1.5 weeks ago we went to this very nice place and I promised to write a bit more about it and post some more pictures.
One thing that came very quickly to mind, that unlike Fiji, where the expat population is rather small and they try to use the off season to attract those people (at special local rates), this does not happen here.
It seems rather that most higher end places are specifically made for the foreign crowd. When we arrived, most license plates on the cars showed CD, UN, AU and AO …
But besides the reception service (and the steep price), we had a great experience … here is my tripadvisor review:
“Beach Vacation in a landlocked country.”
Reviewed March 12, 2012
We really enjoyed our weekend stay at the Sabana Lodge. It is quite a drive from Addis, but many city dwellers take this opportunity. The website says it is only a 3 h drive, but that does not take into account how often you have to stop for cows crossing the street. It took us 4.5h.
The location is very nice and the bungalows are spotless clean. The way down to the beach is quite a walk, it seems they tried at one point to install some kind of elevator, but that obviously did not work out. Instead now, if you are lazy, they have a Bajaj (motorized tricycle) service that brings beachcombers up and down.
The restaurant is very nice and has a nice selection of things and even when you stay longer, there is always something on the menu that you have not tried yet.
Tons of beautiful birds around to watch. Yes, the lake looks murky, but that is because of it’s mineral content, which is allegedly good for your skin. It is also free of Bilharzia. From the beach the water is very shallow, which makes it great for kids. The beach itself (and then the lake) is kinda rocky, so bringing waterproof shoes / sandals might not be a bad idea.
In our case the weather was somewhat hazy, so it was impossible to see the other side of the lake, which added nicely to the illusion to be actually at the ocean.
As for activities, besides lounging around and enjoy the offerings of the beach bar, there is kayaking, some kind of rowing catamaran, a slide for the kids, a playground, an outside chess game. (The advertised massage service was somehow not available)
The breakfast buffet was pretty great, with eggs cooked to order station and what I liked best, home made yoghurt.
There were a few caveats though. I.e. that we had to go first to a different hotel in Addis to prepay our stay. The lodge itself does not take credit cards and you can only pay your meals cash.
While all the wait staff and beach service people were great, the reception staff was severely lacking in attitude, training or both. They were mainly hanging around the outside area of the reception and greeted you with ‘yes?’ when you came with a question.
The first night our hot water tank did not work. Next day it worked and this was the best shower I ever had in Ethiopia. Hot and decent water pressure.
Very often when we selecting something from the menu (i.e. pork chops or the Sabana Special) I heard ‘sorry, finished’
I would love to go again in the future, but it would be great if either they organize some bus service from Addis, special offers for local residents, being able to pay right there or cheaper accommodations for drivers.
Also, the price average quoted on tripadvisor is way off. It says something below 50$ … but we paid 110$ (Inflation is pretty bad here)
But overall a very pleasant stay and gladly no noisy church in the vicinity.
There is a lot of construction going on left and right, so I am looking forward what other hotels will pop up there in the near future. (And what this will do for the general pricing / service)
As for Internet reception. This place is too far out to get your EVDO stick working. Mobile phones seem to work.
One thing I left out of the review, since I do not want to be killed by the Russian mob (in no way I am implying that those people are affiliated), we had a group of about 15 Russians staying the same weekend. And it was appalling to see how they treated the local staff (like slaves), how loud they were, no friendly hello / how are you … no please or thank you to the staff.
Very sad and hard to explain to kiddo why I still teach him to at least say ‘thank you’ in any language I can.