The Safari of a Lifetime at Sabi Sabi

 

There are few places quite as magnificent as Sabi Sabi, taking an enviable spot against the ever-enchanting backdrop of Kruger National Park, the family-owned reserve, has been a bucket-list-must for over 40 years.

Spread across four equally charming lodges, each has been thoughtfully designed to pay homage to the character of Africa’s rich history with influences echoed throughout. It is particularly noteworthy that Sabi Sabi’s lodges are unfenced, allowing its wildlife and game to roam freely – think waking up to an elephant outside the back door kind of vibe – and the scene is set.

The magic of the reserve is conveyed best through its 5000-hectare-strong Bushveld, to which guests staying at the lodges enjoy exclusive access. Cruised round in a comfortable open-top 4×4, you’d be forgiven as a first-timer to be somewhat alarmed at how close the experienced guides and rangers here are willing to venture to the animals.

But as you descend from the quaint Skukuza airport and start to catch glimpses of the elusive Big Five en route to your abode for the days to come, you suddenly see how these magical creatures are at ease and what an enjoyable experience you are in for.

The endearing personalities of the rangers, their talented Shangaan trackers, and the prospect of seeing out-of-this-world animals in their natural habitat motivate you to wake up at the crack of dawn (failing that, a daily 5.30 am wake-up call does the trick). In doing so, you’ll be rewarded with catching sights that are like no other, with surprises along the way as the guides pick spots for a mid-morning snack or evening aperitif along the way.

The animals are free to peruse the reserve as they please, so you can expect to be in with a glimpse of lions, leopards, black rhinos, elephants and even buffalos. Sabi Sabi’s game is best known for the prime scenes and dramatic moments these free animals live, and spectators are given a prime view of everything from mothers teaching their cubs to hunt for prey to herds gathering to feed, and with the exclusivity of the reserve, you can enjoy such moments without being surrounded by scores of cars looking in on the action too.

 

As well as its awe-inspiring safaris both day and night, Sabi Sabi is also the ultimate retreat for some downtime in one of its four lodges, all offering their own unique character centred around Sabi Sabi’s philosophy of yesterday, today and tomorrow.

With the lodges ranging in size from the family-friendly Bush Lodge spanning 25 suites to more intimate affairs across Selati Camp, Earth Lodge and the smaller Little Bush Camp, each has a distinct flair and offers unrivalled service alongside fantastic local food and South African wines.

Perhaps the most architecturally pleasing of the lodges, Earth Lodge is cleverly designed as a sculpted slope of the earth. You transcend into this hidden eco-escape of 13 exquisitely designed suites to enter a striking view of a wilderness-come-art-piece of landscape that sits as a central focus connecting the suites to the restaurant and bar of the property.

Take the chance to unwind in surroundings that elevate the nature surrounding the lodge with a dip in your private pool which forms part of your outdoor lounge, or try your hand at painting with the in-room art materials.

Earth Lodge is also home to Amani Spa – an intimate spa perfect for couples’ treatments in a dedicated massage room for two. You can also be sure to experience some of the finest gastronomy Kruger has to offer with a daily changing menu curated by their in-house chefs and ranging from local game to fish and seasonal specials; all served a la carte alongside a selection of South African wines, many of which are from the lodge’s impressive wine cellar.

 

For something a little more reminiscent of the past, be sure to spend a few nights over at Selati Camp, basking in age-old influence; the colonial feel of Selati is an emanation of the legendary steam trains of the 1900s.

Awash with nostalgic antiques and quirky adornments all referencing the glamour of South African heritage, Selati has just 7 lodges, each named after a bygone railway station. Subtly lit by cosy shunters’ lanterns, the whole aura of Selati is one of a voyage which compliments the discovery of safari in ideal matrimony.

The suites are an explorer’s paradise, continuing the theme of the old train tracks. The grandeur of the décor conveys a journey into an era of historical elegance, which is channelled across the 7 suites. Think of it as the perfect home away from home in a relaxed setting and a time to appreciate the unspoilt scenery that overlooks the lodge.

Attracting both those looking to tick off their first African adventure or regular trekkers and avid safari-goers, the magic and adrenaline of Sabi Sabi make for a sojourn that is uniquely fulfilling in so many ways.

A stay at Sabi Sabi starts from ZAR 18,600 (Around £835) per person per night based on sharing and is fully inclusive of both day and night safaris, meals and a selection of beverages and South African wines.

www.sabisabi.com

Words by Jaz Grewal.

 

Royal Malewane – A thrill for All our Senses

Imagine waking up in the middle of an exotic paradise, surrounded by the majestic animals. Berkeley Bespoke was welcomed to Royal Malewane – a luxury safari lodge in South Africa’s Greater Kruger National Park that exudes the romance and beauty of a bygone age while offering every modern comfort. A truly magical experience meeting the Big Five, indulging in sensual treatments at their tranquil Waters of Royal Malewane Bush Spa and being surprised by the chefs at the nightly feasts under the African stars.

The Kruger National Park is the largest game reserve in South Africa and one of the World’s biggest wildlife sanctuaries. It is located in the Mpumulanga Province and is about a 6-hour drive from Johannesburg. Approximately the same size as Israel or Wales, it covers some 19,485 square kilometres offering a rich diversity of ecosystems that support over 145 mammal species including the Big 5 and over 500 bird species. The untamed environment stirs deep emotions. We have experienced meaningful and life-changing encounters with wildlife – being 2 metres away from 15 sleeping Lions! Adrenalin pumping adventure!

Wake up before sunrise and experience the ‘Lowveld’ – one of the most spectacular and dramatic regions in South Africa. The ‘Panorama Route’ includes incredible geographic sites such as God’s Window, The Three Rondawels, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, Blyde River Canyon and Mac Mac Falls. Pilgrim’s Rest offers a fascinating window into the past and captures the spirit of a bygone era and its people in their quest to discover gold. The ‘Big 5’ phrase was coined by hunters back in the day. It referred to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot and the degree of danger involved. The term is still used today but without the hunting connotations.

On most private safaris in Southern Africa, we have been guided on specialised Land Rovers by a ranger who drives the vehicle and by a tracker who sits on an especially precarious seat at the front of the bonnet. The tracker’s job is to find elusive wildlife and to notice and interpret nature’s subtle clues through acutely honed senses.

There is no bond stronger than the indelible and intuitive connection between a ranger and a tracker. Wild adventures, unique encounters and proud achievements punctuate their derring-do filled days. Followed by a cuisine that is complemented by a natural canvas to savour as much as the delicate flavours with the dining area overlooking the Malewane River where a variety of curious creatures great and small venture to slake their thirst. The Bush Tent at Royal Malewane provides a feast in the heart of the African wilderness. A truly remarkable and romantic experience with glowing lanterns casting a gentle light among the brightly burning braziers.

Introducing the Farmstead at Royal Malewane

A Brand New – Farmstead is a beautiful new lodge at Royal Malewane just a 12-minute drive south of the existing lodge. The land is elevated offering dramatic views over the canopies of the Greater Kruger National Park while the lodge itself surrounds a watering hole popular with the abundant wildlife. The Farmstead at Royal Malewane consists of the main lodge area, three Luxury Farm Suites, and The Farmhouse. The Luxury Farm Suites and The Farmhouse are either sides of a central lodge area where guests will be able to enjoy breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner in the elegant and comfortable spaces. After dinner guests can relax around the fire pit on the vast deck and reflect on the day’s adventures. There is a double spa treatment room offering a variety of indulgent treatments as well as a gym.

Following last year’s refurbishment of the existing lodge at Royal Malewane, The Farmstead offers something unique in terms of luxury safari accommodation in stark contrast to the ultra-modern style in vogue. In the main lodge area, a vintage North African banking kiosk is repurposed as a serving hatch for the delicious cuisine of Executive Chef Brandon Souris.

The collection of contemporary African Art enhances The Royal Portfolio’s already extensive private collection with notable pieces by Kudzanai Chiurai and James Jana among other works from the AVA Gallery and Smith Studio. In keeping with the community involvement of The Farmstead, there are a number of pieces from Lalela.

There are three Luxury Farm Suites. Each has a spacious bedroom and an en-suite bathroom with a bath and a shower as well as an outdoor shower. There are large front and back verandahs as well as a beautiful deck and a private pool overlooking the bush where inquisitive wildlife might pay a little visit.

The Farmhouse is a three and a half bedroom private villa which is ideal for families or a group of friends. Similar to Africa House and the Royal Suites, The Farmhouse has its own private services including a chef, housekeeper and butler. Guests will have their own private safari vehicle with a dedicated Ranger and Tracker ensuring the ultimate in luxury. There are three main bedrooms as well as a smaller children’s room. There is a magnificent deck with a large swimming pool flowing out into the bush. The total area of The Farmhouse is 636 square metres (6845 square feet) including the vast verandahs and deck. Children of all ages are welcome in The Farmhouse.

The Farmstead is offered as four individual units but will be ideal for the exclusive use of up to 14 guests. Rates are all inclusive.

In keeping with The Royal Portfolio’s Purpose and Values, The Farmstead is part of a broader project to uplift local communities.

Support for the community and conservation of the environment are inextricably linked. The local community needs to realise the financial gains of tourism in order to see the value in protecting wildlife and the environment. The Farmstead land is leased from the local community. Not only will The Royal Portfolio employ and develop members of the community, but at the end of that long lease both the land and the asset will revert to the community with the option to continue working with The Royal Portfolio in perpetuity.

Singita Lebombo Lodge is a celebration of cutting-edge experiences in Africa

Our desire to explore the World has never been so inquisitive. Our journey to Singita Lebombo Lodge was an incredible feeling of being surrounded by picturesque nature, with a renewed sense of freedom and piqued sense of curiosity – a truly life-changing adventure. The modern Lodge overlooks one of the most dramatic landscapes in the Private Singita Lebombo Concession within a remote part of the Greater Kruger region of South Africa, on the border of wild Mozambique.

A tranquil sanctuary – Lebombo concession is an ecological grant developed by Singita in a special, remote part of northern Kruger undertaking a mission in the conservation of wildlife. It is the only reserve in all of Greater Kruger wilderness area to switch over to solar energy. With the structure in place, 1188 photovoltaic solar panels were installed, connected to state-of-the-art batteries and inverters situated close to lodge. Two new diesel generators provide back-up power for cloudy days and when the battery systems run low. With solar energy providing clean carbon-free power electricity consumption at the concession will be halved. A similar solar installation is also ensuring a lighter footprint for the Singita staff village.

We had the pleasure to experience a private villa – the most exciting extension of the lodge; set apart from the main lodge, it features two 2-bedroom suites, each with a private pool. Bold and contemporary, sculptural and organic, the light-filled, ordered structures of the lodge seem almost dropped into the untamed terrain of Singita’s privately-leased concession. Other highlights of the lodge include a roof terrace and wine studio (a multi-level retreat which boasts a library, multi-media room, wine studio and rooftop viewing area). 

Since our previous Space Issue of Berkeley Bespoke Magazine, we always on a watch for fascinating Stargazing experiences. Man has had a love affair with the nighttime sky for centuries and with very little pollution and no city lights to detract for the stars, the view of the heavens at Singita Lebombo Lodge will be crystal clear.

Daily game drives with professional guides and trackers provide the perfect opportunity to get up close to Africa’s incredible animals, while evening drives reveal the elusive magic of nocturnal Africa. During our stay at Singita Lebombo Lodge, we were fortuitous to spot a great variety of wildlife, including leopard, famously large prides of lion, white rhino, elephant and all the rare habitats of our planet.

Another incredible addition – is a camera kit, that is suited to wildlife photography and available for rent during your stay at both Singita Lebombo and Sweni Lodges. The equipment is available and suitable for all levels of photographers. Both lodges also offer a Photographic Library, complete with one-on-one post-production advice from your guide.

Design your own Adventure in South Africa

Mikey Reece and Andrew Bezhenar