Dan and I spent five nights at the Vuyani Safari Lodge in South Africa with our friends in April 2022. This was our second stay at Vuyani (first back in 2015), and we had a lovely time. This is my detailed review of Vuyani for those considering it for safari! In short, I highly recommend it, but of course there are pros and cons. Keep reading for all of the information!
Vuyani Safari Lodge, just outside of Kruger National Park, South Africa
Vuyani Safari Lodge is a safari lodge in South Africa. Vuyani is located very close to Kruger National Park in the Valley of the Elephants and at the beginning of the African Ivory Trail. According to Vuyani, this area is referred to as the “cradle of humankind.” Vuyani is further situated in the Blue-Canyon Private Game Reserve, which is filled with lots of animals, including the Big Five, a few private homes, and at least one other lodge.
The easiest way to reach Vuyani is to fly into Hoedspruit Airport (a 35 minute flight from Johannesburg (JNB)). Vuyani offers free transportation to and from Hoedspruit Airport. The alternative to flying is to drive, or hire a driver from JNB to Vuyani (Vuyani can set this up, but it is not cheap!). That drive takes about five hours and it only runs before 1:00 PM. If you drive yourself, note that parking is currently not included in room rates.
Vuyani Safari Lodge operates on an all-inclusive model, with the room price including food, drinks, including standard alcohol, use of the (limited) on site facilities, and two safari drives per day. Other excursions are available at a cost.
The Vuyani Safari Lodge
As mentioned, the Vuyani Safari Lodge is located inside the Blue-Canyon Private Game Reserve. Guests enter through a large, secure gate, with the Vuyani lodge located another few minutes from the gate. The entrance honestly feels a bit like entering Jurassic Park – amazing and a bit uneasy at the same time. On our first trip, we spotted a rhino on the drive in!
The heart of Vuyani is the main lodge, a grand building consisting of a few guest rooms, a common area, a small kitchen, and a two floor deck opening into an infinity pool overlooking the reserve. It’s pretty fantastic, and one of my favorite parts of the lodge. This is where many things take place – safaris depart from here, meals are often served on the pool deck, and many drinks are drank by the pool each day! If the weather is nice, you’ll almost certainly spend some time here.
Spreading out from the main lodge are individual safari bungalows for guests, as well as a braai (or South African BBQ) area and a dining room with indoor seating and a large kitchen. Walking around the lodge is pretty easy on raised platforms. However, guests are not allowed to walk around alone after dark due to dangers associated with wild animals. If you have any mobility issues, I recommend staying at the main lodge.
The Rooms at Vuyani Safari Lodge
There are a few types of rooms available at Vuyani: luxury suites located in the main lodge, free standing honeymoon and presidential suites with personal hot tubs or plunge pools, and an Owners’ Apartment that can sleep more than two guests. We have stayed in the Honeymoon Suites both visits, so I’ll explain those.
The Honeymoon Suites, of which there are a couple, are free standing safari bungalows, each with a private plunge pool or hot tub. The bungalows are circular and have a large, very comfortable bed, a desk area, a private outdoor deck with multiple chairs and a plunge pool or hot tub, a large bath with a deep bathtub, and the MOST AMAZING outdoor shower complete with Africology bath products. Here are some pictures:
Each room also comes with an included mini bar that is refilled everyday. Included in that mini bar are bottles of red and white wines, beer, cider, still and sparkling water, regular and diet soda, potato chips, and coffee. Everything is replaced daily. This is really nice, especially at night when you cannot leave the room without a chaperone!
I would also note that rooms lack TVs and phones, but there is a radio to radio the staff if you have a problem. Someone from the staff is awake 24 hours/day so no worries reaching someone in an emergency. I would further note that the night is QUIET. You can often hear animals, including baboons, which sound kind of like some system continuously stating “emergency.” Be warned.
The Safari Drives at Vuyani Safari Lodge.
The best thing about Vuyani are its two included safari drives per day! They are great and you do not want to miss them! The first safari drive of the day starts around sunrise or just before it, and it can be cold at this time. Wear layers (this is true for all safaris). Depending on the weather, blankets or rain ponchos may be provided. Each safari lasts between 2 and 4 hours, depending on the sightings. All safaris take place in a 9-seater jeep, and the lodge owns a couple. No worries – everyone can go out on each safari.
The Morning Drive.
For the morning safari safari, guests are awaken by a heavy knock on the door paired with a yell/song by staff thirty minutes prior to departure. Guests are then walked to the main lodge where a spread of tea, coffee, water, and cookies are set out for guests. Guests have 5 – 10 minutes to indulge before boarding the jeeps. As mentioned, the safari lasts a couple hours and drives all around the reserve looking for animals. The jeep stops after about two hours for a coffee/tea/cookie break. I would note there are no restroom stops, just the great outdoors on the coffee break….
The Evening Drive
The evening safari departs around 4 PM, and you’ll stay until the sun goes down. The set up is similar to the morning safari, but instead of coffee, you stop for a Sun Downer, or an “adult beverage,” overlooking a gorgeous sunset. I love the Sun Downers! During our most recent visit, staff took our orders for Sun Downers in advance. We went with Gin and Tonics each night! Dinner is served shortly after returning from the evening drive, but a few snacks are set out with the Sun Downers.
In terms of animals, Vuyani is hole to the Big Five: lions, elephants, Cape buffalo, rhino, and leopards. Vuyani is also home to loads of other animals, including cheetah, black back jackals (my favorites!), zebra, giraffes, kudu, wildebeest, hippos, tons of birds, the list goes on… Every safari has a driver and a spotter, and they do their absolute best to see as many animals as possible. We got lucky on our most recent visit and saw all of the Big Five. However, on our first visit, we only saw three of the five, so it really comes down to luck! You are guaranteed to see animals, but not necessarily particular ones. The big cats are popular at Vuyani and our drive and spotter even left the jeep to go out and rustle up the lions from the trees. Again, be sure to tip them! here are some pictures from our recent visit (yes, it unexpectedly rained a lot):
The Food at Vuyani Safari Lodge – Great!
We joked that all we did on this trip was eat and go on safari, and that was honestly an accurate description. Vuyani provides loads of food and its all delicious, made in house by a Vuyani’s chef! In addition to the coffee and cookies before the morning safari, the morning stop, and the evening safari Sun Downer with drinks and snacks, Vuyani serves a full 3 meals a day, which all are included with the room rate.
I will start with breakfast, which is served almost immediately post morning safari (no real time to change or shower unless you go late). Each morning of our stay Vuyani sat out a small breakfast buffet, consisting of freshly baked breads, fruit, and a few other breakfast-y type things, like yogurt and cereals. The banana bread that was served warm a few days was particularly fantastic. In addition to the small buffet, staff came around and took egg and meat orders and coffee orders. The egg and meat orders changed slightly each day, but were pretty much eggs anyway or omelettes, with bacon or sausage or something of the sort. It was plenty for breakfast and honestly, delicious! Pace yourself if you want to have room for lunch, served just a few hours later!
Lunch is served not too long after breakfast LOL, around 1:00 PM. Everyday we were there, lunch was served buffet style with a variety of options, including sandwiches and skewers, salads, fruit, a veggie option, and a pie or cake for dessert. The staff was great at accommodating allergies/intolerances and made extra for anyone with issues (as long as you tell them in advance so they can and prepare buy the goods!). For example, one of our friends does not really eat red meat, so they always made her a chicken option. And on that note, some allergies do not always translate like they would at home, so be sure to spell out exactly what you can and cannot eat. For example, our no read meat translated into meat (only fish and no pork), which was not the issue. The staff always had plenty of food on hand so our friend got her pork (= ) ) but other things could be more problematic.
Dinner during our stay was served in 3 courses most nights, with a menu presented at lunch and guests selecting their entree. Every night a soup, one of three mains, and a dessert was offered. For the mains, there was usually a seafood dish, a meat dish, and a vegetarian friendly dish, all with sides. Everything was excellent and we really appreciated that the choices for dinner. The dinner was also a bit more formal than lunch (though you could still sport safari clothing) with fancy napkin settings and table service!
The one evening that we did not do a three course table service, the staff did a South African BBQ, or braai, outdoors. This was pretty cool, with the kitchen cooking some local, and somewhat bizarre, South African dishes. The bizarreness was at our request, and we got things like insects, odd parts of animals, as well as normal chicken and lamb. I think the braai is usually a bit more tame, but we egged them on. The food was great and this is a fun experience. I understand they do this every few days, weather permitting.
The Drinks at Vuyani Safari Lodge.
As mentioned , most drinks are included in the room rate at Vuyani: red and white wine, beer, Savana cider, hard liquor, Amarula (!), soft drinks, coffee, tea, still and sparkling water, and juices. The drinks are unlimited and quite good. There is a wine list, including sparkling Cap Classique, for extra cost. We found the included wines to be just fine, and the staff had not problem with pouring as much as you want. There is also the minibar, which is refilled daily. While we were there, the red wines were a South African cab sauv and a Pinotage. Both quite good.
Other Amenities at Vuyani
Aside from safari-ing, sleeping, and eating and drinking, there is not too much to do at Vuyani, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Going on safari is exhausting! Plan on lots of naps and definitely bring a good book. To occupy your time, there is the gorgeous infinity pool at the main lodge open to all guests during the day. It’s not heated, but is very relaxing in the heat. Animals can even come up to the pool! We say a kudu just next to the pool on our first day!
The main lodge also contains the only TV at Vuyani. I’ve seen guests watch sports here. There are also some books for borrower in the main lodge, as well as some board games. Wifi runs throughout the property, but it’s not really good, at all. Definitely not enough for working remotely or streaming. I was able to check my email a few times a day, but it was never guaranteed.
In addition, Vuyani offers spa services for an extra fee. I also saw one woman working out with small weights, but I’m not sure if those belonged to Vuyani or if she brought them (and filled with water for the weight?). On the gym note, I would also note that due to the proximity of animals, you cannot freely walk about the property. As such, it’s tough to get many steps in per day. I just took off my Fitbit.
Excursions from Vuyani
Vuyani offers numerous excursions off-site, from a day in Kruger National Park to an elephant interaction to hot air ballooning. Visit Vuyani’s website for the most updated list. Some of these excursions take place between safaris, others required guests to miss a safari. We have done the Kruger day trip both times we stayed at Vuyani. We really enjoyed it both times, but its a really looooong day with a lot of down time, plus two meals made by the safari guides on site! Definitely bring layers if you are considering doing this day trip, as well as something to keep you busy in the down time. Kruger is different than Vuyani as its huge and has many, many more animals. This year we even say a pack of wild dogs devouring an impala! Here are some pictures of our Kruger day trip:
STEAL OUR TRIP
Vuyani Safari Lodge: The best way to obtain information is via email. Credit card accepted. Don’t forget to tip the staff in cash (no ATM on site, one nearby in Hoedspruit). Confirm regarding and parking fees when booking. Rates are really competitive for such a nice lodge, and there is usually a discount for staying five days and booking directly with the lodge.