Our experience here was totally wonderful, and I would recommend the lodge to anyone. I am going to write this review a little differently. We stayed at two lodges while in South Africa. They were both special in their own way, and I think it might be beneficial to do a comparison, as they both have there own strengths, and perhaps some weaknesses. After our great experience, I would greatly recommend splitting the time between two lodges.
We stayed at Kapama Karula first for three nights, and then Simbambili Game Lodge for three nights. We opted for Kapama first, as it is literally right across the street from the airport. Simbambili is in the Sabi Sand, about a 1.5 hour drive. Both are private game reserves, however Kapama is totally fenced, the other is open and connected to Kruger.
First on the animals. At Kapama, in terms of sheer quantity, we saw many more animals, however the exception was the big five. While the quantity of animals was better at Kapama, I would say the quality was better at Simbambili. I have listed more complete details below.
Elephant – at Kapama we saw only one herd, and our guide struggled to find them. At Simbambili they were like impala – we saw them everywhere. Simbambili has a watering hole right behind the lodge that can be nicely viewed from the lobby. Each day elephants came to it, and we also saw them constantly on our drives.
Rhino – We saw rhinos at both. Not abundant, but saw them on two of the days. This was pretty equal.
Cape Buffalo – we saw one at Kapama, and only at night, and were told we most likely would not see these there. They were also not present in large numbers at Simbambili, but we did see a herd of about 10 one day.
Lion – we saw these at both camps on a couple days. At Simbambili we were able to see them hunt and be much more active.
Leopard – at Kampama we saw only one at night, in a tree. The viewing was not the greatest. At Simbambili we saw them daily – both male and female, and followed them while they moved, and hunted.
Please note neither lodge has cheetahs, as they are very scarce in South Africa. Seeing one anywhere will take a great deal of luck. One huge strength of Kapama was the quantity of animals – we saw tons of giraffes (the other lodge we saw only 2), zebra, warthogs, water buck, etc. While Simbambili had these, they were much rarer sightings. Kapama they were around every corner. Simbambili, however, had jackals and hyenas, which were not present at all at Kapama. Hippos, impala, and most of the other species were about equal.
We liked the setup of the game drives at Simbambili far better. They left at 5:30 am, 30 minutes earlier than Kapama, and at night also started a full hour earlier. At night especially, this was a huge difference, as at Simbambili we finished just after the sun came down. At Kapama we came in 1+ hours after, and the last third of our drive was after dark, and we found very little, and even what we did find, the viewing experience was not that great. While I found the ranger at Kapama to be very good, he was not of the caliber of the one at Simbambili. We found the latter to be much more knowledgeable, and informative. We still enjoyed the Kapama ranger, however.
Food at Kapama was definitely better. The chef there is fantastic. His soups, sauces and desserts were all to die for. The food at Simbambeli was adequate, after staying at Kapama, the food was a big downgrade. The rooms themselves are also much nicer at Kapama. They are brand new, and suites. More spacious with every amenity. Rooms at Simbambili are much smaller, about one third the size, but still extremely nice, and I would say decorated better and with more character. Simbambili also has a bed on each balcony, should you want to sleep outside. Kapama has outside showers, and the indoor showers have a glass wall with a great view. The staff service was very good at both
Another factor that was very important to me, was the WiFi coverage. Both lodges advertised Wifi in the lobby. Kapama actually had it in all the guest rooms. While it was not ultra high speed, I was able to login to my work computer and accomplish everything with no problem Another BIG surprise – I had great cell coverage. Four bars everywhere – at the lodge and in the bush, plus 4G data service everywhere.
Finally on lodging, the massage prices at both are very reasonable – average is about $60 for an hour.
Another factor – we travelled the beginning of September, and the temperature at Simbambili was about 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer. At Kapama, we had more layers, and it was so cold in the mornings they gave us blankets and hot water bottles to keep us warm. At Simbambili we needed blankets in the morning, but after an hour when the sun came up, it warmed nicely. At Simbambili we could wear shorts at night, and by the end barely needed a jacket. At Kapama, due to temperature and longer drive after dark, we could not get warm, even with more layers and a blanket.
Also, at Kapama, they offer an Elephant back safari which was one of the highlights of our trip. It was so quiet, and while on the elephants was saw lions on the hunt, giraffes, and too many other animals to list. It was a great experience. I would NOT recommend the hot air balloon ride, and the lodge does not really either. While it is an option, you must get up at 3am, and the ride is NOT over the game preserve. It is over another area, and you will see no game.
I would also highly recommend bush walks. We did them at both lodges, and had equally wonderful experiences on both.
As a recommendation, if I had it all to do again, I would again stay at two lodges, and again select them in different parts. I think Kapama Karula and Simbambelli Game Lodge were two wonderful picks, and they were both so unique, and we enjoyed the strengths of both. If you have never been to South Africa, and would highly recommend Kapama Karula for the first three nights, and Simbambili Game Lodge for the second three nights. We enjoyed them both immensely, and feel we had a wonderful experience. Price on both I also felt was very reasonable compared to some of ultra high end lodges. I can’t imagine the animal experience at any of these others being any better than what we experienced.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Simbambili Game Lodge is a highly individualised destination for the discerning traveller located in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, which is part of the Greater Kruger National Park. Set in magnificent trees along the meandering Manyeleti River, with views over an extensive savannah grassland, that teems with wildlife visiting an ever popular water hole. Sophisticated yet simple, each suite has spectacular views whether from the unique en-suite bathrooms, outside salas or individual private plunge pools. Guests are encouraged to enjoy the extraordinary and unique wildlife of Africa, whether it is your choice to linger at a close encounter with lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo or to be amazed by the extensive array of birds and insects, or simply relax in the Sanctuary Spa. Your ranger and tracker team will astound you with their ability to track big five game, either on foot or from an open safari vehicle. The amazing safari experience is complimented by elegant cuisine, a selection of fine wines andthe warmth of true African hospitality. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Simbambili Game Hotel Sabi Sand Game Reserve
- Hotel Simbambili Game
- Simbambili Game Lodge South Africa/Sabi Sand Game Reserve