Some reasons why you should avoid Sani Mountain Lodge. Prices, service, and infrastructures. Also a few valid accommodation alternatives at Sani Pass
The Sani Mountain Lodge is a camping, backpackers hostel, and hotel just next to the Lesotho border at Sani Pass. It’s a very popular place among South Africans and foreigners that want to visit this stunning location.
Unfortunately, it’s a terrible venue that offers overpriced services of very low quality. We absolutely advise to boycott this place and chose instead one of the accommodations nearby. In this article, we are going to give several reasons why you should absolutely avoid this hotel.
Please note that we are quite adventurous travelers, we stayed in all sorts of crappy places and certainly our pretenses are not high. We never wrote a post like this before but this was overall the worst experience we ever had when comparing the prices with the quality of the services and infrastructures, and adding the carelessness of management which certainly has no budget problems.
The highest pub in Africa?
The Sani Mountain Lodge is famous for being the highest pub in Africa, everywhere you’ll see signs claiming this record. This is absolutely not true, the Afriski Resort, also in Lesotho is located at 3222 meters on sea level, while the Sani Hotel lays at 2900 meters.
The staff of the Sani Mountain Lodge wrote to us to say that they are the highest pub in Africa while the Afriski Resort is just a restaurant with a bar. This, of course, is not a reason itself to boycott this place, but it gives you a perspective on how this place behaves towards its guests.
The worst backpackers’ ever
As already mentioned, the Sani Mountain Lodge offers three different accommodation options, “fully equipped” chalets (more about these later), backpackers’ (hostel) rooms and dorms, and a “camping”.
The backpackers’ hostel is located about 700 meters from the bar, reception, and restaurant building. The path connecting these is in complete dismay, thick mud makes walking very difficult even in slightly wet weather (it wasn’t raining when we were there, it hadn’t for the whole day, and though these were the conditions).
The path could easily be paved or at least some stones or concrete could be put on, but it’s laying in these conditions since years. Moreover, there are absolutely no lights, so you’ll need a powerful flashlight to navigate your way there especially in misty weather (very frequent all year round) you can easily get lost, or at least end up in a deep mud pool.
When we arrived there the fog was so thick we couldn’t see anything, despite so we were given a key at the reception and told the rooms are “down there”. When we complained a guy from the staff agreed to accompany us, he was going to turn the generator on.
The rooms at the backpackers are terrible and dirty (Trip Advisor reports off bed bugs are several), without any heating even in winter, when temperatures can easily go way below 0°C. We asked for heating and have been told it costs 600 Rand per night plus 400 Rand deposit, when we asked for more blankets they said they didn’t have. Too bad they don’t tell the guests in advance that they should bring their own gas tank for the heater (?!).
The showers, which weren’t even warm, let alone hot, and the dirty and ill-equipped kitchen are located in another building, which is accessed by a door with a code. Tried the code several times and it didn’t work, luckily there were still people inside to open the door for us.
The electricity, allegedly, is available only from 5 pm to 10 pm, provided by a noisy generator. When we were there though, they turned off the generator at 9:15 pm, leaving us in the dark and with our devices not fully charged. Anyway, no power points in the rooms, just in common areas.
The backpackers costs 300 Rand per person in private rooms and 270 Rand in the dorm
Is this a campsite?
What they call the camping area is a patch of grass littered with garbage, roamed by stray dogs, and situated in the middle of a small village without any fences.
There’s no privacy and no night security, even if they say there is, I really don’t get why should anyone pay 150 Rand per person to sleep in these conditions, you might as well wild camp for free in much more tranquil areas nearby. No lights are provided.
The Sani Pass Chalets hotel – what kind of prices are these?
If you want to sleep at a reasonable distance from the bar, without having to walk in the mud in darkness, you can choose to stay at the “fully equipped” chalets. They are traditional style rondavels, very cheap to built and that you could have for 1/6 of the price at just 1km distance (more about the alternatives later).
Too bad they cost 1400 Rand per person and they are not fully equipped at all! Also here there’s no heating but a fireplace that many guest reports say it smokes into the room.
Besides that, one might think that a fully equipped chalet has at least a basic kitchenette… indeed there’s not even a kettle.
Another unbelievable thing (for a place with these prices), is that the water freezes in the pipes even at a few degrees below zero. This simply means very poor plumbing.
The Sani Pass Pub and restaurant
Upon arriving we ordered a Maluti beer that we paid 45 Rand (normal price 17 Rand), and some pasta which was pretty terrible (Elena felt sick immediately after eating that, but we can’t be sure it was because of that).
Then we booked the dinner, at 260 Rand per person. I have to admit the dinner was pretty good, although you have no choice but to take the full buffet at this high price. No other options are available.
The breakfast is 140 Rand per person, eggs, sausages, cereals… usual things for again a high price. No a-la-carte options.
Alternative accommodations at Sani Pass
Until a few years ago the Sani Mountain Lodge was the only place to stay but now several more places have been open in the immediate vicinity. The nearest is Masoba Soba, which offers rooms and rondavels for a fraction of the price (560 Rand), it also has a shop, a bar, and a restaurant.
Another place that looks very nice is the Sani Stone Lodge, located 3km off the main road (RONDAVEL R1100, DOUBLE ROOM with en-suite – R600.00, BACKPACKERS LODGE with en-suite – R190.00 pp, CAMPING – R90.00 pp). The place also has a restaurant and a bar.
While some problems like lack of heating and hot water are reported also there, the prices are certainly on another league. We would love to hear your comments about these places if you happen to stay there.
Further down the road, there’s also a local homestay and a few lodges are available in the village of Rofolatsane. We stayed at Saint James Lodge and loved it.
It’s very sad for us to have to write such an article, but we feel responsible towards other travelers that might end up finding themselves in such an unpleasant situation. We are open to modifying this write-up if the situation changes, but for the time being, we recommend anyone traveling this way to stop somewhere else.