Three Sabi Sabi lodges, three different styles and  three different ways  to discover the African bush in luxury, choosing between the past, the present and the future.   


There is a unique, incomparable way to live a bush experience, one of the most exciting and emotional of South African  adventures.  A way which ushers the traveller into three totally different eras and styles. Each with an appeal and fascination that arouse deep emotions, as deep as those emotions aroused by the African bush and the animals for whom it is a natural habitat,  which constitute the lion?s share of any South African journey.   

We are in the bush, on the borders of the Kruger National Park, some 2 million hectares between the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga, which is now part of the Peace Park, where the animals  are free to roam  at will between South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.  And their numbers amazing: 100,000 impala, 30,000 zebras, 15,000 buffaloes, almost 8,000 elephants, 5,000 giraffes, 2,500 hippos, 2,000 rhinos and 2,000 lions, 300 cheetahs and almost a thousand leopards.


To be more precise we are in the private reserve of  Sabi Sands, on the south-western side of the Kruger, where the yesterday, the today and the tomorrow of a bush experience await us in the Selati Camp, the Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge  and the  Earth Lodge.

In these three Sabi Sabi properties  the day revolves around a strict timetable.  Up before  dawn for a cup or tea or coffee and biscuits before leaving on a comfortable jeep with a ranger and tracker for the morning safari.  Back to the camp at 10.00 for breakfast  (and what a breakfast!) and then, during the hottest hours of the day, time to relax by the pool and enjoy a leisurely lunch before it?s time to don the safari gear again and, after afternoon tea, depart on another safari which ends after dark at eight in the evening, leaving just enough time for a quick chat and cocktail in the bar before dinner which is usually served under the star-studded Southern sky.    
But let us proceed in chronological order, and start our journey in the Selati Camp, Sabi Sabi?s ?Yesterday,?  where the eight individual  thatched suites are mud-coloured huts in a semi-circle around the main unit.  The atmosphere at Selati is one of intimacy and informality, thanks in part to the fact that it is entirely lit by paraffin lamps,  although for those who can really not do without it there is electricity with  aircon and ceiling fans in the suites.  But most guests fall under the spell of the old paraffin lamps, eschewing electricity  for the warm glow which brings them back to the days when the white hunter roamed the bush in search of excitement and of trophies to bring back home, proof of his valour in the face of the dangers of the unknown Black Continent and the wild animals that populated it. 

Selati?s heartbeat is one of yesteryear, dating back to its golden days when it had a railway station. It was in the 1870s when gold was discovered in the Drakensberg mountains and the government of the Republic of the Transvaal built a railroad on which the precious ore was transported to the Mozambique coast where it was loaded onto ships and carried to western markets.    

Mementoes of these days are to be found through Selati, from the original railway engine number plates  on the walls of the lounge to the old shunting lights which  light guests to their suites, to the trunks and ?Olde England? furnishings and memorabilia in the suites.  Guests can relax on the deck beside the pool where lunch and cocktails are served, while dinner is an elegant and romantic affair in the outdoor Boma (Brititsh officers? mess area).

Leaving behind the good old days of Selati we move on to ?Today? and the Bush Camp,  the most classical of the Sabi Sabi lodges, which makes you feel you have stumbled on to the set of ?Out of Africa.?  This is the African safari experience everyone dreams of with its 25 spacious luxury bedrooms each with its own private courtyard and sun deck.     

The suites, which again have thatched roofs, are in ethnic contemporary style with art work by African sculptors and painters  and have large bathrooms with tubs and showers, minibars and a living area with a desk and armchairs.  


  In the Bush Nature Spa  guests can enjoy a series of treatments and massages which go from traditional Swedish and Indian massages to treatments with hot stones, oriental herbs and local African products. And then there are the half and full-day packages of tempting detox, relaxing, jet-lag, anti-stress and Camelot pampering sessions.        



As in all the Sabi Sabi properties the cuisine in the Bush Lodge is a skilful fusion of African and international flavours, a veritable ?rainbow cuisine.?  So don?t be surprised to find springbok, impala and crocodile on the menu as well as specialities closer to western tastes like tender Karoo lamb and succulent beef. Together with  South Africa?s avocadoes, mangoes, papayas and a measureless array of lesser known fruits and vegetables, while the wine cellar with its impressive choice of South African reds and whites,  reserves further, equally delightful surprises.   
And now a step into the future with the Earth Lodge which, like the Bush Lodge and the Selati Camp is inside the Sabi Sands private reserve (the three properties are about 20-40 minutes one from the other).  The first impact with the Earth Lodge is a very strong one because, descending from the jeep, you look around and see nothing.  Only the boundless expanse of the undulating bush.  

Then you notice a paved pathway that winds its way underground leading to a heavy wooden door. And, once inside, you find you have arrived in the future.    

The first impression is that of finding oneself in front of a wrap-around movie screen which has somehow found its way to this unlikely spot, as the eye is  magnetically drawn past the foreground of rocky pools and gently  tumbling  water straight into the bushveld with its low shrubs, trees and stark dead tree trunks, large terracotta pots and, more often than not, the bulky and unmistakable  silhouette of an elephant.     And you realise that you are amazingly and more intimately at one with nature than you ever could have imagined possible.          

Brown, ochre, sepia, teak and the entire range of burnished hues are the only colours in the Earth Lodge: from the mud-faced walls from which pieces of straw and tiny stones emerge, to the terracotta and wooden floors, to the massive tree trunks which have been skilfully crafted into enormous tables, benches and chairs,  and which were recovered from the swollen river beds after the disastrous 2000 floods.    Sculpted by nature and then honed to burnished beauty by the architect who gave this lodge its strong ecological imprint which in no way dilutes the levels of luxurious comfort guests can enjoy.      

The 13 suites, carefully hidden in the nooks and crannies of the bush, each with its own butler, have the same mud finish on the walls, towering tree trunks as bed heads, a patio and plunge pool (where elephants and other animals regularly come to drink) and a large bathroom (there is also an open-air shower) with massive granite baths and wash hand basins.      

As in the Bush Lodge and  in the Selati Camp rangers and trackers accompany guests on morning and evening safaris and also on interesting excursions on foot, sharing their fascinating lore of the South African bush.

In the elegant wine cellar, where lunch or dinner can be served for up to 18 people, thousands of bottles of wine line niches along the walls and the long table is, once again, a long and inspiringly beautiful tree trunk.     There is also an Earth Nature Spa and gym, an art gallery and boutique and the Boma, a refuge snuggled in the bush with walls of dry bushes, roots and branches.  At night, lit with braziers and candles, it captures the drama of the African night, embracing all the magic of this solitary spot ? the most esoteric, most daring and most austere of the Sabi Sabi lodges.   

Which will certainly appeal to those who appreciate a sober and unadorned style which, with flair and elegance, plays with the stark and contorted shapes of nature and the sober and rich hues of the African bush to stunning effect.