Sunset At Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge
We began to unwind as soon as we climbed the steps of the privately chartered Beechcraft King Air 200 destined for Sabi Sabi. As we taxied onto the runway from Bateleur’s terminal at OR Tambo International Airport we were full of anticipation for what the next four days would hold. Our hour-long flight was on-time and turbulence free and Bateleur’s team were efficient and professional.
On arrival at Sabi’s airstrip we were greeted by Sabi Sabi’s representative and our luggage was taken to the game-viewing Land Rover. The ranger made a brief introduction and explained some of the local rules to our party. On the way to Sabi Sabi’s Bush Lodge we caught our first exciting glimpses of what lay in store for our game drive later that afternoon.
Perfect for groups and family safaris
We arrived at Bush Lodge just in time for lunch and received a friendly welcome from the Lodge Manager. We gratefully freshened up with moist hand towels to wipe our hands and faces and were then introduced to the lodge staff who would be taking care of our group throughout our stay.
Our team were wonderful and were always discreetly on hand to assist with anything we needed from drinks and snacks, to swimming towels. They also acted as our waitrons during meal times. This all added to the attentive, warm and personal vibe of Sabi Bush Lodge.
Bush Lodge is the perfect camp for families and larger more casual groups. I was impressed by the recent renovations at Sabi’s Bush Lodge. The interiors are now softer, lighter and more welcoming. The stone wash on the walls and floors gives an open and airy feeling to the communal areas.
It can be hard to choose sometimes
All meals at Sabi Sabi are sumptuous feasts. Our lunch at Bush Camp was a three course buffet, starting with a delectable selection of salads, breads cheese and biscuits. I loved the variety and had great difficulty in choosing between the biltong, chicken or beef-based salads and eventually ended up building my own combination. Every ingredient was superbly fresh and crisp and I had to remind myself to leave room for the sweet-chilli, tzatziki and honey and sesame seed crusted chicken wraps which were prepared for us at our table.
Our afternoon was at leisure and I took some time exploring the lodge. At 4pm we regrouped for delicious high-tea and snacks before venturing out for our afternoon safari game drive.
Six on Safari
We had six guests per vehicle which is a comfortable size group and allows for a more personal experience. The game rangers were friendly and engaging and I was impressed with their passion and knowledge of the African bushveld. They go that extra mile to make the experience as exciting and satisfying as possible – you never arrive back at camp without seeing a multitude of large and small animals. I particularly enjoyed learning more about the scorpions, chameleons, frogs, terrapins, birds, spiders and squirrels. We returned to the lodge around eight that evening and were met again by the Lodge Manager who escorted us through to dinner.
Local legend and folklore
When you learn more about Africa you come to understand how important oral tradition is to her peoples. Storytelling is an important way of sharing information and knowledge through the generations.
At Sabi Bush Lodge, the game rangers are available to join your party for dinner in the evenings if you wish and it’s an excellent opportunity to relax and learn more about the surrounding environment, local conservation initiatives and to be regaled by tales of their personal experiences in the bushveld.
Comfort food at its best
It’s the little things that make a difference and for me so hearing the Head-Chef introducing the evening’s meal, describing the offering and ingredients in detail was a really nice touch. While South African’s are generally familiar with most of the local ingredients, the lodge is cognisant of the fact that they are hosting international guests who might not be so familiar.
Our dinner that evening was a chilled mushroom soup which featured three different mushroom varietals and the freshest salads. For the main course I decided to be daring and go with a local game dish. The Warthog Lion wrapped in bacon and served with a sweet crushed walnut sauce was an excellent choice and I thoroughly enjoyed the mix of flavours. Also on the menu was line fish of the day, some beef fillet, pasta and oxtail potjie.
I also recommend tasting the oxtail potjie. A potjie is a very traditional South African meal – a stew bursting with flavours - slow cooked in giant cast iron pots over an open fire. It makes for wonderful comfort food and pairs nicely with the Sabi Sabi Pinotage.
When it came to choosing between fresh summer fruit or another South African favourite, brandy pudding, ice cream and hot custard my sweet tooth kicked in and the choice was not a hard one!
It’s well worth waking early enough to catch the sun’s first rays as they splash across the vast canvas of great African sky. The early morning game drive is the best time to catch the local animals making their way across the savannah to the watering holes.
On returning from your game drive you’ll enjoy a sumptuous buffet breakfast with colourful fresh fruit salads, a variety of cereals and fresh fruit juices. I enjoyed a glass of sparkling wine and orange juice with a croissant with cold meats and soft cheese, followed by a three-egg designer omelette.
I could talk for days about Earth Lodge. When you drive past earth lodge you don’t really realise that it’s there as such care was taken to sculpt it out of the landscape that it is virtually camouflaged.
The camp was built from a combination of earth sand, concrete and stone and blends in perfectly with its environment. You can see that some of the interior of earth lodge has also been updated. The conference room has been converted into a lounge area and the main pool area had been improved with the addition of some day beds and offers the option of dining in the just-below-knee-high pool. That is an awesome experience.
The suites at Earth Lodge are spacious and comfortable. The en-suite bathroom leads out onto a private patio featuring your own personal splash pool and outdoor shower overlooking the hippo dam.
The best meal on Earth
We checked into Sabi’s Earth Lodge just before lunch and were encouraged to relax, get comfortable and settled in before lunch was served. This was good advice as the four-course lunch was so amazing I had to try a bit of everything on offer which left me feeling rather lazy for the day ahead.
What I particularly love about the culinary delights at Sabi Sabi is the variety of interesting mix of fusion styled flavours with traditional South African faire. I stepped outside of my comfort zone and took my taste buds for a test drive, trying the cold pineapple and coriander soup which was possibly the most refreshing soups I’ve ever tasted. Next up the biltong crusted calamari salad and the cold pumpkin, rocket, feta and fresh greens with balsamic reduction had to fight it out for first prize.
If you could only have one meal at Earth Lodge then it really should be the Moroccan Lamb, rocket and feta burger. It was a real treat of a dish – a soft lamb patty, with a fresh bite into the rocket and feta in the middle - absolute heaven!
The other guests in my party raved about the beef fillet, (which should definitely be had medium to medium rare) and the oxtail potjie.
The desserts are freshly made every day and I really enjoyed the chocolate tart with ice-cream and syrup (did I mention I have a sweet tooth?)
After a game drive in the evening you gather in the boma for dinner. The boma is softly lit with lanterns and a roaring fire and has an inviting and intimate atmosphere. As always there is an incredible variety of signature dishes available to guests and the Chef is on hand to explain the offering and ingredients. My personal favourite that evening was the Kudu loin served medium to rare and served with a Jagermeister jeu.
Earth Lodge also boasts its own well-stocked wine cellar which can be used for small meetings and conferences. Guests are able to select their wines from the cellar to enjoy with their meals.
Dietary requirements are confirmed before every meal at all of the camps and lodges and each guests needs are catered for.
Selati and Little Bush Camp
The Selati Camp is very village like, with suits positioned fairly close together in a close community setting. The camp invokes the old colonial era and the main camp is decorated throughout with some of the old train tracks, signs, licence plates and wheels, from bygone days.
Little Bush camp is a smaller more intimate camp offering six suites that are free standing and private. Each unit has a Jacuzzi on the deck overlooking the riverbed. The pool area at Little Bush is hidden away on the other side of the riverbed built into the rock face and is very private. Meals can also be served there so the guest does not have to walk all the way back to the main camp.
Dinner at little bush is set up on the dry riverbed which really adds to the African vibe. The camp has a very intimate feeling to it, very personal and almost hidden under the trees.
For those of you who can’t disconnect - Bush Lodge has ADSL Internet connectivity in the suites and wireless internet at the main camp. Earth Lodge has wireless in the suite as well as at the main camp.
The Spa at Earth Lodge
While I chose the golf course over the spa, the non-golfers in our party assured me that the spa at Earth Lodge was a truly luxurious and relaxing pampering experience. It features two treatment rooms and a private change room for guests.
Elefun Centre at Bush Lodge
This children’s centre at Bush Lodge gives the younger members of your party a wonderfully unique experience where they get to learn more about nature from the rangers, play games, go on bush walks and study animal spoor (tracks). Part of the fun is choosing your own Big 5, Ugly 5 and then their favourites 5. The centre is a great distraction when the adults need a little “time out”.
All in all a fantastic three days in the bush for me and I highly recommend Sabi Sabi as a sublime starting point to your exploration of South Africa.