You won’t need to leave the comfort of Imbali’s deck to see Kruger’s creatures stake their claim over their humble patch: the striking Golden Orb spider spinning her impenetrable web, Burchell’s starlings bravely pecking at a wayward cobra and squirrels dashing past with their tasty tidbits.
Sheltered in a riverine forest overlooking the seasonal Nwaswitsontso river, Imbali is built on the site of a 400-year-old African settlement that has yielded such evidence of an ancient culture as clay pots, bone tools and grinding stones.
Plush leather sofas, African patterned tapestries and traditional artifacts fight for their place of pride amidst thatched Tsonga roofs, stone columns and the odd tree that emerges unapologetically through the teak deck; an impressive Jackalberry keeping diners company as it rises through the lodge’s floor and peeps well out over the Tsonga-styled thatched roof.
Nothing gets in the way of Kruger’s creatures at Imbali. The humble dung beetle is left to his day’s work on neatly raked pathways, the skittish francolins shriek in protest to occasional distractions while tiny frogs play peacefully in the lodge’s infinity pool.
Continuing in the spirit in which the Kruger National Park was created, Imbali acts as a sanctuary for the bush’s creatures, great and small, and is in fact your very own bush sanctuary for the duration of your special Kruger National Park stay.
Imbali Safari Lodge is located within the private 10 000-hectare concession of Mluwati in the western region of the Kruger National Park, bordering the northern Sabi Sands and Manyeleti Game Reserves.
The vision of Paul Kruger, once president of the former Transvaal Republic, the Kruger National Park was proclaimed as early as 1898 as the Sabie Game Reserve. At the time President Kruger believed that the animals of South Africa’s Lowveld needed to be protected, but it took another 12 years for the expanse between the Sabie and Crocodile rivers to be declared an area of restricted hunting, with James Stevenson-Hamilton appointed the park’s first warden in 1902.
The first tour including an overnight stop at the Sabie Bridge (now Skukuza) organised by the South African Railways in 1923. Tourists visiting the park slept on the train and a game ranger would spend an evening with them around a campfire sharing interesting anecdotes about the bush.
The popularity of this tour gave rise to a range of tourist facilities in the park, including rest huts at Satara, Pretoriuskop, Letaba, Malelane and Skukuza, among other camps. Roads were built in the 1930s to allow self-drive tourists to enjoy the park at their leisure and by 1934 about 1 200km of road were completed.
For almost 100 years, local and international visitors have had access to the park and enjoyed one of the world’s premier game-viewing destinations. Kruger is home to an estimated 1 500 lion, 12 000 elephant, 2 500 buffalo, 1 00 leopards and white and black rhino. Big Five aside, there are a myriad of other wildlife species to be admired with some 145 mammal species occurring in the park, including hippo, giraffe, zebra, cheetah and wild dog, among others.
Keen birders will adore a visit to the Kruger National Park with almost 500 bird species on the park’s list. From the brilliantly colourful displays of the Kingfisher and the distinct call of the Fish Eagle, to the Giant Eagle Owl perched in a bare Leadwood tree, you could spend your days admiring our feathered friends.
But there’s more to the Kruger than its wildlife, with almost 254 known cultural heritage sites, including 130 recorded rock art sites, 300 archaeological sites of Stone Age man and San Rock Art. Imbali Safari Lodge was in fact built on the site of an ancient African settlement.
Gate Entry fee for Guests staying at Imbali Safari Lodge will be R121.00 per person per stay. This fee is payable at the gate of entry and will be required to hand back your receipt to the gate attendant upon departure.
Please be aware of gate entrance times into the Kruger National Park as they vary throughout the year, depending on the season. Entrance into the park via Orpen Gate should be no later than two hours prior to gate closure time and via Kruger Gate should be no later than three hours prior to gate closure times.
Lodge Gate Opening Times:
October – March
April – September
Lodge Gate Closing Times:
November – February
March – April
May – July
August – October
While driving within the Kruger National Park, please adhere to the legal speed limit of 50km per hour on tar roads and 40km per hour on dirt roads.
Please adhere to the Kruger National Park safety precautions, and do not disembark from your vehicle unless you are in a designated area.
Cell phone reception
Cell phone signal is only available at the entrance gates and close to Skukuza, it is therefore recommended to make any necessary calls at the gate upon entry.
SA Express to Hoedspruit:
Imbali offers transfer for all flights at an additional charge. These are subject to availability of the transfer vehicles. Please note that this is not a shuttle service and all transfers must be booked at time of reservation.
Federal Air from Johannesburg or KMIA:
Guests will fly into the Manyeleti airstrip where they will be collected by the lodge. Driving times from the lodge is approximately an hour and a half. This transfer is charged at R40 per vehicle and R30 per person.
Airlink to Skukuza or KMIA:
Airlink offers flights from Johannesburg and Cape Town direct to Skukuza from 2 June 2014. Airlink also offers direct flights from Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town direct to Nelspruit KMIA.
Transfers are available, but are subject to availability of the transfer vehicles and valid for FIT reservations only. Please note that this is not a shuttle service and all transfers must be booked at time of reservation.
We recommend the following connecting times to ensure that passengers do not miss any connecting flights:
- Domestic flights into Johannesburg must arrive two hours prior to the departing times of your connecting flight to Hoedspruit or Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport.
- International flights into Johannesburg must arrive two and a half hours prior to your connecting flight to Hoedspruit or Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport
- Domestic flights departing from Johannesburg must be booked to depart OR Tambo two hours after the arrival of your connecting flight from Hoedspruit or Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport.
- International flights departing from Johannesburg must be booked to depart OR Tambo three and a half hours after the arrival of your connecting flight from Hoedspruit or Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport.
- Depart from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg
- Take the R21 highway North towards Pretoria
- Before reaching Pretoria, take the N4 highway East
- Turnoff at Belfast, take the R540 towards Dullstroom (approximately 37km)
- At Dullstroom, take the R540 towards Lydenburg (approximately 43km)
- At Lydenburg, take the R36 towards Ohrigstad (approximately 62km)
- At Ohrigstad, take the R527 towards Hoedspruit (Note: You will pass through the JG Strijdom Tunnel)
- 16km before Hoedspruit, at the Swadini Reptile Centre, turn right onto the R531 towards Klaserie
- After about 30km, turn left onto the Orpen Gate Road (R531)
- After 40km you will reach the Orpen Gate of the Kruger National Park
Orpen Gate Entry:
(45km from the Orpen Gate)
- After entering the Orpen Gate travel for 22km on the H7.
- Turn right on the S36 where you will see the signpost marked Imbali, Hamiltons, Hoyo Hoyo with the exact distances.
- After about 20km turn right on the S145 where it is signposted for Imbali and Hoyo Hoyo after 3km turn left at the no entry sign.
- Drive for 3.5km where you will reach a T-junction.
- Turn left to Imbali Safari Lodge.
Paul Kruger Gate Entry:
(95km from the Paul Kruger Gate)
- Enter Paul Kruger Gate
- Proceed toward Skukuza
- From Skukuza take the H1-2 towards Satara (32km)
- Turn left S36 (Dirt Road) signs will read Imbali Safari Lodge/Hoyo Hoyo Safari Lodge/Hamiltons Tented Camp
- Continue on S36 for 40km
- At T-junction turn left onto S125 for 5km then right S36
- Continue for 6km
- Turn left S145 for 3km
- At the signs for Imbali Safari Lodge and Hoyo Hoyo Safari Lodge, turn left
Travel about 4km to T-Junction, turn left to Imbali Safari Lodge.
Guests are accommodated in 12 spacious suites, subtly decorated in neutral colours with enchanting splashes of African tradition, from the ornate wall lamps to the comfortable textured pillows.
Large French doors run the length of the room to let the beautiful outside wilderness in, on your terms; an expansive deck overlooks the Nwaswitsontso river or savannah grasslands with a Jacuzzi or outdoor pool to complete your leisure bush experience. Relax on the sunbed with a book or let those bubbles soothe your weary muscles; the chattering of weavers, thrushes and kingfishers providing a magical bush playlist for your relaxation.
The spacious stone and marble bathroom features a separate claw-foot bathtub and shower with signature bath amenities, a hairdryer and fluffy bathrobes. Soak your stresses away as you marinade in bath salts while looking out on to the peace of the Kruger bush.
Sink in to the comfortable king-size bed for a quick siesta or after a hard day’s safari; a mosquito net envelops the entire bed in the evening, a prediction of the day’s weather and something sweet provided as a nightcap preparing you for pleasant dreams in the bush.
Room facilities and amenities include:
- Separate indoor bath and shower
- Bathroom amenities
- Insect repellent
- Air Conditioning
- Tea and coffee-making facilities
Enjoy an extensive cold and hot buffet breakfast in Imbali Safari Lodge’s comfortable dining room; an impressive Jackalberry rising right through the deck of dining room through the Tsonga-styled thatched roof.
Lunch is a light, informal affair with a buffet laden with tasty salads and meats served in relaxed surroundings; the sounds of the bush providing all the accompaniment you need for a memorable dining experience.
Indulge in High Tea with a delicious selection of cakes and pastries baked freshly at the lodge before embarking on your afternoon’s safari.
Then enjoy a magical three-course dinner under the stars. Good wine and good conversation flow while you listen to the enchanting sounds of the surrounding bush coming alive at night.
Although both lunch and dinner are served at the main lodge, guests can arrange for a private meal on their deck or in-suite.
- Butlers on call
- Suites with outside plunge pools
- Set on the banks of the Nwaswitsontso River
- Inside separate bath and shower
- Located within the iconic Kruger National Park
- Children from 6 years welcome
- WiFi available at main lodge
Kick-start your day before the sun rises, dunking a homemade rusk into a steamy cup of coffee before setting off on your morning game drive with your assigned ranger.
Watch as the bush awakens around you; the dew glistens on the webs of the Golden Orb spider and Lilac Breasted Rollers flash their startling sky-blue bellies as they flit past your game vehicle.
See wild dogs laze under the Acacia trees and elephants leave their distinct trail as they chomp through the bush at a leisurely pace. Steal a glance at the leopard eating its prey high up in an old Tamboti tree, zebra foraging alongside large herds of wildebeest and impala flashing their characteristic ‘M’ as they disappear in to the thick brush.
Enjoy an extensive cold and hot buffet breakfast in Imbali Safari Lodge’s comfortable dining room; an impressive Jackalberry rising right through the deck of dining room through the Tsonga-styled thatched roof. Then retire to your room and relax, laze at the crystal-clear infinity pool or request a bush walk for an up-close encounter with the Kruger.
Lunch is a relaxed, informal affair. Served on the deck with beautiful views of the surrounding bushveld and the Nwaswitsontso River, guests are treated to light salads and tasty desserts before retiring to their rooms for an afternoon siesta.
Afternoon tea, served on the deck, heralds the imminent departure of your special evening safari through the Mluwati Concession. Spot a pride of lazy lions lounging casually in the tall grass and the associated warning call of nature’s tattletales, the Grey Loerie, as they inform the surrounding species of impending danger.
Sip a sundowner G&T as you watch the sky turn from the brilliance of an African sunset to a bright band of stars; the persistent call of frogs, owls and nightjars accompanying you back to Imbali Safari Lodge for a romantic dinner on the deck, a canopy of stars watching over you.
Bursting with the day’s extraordinary bush experiences, all that’s left is to retire to the comfort of your comfortable room with nothing but the reassuring sound of the crickets and frogs lulling you to sleep.
A private concession within the Kruger National Park comprising three lodges – Imbali Safari Lodge, Hoyo Hoyo Safari Lodge and Hamilton’s Tented Camp, Mluwati Concession was born out of a spirit of ensuring the future sustainability of the national park.
As one of the first private concessions in the Kruger National Park, Mluwati has worked tirelessly to ensure the sustainability of this pristine wilderness that for over 100 years has been a sanctuary for over 114 reptiles, 34 amphibians and 147 mammal species, including Africa’s Big Five.
Keen birders will delight in the hundreds of bird species that call Kruger home. Over 500 species, in fact many of which occur in the Mluwati Concession including the Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Crested Barbet and Burchell’s Glossy Starling.
Guests will enjoy some of Kruger’s most spectacular landscapes and an extraordinary variety of wildlife, birdlife and plantlife within the Mluwati Concession, ensuring that each safari experience will be unique.
Experience a morning and evening game drive during your stay at Imbali Safari Lodge. Witness the excitement of the first rains; the terrapins playing in river pools, the call of the Pied Kingfisher and steady chirping of sociable tree frogs.
Savour the rich smells of the bush, hear the shrill calls of the Magpie Shrike and see the wind blowing through the feather grass dotting the savannah plains.
A game drive at Imbali will reveal new scents, curious sounds and the beauty of an extraordinary African landscape to delight your senses.
Winter Safari Times: 01 May – 31 August
|05h30||Wake up time and morning tea|
|06h00||Morning safari departs|
|09h00||Return for breakfast|
|15h30||Afternoon safari departs|
|19h30||Return from safari & Dinner is served|
Summer Safari Times: 01 September – 30 April
|05h00||Wake up time and morning tea|
|05h30||Morning safari departs|
|08h30||Return for breakfast|
|16h00||Afternoon safari departs|
|19h30||Return from safari & Dinner is served|