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.
Words by Jaz Grewal.