A Kruger Gem: Imbali Safari Lodge
Toni and I opted not to go on the morning game drive but set our alarms for early anyway. The sun was rising, as I threw on my robe and made some coffee in the French Press provided for us. I drew the curtains, to be greeted by the sweetest little Red Billed Hornbill couple who ran up to the door and stared at me through the glass.
We lay in the dreamy King-sized bed, sipping on our coffee, and watched the dry riverbed for wildlife and birds. The morning bush choir had begun, a family of guinea fowls came by chirping away, as some vervet monkeys were playing in the riverbed below.
I drew a hot bath and gazed out of the large windows. I love the African bushveld in the morning.
As we headed out the door for breakfast, we were greeted by one of the friendly staff of Imbali Safari Lodge. He was raking the sandy pathways which wind to each elegant suite. A thought sprung to my mind… this man knew the morning bush news better than anyone else, for he sees the spoors and tracks along the pathways of Imbali, that tell the stories of the bush. He knew which animals had visited during the night, and in which direction they were heading.
I looked down at the sand, a portion that he had not yet raked, and I tried to make sense of it. I saw some antelope spoor, which I assumed must be the resident bushbuck family that live within the grounds, a couple of Vervet monkeys seemed to have passed by, and a bird of sorts – perhaps a little francolin?
I had begun to reminisce about our game drive we’d done the day before. When I had got on the game drive, I made a joke about what I’d like to see, “lions and bush babies”. Of course, we all know that great sightings on safari are really the luck of the draw, but our guide, Andrew, well and truly delivered.
We came across two lionesses which had killed a kudu bull, with an impressive set of horns. While hyenas, vultures, and jackals were in the not so far off distance, waiting patiently for their moment. An alert breeding herd of ellies weren’t far off either.
We had followed the lionesses down to Shimangwaneni Dam, where we watched them drink. It was a magic scene, as golden hour was upon us, and the two large lionesses lapped up the water. A little way away, a hippo, was peeping over the surface of the water at them. They were wary of him. The dam levels were rather low, and so I imagine the hippo was even more territorial than usual over his remaining water.
The sun had begun to set, and so we continued on for our sundowners. We arrived at Muzandzeni Picnic Site, and Andrew set up a table for us, with drinks and snacks. We were joined by a couple of other game drive vehicles from Imbali’s sister lodges, Hamilton’s Tented Camp and Imbali Safari Lodge.
The big orange sun which was firing up the sky in impressive reds and yellows, began to slip away beyond the horizon and I could see some impala and waterbuck grazing in the distance. Two Elephant bulls came waltzing past as well. The air was warm, and we enjoyed listening to the yellow billed hornbills in the trees above us engaged in a great discussion. About what? I could not say.
On our way back to Imbali, we stopped at the lion kill again to catch one more glimpse of the beautiful lionesses. To our surprise, the kill had been taken over by a pack of giggling, drooling hyenas.
The lionesses were not far off though, as we watched the hyenas tearing what was left of the kudu to pieces. One ran off with a leg, as the other chased it. Just like a pack of dogs they fought amongst each other, not wanting to share.
The shy, sly jackal tried to get in there, but the lioness chased him off. It was a sight to behold, but above that the sounds were incredible. Among the giggling and screeching of the selfish hyenas, we heard the crushing of the kudu’s bones, by their incredibly strong jaws.
Just before we arrived back at camp, Andrew spotted a lesser bushbaby jumping from tree to tree. I was ecstatic. Did you know that bushbabies can visit up to 300 trees a night? They are the cutest little creatures, with these big brown, beady eyes, and an incredibly sweet tooth, favouring trees that produce sweet and sticky nectars.
We arrived back at the lodge, it was a starry night, and the moon, although a sliver, was shining brightly above the waterhole in front of the Lodge. We sat at the table that had been laid for us, and my eyes wandered around the wooden deck, marveling at the careful attention to detail. There was a table in the corner with a vast selection of wines to pair with the delicious meal we were about to be served.
Candles adorned the tables; Hurricane lanterns surrounded the swimming pool. The romantic lighting added to the elegant and warm atmosphere, and I felt the wonders of the African bush working its magic on me.
The water trickled from the infinity pool, a nightjar whistled into the night’s sky, and I could hear the lone call of a hyena not far off. While enjoying our dinner, we were visited by an enormous elephant coming to quench his thirst, a jackal and then a hyena (We finally got to put a face to the voice)
As we sat taking in the ambience of this incredible place, I thought back to the last time we visited Imbali. We were sat at dinner when a resident male leopard, better known as Wabuyisa, came to have a drink at the waterhole right in front of us.
I have spent much time in the African bush, but never have I sat down to dinner and had a leopard join me for an evening tipple.
Imbali Safari Lodge… where magic happens.
On our walk back to our suite that night, the security walking us, showed us a little scops owl perched on the branches of a tree, right next to us. He was so tiny, and so cute, and was not one bit frightened of us. Instead he just gazed at us with his giant, gorgeous eyes. We could hear baboons alarm calling, and I wondered if it was perhaps Wabayisa, the resident leopard who had sent them in to a bit of a frenzy.
What a memorable day it had been, we had begun our journey from Crocodile Bridge early that morning and were treated to the most spectacular sightings along the way, including three prides of lions, and a pack of wild dogs playing in the road.
(Just on a little side note: if you’re not into self-driving or driving such far distances you can fly in to either Hoedspruit or Skukuza Airport and take a transfer to the lodge, alternatively car hire is available from there.)
Upon our journey, we passed Tshokwane, and about 23 kilometers on, just after Kumana Dam, where it was bustling with wildlife; elephants taking a mud bath, grumpy dagga boy buffaloes walking on the road and a pride of fat, lazy lions lying under a shady tree, we turned right on to the S125, driving along the N’waswitsontso River (although presently it is pretty dry).
It was a scorcher of a day, and under many of the giant trees along the riverbed were young ellies lying down for a bit of relief from the hot sun.
We turned on to the S36, and then again on to the S145, a private road only for guests of the lodges and park personnel. We had arrived on the beautiful Mluwati Concession.
We are welcomed (back) to Imbali by friendly faces with cool face towels and refreshing fruit cocktails.
As we made our way into the main area of the lodge for lunch, we were met with a beautiful sighting of ellies who had come to quench their thirst at the waterhole. The ellies, with their enormous size, bullied all the other animals that were also trying to get some water. The warthogs in particular had a tough time, being chased about by them.
The thatched roof and wooden floors of the main lodge area combined with the earthy hues, and African décor all blend together perfectly to create a luxury safari atmosphere of a bygone era. The canopy of giant Tambuti and Jackalberry Trees, along with the infinity pool create a cool atmosphere to combat those super warm days.
The lounge area boasts comfortable seating with a cosy fireplace, and a library with a delightful selection of old, antique books including the most fascinating books on the history of the iconic Kruger National Park, as well as a small curio shop.
After lunch, we had a spent a considerable time in our private plunge pool, enjoying the tranquility and sweet solitude of the wilderness. Before heading back to the main area for high tea and our afternoon safari…
Our trip was short and sweet… but was just what we needed. Imbali is such a romantic spot, and Toni and I really got to unwind, and spend quality time together. I’ve been coming here ever since I was little girl, and never tire of it.
It’s just one of these incredible places, that you can’t help but fall in love with, and your heart is always a little heavy to leave at the end of your stay.
**Safari & Kruger Lovers, should you be interested in experiencing Imbali Safari Lodge, or any other private lodges in Kruger or Greater Kruger, please feel free to pop me a mail on, firstname.lastname@example.org for special rates**