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“Excellent, up-scale, intimate lodge inside Kruger” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Imbali Safari Lodge

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Imbali Safari Lodge
5.0 of 5 Hotel   |   Imbali Concession, Kruger Park, Skukuza, 1350 | Skukuza, Kruger National Park 1350, South Africa   |  
Hotel amenities
Philadelphia, PA
Top Contributor
62 reviews 62 reviews
26 hotel reviews
Reviews in 28 cities Reviews in 28 cities
75 helpful votes 75 helpful votes
“Excellent, up-scale, intimate lodge inside Kruger”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed December 12, 2012

Stayed here with my daughter for 3 nights during the first week of December 2012. A safari employee picked us up in a clean van at Hoedspruit Airport and the roughly 2-hour drive to the lodge essentially became our first safari. The driver was happy to stop along the way to view the many animals en route. He also dropped us at a small Park Concession where we bought some bug spray and a wonderful laminated park map with an animal/bird identification sheet which came in very handy. Prices here were dirt cheap; it was a great place to stock-up.

At the lodge, all meals and multiple English teas are included. Some beverages are extra but the price is nominal. Your paid stay also includes two safari drives per day, one in the early morning, another in the evening which ends after dark, so that some night viewing occurs every evening. This is worth it. We saw a hyena, a bush baby and some chameleons that would not have been possible to view during the day. And of course, we also got the Big 5 in abundance as well as about every other desired animal or bird over the course of the three days. Each safari is different, covering a slightly different route. In our case, the drives seemed to get better and better. A strolling lion one day turned into a pride of 17 the next, followed by lions on the hunt the final afternoon. Sightings are helped by the fact that Imbali is affiliated with two other nearby lodges, Hamilton's and Hoho, and the drivers from all three communicate with each other on sightings.

Our safari driver the entire visit was Nicholas, who's been at this profession for 10-years, loves his work, and has all the enthusiasm and skill you could ask for. My daughter mentioned that loves birds. He made sure she saw around 20-30 different species. Leopards had been very rare in recent weeks, but on our final drive, he got us one---and it was only his expert sighting ability that did the trick. This was our first visit to Africa, but both my daughter and I agreed that these safaris with Nicholas couldn't have been better. Like the lodge, they are initimate, in a small open truck with raised, comfortable seats, and usually only had six passengers total. The trucks were clean and had a good, solid suspension, a plus when people are shifting around the interior during a sighting and you're trying to steady your camera on the truck's padded side rail.

One more point: since Imbali is located inside Kruger proper, the drivers are free to explore a wider area of the park, versus lodges on the nearby game preserves whose drivers may stick more to the preserve. Imbali's drivers can only go off-road on Imbali's designated grounds (in Kruger, all vehicles must remain on designated dirt roads and paths). But we felt the wide reach of the drives was an asset. For example, had we been on a reserve, we would likely not have pursued a pride of 17 lions that was resting out on the "tarred road" 6 or 7 miles from the lodge. It was a rare sighting which lasted a good 45 minutes, as the lions went for a walk down the highway and into the bush. Of course, you never know what you're going to find with any drive, but for us, we were very happy to be inside the Park boundaries.

The lodge food is abundant and generally excellent, as is the service. They give you a morning tea and munchies prior to the early safari (which departs at 5:30am), another tea in the bush (with dried mango and local meats and nuts), a full breakfast, an optional lunch, another tea prior to the evening drive, yet ANOTHER tea with meats near the end of that drive, followed by a full, four-course dinner upon your return. To say they feed you at this place hardly addresses the description. We usually skipped lunch, we were so full. For dinner, the chef whips-up appetizers, a sorbet, main courses (several to choose from each night) and deserts that would look right on the table of any decent center city restaurant. Some local tastes are available like springbock.

Being a small lodge (only about a dozen rooms, I believe), you get to know the staff: Noelle, Winston, Moses and Silence, to name a few. They are all excellent at service and were mainly happy to have a conversation. One weird thing was that when they asked you if you wanted a beverage and you only asked for water, they seemed dissappointed, as if they were sorry they couldn't do more for you. This included the free beverage on the safari drive. But, whatever; they ultimately gave you what you wanted.

The rooms consist of individual cottages arranged in a row along a usually dry river bed to either side of the main lodge building. You get an enormous king+ bed with mosquito netting, a beautiful bathroom with tub and shower that open boldly to the river (hidden from other guests, though), and a deck with chase lounges and a private hot tub. The main lodge has an outdoor eating area, a small pool and chairs in which to lounge and bird watch, and a cushy indoor lounge as well, with a great safari lodge look. The staff does not overwhelm you, but there's always someone around to bring you a beverage or answer a question. Honestly, you spend a lot of the afternoon in your room napping, since the wake-up call is 5am for your early safari, and dinner at the conclusion of the night safari doesn't wrap-up until about 9pm.

You might be a little underwhelmed when you first drive into the lodge because from the front, it doesn't look terribly rich, although the tall grass roofs certainly fit the mood of the African bush. But once within the open-air lobby among the staff and gobbling-up the great food, you know you're in a classy, service-oriented place. There is no wifi, but if you need to check email, there's a computer inside the staff office that they'll gladly let you use. An attendent even brought me a glass of sparkling water while I was back there among the desks and paperwork one day.

One final note: at Imbali, you are truly in the middle of the bush. It's the animal's world, not yours, and while there is fencing, many beasts do find their way onto the grounds. A steenbach (small deer) was right outside out door one morning. And after dark, you get a mandatory escort to your room. This came in handy. At dinner one night, the manager informed us that there was an elephant right outside our room. Three staffers tip-toed us to the back porch away from the potentially dangerous animal and in the back door. It was quite thrilling for us! But if you're not into being THAT close to the wildlife, then a larger, more gated lodge might be a better choice.

Room Tip: We wer in #3 near the main lodge. I believe 1-5 and 6-9 are directly on the river bed. Anything ab...
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  • Stayed December 2012, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (26)
Date | Rating
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  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Portuguese first
  • Russian first
  • Spanish first
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English first
Glendale Calif
Contributor
12 reviews 12 reviews
7 hotel reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
17 helpful votes 17 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 18, 2012

Wonderful stay, service is excellent, food impeccable and animals, wow, just wow to the 10th degree. This is a wonderful camp that is located in Kruger Park. Break up your stay in South Africa, take a detour and stay at this lovely site.
One of the best safari experiences I have had.

Room Tip: All rooms are excellent, so just enjoy
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  • Stayed August 2012, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
California
Contributor
18 reviews 18 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
14 helpful votes 14 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed November 14, 2012

We’re so sorry that we cannot recommend the Imbali, which was a bit of a disappointment. Nice facility and location but its not firing on all cylinders. First night started out bad when our bed linens were not clean. The white sheets were stained (like someone spilt coffee long ago) AND it looked like the sheets had not been changed as there appeared to be fresh soiling (from make-up and an oily piece of food). The toilet was also broken. We insisted on changing rooms, and the manager very grudgingly allowed us to move. The new room included a light with a bad bulb in the bathroom. The dinner menu for the first night included sticky toffee pudding for dessert, which is one of our favorites. Said pudding was actually a leftover banana nut muffin (probably from breakfast) topped with so-so toffee/caramel cream sauce. These first impressions are hard to overcome...

The food was fair. Breakfast was pretty good with eggs made to order and fresh baked goods. Lunch was so-so, buffet of uninspired entrees and repackaged items – think chicken drumsticks, chicken fried steak, and mushroom casserole – note that mushrooms were seen during previous two meals. Dinner was ok. Food was very salty (and we are salt people!) and over seasoned. Presentation of food did not change (envision hockey puck of mashed potatoes, julienned vegetables, topped with game or beef, drizzled with completely average gravy of some sort – every night for 3 nights). Dessert cheese plate included same cheese as that which was served for breakfast. Apple tart with canned filling and plasticky pastry shell. I think you get the idea…just not good. Dining staff were not remarkable for their personality, attention to detail, or fine-dining facilitation.

My boyfriend got what was very probably food poisoning (all the textbook symptoms). He was out of commission for 24 hours so unfortunately missed a game drive. Here the staff was nice in that they brought some bread rolls to the room.

Game drives were good in that we saw plenty of animals (you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a lion, such is the great animal population of Kruger) but the safari guide lacked personality and made very limited effort to engage the guests. One day he was driving so fast and the truck rattles were so loud that the herds of impala ran away when they heard us coming. We checked each box for the Big 5 but the experience was not enriched due to perfunctory attitude of staff; not bad but he just didn’t seem to be in to it. Morning coffee breaks and sundowners were held at public picnic areas – it just didn’t feel special.

If you’re looking for a special experience, do yourself a favor and choose another lodge. Based on prior safari experience, I highly recommend selecting a private game reserve.

  • Stayed November 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 2 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 6
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London UK
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
9 helpful votes 9 helpful votes
2 of 5 stars Reviewed November 12, 2012

We are a family of 5 (3 teenage daughters) and booked and paid about five months in advance for 3 nights accommodation from 24-26 October 2012. We received written confirmation of our specific booking and dates from the lodge management and we also rang the lodge to check our booking a couple of days before arrival at which point everything was fine. However arrival at the entrance to the Kruger we received a message from the Kruger Gate staff saying that they Imbali had made a mistake with our reservation and that we should proceed to a tented camp (we are not tent people and the nights were pretty cold). None of the staff at the Kruger Gate knew where the tented camp was and then finally another person said they thought it was about 2-3 hours drive away and not in the Kruger (we did not know as we did not have internet access). I immediately rang the lodge management and told them that I was a lawyer and threatened legal proceedings unless they honoured our booking. After making us wait for nearly 30 minutes during which time we had no idea what to do did they relent and allow our booking to proceed. Upon arrival we noticed that there was a seemingly very large group of Asians staying at the lodge at the same time as us towards whom the management seemed to go to extra lengths to keep happy eg special meals, goodbye song and dance by most of the staff etc - we came to our own conclusions about the reason for the "error" in the booking. Our experience at the Kruger Gate seriously tainted our impressions of this lodge and we would not have wished our unpleasant experience upon others. This is not a cheap lodge and it raises the fundamental question as to whether anyone can be confident that a booking with this company will be honoured. .

  • Stayed October 2012, traveled with family
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 5
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
KatieP83, Director of Sales at Imbali Safari Lodge, responded to this review, November 15, 2012
Dear Mrs Wilmot,

On behalf of Imbali Safari Lodge, Management and Staff I would like to offer yourself and your family our sincere apologies for the incident that occurred with your recent stay at our property. I would like you to know that this is not the normal high standard on which we pride ourselves and I am devastated that your experience was marred by a request to relocate to another luxury lodge. I have fully investigated the matter and would like to advise that we have written to you directly with a detailed explanation and feedback. I would like to add that upon investigation we were informed that the staff at Imbali Safari Lodge had apologized for the inconvenience and were advised by your husband that everything was in order.

Please accept our deepest apologies and be assured that we will ensure that a similar situation does not arise in the future.

Director of Sales and Marketing
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Bangalore
1 review
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed November 5, 2012

My family and I (4 of us) were in Imbali for 2 nights in the last week of October 2012, had fantastic sightings and we were very impressed by the rooms/dining and the rangers especially Suit Boy who went out of his way to make sure that we saw all the animals before we left Kruger. But we were throughly disappointed by the management/manager who made us wait at the airport for nearly 2.5 - 3 hours without any information and no airport pick up. We were finally picked up in a van which was meant for Hamilton guests and those guests were kind enough to accommodate us in the van with them. What took the cake was not a single person from Imabali came forward to apologise. The manager was extremely curt and rude person who pretended he did not know anything about this. It was shocking to see his behaviour especially when the resort has such good reviews. My suggestion to the management - Wake up or else you will lose customers as everyone sees the reviews before booking at any place!!!

  • Stayed October 2012, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
KatieP83, Director of Sales at Imbali Safari Lodge, responded to this review, November 15, 2012
Dear Guest,

On behalf of Imbali Safari Lodge Management and Staff we would like to apologize for the system error which resulted in your wait for our COMPLIMENTARY transfer service. The service operates with a daily pick up at 13H30. We were in error however for not picking up that you were in fact booked on an earlier flight. We had advised the airport of the fact that a transfer vehicle was underway to collect you. Due to the distance we were unable to get a vehicle through to collect you earlier. Hamiltons Tented Camp is part of the same group of companies and it is usual for guests to share the vehicle in this instance. We have addressed the issue fully and can assure you that Management have put systems into place to ensure that this will not occur in future.
I am pleased to note that you had an excellent safari and loved the suites and lodge however and we do hope to be in a position to welcome you back to Imbali Safari Lodge in the future.
Director of Sales
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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Contributor
14 reviews 14 reviews
9 hotel reviews
Reviews in 10 cities Reviews in 10 cities
44 helpful votes 44 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed October 24, 2012

Took a group to Imbali from all over Asia. Have to commend the staff and particularly the manager for the way the of varying cultures and needs was handled. The rooms were great although missing a few things in terms of toiletries etc. The game drives were good and the rangers worked really hard. Disappointed that the rangers had to use handheld radios in the vehicles as this meant we were out of communication a lot of the time so missed some sightings. Felt like some of the staff had been working too hard for too long without a break. The food was great with a very African theme, the one small problem I had was with a swap of chefs from one camp to the other which meant today's rare kudu was very much rarer than yesterday's rare impala. Management was also not present on this evening they seemed very focused on a journalist group. I guess at this level and in this price range we just have very high expectations. Overall a very good stay and would definitely go back on a leisure visit if I could where I was not looking after a big group. Oh visited there in August.

Room Tip: Make sure you get one of the units on the river in fact insist on it.
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  • Stayed August 2012, traveled on business
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Top Contributor
88 reviews 88 reviews
19 hotel reviews
Reviews in 41 cities Reviews in 41 cities
58 helpful votes 58 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 18, 2012

We stayed in Imbali for the first time. 4 Nights, transfer ex HDS airport. Everything was well arranged. We were very happy with the accomodation, the exceptional food and the game drives. The staff is very attentive and accomodates every request. We saw a lot of animals during our game drives. The morning game drive starts ar 5:30 and comes back to the lodge at 9am, the afternoon drive starts at 4:30 and comes back around 7pm. The set up is very romantic, no cell phones, no internet, great food and a scenic view into the wild.

Room Tip: There is only 13 chalets
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  • Stayed October 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
KatieP83, Director of Sales at Imbali Safari Lodge, responded to this review, November 15, 2012
Dear Guests,

Thank you for the wonderful review - we are delighted that you enjoyed your stay at Imbali Safari Lodge. We look forward to the opportunity to host you in the future.

Imbali Safari Lodge
Director of Sales
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Additional Information about Imbali Safari Lodge

Address: Imbali Concession, Kruger Park, Skukuza, 1350 | Skukuza, Kruger National Park 1350, South Africa
Location: South Africa > Kruger National Park
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Restaurant Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #8 of 14 hotels in Kruger National Park
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$$
Hotel Class:5 star — Imbali Safari Lodge 5*
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
An exclusive lodge within the world-renowned Kruger National Park, Imbali Safari Lodge continues the safari tradition of a bygone era. Each private suite has exquisite views from the spacious wooden decks and private Jacuzzi overlooking the riverbed and the plains beyond. In the 1900's the African Safari was a journey of great danger and even greater luxury.All twelve private suites have either their own private Jacuzzi or plunge pool, large king size beds and a romantic antique-styled bath en-suite, timber walkways, telephones, mosquito nets and air conditioner.Spa treatments available in the privacy of your room, safaris in 4x4 vehicles, bird watching, guided safari walks by prior arrangement and self drive in the Kruger National Park. No cell phone reception and limited landlines. Children are welcome, but a minimum age of 6 years is applicable for game drives - at the discretion of management. Maximum of 2 children under 12 years of age may share with parents. Children 5 years and younger stay complimentary when sharing with parents.The Lodge is situated in a malaria area. Gate entry fees are applicable and are charged per person per day. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Imbali Safari Hotel Kruger National Park

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