It is the middle of winter – a winter more harsh and forbidding than we have experienced in some time – but already the bleak cold of Johannesburg seems like a far off land when the 27° heat of Sabi Sabi wraps itself around us after the hour-long flight.
“Welcome!” says Darren, our game ranger, with a beaming smile. “The trip to the lodge will take at most an hour, depending on the game we see along the way.”
My photographer and I are on the safari vehicle with a mother and her young daughter. At the sight of a huge elephant bull just next to the road, the child excitedly gesticulates and both mother and daughter guilelessly discuss said elephant in what we presume to be Russian. The child’s excitement is contagious and makes me remember when I encountered my very first elephant in the African bush, so many years ago.
Darren tells us that the Sabi Sabi reserve’s diverse habitat is home to spectacular wildlife including the Big Five - lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant - as well as cheetah, wild dog and some 200 other animal species indigenous to the area, including more than 300 bird species.
Our home for the next two days is Bush Lodge; one of four camps within the reserve. Manager and host Lauren Wyndham greets us with the knowing smile of someone who has seen many weary and jaded eyes light up at the sight of this charming lodge.
Each of the 25 spacious, air-conditioned thatched suites is large enough to accommodate children as well. Despite being exhausted, we cannot resist the afternoon game drive.
After a gourmet lantern-lit dinner, we sit silently outside on the patio listening to the quintessential bush sounds – the bone-chilling laughter of hyena, the cries of a far-off jackal far away and the intermittent deep grumble of a feasting lioness.
The next morning we are treated to a tour of the EleFun Centre, a fully-fledged children's facility within the lodge. Designed by childcare professionals to create a space that is both fun and educational, the Centre offers hands-on, interactive activities for children up to age 12. Nice for the young ones.
Then it’s time-travel time.
The Sabi Sabi philosophy of 'yesterday, today and tomorrow' stems from over 100 years of safari experience; a history richly woven into the atmosphere of each of its four unique safari lodges - Selati Camp, Bush Lodge, Little Bush Camp and Earth Lodge.
Selati Camp is located under ancient trees and takes you back to a decadent colonial era, with decorative memorabilia of great white hunters and G&T sunsets. The entire camp seems drenched in all-pervasive serenity.
Nestling in the shade of riverine forest on the banks of the Msuthlu river lies our next destination; Little Bush Camp, offering luxury accommodation for family, friends, or small groups.
The last of the Lodges we visit represents ‘tomorrow’ – Earth Lodge.
On arrival a hidden corridor leads you to an unexpected entrance that opens onto a panorama of uninterrupted bushveld. Home to 13 ultra-luxurious suites, the lodge is a masterpiece of artistry and innovation. Each suite features individually-designed furniture, private plunge pool, en-suite glass fronted bathroom, indoor and outdoor shower and butler services. But it comes at a price...
After feasting on another braai buffet that evening, we retire early... but I can’t sleep. I keep thinking of having to go back home to a sprawling city, grey masses of people and insidious pollution. But at least I will always have this place; a haven that made my soul breathe again.
For further information and to book online, visit http://iafrica.safarinow.com.