituted a drive round the lodge's estate, were both glorified excuses for the statutory sundowner. The third, Sossusvlei visit was potentially more interesting though here our guide was equally disenchanted. Me: 'Do you take this trip often.' He: with an onvious sense of boredom: 'Yes; every single day.' Management could have helped with some coordination and education - we never had the same guide so three diferent individuals rehearsed the same tired, and already well known, facts about the acacia tree, the habits of the termite and the sociable weaver.
So, charming staff who had little idea what they were supposed to do and how; poor, floundering, management. In almost every way this was not an acceptable stay. I would be concerned not only for the reputation of Wilderness Safaris - they're big enough and well enough represented elsewhere to cope, anyway - but for Expert Africa; I would strongly recommend that until you have assurance that these issues have been addressed, you should not recommend this lodge to your clients. Have you heard this sort of thing before?
Expert Africa comments
Wilderness Safaris - as well as oursleves - are very sorry that these travellers had a bad experience at Kulala Desert Lodge. Wilderness have apologised for this, and assure us that they have taken these comments very seriously.
After several adverse reports from our travellers, they advise us that the service and food at Kulala Desert Lodge is getting their full attention . They have made several changes and they are now sure that these problems are on their way to being rectified. There has been a change in the management couple, a new chef is in place at the Lodge and a newly appointed a food & beverages manager.
There is an on going training programme for all the staff and Wilderness assure us that they will continue to monitor things and hope to improve all guests’ experiences at the Lodge.
Not ideal for landscape photographers
We wanted to be able to be in position within the sand dunes before sunrise. Although the lodge has its own gate, by the time we entered the area the sun had risen. It would have been better to stay closer to the main gate, which was apparently a 45 minute drive from the lodge.Read more about the whole safari
Expert Africa comments
It’s important that these comments be taken in the context of this traveller’s general comments on their trip. To read these, please see the page entitled: ‘The Holiday from Hell’.
In our experience, it probably would not have been better for these travellers to stay in a lodge closer to the main gate. Quite the contrary, as delays in opening the gate and then in physically issuing the permits mean that this is often frustratingly slow. So whilst departure times for shared trips from Kulala Desert Lodge can’t be guaranteed, booking a private vehicle from here for the morning drive could be one way for keen photographers to get the best possible chance of the shots that they want.
The hot air ballooning trip, though expensive, was an absolute must - out of this world!Read more about the whole safari
A dune experience
The trip to the dunes was very good but an enclosed vehicle needs to be used by the lodge. Uncomfortable return journey due to wind and sand.
A great location for the lodge. Welcoming and helpful staff.
Expert Africa comments
The dunes around Sesriem and Sossusvlei have experienced some exceptionally windy conditions this year; winds gusting as high has 96km/h were measured at one of the camps in September!
As the result of their experiences this year, the Wilderness team (who run Kulala Desert Lodge) tell us that they are in the process of replacing all their 'open' vehicles at their camps in the Sossusvlei area with 'closed game drive' vehicles. This will obviously take time, but when they're all changed it'll help our travellers to avoid being quite so sand-blasted when the winds are high!
There's also been a new management couple installed at Kulala Desert Loge, Darryl & Elaine. We're optimistic that they will improve the lodge's standards even further, and are keeping a keen eye on our traveller's comments - particularly about the food!
Great welcome at Kulala Desert Lodge
Staff outstanding. Extremely well-managed Lodge. On arrival and return from trips we were greeted with drinks before entering Lodge. Chalet very comfortable with amazing views.
Sessriem Canyon a little disappointing after Fish River Canyon!
Trip to the dunes amazing but unfortunately very windy that day. Deadvlei well worth a visit although we found the walk very tiring, but we are not the fittest people in the world! Early morning balloon flight the next day highly recommended. Previous day's flights cancelled because of the wind. Champagne breakfast by the dunes a memorable experience.
Kulala Desert Lodge review
Beautifull setting well organised only let down by VERY poor food.Read more about the whole safari
Expert Africa comments
Subsequent to these comments and others made by recent visitors to Kulala Desert Lodge, Expert Africa has corresponded with the lodge owners and reserve managers and are awaiting details on proposed improvements to the menus and food standard.
Perfect place to sleep under the stars!
The morning trip to dunes was overpriced - if you have a 4x4 we would recommend driving yourself.Read more about the whole safari
Kulala Desert Lodge review
For a top class establishment the dining room felt like a school dining room with unsmiling staff who hardly acknowledged your presence.
The manager welcomed us but the whole place aeemed to treatits guests in an off-hand manner.
The guides were good and friendly.
The ballooning was just magical! The balloonist was really experienced and looked just like Crocodile Dundee.
He landed the basket neatly on the back of the trailer and then we had the most amazing breakfast with champagne.
Good for the desert.
Early morning trip to desert and dunes very good. Guide only average, more of a driver than an expert on the area.
The lodge wasn't really prepared for vegetarian meals.
BECAUSE THERE HAD BEEN A MIX UP WITH OUR ACCOMODATION ON THE SECOND NIGHT AND EXTRA BEDS HAD TO BE SQUASHED INTO THE ROOMS, TRACY HAD TOLD US THAT THEY WOULD BE BENDING OVER BACKWARDS TO KEEP US HAPPY. tHIS WAS NOT ACTUALLY THE CASE. oN THE SECOND DAY THE WAITRESS ANNOUNCED THAT WE WERE NOW ON ALL INCLUSIVE, WE QUERIED THIS SO SHE CHECKED BUT CONFIRMED THIS SO WE HAD A FEW MORE DRINKS THAN WE WOULD NORMALLY HAVE BOUGHT. wE PRESUMED THAT THIS WAS BECAUSE OF THE BOOKING ERROR.ON CHECKING OUT, WE WERE BILLED FOR THESE AND OUR EXPLANATIONS POO POOED AS THE WAITRESS WAS NOT ON DUTY.
WE REFUSED TO PAY, SO SHE SAID SHE WOULD CHECK OUR STORY AND CHARGE US ON OUR CARD LATER. TO DATE THIS HAS NOT HAPPENED.
ON THE OTHER HAND THEY WERE HELPFUL WITH OUR CAR PROBLEMS. THE STAFF EVENING ENTERTAINMENT WAS A HIGHLIGHT.
WE FELT THAT THE EVENING MEAL PORTIONS WERE UNGENEROUS.