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A beautiful wildlife oasis drawing guests from across the world, South Africa’s Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve promises the safari experience of a lifetime. Big game is plentiful, roaming freely around this pristine part of Africa with the Big Five – lion, leopard, rhinocheros, buffalo and elephant – close at hand. Then there are cheetah, wild dogs and some 200 other animal species indigenous to the area – not to mention the Bush, which changes spectacularly with the seasons.
For the ultimate in luxurious accommodation, Sabi Sabi is comprised of four separate all-suite lodges with very distinct characters and atmospheres – the heritage, colonial style of Selati Camp (with seven suites), the more contemporary Bush Lodge (with 25 suites), Little Bush Lodge (with six suites) and the futuristic Earth Lodge (with 13 suites). At each lodge, there is back up electricity, boutiques, full bar facilities, lounges, parking, Wi-Fi and swimming pools (Earth Lodge offers private plunge pools). At Bush Lodge, additional facilities include a Children’s Centre (EleFun) and a suite for disabled guests. At Bush Lodge and Earth Lodge, there are Amani spa facilities, gyms and wine cellars.
Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve is located in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve – within South Africa’s Greater Kruger National Park. It lies on the same latitude as São Paulo and Brisbane and the same longitude as Cairo, Istanbul and St Petersburg. The Reserve lies 500 kilometres east of Johannesburg, 800 kilometres northeast of Durban and 200 kilometres west of Maputo in Mozambique.
There are daily shuttle flights available to the Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve airstrip from Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg (an hour’s flight time) with complimentary transfers from the airstrip to the Sabi Sabi Lodge. Alternatively, there are daily scheduled flights available from O.R. Tambo International Airport Johannesburg and Cape Town International to Skukuza Airport and Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport in Nelspruit. Transfers are available from both airports to the Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve – a minimum of 90 minutes’ drive time.
Private air charters and helicopter transfers are available upon request.
Sabi Sabi offers four five-star lodges, each with their own look, feel and character – those of “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”.
Selati Camp is the romantic “Out of Africa” style of lodge with classic, vintage styling and elegance capturing the “Yesterday” of Africa. A celebration of the 19th century grand steam train era when the Selati railway line passed through the land carrying gold to and from Mozambique, this intimate lodge has been long admired for its authentic railway memorabilia. The railway theme extends from the original steam engine name plates, signals and shunter’s lamps lighting the way to the suites where railway collector’s pieces are placed.
There are seven thatched suites, each with full bathroom en-suite and private alfresco showers. Dining is served on wooden thatched decks built alongside the Msuthlu riverbed, in the open air “boma” or in the “farmhouse kitchen”.
The premier accommodation at Selati Camp is the Ivory Presidential Suite offering grandeur in the form of antiques, a draped four poster bed overlooking a private terrace, fireplaces and a private plunge pool. The en-suite bathroom comes complete with a Persian carpet and antique chaise-longue whilst the separate dressing room features an antique wardrobe and matching dressing table. The most romantic however is the Lourenco Marques Honeymoon Suite with a king-sized bed draped with mosquito netting, luxurious linens, antique furniture pieces and richly textured drapes. An en-suite bathroom with indoor and outdoor baths and showers is perfect for pampering and for those special occasions, there could be a Champagne on ice awaiting, in-suite dining and a petal-strewn bedroom.
Bush Lodge lies deep in the bushveld overlooking a watering hole and an open plain. Steeped in tradition with a history spanning over 35 years, Bush Lodge is the archetypical “luxury home in the bush”. A conventional safari-style complements a vibrant and eclectic mix of furnishings from all corners of Africa. There are 25 beautifully styled suites in total including two Luxury Villas and the Mandleve Deluxe Suite. Each features en-suite bathrooms, al fresco glass fronted showers and wonderful views out over the bushveld. The two spacious Luxury Villas feature a master bedroom with en-suite facing a waterhole. The suites are air-conditioned and feature sumptuous linens and classic leather and wood furnishings. The Mandleve Deluxe Suite meanwhile features a private plunge pool and luxurious interiors with endless views of the bushveld.
Little Bush Camp nestles in the shade of indigenous riverine trees on the banks of the Msuthlu River and is the newest addition to the Sabi Sabi lodge family. Available for exclusive use, Little Bush Camp is comprised of six luxury suites, each with their own private viewing deck and heated spa bath overlooking the riverbed. Décor is more African contemporary with indoor and outdoor showers, a full en-suite, air-conditioning – all under thatched rooves, beds with draped mosquito nets and wooden finishes.
The fourth lodge takes the property into a new era of safari lodges. Sculpted into a slope of the earth, almost invisible in the landscape, the Earth Lodge uses texture, light and space in its design, taking cues from the surrounding environment to make one of the most environmentally sensitive lodges in Africa. A hidden corridor leads out into a panorama of uninterrupted bushveld for that “wow” factor. With 13 ultra-luxurious suites including the Amber Presidential Suite, the lodge breaks with the traditional safari camp style with each suite enjoying custom furniture, private plunge pools and en-suite glass fronted bathrooms with indoor and outdoor showers. The natural wooden sculptures by renowned South African artist Geoffrey Armstrong shine in the contemporary surroundings. The Amber Suite, with its own study and kitchen, is generous in both size and space with custom pieces including an egg-shaped bath and a magnificent carved wooden headboard. A booking here comes with a private open safari vehicle for game viewing.
The intimate Selati Camp enjoys a welcoming dining area and outdoor boma, gently illuminated by shunters lamps and lanterns and features an inviting pool and spacious deck area with far-reaching bushveld views.
The largest of the lodges, Bush Lodge has been sensitively designed to allow ample space to relax, unwind and savour the tranquility of the destination. The two swimming pools and large covered viewing decks overhanging the Msuthlu riverbed are an invitation to cool off in the filtered waters or to sit in comfort while spotting game. There is an exquisitely furnished lounge, atrium and intimate bar area together with the Amani Spa at Bush Lodge.
Bush lodge is family friendly and children from ages four to twelve can enjoy the EleFun Centre, a fully-fledged children’s facility offering interesting environmentally themed activities for several distinct age groups, supervised by qualified childcare experts. Age-appropriate bushveld themed activities are guided and supervised and include bushcraft subjects, bugs and birds, tracks and signs of wildlife – all environmentally sensitive subjects. Afternoon sessions are filled with games and selected rangers lead bush walks and talks and the childcare professionals provide specially planned midday child-friendly game drives, based on the topics covered in the rangers’ course. There is also a wonderfully secure outdoor play area. Other child orientated amenities include cots, experienced child minders and custom menus.
The Amani Spa at Bush Lodge is comprised of two single treatment rooms and one double treatment room serviced with three qualified therapists. Products used include the certified organic Esse Probiotic Skin Care range, their own Amani Spas luxurious body care range and the Lilian Terry retail range based on the synergy of homeopathy and aromatherapy. There are children’s spa treatments available too.
Little Bush Camp enjoys a sweeping high thatched roof with huge wooden beams lending a dramatic sense of arrival to the central reception, lounge and dining areas – perfect for showcasing the wonderful views of the bushveld outside.
At the Earth Lodge, facilities include an indoor/outdoor dining area overlooking a waterhole and bushveld, a secluded library, an art gallery, a unique Day Bar, a sunken fire pit lounge overlooking the open bush and an underground wine cellar with a collection of over 6,000 bottles of wines. The second of the two spas is based here too and is a similar size – the Amani Spa at Earth Lodge with holistic body, skin and beauty rituals, treatments and massages. This spa is available to patrons at Little Bush Camp and Selati Camp and additionally offers a Zen Meditation Garden and an outdoor shower. There is also an air-conditioned gym overlooking the landscape for those who wish to keep up their fitness routines.
Sabi Sabi’s four luxury safari lodges are located in the Sabie Game Reserve which is geographically integrated with the Greater Kruger National Park. There are no fences between the reserve and the Kruger Park so big game is free to move through this unspoiled part of the ancient African continent. With a great biodiversity of habitat and wildlife, there are many chances to come face to face with the Big Five as well as wild dogs and cheetahs and over 300 bird species. There has been no hunting here for over half a century and the animals have become used and relaxed to the presence of safari vehicles. Safaris take place each morning and evening in open safari vehicles which drive through a wide variety of habitats. After breakfast, guests on guided walking trails can experience the natural environment on foot.
Sabi Sabi has a policy of limiting the number of vehicles in any game sighting to minimise the impact on the animals and birds on the reserve. At night only nocturnal animals are tracked and viewed with spotlights with diurnal animals and birds left alone.
With zero-night pollution, there is ample opportunity to enjoy the night sky with most winter night skies cloudless. The rangers will provide enlightening and entertaining commentary about the southern hemisphere constellations most notably the Southern Cross. Too far south to be viewed by latitudes north of 25 degrees, this constellation was for centuries a sailor’s navigational point once the equator had been crossed. All stargazing is tailored to guest preferences and can be viewed either on the evening safari or with one of the senior rangers setting up a telescope with sky maps and a laser pointer for a dedicated sky safari.
For many, going on safari in Africa is at the very top of any aspirational bucket-list but it can be a little daunting to select the right safari. It is reassuring to hear therefore, particularly for those with sustainability and eco-tourism concerns in mind, that with Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, this well-established business operates the quintessential safari experience balanced with an ethos centred on both conservation and community established over 40 years ago.
There are four distinct and stunning luxury lodge types to stay in to suit individual needs, tastes and creature comforts, backed with the genuine warmth of South African hospitality combined with a cuisine that is numbered on the top restaurant lists around the world.
With such a rich and diverse landscape, from rocky outcrop to open grassland and shady copse, the land supports a huge variety of wildlife from the traditional “Big Five” to more than 300 bird species. Setting off on the daily morning and evening open-vehicle safari is a genuine adventure with no guarantees as to what animals might be sighted but the highly trained rangers and local Shangaan trackers will read the Bushveld and do their best to point guests in the right direction.
Sabi Sabi ticks all the right boxes. You cannot really ask for more.
Sabi Sabi has a worldwide reputation for delivering delicious gourmet meals to their guests with outstanding South African Chefs based as each of the four Lodges, each of whom has their own style of preparation.
Head Chefs Gift Khoza and Shadrack Sishlangu at Selati and Little Bush Camp concentrate on “home cooked South African menus”. These two local chefs believe in cooking for friends and delight in introducing each course. The emphasis is always on preparing dishes with the freshest of ingredients and unique flavours brought together in a traditional South African way.
Bush Lodge’s executive chef Wilfred Mtsali has a wealth of worldwide experience and describes his food as “Contemporary African”. New international trends blend with traditional African fare to create a comforting yet cutting edge menu. The dishes range from South African braais (BBQs) to African mezze platters. Wilfred’s trademark is cooking as much as possible freshly over the grills, capturing the freshness and barbeque taste that combine excellently with the fusion of fresh ingredients supplied daily. He is also well trained in Indian vegetarian cuisine and caters to individual needs.
The cuisine philosophy at Earth Lodge is on simply prepared and executive dishes, focusing on flavour over fuss. Each meal is carefully conceptualised taking into account the time of day, weather, dining setting and season.
Between the four lodges, there is a variety of venues for dining such as the Outdoor Kitchen at Bush Lodge where visitors can interact with the chefs while food is prepared al fresco style; the cavernous wine cellar at Earth Lodge, a unique setting with a hand-hewn wooden banquet table framed by bottles of wine to the riverbed at Little Bush Camp where cuisine is enjoyed under the canopy of the night sky to a backdrop of crickets and frogs.
On the bar side, Sabi Sabi has also introduced a range of craft gins and beers to sit alongside their rare and extensive wine list. South African gins include Inverroche, KWV Cruxland, Wilderer, Woodstock and Cape Town Dry Gin which are used to good effect in a curated cocktail list. Darling Breweries, an award-winning South African microbrewery based on the West Coast, installed safari-inspired pint pourers at the lodges. Drawing bushveld inspiration from antelope, zebra and the Secretary Bird, these “slow beers” allow connoisseurs to appreciate the light amber lagers, floral honey aromas, spicy flavours and undertones of grass.
Sabi Sabi joined forces with Stellenrust Estate in Stellenbosh in 2010 to produce a range of exceptional lodge wines whilst their wine list showcases the best of the boutique style wineries creating exceptional vintages as the lodges promote only South African wines.
Sabi Sabi’s mission is to serve as a model of how rapidly dwindling natural resources can be conserved to provide a sanctuary for fauna and flora while at the same time addressing the needs and development of neighbouring communities. As a business, they also believe that to be a true example of eco-tourism, they must link tourism with conservation and the community – the ecological needs balanced with the needs of people and their communities.
An important aspect of conservation lies in the guide/ranger training. New rangers are selected after a structured training camp and are then included into Sabi Sabi’s onsite training relating to orientation and geography of the reserve, animal and plant identification, principles of ecology and guest etiquette. In effect, rangers are environmental educators, the information and knowledge that they impart to guests transcends site boundaries nationally and internationally.
Habitat management is a very important part of the operation. Sabi Sabi is actively involved in habitat management activities with a dedicated Habitat Management Team which is operational year around. The development of a competent habitat management programme with input from qualified ecological consultants has allowed for informed decisions on the successful management of the reserve and to continually assess, review and revise the plan. Some of these tools include controlled burning on a four year cycle to encourage regrowth and to recycle nutrients; waterhole rotation to reduce grazing pressure allowing affected areas to regenerate; road maintenance entailing constructing and placing the roads in such a way that minimises water run off that causes erosion; erosion control; alien plant control; waste management – Sabi Sabi separates and recycles much of its solid waste which is burnt in a small incinerator, while plastics are returned to the supplier and west waste composted. Finally, they operate a dedicated anti-poaching unit responsible for the safe keeping of all wildlife species.
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