Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve is situated in the world-renowned 65000 hectare Sabi Sand Wildtuin in the South-Western section of the Kruger National Park.
It is a wildlife oasis, where you can observe at close quarters the age-old natural relationship between predator and prey. It is 500km from Johannesburg, an easy five-hour drive on National Roads and there are flights available with transfers to Earth Lodge.
Animal lovers have been venturing to the Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve since 1979.
Situated in the world-renowned 65,000-hectare Sabi Sand Wildtuin in the south-western section of the Kruger National Park, it is considered a wildlife oasis.
As well as the big five, you may see cheetahs, wild dogs plus hundreds of species of birds, reptiles, insects and plants.
South Africa boasts one of the world’s richest biodiversity regions and Sabi Sabi, located in the Sabi River Valley, features open areas, woodlands, sloping hills, rivers and pans.
The diverse habitats make for exceptional game viewing, unveiling amazing sightings of animals feeding, hunting, mating and nursing.
Bird-lovers are also in for spectacular spotting, with more than 300 species recorded in the reserve including the rare bat hawk.
Rooms and interiors
Earth Lodge, is the most futuristic of four five-star lodges in Sabi Sabi that each follow a theme of “yesterday, today and tomorrow”.
We are greeted with warm towels and a cool drink as soon as we arrive.
We then follow a hidden corridor and enter the lodge through massive wooden doors. Inside the architectural masterpiece, it is a toss-up between the panorama of bushveld or the decor that demands the most attention.
The sanctuary pays homage to the environment and is well-deserving of the swag of awards that have come its way.
Built into the slope of the ground, the 13 luxury-suite lodge, is stunning.
Each of the suites feature individually designed furniture, private plunge pool, en-suite glass fronted bathroom and egg shaped bath as well as an indoor and outdoor shower. The natural wooden sculptures by renowned South African artist Geoffrey Armstrong are eclectic.
Textured walls made from sand and grass entice you to touch the surface while furniture crafted from timber reclaimed after the floods of 2000 or uprooted by elephants, leave you in admiration of such artistic talent.
Twigs and branches fashioned into intricate rustic chandeliers adorn the ceilings and all decor from the leather lounges to the artwork reflect the colours of this part of the world.
Chic touches abound with luxurious metallic shades of gold, copper, silver, platinum and bronze, taking its cue from South Africa’s vast mineral wealth.
Earth Lodge’s much talked-about Amber Presidential Suite has a magnificent tree sculpture by renowned South African artist Geoffrey Armstrong that takes centre stage above the bed. Movie stars and A-listers including Brad and Angelina and Paris Hilton have fallen asleep.
It also has a large private pool and a never ending view across the bushveld.
Breakfast and lunch are served in the indoor/outdoor dining area overlooking a waterhole frequented by animals, so watch and listen as you never know what animal may drop by.
The outdoor boma or barbecue area has walls sculpted from tree roots that have been piled up piece by piece. It captures the drama of the African night and evokes the power of the wilderness.
As each gourmet course prepared by renowned chefs is delivered, you become more attuned to the incredible power of the African night and the sounds of the dark wilderness.
After dinner a ranger escorts guests back to their underground havens in case of an unwanted up-close-and-personal encounter with wild animals.
A popular haunt is the unique day bar, where high teas and cocktails are served.
White muslin-enclosed day beds entice you to relax or you can dangle your feet in ankle-deep water while sitting at stone-topped tables inside the shallow pool.
There’s an underground wine cellar with a collection of over 6000 bottles of rare wines.
The gym facilities at Earth Lodge offer cardio equipment in a safe and air conditioned environment while still capturing the beautiful views out towards the bush.
Each suite has its own plunge pool.
The Amani Spa at Earth Lodge offers holistic body, skin and beauty rituals, treatments and massages.
Each morning and evening guests depart into the wilderness, either by open Land Rover or on foot for a walking safari, accompanied by an armed and knowledgeable Game Ranger and Shangaan Tracker.
Our South African guide Kurt tells us it’s not all about ticking off the big five, but admits he can’t even believe our luck today. He encourages us to sit and watch, observe, smell and listen.
“Soak up this experience and look for the little animals not just the big ones,” he says, pointing to a brightly coloured spider clinging to a silvery web suspended between bushes.
Many of the animals come so close to our vehicle that you can see every mark on their weathered or furry skin.
You feel in safe hands, even when lions wander past and yawn, showing a fine set of teeth, and elephants flap their ears as a warning.
Kurt is armed, just in case, but says he’s never had to pull the trigger.
Safety of guests is paramount and we are warned never to stand up, which is the instinctive thing to do as you see these animals so close.
If situations look a little dangerous the vehicle is backed up and we are soon on our way.
It is an early start for a safari drive and you are on the road by 5.30am when the animals abound. The late afternoon drive includes a welcome “safari sundowner” on a hilltop with a toast to the animals you have seen.
What I loved
Nothing prepares you for the sheer thrill of seeing all the African animals in their natural habitat.
A lion and her cubs are spotted roadside, an elephant with ears flapping does a mock charge at us, a leopard is dining on an unlucky impala, buffalo are spotted grazing happily and several rhinos are munching away in the bush.
I have see the big five — a lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and Cape buffalo — all within two hours of arriving.
On our departure we pass elephants munching away, giraffes reaching for leaves on lofty tree tops and zebras running around.
I stop and listen to the sounds of the African bush and smell the scents. Warned before I came, that these animals and the country soon gets under your skin, I now know what they mean.
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