The Protea Hotel Kruger Gate is located just outside the main entrance of Kruger National Park. By just outside, I mean only a hundred yards from the main reception building where you pay your entrance fee. The Kruger National Park area isn’t too far into the ‘wilderness’ – just a few miles out is Mpumalanga’s Hazyview, an agricultural town (think Bakersfield, CA). About 90 minutes out is Nelspruit, the capital of the province and a rich city living off agricultural profits from the many huge farms in the area.
We arrived past 10PM to an area that welcomes you with lots of warnings of wild animals, as well as big fences and gates. The hotel is comprised of several, old two-story buildings and an elevated walkway in-between.
The summer in Kruger is hot and humid and the first thing you want to do is get out your bug spray, since there seems to be just too many insects flying around.
Check-in was in typical Protea fashion – wordless and slow. This has been a theme of the trip – the front desk staff usually being apathetic or downright rude. Mostly they seem to be badly trained and just able to make passport copies and hand out room keys. The front desk agent at this hotel informed us that while we had redeemed 7,500 points per night for this stay, that the hotel DOES NOT participate in Marriott Rewards. He said that even though the hotel front desk was plastered with Marriott Rewards stickers saying ‘join here’. We asked again and also asked to speak to a manager who was (you guessed it) ‘not on the property’.
The hotel advertises free meals for all guests in many promotional materials but not on the Marriott.com website itself, where it says they are for purchase. While many Protea hotels offer free breakfast, it is NOT a mentioned benefit for Gold or Platinum members (our party had both elite levels).
I really did not like the room; it smelled moldy, it was hot and the air conditioning was loud. The internet was surprisingly fast (for a Protea) at 1.5 MBit and rarely disconnected. The rain shower and the whole bathroom looked old, but worked in a decent fashion.
The Kruger Park area is a malaria hot spot (especially between November and February) and so we had hoped the hotel would have central AC. We saw many dead mosquitoes on the walls from prior guests apparently killing them there. Eek. To be on the safe side, we sprayed the entire room twice before we went to bed and then again after 4 hours (we set an alarm to do so). Yet we still had a bite each; not crazy, but for a hotel that charges $200 a night, I was hoping for a better environment.
As with most Protea properties, the bed and the linen were good – not as good as with many other Proteas, but still pretty good.
The manager replied in the morning to confirm that the hotel DOES NOT participate in Marriott Rewards. We thought it was just comical, but to our surprise he offered us a free breakfast (but no dinner buffet like for all other guests). The free breakfast was a good thing, since there’s not a lot of food options outside of the park (there’s a a good number inside the park that are actually pretty decent).
I didn’t feel comfortable in the hotel, since it’s all outdoors and was teeming with bugs. The hotel pool had green water (and never anyone in there) and the wildlife viewing area likely never sees any wildlife.
Except for the front desk, the staff were somewhat friendly, but largely uninterested in whatever guests wanted or asked for – they just went about their business.
In sum, the hotel is a cheap option when redeeming just 7,500 points a night, but paid rates at $250 are much too high for what you get here.
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About the author: Torsten is a serial entrepreneur who started almost a dozen ventures on four continents. Torsten's love for travel has brought him to 130+ countries and travel with most of the world's airlines. You can reach Torsten at [email protected]
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