Two giraffe browse by the airport’s perimeter fence. Thatch protects Skukuza’s tiny terminal from sun beating down. A couple of dozen passengers step down from a 39-seater plane that has just arrived after a 40-minute flight from Johannesburg.
Donald loads our luggage into a 4 x 4 Sabi Sabi land-cruiser and we hit the dusty bush tracks. Almost as soon as we have entered the 231 square miles of the Sabi Sabi private game reserve we are pausing to watch a sun-basking crocodile eyeing up a grey heron. This is an utterly appropriate first sighting. Locals named their river “Sabi”, meaning danger, as it was full of deadly crocodiles.
Next stop is a committee of vultures sat in the trees. When they descend to the ground – circling a carcass finally deserted by lions and hyena and jackals – they become a wake of vultures. Even before we arrive at Sabi Sabi Selati Camp, we have seen elephants, giraffes and a gazillion impala.
“Impala are Africa’s McDonalds,” Donald drily comments. “Everyone in the bush goes for an impala when they are hungry.”
At Sabi Sabi Selati Camp, a tranquil lodge of just seven luxurious suites, we are welcomed with chilled citronella-infused flannels and an iced rock shandy. Taken into a bar of leather sofas and railway memorabilia, with a gentleman’s club feel, Lawrence tells us how things run.
“There are no fences. Elephant, hyena, leopard and lion pass through the camp. During the day you’ll see them. But after dinner, when it’s time to go back to your suite let us know and we will accompany you.”
Lantern-lit Selati Camp steps back in time. Once a family’s private bush lodge, now a luxurious camp clustered around the bar and pool, Selati Camp is small and intimate, paying nostalgic homage to the first ground-breaking safaris. Taking over Selati, Sabi Sabi salvaged nostalgia from a railway line that hauled gold from the interior to the coast in the late 19th and early 20th century.
A path framed by purple kalanchoe leads to our detached and thatched suite shaded by the jackal berry trees. Inside a vast mosquito net shrouds a king-size bed. Whilst we dine, the ultimate turndown service unfurls the net, positions hot-water bottles in the bed and puts slippers in place. The Tsonga style house has a small garden for the second bathroom. A secluded dry-walled garden is home to a white oval bath and an al fresco rainfall shower too.
Days begin with a dawn game drive. Donald now takes the spotter seat out front from the land cruiser whilst Conraad drives and gives a commentary on what we see.
Donald’s “bush eyes” can spot where a rhino crossed the trail. Yesterday. His nose tells how long ago a leopard urinated. Whilst his ears pick Sup a lion’s territorial roar. 0n the cyber tracker spotter examination Donald had just scored a perfect 135 out of 135.
But there is much more to a Selati Camp safari than ticking off the Big Five. That’s buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard and rhino. Don’t forget the Ugly Five taking in Marabou storks, vultures, warthogs, wildebeest and hyena. And good luck with spotting the Shy Five – aardvark, aardwolf, bat-eared fox, meerkat and porcupine.
If it’s your lucky day you may see some of the Big Five from your breakfast or lunch table as they call into Selati Camp’s watering hole. Come dinner there is usually a game option. Perhaps a surprising combination of wildebeest and Cumberland sauce. Guests travel to Selati Camp for culinary excellence and the wine cellar well as the stunning game drives.
As you peruse the lunch menu, deciding between an ostrich wrap, a Selati burger, fish of the day or a salad as part of a three -course lunch, you may be distracted. A herd of up to 27 elephants sometimes call by the waterhole for a drink.
On the late afternoon game drives, after a sundowner and sunset, our ranger Conraad points upwards for a sky safari. In the Southern Hemisphere, the tilt of the Earth’s axis opens up a vista of the hundreds of stars that make up the Milky Way. Skies free of air and light pollution provide sharp images of the Southern Cross. A reminder of past days when marine explorers navigated by the stars.
Sabi Sabi Selati Camp is a step into the past, recalling an adventurous golden era of safaris and impeccable personal service.
“What shall we look for tomorrow? Leopard? Wild dogs? Or white rhino?” Our ranger Conraad asked as he escorted us back to our lodge.
Sabi Sabi Selati Camp fact File
Learn more at Sabi Sabi Selati Camp
Sabi Sabi Selati Camp, representing yesterday, is one of four lodges within the Sabi Sabi game reserve.
Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge, the largest of the four lodges, with self-service buffet meals has family rooms and children’s activities.
Next week we report on Earth Lodge, an eco-friendly vision of the future of safaris. Whilst Sabi Sabi Little Bush Camp, the smallest of the lodges with just six suites, makes for the perfect serene retreat.
If you enjoyed Michael’s Sabi Sabi Selati Camp – luxurious safari in South Africa review, you’ll find more trip of a lifetime reviews on our Travel channel.Tags: Michael Edwards, Sabi Sabi, Safari, Travel Last modified: September 5, 2022