- Overall Impression
- Common Areas
The name of the reserve, Sabi Sabi, was derived from the name of the Sabie River, which forms the southern boundary of the property. The word sabi is derived from the Shangaan (a local language) word “savu” which means “fear,” referring to the dangers associated with the river such as crocodiles and hippopotamuses as well as floods; and indirectly the name means “fear fear,” a spokesperson explained. Although there was no barrier separating us from the surrounding wildlife we felt no such apprehension. From the comfort of our seats in the dining room we watched a warthog family eating grass almost within touching distance. Later during our stay, a herd of elephants quenched their thirst from the water feature while we watched their antics from the shade of the main building. We looked forward to the twice daily game drives with Franscois Rosslee, our energetic and enthusiastic ranger. In his company we saw four of the Big Five and the elusive wild dogs.
Conradie Kruger, head chef, and his staff dedicated much effort to food preparation, presentation and dining location. For example, on our first night they surprised us with a semi private dinner shared with another couple and our ranger in the cellar. The following night we enjoyed cocktails by the fire pit and dined on the lawn beneath a starry sky. We looked forward to meal times and not just for the settings.
At Earth Lodge time disappeared in the blink of an eye, leaving me wanting to linger longer by the main area water feature, in a comfy hanging lawn chair with an expansive view of the bush and any four legged visitors or poolside in my spacious and secluded Amber Presidential Suite. It was with regret that we left after two nights, and we look forward to returning in the future.
Class of Accommodation Luxury Five star Safari Lodge
Connectivity There was complimentary WiFi. Because of the location of the lodge, the signal could be interrupted due to wildlife influences or inclement weather.
General Managers Bridget and Heath Thompson
Handicapped Access No, there were no designated handicapped friendly rooms or facilities. To reach our rooms we walked down dirt pathways. From the main pathway several steps led to the room entrance.
Length of Stay Two nights
Location Earth Lodge was within the Sabi Sabi Reserve, which in turn was within the Sabi Sand Wildtuin, a private wildlife conservation area. The nearest airport was in Skukuza in the Kruger National Park, about 60 minutes drive from Earth Lodge. There was also a private airstrip on the reserve about 10 minutes drive from the property.
Managed African Cultural Tours (Pty) Ltd., Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve
Number of Employees 52
Owned Hilton and Jacqui Loon
Size Vehicles from the 6,000 hectare Sabi Sabi Reserve were able to traverse 4,500 hectares of game viewing land. There were 12 Luxury Suites and one Amber Presidential Suite.
Year Opened and Date of Most Recent Renovation Earth Lodge opened in 2001. The lodge was fully refurbished in 2010 with continuous upgrades through 2016. Recent work included soft upgrades, new décor and furniture, a new wine cellar, and a new fire pit lounge.
The Presidential Suite main bathroom had twin sinks, twin showers in a doorless space with a glass wall facing an inner sand garden, and outdoor shower. The bathroom also had an oversize, oval concrete bathtub next to a a glass wall facing the bush. There was a second bathroom in the hallway with a shower.
From the main building dirt pathways led to the rooms. From the pathway the conical shape of the top of Room 4 was visible. The rest of the room was built into the landscape. Several concrete steps and walls led to the wood entrance door. The entrance foyer had a high thatched roof ceiling with a modern twig design lamp hanging in the middle of a sitting space atop an area rug. It was furnished with two cloth armchairs with a round table between them. To the left there was an upright fan. To the right an armoire housed a mini bar with a mini refrigerator and a hot beverage service. Expansive windows faced the covered back terrace, pool and bush.
Behind the sitting space was a second sitting area with a cloth sofa framed by identical upright lamps. In the center there was a rectangular glass and metal coffee table atop a cowhide. Opposite the sofa a large wood piece attached to the wall served as a desk. There was an armless chair next to it. There were snacks, a telephone, informational folders, sherry and a one liter bottle of still Aqua Pure spring water on top of it.
A large bed atop an area rug, framed by identical rectangular night tables with lamps, was set against the back wall. The temperature was controlled by a ceiling air conditioning unit and a fan. At night, there were plenty of lights providing ample lighting. During the day, sliding glass doors, windows, and two skylights filled the room with soft sunlight.
The Presidential Suite had a bush and pool facing master bedroom, spacious en suite bathroom and oversize walk-in closet. There was also a second full bathroom, library, living room, dining room and kitchenette.
The living room had a fireplace, sliding glass doors leading to a covered terrace that ran the length of the suite. Next to it the dining room had seating for six. The library had a glass top desk and an armless wicker chair as well as sliding door access to the covered terrace.
The reserve’s meal philosophy was “Simple Done Well” defined as “Simply prepared but executed with class and focusing on flavour over fuss.” According to a spokesperson, the chefs took “great pride in keeping menus fresh and updated on a regular basis, matching seasons and trends;” featuring well known ingredients, such as beef, pork, lamb and chicken and venison dishes such as kudu, impala and gemsbok; they designed menus to suit many palates; as far as possible the chefs “try their best to stick to grass fed and pasture raised options despite the remote location.”
Facilities Amani Spa, Boutique Shop, Gym, Wine Cellar, Bar, Library and Lounge.
Fitness Center and Spa There was an air conditioned workout room in a standalone building facing a water feature. It housed two treadmills, rowing machine, spin bicycle, weight machine and small circuit area. Steps from the main building a garden of succulent plants signaled the beginning of the lodge spa.
Shop Behind reception there was a shop with items sourced predominantly from South Africa including branded clothing (limited selection of sizes), jewelry, coffee table books, art, and accessories.
Our guide showed us several plant species, including Russet bush willow, Apple leaf, Marula tree, Knob thorn, Sycamore fig, Leadwood, Silver cluster-leaf, Red bushwillow, Devil’s thorn. During a sundowner drink stop one evening, he used a special light to show us the yellow-legged-tree-scorpions that infested dead trees.
We saw the following animals: rock monitor, buffalo, Burchell’s zebra, dwarf mongoose, elephants, giraffe, impala, kudu, leopard, lion, nyala, scrub hare, side-striped jackal, spotted hyena, tree squirrel, warthog, waterbuck, wildebeest, wild dog.
We saw or heard the following birds: African fish eagle, African hoopoe, arrow-marked babbler, blue waxbill, Burchell’s starling, Cape glossy starling, Cape turtle dove, common scimitarbill, crowned lapwing, fork-tailed drongo, go-away-bird, greater blue-eared glossy starling, green woodhoopoe, grey heron, grey-headed bush-shrike, hammerkop, magpie shrike, Natal francolin, pearl-spotted owlet, red billed hornbill, southern yellow-billed hornbill, spotted eagle-owl, Swainson’s spurfowl, tawny eagle, Verreaux’s eagle owl, Cinammon-breasted bunting, Pied crow, African mourning dove, Purple roller, Lesser striped swallow.
The majority of the staff were from and lived in the local communities of Huntington, Lillydale and Justicia. The Sabi Sabi properties community projects focused on ecotourism, education and community with and eye on sustainability, ownership and accountability, according to promotional materials.
Date of Last Visit April 2017
Article by Elena del Valle
Photos by Gary Cox
Service Our rooms were serviced twice daily. Our ranger and tracker, the managers, and chef were pleasantly friendly and service oriented.
Would You Stay Again? Yes
- Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge
- Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve
- Sabi Sand Wildtuin
- Mpumalanga, South Africa
- Earth Lodge +27 13 7355-261
- Sabi Sabi Head Office +27 11 447-7172