Sabi Sabi Game Reserve’s Earth Lodge is not the kind of safari camp you see on TV. Luxurious but modernist, subtle not colonial it’s not even visible as you arrive through the South African bush. Once installed, settle into bush time, up early to spot the neighbours (elephants, lions, rhino and hippo all live nearby), before chilling by your own pool in the afternoon and gathering in a tree-lined outdoor space for glorious suppers each night. Three days here will feel like a year.
Arriving at Earth Lodge is like walking into a Bond villain’s lair. Low slung concrete has been banked into a hillside and covered with a mix of local river sand and straw. Each of the 13 villas is larger than most city flats and has plenty of spots to curl up with a book. The bath needs to be experienced (just trust us on this).
Sabi Sabi Game Reserve's Earth Lodge is a five star sustainable safari option
Total bush. Seriously. Each Earth Lodge villa has been designed to have its own unrestricted view. Sit by your own pool and gaze over the South African Sabi Sands reserve. If you’re lucky, the animals will come to you. Baboons like to play between the villas and elephants have been known to turn up for a drink.
Fan-bloody-tastic. You’ll be on first name terms with everyone within a day. Kind, warm and open, Earth Lodge has a family feel - good job when you’re reliant on the rangers and staff to get you back safely to your villa after dark.
Sabi Sabi's Earth Lodge makes every moment a memory
Despite the fact you’re miles into the bush, Earth Lodge goes all out to serve up five star food, from amazing pancakes for post-dawn, game drive breakfasts to inventive tasting menus. It’s also pioneering in getting London chefs out to collaborate with the local team.
An enormous piece of driftwood has been carved into a bar, but really you don’t need it. The drinks come to you wherever you are. House wine and spirits are included in the price and while Earth Lodge has an award-winning wine cellar, the bespoke South African wines are superb. (Oh and there’s free port in your room - you’re welcome).
Balance out early morning game drives with sundowners and spa treatments
Tucked away across a desert garden is the tiny spa that will ease out any knots in your neck from staring at elephants for too long. You can also have treatments out in the bush at one of the lodge’s hideaway sites.
The sustainable bit
Sabi Sabi sets the sustainable safari standard in South Africa. Earth Lodge isn’t manicured or landscaped, it was tucked into the landscape and the hotel painstakingly replaced the surrounding area as it was. There’s a unique wetland system to manage waste that uses natural reeds to filter the water and all food waste is donated to a local piggery. It also supports many local community initiatives, including financing schools and buses.
Almost as wonderful as the big five are the rangers and trackers who understand the local environment
Fancy a leopard with your G&T? Each day’s afternoon game drive ends with a sumptuous bar in the bush where you can try local gins as the sun goes down and then try and spot the elusive leopard on the way home.
Sabi Sabi’s rangers are some of the best in the business. What they don’t know, from the complex ecology of termite hills to how lions bond, isn’t worth knowing. Game drives are small and hugely respectful of the animals.
You can tick off all members of the ‘big five’ here within the 65,000 hectare Sabi Sands reserve. As well as the ‘little five’ and the ‘ugly five’ (that’s the elephant shrew, buffalo weaver, leopard tortoise, ant lion and rhino beetle and the hyena, marabou stork, wildebeest, warthog and vulture).
Where is Sabi Sabi Game Reserve?
Sabi Sabi is an hour’s drive from the tiny Skukuza airport, which is an hour’s flight from Johannesburg. It shares a border with the Kruger National Park.
Free Wifi? Yes
Dog friendly? No
Child friendly? No
South African Airways fly twice a day between Heathrow and Johannesburg and have the largest route network in South Africa. Sabi Sabi’s Earth Lodge price includes open safari vehicle safaris by day and at night to see Africa’s big game accompanied by qualified rangers and trackers, environmental awareness walking safaris, breakfast, lunch, 'boma' dinner, a house selection of beverages, WiFi and transfers from the Sabi Sabi airstrip.
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