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Travel Review: A Luxury Safari In South Africa

Travel Review: A Luxury Safari In South Africa

A South African luxury safari combines the thrill of the wild with the joys of five-star comfort in a truly memorable experience.

An African safari has its place in every intrepid traveller’s must-do list and for good reason. Watching wild animals in their natural habitat is a unique, unparalleled experience and a safari in South Africa’s famed Kruger National Park is one of the best.

While price-conscious visitors can opt to simply visit the enormous Kruger national Park, private game reserves around the national park offer luxury-seeking travellers a bespoke experience.

A plethora of excellent five-star resorts are scattered across the Greater Kruger national Park area, which includes sabi sands, Timbavati and Umbabat.

We stayed at sabi sabi, one of the premium resorts in the sabi sands Game reserve, which is home to a rich diversity of animals including the celebrated ‘big five’ of Africa (the lion, elephant, rhino, leopard and buffalo).

While some visitors prefer the scenic, albeit slightly bumpy road trip from Johannesburg, which takes between six to eight hours, we took the one-hour private charter plane ride operated by federal Air to sabi sabi’s private airstrip.

Surrounded by dense bushes, we realised that we were in deep animal territory when our co-passenger’s pick-up was delayed because of a bunch of rowdy elephants.

Thankfully, our ranger, Michelle, managed to avoid any wild encounters, and was there at the airstrip to greet us with a cheery smile. Loading our baggage onto the open Land rover, we began our first trip into the bushes.

One key fact that every traveller quickly notes is that you can spot an animal anytime, anywhere. You soon get into the habit of keeping your eyes peeled on the horizon, watching keenly for any small sign of movement, a flicker of a tail, or the ruffle of a bush.

We spent two nights at Earth Lodge, Sabi Sabi’s futuristic property that is cleverly hidden away among the bushes. Descending down a stone pathway, you arrive at the avant-garde, eco-friendly lodge that boasts bold driftwood fixtures stylishly set against brown boulders and a tiny colourful stream with fishes swimming around.

We stayed in one of the 12 luxurious suites that cost roughly $966 per person per night, and includes the daily day and night safaris, walking trips, breakfast, lunch and dinner with a house selection of beverages and taxes.

Although contemporary, the décor and layout of the suite gives you a feeling of being one with nature, and thanks to the absence of that ubiquitous hotel staple, the flatscreen TV, it is easy to feel cut off from the rest of the world.

Every suite comes with an outdoor pool, but there is no fencing between the suites and the wild, so we weren’t surprised to spot some kudus (deer family) sipping water from the pool of a neighbouring suite.

While that may sound risky, the hotel staff ensures that the area is safe from wild animals, and always accompanies the guests to their suites after nightfall.

In Sabi Sabi, your day starts early. The first game drive leaves as early as 6.30am and lasts for three hours, while the night safari leaves by 3.30pm.

The African bush boasts spectacular sunrises and sunsets, and watching the horizon change colours at dawn and dusk is stunning.

But watching wild game actually takes your breath away. The fact that you are so close to the animals, in an open vehicle, is a thrill that is hard to describe.

We were lucky enough to spot a group of lazy lions, a mother cheetah with two adolescents, families of elephants, protective rhino parents and their little one, lethargic buffalos, zebras, giraffes, impalas, kudus, a jackal, baboons and numerous bird species during our trip.

Seeing a leopard would have helped us tick off the big five, but despite some expert bundu bashing (going off the track) by Michelle, the wild cat remained elusive, giving us an excellent reason to return.

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