The outstanding game viewing, comfortable accommodations, abundant food and friendly service would temp us to return to Lukimbi.

Overall Impression Lukimbi Safari Lodge, a luxury property within South Africa’s world famous Kruger National Park, stood out in our monthlong trip for the worthwhile classic safari experience we had. During the six game drives (twice daily), we saw four of the Big Five plus black rhino and cheetah. James, our ranger, made time to explain the sightings and show us birds and little creatures like microthermic termites. In addition, the lodge’s location within a private concession meant our game drives were pleasant and we rarely saw vehicles from other properties.

The smiling welcome we received on arrival at Lukimbi set the tone for our visit. Sally Kernick, one of the owners who sat with us at an open air dinner the night we arrived, shared stories of the early days of the property. One of the aspects we most enjoyed at the lodge was the staff’s warm and guest oriented attitude. From Danielle and Shelley at the front desk to Thobile, our server who always had a ready smile, and Ryan Cranko, executive chef, the staff members we met were willing to go the extra mile for our comfort.

The lodge was named after the elusive legendary Lukimbi, half lion and half eagle owl. Local traditional or verbal history tells the story of the mighty Toto walking near the banks of the Lwakahle River that winds through the front of the lodge. Screams from the river drew him to the waters edge where Ntombi, his betrothed, had gone to the river to get water when Mbisi, the largest crocodile in the river, clamped her leg in his jaws. Toto jumped into the water to rescue her, fighting the crocodile until the river waters were stained with blood. When the great Nkulukulu looked down from the heavens he took pity on Toto and Ntombi, turning them into Lukimbi, half giant eagle owls and half lions said to have the wisdom of the owl and the strength of the lion and tasked with safeguarding travelers in the African bush. An artist’s interpretation of the hybrid creature could be seen around the property carved on wood and other surfaces.

The pretty view of the Lwakahle River and the Kruger National Park as we descended the steep steps from reception to the main area was so distracting we have to take care not to trip on our way down. The classic safari rooms were spacious and comfortable. From our rooms and the common areas we could see the riverbed and sometimes wildlife by the water. One of my favorite memories of Lukimbi was the time I spent sitting on my deck listening to the sounds of nature, enjoying the cool afternoon breeze and watching the river bank for animals and the trees for colorful birds. Thanks to the elevated walkways when we walked in open shoes our feet remained dirt free.

I remember the lodge for its spacious rooms and open air common areas, cleanliness, fresh, varied and well prepared meals, rewarding game viewing in an exclusive park concession, and pleasant service. I would gladly return and recommend it to friends and family who enjoy understated classic safari properties and quality game viewing in an uncrowded setting. The outstanding game viewing, comfortable accommodations, abundant food and friendly service would temp us to return to Lukimbi.

Children Yes, the property welcomed children from two years of age and older. We saw children in the common areas, in the playroom, and in the dining room. Although most were well behaved, there were two children jumping, screaming and splashing unsupervised in the pool. When their parents arrived one joined them in the pool while another one made phone calls and took photos with her mobile phone, uncaring of the disruption they were causing. Neither asked the children to quiet down.

Class of Accommodation Five Star Luxury Safari Lodge

Connectivity The lodge had a satellite connection, which was “not fast.”

General Managers Sean and Shelley Smith

Handicapped Access There was one wheelchair friendly room. There were stairs in the common areas.

Length of Stay Three nights

Location 91 kilometers from Kruger Mpumalanga Airport in Nelspruit.

Owned and Managed Lukimbi Safari Lodge (Pty) Ltd owned by H.J Borkum, S.H Kernick, M.G Marais and L.P Marais.

Size The 33,000 acre property was on a 15,000 hectare concession within the Kruger National Park and employed 50. The lodge had 16 rooms (14 Classic Suites and two Premier Suites)

Year Opened and Date of Most Recent Renovation The lodge opened in 2002 and the most recent renovation had taken place in 2012.

Lobby and Common Areas The property was decorated in an African Barak style. Common areas were under roof and open air except for the pool deck and the boma (Africa style dirt floor dining enclosure). We arrived at a port cochere, which led via a short staircase to a reception area and desk. A gift shop was on the right and a library (with a computer for guest use) past the gift shop. A steep staircase led down to a large sitting room with a fireplace in the middle. The bar and beyond it the dinning room were to the right. To the left there were public restrooms and meeting space. One level below there were television, children’s, treatment and workout rooms. The pool was across the lawn and to the left. An elevated wood walkway connected guestrooms to the main building and common areas. The riverbed was visible from the common areas.

Bathroom While the bathroom was identified clearly there was no door diving the bedroom and bathroom. The most notable feature was the oversize glass window by the concrete bathtub facing the river and bush. It added natural light to the room and the expansive bush view served as a reminder that we were on safari. In addition to the oval bathtub there was a glass enclosed shower. From the doorless shower on the right side of the room I could also see the bush. The toilet, in its own enclosure in the back of the bathroom, required a soft touch. An armoire provided hanging and storage space. A wood door opened onto an outdoor shower, a favorite. Twin sinks atop a tile base took up the left side of the bathroom. A cushioned cloth bench was in the center of the bathroom in front of the bathtub.

Room From the main building we walked past the conference area onto an elevated wood walkway to our north facing air conditioned rooms with thatched roofs. I opened the wood door using a key hanging from a large wood key ring. We stayed in rooms W6 and W7, two neighboring 57 square meter Classic Suites on the west side of the lodge. Inside, the room was decorated in natural tones and divided into four main areas: sleeping, living, bathroom and back deck.

A large bed framed by identical night tables took up the center of the sleeping area on the left side of the room from the entrance door. A mosquito netting frame hung above the bed. There was a bench at the foot of the bed. At turndown, the staff placed a large mosquito net around the bed and night tables. Against the wall near the door there was a luggage rack. There was a second luggage rack next to the bathroom entrance. To the right of the door a wood cabinet housed a mini bar on the bottom and a hot beverage service on the top.

Although there were signs of wear and tear in the room (the wood floor was worn, the toilet seat had a scratch in the paint, and the faucets required extra effort to keep the water from dripping) it was clean, the furnishings were comfortable and everything was in working order. Across the room from the sleeping area and two steps down there was a living area with wood flooring, a love seat, an armchair, and a coffee table. Sliding glass and wood doors and matching screen doors led onto a canvas covered wood deck. The left side had a privacy wood stick wall. It was furnished with two wood cushioned armchairs with foot rests. There was also a built-in wood bench against the wall on the right side. Next to the bench there was an upright wood ashtray. The deck had an expansive view of the small Lwakahlesmall River and Kruger National Park on the north side of the river. The river and park views from the deck, the living area and the bathroom were my favorite feature of the room. Also, from my deck I could see my neighbor’s decks on both sides of my room. Features included polished concrete floors, thatched ceiling, temperature control (an air conditioning and heating wall unit and a ceiling fan), ample lighting at night, feather pillows and duvets, double curtains, windows with screens in the bedroom and bathroom, and a glass wall in the bathroom facing the park. During the day natural sunlight filtered through oversize windows above the sliding glass doors as well as through side windows in the bedroom and bathroom.

Food Meals were served buffet style with some dishes made to order. We sat at the table of our choice in an open air dining room. A handful of tables placed on the edge of the deck facing the river had a splendid view of the property, pool, river and bush. The chef and staff were able to accommodate dietary preferences and allergies for meals and snacks. Our server brought fresh baked bread and often pointed to gluten free buffet options. Examples of lunch selections included: green salad, olives, tzatziki, harissa, babaganoush, sun dried tomato and goat cheese quiche, sesame and maple baby carrots, broccoli and bacon salad, Nicoise salad, Thai salmon fish cakes, and springbok carpaccio with fruit salad, cheese board and peppermint crisp trifle for dessert. Dinner consisted of three courses from a set menu with two to three options per course.

Meals were served at the following times: Breakfast was between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. Lunch was at 2 p.m., and dinner was between 7 and 8 p.m. Except on boma (an enclose roofless area) night when we shared a table with other guests, we had a private table for all our meals in a shared dining area. I liked the iced homemade lemonade made with sparkling water. Room service was available for a supplementary fee (100 rand).

Amenities In the bathroom, there were two cotton bathrobes, slippers, individual size Charlotte Rhys soap (there was one bar in each area of the bathroom for added convenience, one in the sink, one by the bathtub, and one in the outdoor shower enclosure), and house toiletries in refillable plastic bottles (body lotion, shampoo, conditioner and shower gel). There was also complementary water in the evenings, an electronic safe, mosquito repellent spray, two umbrellas and a hair dryer.

The nightly rate included accommodations, three meals a day, two daily game drives and an optional guided walk. We liked the convenience of being able to reach other rooms as well as the staff thanks to phones in our rooms.

Each night at turndown, the staff left a printed copy of a short Africa themed story and a complementary 500 milliliter bottle of house brand still water. There were too coffee table books and two wildlife magazines in my room. There was direct dial phone service in the room and complementary Wi-Fi. There was DSTV coverage in a single television in a common area room. Also, there were DVDs available on loan from the reception and a board games. Every time we returned from a game drive one of the staff members provided moist hand cloths. At breakfast there was a daily single sheet print out with a news summary, weather and other tidbits.

Facilities There was a library, bar, fitness room and adjacent treatment rooms, plunge pool, children’s playrooms indoors and outdoors, sitting room, open air meeting space, river fronting open air dining area, chapel, gift shop, television room and wine cellar.

Fitness and Spa There was a workout room with weights station, Running Machine, Cycle, and a Step Machine. The treatment room, in the back of the workout room, was nine square meters.

Connectivity There was cell phone service within the common areas and in our rooms. There was complementary Wi-Fi in the common areas and rooms.

Pool There was a free form river fronting pool, eight meters by four meters in size and two meters deep, and deck with a kiddie pool on one side and a deeper section on the other. Some 10 cushioned lounge chairs were laid out around the pool deck at varying heights. When I finally had a moment to relax by the pool a loud and inconsiderate family of four arrived, screaming across the pool deck, splashing and running around as if they were in their own backyard.

Shop The curio shop had a selection of souvenirs, small hair items, glassware, branded clothing, soft toys and books.

Game Viewing James Ndhlovu was our guide and Themba Ngwenya was our tracker. James had been with Lukimbi Safari Lodge since 2007. He started as a tracker with Lukimbi and in 2015 obtained his full walking qualifications and became a qualified trails guide. Themba joined Lukimbi in December 2016. Prior to Lukimbi he had positions at other lodges as a tracker.

We saw the following mammals: buffalo, Burchell’s zebra, cheetah, civet, elephants, giraffe, hippopotamus, impala, lion, scrub hare, slender mongoose, spotted hyena, steenbok, vervet monkey, warthog, waterbuck, white rhinoceros, Wild dog, Black rhinoceros; insects and repties: microthermic termites, flap-necked chameleon, Nile crocodile, Puff adder, and skink.

We saw or heard the following birds: African grey hornbill, African hawk eagle, bateleur eagle, blue waxbill, Burchell’s starling, Cape glossy starling, crowned lapwing, double-banded sandgrouse, Egyptian goose, emerald-spotted wood-dove, go-away-bird, helmeted guineafowl, lilac-breasted roller, magpie shrike, Natal francolin, red billed hornbill, redbilled oxpecker, saddle-billed stork, Swainson’s spurfowl, tawny eagle, white-backed vulture, woolly-necked stork, eagle snake brown, eagle martial, African mourning dove, purple roller, lappet faced vulture, yellow billed roller, kori bustard, white egret, pearl owl, African jacana, African wattled lapwing.

Activities There were morning and afternoon game drives in a Landrover Defender with a canvas top, about three hours long, as well as optional guided walks after breakfast. There were no stops during any of the drives. We went on six game drives and shared the vehicle with a family of four.

We had excellent game viewing with quality sightings. Often we were the only vehicle. Sometimes we crossed paths with other vehicles from the property at an important sighting. When it rained our guide offered us ponchos. The top of the vehicle helped to keep the worse of the light rain off of us. The poncho smelled unpleasant.

Other San Parks named Lukimbi Business Partner of the year in 2015. In 2016, the property received the Diners Platinum award for its wine list.

Because the area around the lodge was not fenced in (there was a three strand electric fence surrounding the lodge to deter elephants) animals roamed freely. We often saw impala in the area adjacent to the room and the common areas. I also saw monkeys and a bat. At night we had to be escorted by a staff member to our rooms from the game drive arrival area, and to and from the dining room for dinner. The property recommended guess not leave anything outside their rooms because monkeys and hyenas had been known to steal unattended items in the past.

Although the rooms were smoke-free, guests were invited to smoke on their deck. We also saw guests smoking in the common areas. As part of the check in process we were required to sign a lengthy double sided liability release. The tap water was well water, which while due to its high calcium content had a slightly unpleasant taste, was potable. Due to an area wide drought there was a limit of six items of laundry per day. I left my laundry in the basket before going on the morning game drive and the clean laundry arrived by the time I was back in my room after lunch. Check out was at 10:30 a.m.

Cleanliness Excellent

Date of Last Visit April 2017


Article by Elena del Valle

Photos by Gary Cox

Service Our rooms were serviced twice daily while we were on game drives, in the morning and in the afternoon for turndown. Throughout the property staff were friendly and helpful. Service was warm and attentive. Staff responded to requests with alacrity and efficiency. The dining room staff, especially Empress, Thobeli, and Lybor who looked after us, were unfailingly pleasant and detail oriented. At reception, Danielle was patient and helpful as was Shelly. James and Themba, our guide and tracker, were knowledgeable about animals and birds. James drove well, taking care to slow down for bumps in the road and to warn us when there were thorns brushing the side of the vehicle.

Would You Stay Again? Yes

Contact Information

  • Address:
    • Lukimibi Safari Lodge
    • Southern portion of the Kruger National Park
    • P.O. Box 2617
    • Northcliff, 2115
    • South Africa
  • Phone:
    • +27 011 792 6165 (Reservations Office)
    • +27 011 792 5026
  • Website:
  • Email: