Surreptitiously molded into an incline in the bush, Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge in South Africa’s Sabi Sand emerges like a beacon of artistry. This sophisticated modern marvel is home to 12 ultra-luxurious suites, and I cannot contain my elation to spend three nights at this haven of opulence.
I quietly wonder what a leopard smells like. This is not some capricious thought – right in front of our game drive vehicle, a stunning male leopard is sitting in the middle of the road, rubbing his cheeks in dung. “Why is he doing that?” I ask ranger Jonas. “This is to mask his scent,” he explains while tracker Jack nods in agreement. “It makes him less noticeable to other predators and prey.” We follow him through the thick vegetation where he momentarily stops to survey his surroundings and eventually settles on the side of a termite mound for his morning nap.
After a visit to Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge in 2018 with my family, I could see that the blueprint for the Sabi Sabi lodges was that of being immersed not only in nature but of nurture, fueled by their ethos of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Which made the decision to experience the magnificence of Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge straightforward, especially following a complete luxury suite refurbishment in 2019.
South African design firm Dakota Designs was tasked to breathe new life into the suites, while seamlessly blending the architectural masterpiece into the surrounding environment with the use of skillfully selected materials and textures that are in total harmony with nature. As I enter my suite, I am astounded by the eclectic mix of furnishings and finishes – a bespoke slate drinks cupboard with a beautiful exterior and interior, an arrangement of kudu horns in a glass vase, a leather headboard capped with a flight of handcrafted metal birds and a closet with weathered copper rails to hang your clothing.
The bathroom is elegance personified – think cool smooth marble behind the double vanities, solid Kiaat timber vanities, polished stone basins, a gorgeous soaking tub, and a shower with a view of the bushveld. A splendid divergence is the rough earth-like texture of the walls and floors.
Sliding doors open onto a private veranda, with oversized couches, a handmade solid Zambezi hardwood pod-shaped coffee table, and a leather hanging sling chair. Framing this splendiferous scene is a full-length pool, a sundeck, and an outside shower. The perfect secluded spot for your mid-morning beverage or pre-game drive aperitif while focusing your eyes on spotting passing wildlife, which could be anything from impalas, waterbuck, elephants, or hyena.
Meals are enjoyed in the main dining area where restaurant manager Tshwarelo’s friendly demeanor enhances the hearty atmosphere, and Sweetness adds the culminating joie de vivre. For lunch, diners can also choose to sit with their feet in the water at the Day Bar, and for dinner, options are outside under a blanket of stars, in the outdoor boma, in a secluded library, in the art gallery, in the meditation garden or in an underground wine cellar.
Head chef Mercy and chef Rory are at hand to explain dinner menus to guests, and the cuisine is out of this world. The freshest ingredients ensure the most delicious food and after enjoying the most delectable seafood risotto, kudu loin with beetroot purée, coupled with potato fondant & red wine jus, beef fillet with herb parmesan mash, baby onion & broccoli jus, I can testify that the word ‘diet’ should not be part of your vocabulary. Do not stress though – for the figure-watchers, there is an Earth Gym.
The Amani Spa offers an extensive range of treatments, and if you are in any way in need of additional pampering, I can highly recommend a visit to this tranquil space. Spa manager Joanne’s hands worked their magic with a 30-minute head, neck, and shoulder massage. Before long, I am in dreamland and relieved of any stress for the rest of the day.
Situated in the private Sabie Game Reserve, part of your stay at Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge includes twice-daily game drives. With no fences between the reserve and Kruger National Park, this is a game viewers paradise. I tick the Big Five off during my stay, but by far the most memorable sightings are of four different leopards – a female leopard and her 8-month-old cub in the late afternoon, a male leopard taking a walk on the eastern part of the reserve and stumbling upon an elderly male leopard in the dry riverbed close to Earth Lodge where he proceeds to drink from a nearby water source.
The most exciting encounter was finding a lion pride with the combined expertise of Jonas and Jack having seen tiny footprints in the sand. How delightful to come across three female lionesses one morning, brandishing their new litter of seven cubs. What strikes me are the dynamics between mothers and cubs – frayed nerves and snarls when all seven cubs descend on one lioness to try to nurse while the other one attempts to sleep.
As Jonas and Jack so aptly put it – ‘all good things come to an end’, and on my last day, I make an effort to pause and reflect on this once-in-a-lifetime stay, with a promise of returning with my family one day. The journey to the iconic Skukuza Airport is interrupted by a number of stops as we’re exiting through the reserve and a myriad of photo-worthy animals seem to want to bid us adieu. With Airlink’s exclusive service to Skukuza Airport, it has never been easier to fly into the heart of Kruger National Park, and being transferred to and from the lodge in an open vehicle, your game drive starts almost immediately.
Upon arrival at the airport, the Airlink aircraft is waiting on the tarmac to fly me to OR Tambo International Airport. From Johannesburg, I will be connecting on Airlink to Cape Town International Airport in under two hours, where the friendly on-board service makes me fully appreciate being able to experience the Freedom of the African Sky.
** Views expressed are the author’s own.
Airlink – How to Get There Airlink is a privately-owned regional airline offering the widest network and choice of flights in Southern Africa. We operate independently under our own 4Z flight code, offering more freedom, more choices, and more travel opportunities. Experience More – https://www.flyairlink.com/profile/airlink-profile
Airlink’s on-time performance is consistently better than 95% and this is a clear indication of our determination and commitment to remain synonymous with customer centricity, punctuality, service excellence, and reliability.
Travelers can also enjoy the benefit of our intra-continental style business class service on select routes on the magnificent Embraer E-190 / E-170. Discover More – https://www.flyairlink.com/profile/airlink-profile#businessclass
Route Specific Information: Direct scheduled flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg to Iconic Skukuza Airport, Kruger National Park. Destination – https://www.flyairlink.com/destinations/flights-to-skukuza
Book direct on www.flyairlink.com and download the new FlyAirlink app to plan, book and manage your flights on your smartphone or contact your travel agent.