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Issue 7
Africa Travel> Issue 7
UPDATED: September 16, 2014
Back to the Future
By Jo Kromberg

A lucky sighting of the ever elusive leopard – one of Afroca's famous Big 5 (DUNCAN LAWSON)

It is the middle of winter – a winter more harsh and forbidding than we have experienced in living memory in South Africa – but already the bleak cold of Johannesburg seems like a far off land when the 27 degree heat of Sabi Sabi wraps itself around us after the hour-long flight. "Welcome!" says Darren, our game ranger, with a beaming smile. "The trip to the lodge will take at most an hour, depending on the game we see along the way." My photographer and I are on the safari vehicle with a young mother and her daughter of, we estimate, about ten years old. At the sight of a huge elephant bull just next to the road, the child excitedly gesticulates and both mother and daughter guilelessly discuss the elephant in what we presume to be Russian.

The child's excitement is contagious and makes me feel again vicariously, like the child I was when I encountered my very first elephant in the African bush, so many years ago. 

Wildlife oasis

Since 1979, Sabi Sabi has hosted visitors from all over the world. Situated in the world-renowned 6,5000 hectare Sabi Sand "Wildtuin" in the South-Western section of the Kruger National Park, it is a veritable wildlife oasis.

Darren tells us that this diverse habitat is home to spectacular wildlife including the Big 5 - lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant - as well as cheetah, wild dog and some 200 other animal species indigenous to the area, including more than 300 bird species.

Our home for the next two days is one of four camps within the Reserve, Bush Lodge. Manager and host Lauren Wyndham greets us with the knowing smile of someone who has seen many weary and jaded eyes light up at the sight of the spectacular yet charming lodge. After a late lunch we collapse in our sanctuary, which they call suites.

Each of the 25 spacious, air-conditioned thatched suites is big enough to accommodate children as well. Despite being exhausted, we cannot resist the game drive later. Darren is one of the most charismatic, knowledgeable and witty rangers I have come across. He has a way of bonding a group of strangers in mirth in no time. We get off the vehicle and walk a while to quietly peruse a giraffe up close – something hardly ever allowed and very special. We see various creatures great and small and after dark on the way back, Darren stops and points us to the sky. He proceeds to tell us the tale of the Orion and Scorpio constellations and how they were doomed by the ancient gods to chase each other for all eternity across the universe – this is why they are never observed in the night skies at the same time.

After an epicurean lantern-lit dinner, we sit silently outside on the patio, listening to the quintessential bush sounds – the bone-chilling laughter of hyena, the cries of a jackal far away and the intermittent deep grumble of a feasting lioness.

The next morning we are treated to a tour of the EleFun Centre, a fully-fledged children's facility within the lodge.

Then its time travel time.

On safari at Sabi (DUNCAN LAWSON)

Yesterday, today and tomorrow

The Sabi Sabi philosophy of 'yesterday, today and tomorrow' stems from over 100 years of safari experience; a history richly woven into the atmosphere of each of its four uniquely individual safari lodges -Selati Camp, Bush Lodge, Little Bush Camp and Earth Lodge.

Selati Camp is located under ancient trees and takes you back to a decadent, luxurious colonial era, filled with decorative memorabilia of great white hunters and gin and tonic sunsets. The entire camp seems drenched in palpable and pervasive serenity. The Presidential Suite has a 360-degree view of the bush outside and if you don't like the sound of your own voice, don't speak while in the en-suite bathroom. The echoes will haunt you...

Nestling in the shade of indigenous riverine trees on the banks of the Msuthlu River lies our next destination, Little Bush Camp, offering luxury accommodation for family, friends, or small groups.

The last of the Lodges we visit represents "tomorrow" – Earth Lodge.

On arrival a hidden corridor leads you to an unexpected entrance which opens onto a panorama of uninterrupted bushveld. Home to 13 ultra-luxurious suites including the Amber Presidential Suite, the lodge is a masterpiece of artistry and innovation. Each of the suites at this luxury lodge features individually designed furniture, private plunge pool, en-suite glass fronted bathroom, indoor and outdoor shower and butler services. And it comes at a price...

After feasting on another barbeque buffet that evening, we retire early but I can't sleep. I keep thinking of having to go back home to a sprawling city, grey masses of people and insidious pollution. But at least I will always have this place.... this place which made my soul breath again... 


For further information go to http://www.sabisabi.com/ or contact Sabi Sabi head office:

Phone: +27 11 447-7172Fax: +27 11 442-0728E-mail: res@sabisabi.com

Getting there:

Flights: South African Airways introduced direct flights between Beijing and Johannesburg in 2012. Go to http://www.flysaa.com/za/en/flyingSAA/News/Saa-introduces-non-stop-flights-to-beijing-china.html.

Contact Sabi Sabi at the address above and they will be happy to make travel arrangements for you from Johannesburg.

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