June 19, 2023
Luxury Safari Magazine Interviews Elly Suverein Founder & CFO, Ximuwu Lodge
Luxury Safari Magazine interviews the CEO and Founder of Ximuwu Lodge, Elly Suverein. Here we learn more about the day-to-day running of this magnificent luxury safari lodge in Greater Kruger National Park, and a little about the lady herself.
Elly, thank you for your time, we know you’re an extremely busy lady. Let’s start by finding out about how this dream became a reality.
It has been my dream to have my own safari lodge for over 25 years since I visited the African continent for the first time. Now I’m even more focused to make this successful as my husband and myself have designed the lodge ourselves and especially the 100% accessibility for wheelchair users is a huge one for us. Especially after my husband was in a wheelchair for a few months we were shocked by how difficult travelling in general is. And only a few places in this area claim to be wheelchair friendly but they are actually not. Or the level of luxury is far below average. Why would you not want luxury if you’re wheelchair-bound?
What does your day look like?
An average day at the lodge looks like this: early morning coffee followed by a game drive, more or less 3 hours. Then breakfast at the lodge or somewhere in the bush. Relax at the pool, the photographic hide, or at the on-site spa. Lunch and late afternoon another game drive. Sundowner drinks in the bush and dinner either at the lodge or under the stars in the bush. We do have the big 5 here in Klaserie. We are open with the Kruger park and animals roam free from our area all the way to Mozambique. We are so fortunate to see both cheetahs and wild dogs on a regular base as well.
What are your main challenges being the CEO of Ximuwu Lodge?
Daily challenges often had to do with staff. But now that’s sorted I’m focussing on getting in contact with the right agents. Since we are very small, exclusive, and luxurious were looking for that specific agent that is looking for a unique and exclusive property. Not your big over 20 beds lodge.
For a month now we’ve put a management couple in place. So now we can fully start to focus on marketing etc. Where before I was just managing the staff and daily routines.
How do you relax, where do you take your vacations?
My perfect way to relax is to go on a game drive on my own. After living in the bush for 6 years I still enjoy very much being close to the animals and have the luxury of being so far from any noise or disturbing traffic or big groups of people. Or go on an early morning flight. I’m a pilot and I really enjoy a short flight over the bush when the sun is rising.
What sets Ximuwu apart from other safari lodges?
A few things that set us apart. First of all, there’s no other commercial activity in our area. We drive on 6500 hectares without seeing another commercial vehicle. The lodge is for exclusive use, so guests can enjoy all facilities just with their own group of friends or family. And a significant difference is that we cater to guests in a wheelchair. All our buildings, Gameviewer, shuttle bus, spa, photographic hides, everything is accessible for a person in a wheelchair. We are very proud to be the first 5-star lodge that has an international accessibility grading. Now everyone can go on a safari!
I see that your dining options are not only a foodie heaven but you can also have private dining, is it also possible to arrange a wedding at Ximuwu Lodge?
We try to stay away from the standard lodge meals. We cater to the guests liking. We don’t have a standard menu, we communicate well upfront to see what our guests like. We have world-class chefs that cater from Asian to American, middle eastern, street food and fine dining. One day a burger or a homemade pizza and the day after a 6-course tasting menu. Just whatever the guests require. Our chefs make everything in-house and we’ve got an aquaponics garden with all our fresh herbs and veggies. We can definitely organise a wedding at Ximuwu as well.
Ximuwu is home to two underground photography hides, please explain to those of us that don’t know, what this entails.
It certainly sounds like guests are able to personalise their experiences with you, which is the most popular?
Guests can decide whatever they want to do. No fixed times for going on the game drive. Even at night if they like. Walking safaris, photographic safaris, sound safaris, and night drives with thermal vision. We got it all. Private chefs as said, but also a private butler, a sommelier, and a spa therapist. Just for a group of a minimum of 4 and a maximum of 8 guests at a time. We felt that also for wheelchair users it’s better to have exclusive use. Complete privacy while you use the pool, a lift for a refreshing dip. We have a separate room for either a nurse, a private pilot, or a private guide. Ximuwu has its own private airstrip as well.
Guests can stay at a sleep-out deck for an ultimate bush experience. During the minimum stay of 3 nights, a helicopter ride is included as well. Lots of things to do and some guests even stay 7 nights and they think it’s too short!
The lodges sound stunning, thoughtfully, and authentically designed for maximum comfort and luxury, where does the design inspiration come from?
We have travelled the African continent extensively over the last two decades. We’ve been to many lodges and found our inspiration from those places. We didn’t want to build traditional with a thatch roof etc. We wanted more modern looks but still a bush feel. All colours blend in perfectly with the surroundings and besides the bed linen, you won’t find anything in white throughout the lodge. We have used a lot of leather, wood, and natural materials. And of course, huge windows to have a maximum view of the open plains in front of the lodge.
How do you see managing a level of sustainability and do you have further plans in that direction?
We have an aquaponics garden on site and both the guests, as well as staff, eat from this garden. We’ve got our own RO drinking water plant so we never bring any drinking water in. Water is tested every 3 months to guarantee quality. The water that is used to make drinking water is used for the garden and flushing toilets in the private/staff camp. We are currently installing a solar system with a huge capacity to help run the lodge as much as possible.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?