By the time we arrived at the place in the bush where local rangers had seen the wild dogs, believed by some experts to be highly efficient hunters with a success rate of 80 percent, they had caught a large antelope and consumed almost the entire carcass. They were so full (it was a small pack) they walked away without finishing their meal. Although we missed the feeding arriving when we did allowed us to spend time with the pack following the meal when they were relaxing by the side of the road with their bellies full. We spent a good while parked on the edge of the gravel bush road with three other vehicles, enjoying quality time with the pack; observing the dogs including the two alphas as well as interaction between the dogs, and listening to the distinctive sounds they made.
On another game drive we encountered a lion family with cubs. We followed them for a few minutes until the bush became so thick we thought we had lost them. Our intrepid ranger and tracker team persevered, parking the open vehicle on the edge of a dry river bed the lions had chosen for an afternoon nap. The adults settled in almost instantly but the cubs lasted longer awake, climbing on top of their father and playing while we watched enthralled.
At Dulini, named for an aardvark burrow believed to have existed on the property at its inception, we stayed in a spacious and well air conditioned stand alone room on the bank of the Mabraak River, a non perennial river. Our Suite had a spacious bathroom with a bush view, a separate living area, an outdoor terrace and our own plunge pool facing the river bed.
During our stay we enjoyed tasty meals, went for a swim in our private pool and the full size swimming pool and visited the lodge’s small gift shop. We watched a surprise staff singing and dancing performance following an evening game drive. I took advantage of one of the massages on offer and checked our messages from home on the complimentary WiFi in the main area of the lodge.
I appreciated the lodge facilities, pretty riverside setting and luxury oriented amenities. What I will remember best as time passes will be the extraordinary game viewing with extended wild dog and lion sightings. That after all is the main reason I love game viewing.
Class Of Accommodation Luxury safari tented camp
Connectivity There was complimentary WiFi internet access via satellite in the main area. It was very slow and we only managed to download and reply to a handful of messages. Just before leaving we found out there was a faster data cable connection in the gift shop that could be made available to guests.
Handicapped Access The hotel had welcomed handicapped guests in the past.
Length Of Stay Two
Location In the Dulini Reserve in the western part of the Sabi Sand Reserve and adjacent to Kruger National Park.
Lodge Manager Leisha Parsons
Managed &Beyond (formerly CCA)
Owned Stephen Saad
Pets Allowed No
Size There were six spacious rooms at the lodge which employed 36 staff and was situated in a 856-hectare reserve. The property had traversing rights to 10,000 hectares.
Year Opened-Renovated The lodge was established in the late 1990s, In 2003, it was purchased by the current owner who conducted the most recent renovation that year. At that time, pools were added to the suites and the common areas were rebuilt with luxury in mind. When &Beyond took over management in 2006 the property underwent a soft refurbishing.
To the left side there was a gift shop neighboring a small wine cellar. The public restrooms were on the other side of the gift shop. Further along the same side of the building there were several comfy armchairs with foot stools in a covered terrace and one wood table with two chairs. Behind the chairs, inside, there was a small library and sitting area with two sections each with a sofa and two armchairs centered around a coffee table. It looked like a cozy area to sit in the winter. In the center of the back stone wall there was a fireplace.
Past this section to the left was the boma, an enclosed outdoor area where meals were sometimes served at night. To one side of the deck there was a hanging bridge where guests could see both sides of the river bed area. Although the bridge shook a lot, especially if other people were crossing at the same time, it was worth traversing if only to see the property from the opposite river bank. To the right of the covered area where we had breakfast there was a tall termite mound with a water feature which we passed on the way to our suites.
Although there were signs of weathering like chipped paint, stained sink in the bathroom, stained cloth stool next to the bathtub, and a worn hanging bridge everything was in working order and clean.
From the bed our north facing room had a lovely view of its own infinity plunge pool, deck and bush. There were hardly any insects inside the 95 square meter large room (including the terrace) which was fumigated once per month. The management strives to balance natural measures, a local manager explained, saying that many guests were comfortable encountering predators on drives but intolerant of insects within their rooms.
Suite 6 was about 40 feet away and visible from our deck. A reed screen provided privacy on the deck. Inside there was a cozy sitting area facing the outdoor deck, the river bed and the bush beyond. It was furnished with a plush comfy love seat, a rectangular wood coffee table with a platter (with decanted sherry in a glass bottle and two small glasses), a side wood table, a shiny khaki armchair and a wicker cushioned armchair. There were two bicolor pool towels atop a wicker table set against the side stone wall. To the right of the wicker table, in the corner and against the same wall, there was a mini bar. The top held varied beverages like red wine, J & B whiskey while the bottom housed a mini refrigerator filled with cold beverages including sodas and beer. A set of matching lamps hung from the ceiling and walls. The right wall was stone with an air conditioner (there was another air conditioner above the bed) and two small framed prints. A rectangular red and black carpet in the sitting area covered khaki colored polished concrete floors. The roof of the entire building was of thatch, making the ceiling extra tall. Thick beige curtains covered three glass and wood areas with outdoor views (there were similar curtains in the bedroom).
In the middle and back of the room there were double sliding screens and sliding glass doors leading on to the partly covered deck area. Near the entrance of the room, the deck had two wood armchairs with cushions facing each other across a square wood table with a view to the dry riverbed. To the right, where the deck ended, a reed screen obscured the view of our neighbor’s room. To the left the deck, wider and roofless, was home to a 1.5 meter deep round bush facing infinity edge plunge pool and two cushioned lounge chairs. At the far end, down a handful of steps, there was an enclosed outdoor shower.
A small space to the left of the sitting area was home to a wood upright closet with hanging space. Across from it set against the wall there was a rack where we set our luggage. The second half of the suite housed a sleeping area with twin beds set against a wood headboard and matching night tables. There was a duvet and two full size synthetic pillows as well as several throw pillows on the bed. The night table on the right side had a telephone and a lamp. At the foot of the bed there was a bench and to the right there was wood dresser. There was a reed colored rug and a runner with colors that matched the carpet in the sitting area. Screen doors and glass and wood sliding doors like those from the sitting area led onto the pool area on the deck.
In the morning we received a wake up call at 5 a.m. After a hot beverage and greeting other guests and our ranger tracker team we went out on our morning drive. When we returned from the drive, we had breakfast in the shade of the dining area. Breakfast consisted of a platter of cold items (cheddar cheese, salami, fresh fruit, muffins), a muesli and yogurt glass and a hot beverage. It was also possible to order eggs with sides (sautéed mushroom, sausage, tomato, and bacon).
For afternoon tea the second day there was orange cake. Lunch that day was a buffet on the pool side deck overlooking the dry river bed: barbeque ribs, green salad, beet salad, carrot salad, zucchini and feta cheese salad and bananas with chocolate sauce for dessert.
There was a cloth laundry bag in the closet with a laundry list to be completed. According to the information booklet, the laundry was hand washed and dried naturally then returned the following day at the same time.
Facilities There was an indoor sitting area, boma (African style outdoor dining enclosure), covered dining area, wine cellar, gift shop, full size swimming pool and river facing deck.
Gift Shop Near the entrance to the lodge, sandwiched between the restrooms and the wine cellar there was a small gift shop. There were &Beyond branded clothes like caps, t-shirts, and shirts, books, jewelry and other souvenirs.
Massages An onsite masseuse was available to provide aromatherapy, back and neck and Swedish massages. Tuli, a relief masseuse from Johannesburg, gave me a 60 minute massage on the deck. The massage services were provided by Massage Corporation Africa (MCA ), owned by Jessica Linley who trained her staff.
Pool The main pool was a free form swimming pool painted black ranging in depth between 1.1 meters and 1.7 meters. There were two lounge chairs and one umbrella next to it. I appreciate the soft and clean smelling pool towels and glass of water one of the staff members brought, at my request, when I went for a swim.
There were booklets in our suite such as Game Plan (28 pages) and Winging It Introduction to Birding (33 pages) with information about the area of the Sabi Sand Reserve we were in, the flora, fauna and check lists that made it easy to keep track of the animals and birds we saw (or heard) during our twice daily game viewing drives.
Game we saw during our visit: Chacma baboons, leopard (female, cub), lion (two males, females and cubs), wild dogs, elephants, buffalo, hippopotamus, impala, kudu, nyala, rhinoceros, warthog, wildebeest, marsh terrapin, boomslang (tree snake), golden orb spider,
Birds we saw or heard during our visit: saddle billed stork, hadeda ibis, African fish eagle, Wahlberg’s eagle, brown snake eagle, gymnogene (African harrier-hawk), dark chanting goshawk, helmeted guineafowl, red-crested korhaan, three-banded plover, Senegal lapwing, woodland kinfisher, little bee-eater, eurasian roller, lilac-breasted roller, red-billed hornbill, rufous-naped lark, magpie shrike, red-backed shrike, white helmetshrike,
Our vehicle, a Toyota Land Cruiser, had a metal cage atop the back that allowed the staff to attach a top if guests were hot or it was raining. We came to dislike the cage because it got in the way of game viewing and photography; we never had a top on it.
Wildwatch.com listed wildlife sightings at &beyond camps.
Other Since the tap water was not always safe to drink (the water supply was a borehole) there was a bottle of house brand water in the bathroom which we used to brush our teeth. The company supported the Africa Foundation which was dedicated to neighboring community projects. There was a no smoking policy in place in the lodge and in the vehicles. Guests were asked to use their cell phones only in their suites. The bird in the logo of &Beyond was a juvenile bateleur eagle.
Monkeys were highly aggressive and we had to be vigilant during breakfast to keep them from stealing food off our table. A couple of monkeys were so aggressive a staff person had to stand on alert with a sling shot and sticks to keep them out of the dining area. One monkey stole my bread roll and another guest’s roll during lunch on the deck the second day.
It was raining on our return from the drive on the second night and the boma dinner had to be relocated indoors. The staff responded quickly to the inclement weather by moving the dinner set up out of the rain. They offered us hot soup and rolls and to our surprise a musical performance by eight of the staff ladies dressed in colorful red outfits. To guests’ delight they sang in their native language and danced to the beat of a drum. It was a lovely performance.
Date Of Review March 2011
Reviewers Article by Elena del Valle
Photographs by Gary Cox
Service As soon as we arrived Jessica, the relief lodge manager, greeted us warmly and escorted us to the main area of the lodge where she offered us welcome drinks and had us sign the mandatory indemnity forms.There was twice daily turn down service. Many of the staff introduced themselves when we arrived. Gift was the acting manager while the lodge manager was on leave. Our “butler” was Octavia. During our visit we met Brendan Streak, who managed the three &Beyond lodges in the western Sabi Sand Reserve (Dulini, Exeter River, and Leadwood).
Would You Stay There Again? Yes
- Sabi Sand Game Reserve
- Private Bag X27
- Benmore, 2010
- South Africa
- +27 11 809 4441