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“Wonderful experience in every aspect”

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Simbambili Game Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
Ohio
Level 6 Contributor
212 reviews
24 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 111 helpful votes
“Wonderful experience in every aspect”
Reviewed 8 September 2013

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.

BIG FIVE
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.

OTHER ANIMALS
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.

GAME DRIVES
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.

LODGING
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.

OTHER FACTORS
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.

RECOMMENDATION
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.

Room Tip: Pick a low number room, 1, 2 or 3. The lower the number the better the view of the watering hole.
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  • Stayed September 2013, travelled as a couple
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4 Thank Michael1964
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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English first
Washington DC, District of Columbia
Level 2 Contributor
5 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
Reviewed 5 September 2013

Stayed: Late July 2013 for 3 days
Reason: Honeymoon, part of a 2-week city/safari/beach trip
Would I go back? In a heartbeat
In 2 Words: Luxury! Leopards!

When you go to Simbambili, you will never want to leave - you will understand why my wife said, "I've never been more relaxed in my entire life..." - you will understand why she had to wipe away tears when it came time to say goodbye. It really is an experience that you will find yourself totally absorbed by, whether you're stalking prey at sundown alongside a beautiful female leopard, or sipping morning mimosas after breakfast in the bush. Simbambili made everything truly special from the first game drive through the last.

It's hard to choose a favorite moment. Many were romantic, all of them were awesome, some funny, some exhilarating....

There was our first game drive and very first sighting, a dominant female leopard no less, literally less than 30 minutes after we'd arrived at the lodge. We saw 5 different leopards in all.
There was the lamp-light dinner in the dry riverbed, surrounded by nocturnal animal noises, new friends, and old stories of our guide's close encounters in the open bush.
There was the morning we woke up to find our books, which we'd left on private deck, chewed up by the monkeys.
There was the old buffalo, known to hang around the lodge, who we found waiting for us one night no more than 10 feet from the door to our suite!
There were the hyena calls in the distance, motivating you to roll out of bed for that first morning game drive.
There was the spa, where my wife had one of the best massages of her life.
There was the giraffe fight, an older male teaching a youngster to defend itself by wildly swinging their necks.
There were the lions, lazily napping away the late afternoon flat on there backs.
There was the Milky Way and the stars, literally millions of them that even the clearest of nights here in the States cannot rival. The Southern Cross! Scorpio!
There was The Big 5. The Small 5. The Guide. The Tracker. The service. The boma. The sundowners and the sunrises. The bush walk and the beer. Waterhole views and fresh-pressed perfect coffee. Bread. Salad. Salmon. Springbok. Pasta. Cookies. Cheesecake!

Am I rambling now... ?

Honestly, our only regret is that we didn't stay longer. Pierre was our Guide and not only was he chock-full of knowledge and experience when it came to the animals, the bush, African culture, and photography, he was the kind of guy you'd gladly share a drink with and just rap about life --or anything! Service was our tracker (sorry if that's not spelled right!) who you just know is an absolute sharpshooter with that slingshot! He was a true professional and greeted each game drive with a smile and a nod. Arnold provided the best service I've had at any resort. Every request was fulfilled with a simple word: "pleasure" -- and I can't begin to say how much he improved the overall experience when the time called for a cold drink or an amazing meal.

Simply put, I want to thank Simbambili for being the absolute highlight of an incredible African honeymoon. Anniversary holiday planning will now begin immediately...

  • Stayed July 2013, travelled as a couple
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1 Thank BEN_90291
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Level 3 Contributor
14 reviews
7 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
Reviewed 4 September 2013

hope you can experience game drives with Liam and Mamps. best we experienced of three lodges. They were Fantastic and so knowledgeable.
the cottages were nicely appointed. the staff was very responsive. the food was decent and plentiful.

  • Stayed August 2013, travelled as a couple
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1 Thank zigman106
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Virginia
Level 5 Contributor
69 reviews
31 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 26 helpful votes
Reviewed 29 August 2013

This was our first visit to a reserve and we did not know what to expect but we were blown away by the entire experience. From the time we were met at Elephant Plains air strip (dirt runway) we were on bush time. Our tracker and ranger were able to find all the big 5 plus many birds. Each evening you have a sundowner drink before dark and your return to the lodge. One night after dark we stopped and just looked at the stars. Our ranger had a great pointer and showed us the Southern cross among others. Food was outstanding, great breakfast and lunch with an over the top dinner each day. Would love to return

  • Stayed July 2013, travelled with family
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2 Thank careyhc
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Perth, Australia
Level 4 Contributor
10 reviews
10 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
Reviewed 29 August 2013

Our Simbambili experience started with a local charter flight to Simbambili from OR Tambo airport in Joburg (highly recommend this mode of transport). We firstly dropped off some guests going to another lodge in the Sabi Sands at Jackalberry airstrip after having to buzz the runway to chase away the warthogs, and then on our approach to Elephant Plains airstrip watched a ranger in a jeep chase two giraffe off the airstrip so that we had a clear path to land for Simbambili.

After a short drive from the airstrip, we arrived at the lodge where a herd of Elephants were at the lodge’s waterhole to greet us. The lodge setting, delicious meals, staff and facilities of the lodge were incredible and we were lucky enough to stay in the Waterhole Suite which enabled us to watch the game from our own deck as they came down to drink and play in the mud.

The sightings we experienced on our game drives with our driver Liam and tracker Mamps were nothing short of phenomenal – and their tracking, bush skills and bush knowledge were very impressive! We came for the leopards and were not disappointed, seeing 5 different leopards on different drives, including a leopard kill and a huge male leopard drag a warthog up a tree - followed by his mate climbing up the tree to eat whilst he went away for a drink.

Best of all was that we felt as though we could watch the game without feeling like we were being pushed along for another group of tourists to get their turn (in my experience this is quite rare in private game reserves).

We saw three different prides of lions including a male courting a female - which was quite nerve wracking but also exhilarating. We saw many, many ellies and one group at a waterhole with a baby trying and failing to drink with his trunk (so cute), a hippo yawning, rhino rolling in the mud, jackal, hyenas with weeny cubs, beautiful birds and the wonderful buffalo, wildebeest, kudu, bush buck, water buck, duiker, impala, zebra, giraffe and more. We also met some great people as our drive companions and were very, very sad when the safari came to an end!

I cannot recommend this lodge highly enough and will definitely return – hopefully sooner rather than later! Thanks to Liam, Ali and everyone at Simbambili for making our stay so special.

Room Tip: All the rooms were lovely, but if you can pay the extra, the Waterhole Suite is very special
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  • Stayed August 2013, travelled with friends
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1 Thank PerthJMC
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Benoni, South Africa
Level 5 Contributor
63 reviews
40 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 44 helpful votes
Reviewed 21 August 2013

We travel often to luxury lodges in either KNP or surrounding concessions, this, I must say, is up there with the best. The one disappointment was our arrival. After a long journey, we were told there were photographers there and we would be "inducted" shortly (the photographer was a SA celebrity) however, Nox, who we learned was to be our "Butler" during our stay, made up for everything, wow what an asset, I wanted to take her home to look after me!!!! She was constantly there, topping up the wine glasses, getting the beers (I requested a specific beer, which they has in copious supply), making sure the electric blanket was not on, too hot, unusual for August. The food was great, ample portions and in various locations in the evening, river bed, boma, deck. Louis and Celebrate, our guides were extremely knowledgeable, finding the big 5 in one day, and that was after only seeing Impala for the first hour and half of the morning drive, they actually proved that they do track (thought this was purley for the tourists, but they did it!!) The prices of the bar was extremely reasonable for a Lodge. The rooms were lovely, but I do enjoy the outdoor shower, which they didn't have. But the bed in the Sala was comfortable and relaxing. Take a trip to the Spa, excellent massage.

Room Tip: We had a little walk, room 6, but after all that food.............
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  • Stayed August 2013, travelled with family
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Helpful?
1 Thank Alison S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Singapore, Singapore
Level 4 Contributor
43 reviews
27 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 69 helpful votes
Reviewed 15 August 2013

It is the highlight of our 2 weeks vacation in S Africa and Zambia. Everything from the accommodation, the service, dining arrangements and the safari is simply out of this world.

We arrived not expecting much and left at the end of our 4 nights stay with the best holiday experience we ever had. Our suite has all the tappings of luxury despite being isolated in the game reserve. The chalet we had is spotlessly clean, spacious and all the comfort of a 5 star hotel minus the television which is definitely not missed. With full day activities and the quietness of the savanna grassland, this is the place to enjoy the wonders of nature and the countless number of stars in the sky.

We learned that being on private property in the Sabi Sands reserve, we are able to drive off track and this makes the safari exciting, adventurous and fun. Pierre, our guide and Service our tracker deserves special mention for making every safari trip ( twice a day) a different experience. Stopping for our morning coffee breaks and sundowners in the bush is an exhilarating experience, either watching the animals or out in the open listening to the sounds of the animals in the distance.

Dinner is never the same. Being in the winter season, we had camp fires on 2 evenings in the open areas, a romantic candlelight dinner served in our suite with wine, flower petals and tea light candles decoration. On the last night, dinner was held at the Bomba, an enclosed outdoor area much like the "Survivor Series" setup.

We enjoyed the food which is very delicious and of high quality. Every meal is a dining experience and the dishes are never repeated. The extra drinks we had at the lounge was so reasonably priced for a luxury game lodge.

What can we say about the Simbambili team who took care of us and catered to our every needs during our stay? A very big thank you for the warmth and hospitality and for making our first African holiday a memorable and fantastic one.

This is the place you start to miss when it is time to depart and you look forward to your next stay.

  • Stayed August 2013, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
2 Thank travelbug32_00
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Simbambili Game Lodge

Property: Simbambili Game Lodge
Address: Sabi Sand Game Reserve, Kruger National Park 1363, South Africa
Region: South Africa > Kruger National Park > Sabi Sand Game Reserve
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Fitness Centre with Gym / Workout Room Free Parking Restaurant Room Service Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #10 of 42 Speciality Lodging in Sabi Sand Game Reserve
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): ££££
Hotel Class:5 star — Simbambili Game Lodge 5*
Number of rooms: 8
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

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