This was our third trip to Kruger and the first with kids in tow. We spent a great deal of time considering various safari lodges and settled on Lukimbi based on a combination of factors, including its (relatively) reasonable price for luxury and the ability to bunk our whole family in one room. We wanted good food and nice lodgings, but we also wanted what most people want -- to see lots of animals. In addition, we wanted to be connected to Kruger for the children's first visit to South Africa (vs. inside a fenced private reserve that is stocked with set numbers of game). If you want an authentic safari experience at Kruger with a higher level of service and amenities, Lukimbi is the place.
From the moment we arrived until our reluctant departure the entire staff made us feel welcome and relaxed. You are truly bunking in the bush, and the only fence separating you from the rest of Kruger is an electrified wire about 10 feet in the air to keep elephants from flattening the place. The first thing you do when you arrive, after cooling off with a fresh towel and homemade lemonade, is to review some rules and sign a waiver. A key rule: don't leave your room at dark. Wildlife guides escort you to/from your room before and after dinner. We saw an African Civet Cat next to the walk on our way back from dinner one night, in case you are wondering if the rule is important.
Upon arrival you are assigned to a wildlife guide/tracker pair who spend your entire stay taking care of you (with help from many other able staff). They take you on the bush drives, of course, but they also check on you at dinner, freshen your cocktails, call you to wake you up for the morning drive and generally take the time to get to know you and make sure you are having a great time.
We were assigned to Andrew and James and we loved them. Andrew's passion for wildlife is infectious -- a South African Steve Irwin. The man truly loves his job, and it was wonderful to listen to him share his knowledge and share in his joy when we found something truly spectacular (like a pair of lionesses hunting, and then dining on impala). Andrew is also a bit of a snake whisperer -- watching him wrangle a couple of wild and venomous snakes in the bush will be forever etched in my memory. James is a hawk-eyed tracker who spotted a tiny chameleon on a tiny green leaf in a tiny roadside bush. In the dark. At night. From the front of our moving vehicle. The man clearly has bionic eyes.
We visited at the end of a summer with plentiful rain, so the bush was thick -- very thick. Without excellent guides, our timing could have been disastrous but we spotted some truly amazing animals. Of the big 5, only the beautiful leopard eluded us on this trip (although we did find fresh tracks outside the lodge gate one morning, proving the importance of that rule above). And finding a cheetah with his kill was an extraordinary consolation prize. Oh yea, and we had sundowners (cocktails) in the bush. With rhinos. That's going to be an awesome Christmas card.
Two days wandering in the bush with these two guides was the experience of a lifetime and being assigned to the same vehicle with the same guests each day provides a more intimate experience -- you have the chance to get to know your fellow travelers a bit over coffee or sundowners in the bush. And speaking of intimate, when we tracked down the wildlife we were seeking we were often the only vehicle with the animal in the bush, or at most in the company of one other group of Lukimibi guests. Nothing like jockeying for position with 20 vehicles in other areas in and out of Kruger. You feel like you and your handful of Land Rover mates are the only ones out there in the bush. With lions.
The whole lodge provides a more intimate experience in general. Even at full capacity the number of guests feels cozy and personal. The tables are arranged at each meal to accommodate your individual group, but you see the same folks every meal so you can chat at the bar or join up your tables if you so desire. It was nice to have the option of private family time or more social time, and to feel like we were in a wider (but not too large) group sharing the same phenomenal experience with people from around the world.
The entire staff are friendly and helpful and willing to accommodate any request. You are greeted after a dusty bush drive with a fresh, cool washcloth. The bartender/sommelier is waiting to give you a tour of his beautiful wine cellar. The food: awesome. Ample selections of fresh, flavorful local food at each meal. So many great veggie options and the chef happily catered to the children's preferred palates (something their mother does not do). They were able to mix in some chicken tenders with their ostrich and impala.
The rooms are lovely, thatched chalets with ample space and gorgeous views into the bush. A private porch and a soaking tub -- both with unobstructed panoramic views -- were my favorites but the kids loved the mosquito netting over their beds. The huge bathroom was easy to share with a family of four. And we all loved climbing under the mosquito netting at night to read the African folk tale bedtime stories we found on our pillows.
My only complaint about Lukimbi is that I didn't book a longer stay. They are days full of game viewing, eating and falling into your net-shrouded bed, but I could have easily stayed longer and done more of the same. We loved it and would go back in a heartbeat.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.