If you dream of seeing the Big Five at least once in your lifetime without all the crowds, then the only place you’ll need to visit is the Sabi Sands Game Reserve in South Africa where game sightings are so common they’re relatively guaranteed in an intimate setting. It is one of the few places in Africa where you have the chance to see the Big Five within 2 to 3 safari days. The Sabi Sabi private game reserve is situated in Sabi Sands and includes the Earth Lodge, Selati Camp, Little Bush Lodge, and the Bush Lodge which is a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World.
Sabi Sands is a private wildlife reserve where only permitted rangers are allowed to drive and tourists are not allowed to drive their own vehicles. This will give you the opportunity to be driven so close to the wildlife that no binoculars will be needed for viewing. While you enjoy your game drives at Sabi Sands you will soon forget about the outside world since you will rarely come across another vehicle with tourists on your game dives.
When not on game drives, the Sabi Sands Bush Bush Lodge has been creatively designed to allow ample space to play, relax, unwind and experience the tranquility of the nature around you. The exquisitely furnished lounge, atrium, bar and deck area are perfect places to read a book, play a game, sketch an animal, have a friendly chat or to be on the lookout for animals visiting the waterhole. The lodge décor has been collected from all over the African continent that provides a vibrant and eclectic mix of safari style throughout.
For privacy and intimacy the lodge only has 25 suits, including 2 luxury villas and the Mandleve Deluxe Suite. Each suite has two outdoor patios, a bedroom, living room, and large bathroom. The suites are so spacious it feels as if you never left home and provides ample space for the entire family.
We truly relished every one of the seven daily meals that were served either in the open buffet style dining area, on the viewing deck or during the game drives outside in the bush. Sabi Sabi has a world-wide reputation for serving mouth-watering gourmet meals and this is unquestionably true!
Executive Chef Wilfred Mtshali runs a truly exquisite and creative kitchen which provides delicious and beautifully prepared food throughout the day. He not only gives each guest an unforgettable African dining experience when visiting but also gives back to the local community through his yearlong culinary teaching program to train a new generation of chefs. While managing a 45-person kitchen team that prepares all the meals for the guests and employees Wilfred has also found time to write three cookbooks so you can recreate the memories back in your own kitchen.
Sabi’s once-in-a-lifetime experiences include exhiliarating early morning and evening safaris with close up animal encounters and bush walks with trained trackers and rangers.
Our ranger Kyle and tracker Crimson share their knoweldge and love for Africa with us during our adventurous private game drives. They scan the ground and bush relentlessly with eagle eyes and find an incredibly well hidden lion pride. It is unbelievable how well an elephant herd can hide behind a spindly bush!
We learned so much about the native wildlife and had so much fun during our game drives that the time flies by and before you know it it is time for the next meal.
A bush walk is another very exciting undertaking and highly recommended after breakfast while the kids are in the EleFun Center. You will learn a lot about the vegetation and how to behave when you are walking instead of driving in the bush. Exploring the bush on foot is certainly a very different hike than any other hike you have been on.
The Sabi Sand Reserve cares about the communities and runs several community projects such as education and care centers, teach the teachers programs, and a sports program. Guests of the lodge can partake in a visit to a local village and learn about the day to day life of the locals.
The Hotel has a small boutique, two outdoor pools, a gym, and the Armani Spa that offers the ultimate African Spa experience. Unfortunately, our time was too short to experience the spa ourselves (reason # 99 to come back). The Kids Bush Babies Treatment menu lists fun relaxing offerings such as the Elephant Foot Print Massage, the Busy Bee, or the Paw Mani/Pedi.
EleFun Center (age 4-12)
The EleFun Center is a full-fledged indoor and outdoor child facility designed by childcare professionals who envisioned creating a space that is fun, safe and educational. The Center is filled with age appropriate learning opportunities developed and supervised by qualified staff and includes fascinating bush craft subjects such as animals, bugs, birds, tracking, map-reading, and arts.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? So, we tested it. At this point I have to let you in on a little secret. My daughter Anika (6) does not like child centers, no matter where we go and how wonderful the hotel is. She does not like them, period. Therefore, I had to inform her that she is my assistant and I need her help writing this article. Needless to say, she accepted her duty and I was allowed to drop her off. Two hours later I picked up a beaming, smiling happy girl that was almost upset that I came so early! She absolutely loved the ELeFun Center. She could not stop talking about the amazing outdoor play structure with a zip line, the obstacle course where kids can try to beat the course record, the animal craft she made and that she will leave her handprint behind in Africa. She was also fascinated by the fact that she met local children, Louis and Sophia, who shared stories with her about living in Africa. I was told that the lodge employees’ kids go to school at the lodge and use the EleFun Center for their breaks to interact with the visiting children so they all learn from each other. Talking about raising global citizens!
The center is open twice a day after the morning game drive and breakfast and before the afternoon game drive letting the kids burn some energy after/before the game drives. You can also ask for a trained babysitter, if you wish.
Flight to Skukuza Airport (inside Krueger National Park), from there private one-hour transfer to the Bush Lodge. You can also drive yourself with a rental car.
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Nicky Schick is a certified family travel consultant and writer. On the go and in the know with first-hand experience!