Hotel Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge
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The flagship property of the Sabi Sabi group of lodges, Earth Lodge is a fine luxury lodge marrying innovative architecture and design with tip top service and a complete safari experience both within the lodge and outside it. Perfect for families (with kids 12 or over) or couples looking for a high level of comfort and a full range of facilities, the Earth has a unique atmosphere, in part created by the wonderful members of staff. Spacious suites, excellent food and intimacy make of the Earth Lodge one of the stand out places to stay in the Sabi Sands.
Sabi Sabi Earth is situated in the southwestern corner of the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve which shares an unfenced border with the Kruger National Park. There are direct daily scheduled flights from O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg to the Sabi Sabi airstrip as well as flights from Jo'burg, Cape Town and Durban to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport from where you can either complete the journey by road, plane or helicopter. If you are arriving by car from Jo'burg (5-6 hours) or Nelspruit (2 hours), enter the reserve via Shaw's Gate where you will be asked to pay a modest entrance fee and then simply follow the signs to the lodge.
The Sabi Sabi group was founded in 1979 and today has four properties of which Earth is the newest. The company has always supported the local villages and their communities through various projects and operations. All of the members of staff come from the surrounding neighbourhoods and are trained and educated by Sabi Sabi giving them the necessary skills to develop and support their families. The group also trains teachers, allowing them to pass on vital environmental education on to school children so they might one day themselves become part of the Sabi Sabi family. There is also work going on with an education centre in the nearby village of Lillydale and an ongoing project to improve the infrastructures of local towns in terms of schools, housing, community projects and access to education. If you would like to visit any schools, homes or projects supported by Sabi Sabi, staff would be delighted to fit this into your itinerary. Please note that Earth Lodge does not accept children under the age of 12 years old.
As if making a statement to show that this is a lodge which pays attention to detail, if arriving by 4x4, you'll be dropped off at a specifically built platform allowing you to get down from the vehicle without fuss. You'll be greeted by a manager wielding a refreshing face cloth before being taken down the meandering path leading to the camp's entrance which takes the form of a pair of hefty wooden doors opening up onto a narrow corridor whose walls are decorated with cow bells from the herd of a local tribe. The first thing that hits you when you step into the lodge proper is the beautiful rock water feature which acts as a basin for the cascades of water falling from the semi-circular roof as well as the bushveld beyond it. To the left-hand side is a seating area where your check-in will be done and the formalities of your stay will be gotten over and done with, while next to this is the cabana-bordered old swimming pool whose floor has been raised and tables and chairs placed inside it in a few inches of water. Over to the other side is the reception desk which is made of various woods including zebra wood, lead wood and weeping boer-bean. In fact all of the wooden sculptures you see around the property are works by Geoffrey Armstrong who exclusively used driftwood reclaimed after the Sabie River flooded in 2000. And talking of materials, the main structure of the lodge is made from a traditional mix of concrete, river sand and thatching grass.
The library, between the curio shop and the bar, is a warm, stylish room where guests can enjoy pre-dinner drinks or relax between game drives with a book or game or chess. Complete with a comfy array of armchairs and sofas, a working fireplace and a good selection of books on a range of topics, the glass roof makes this a space that is welcoming in both summer as well as winter.
The lodge's Amani spa is arguably Earth's big pull. Shared with guests at two of the other Sabi Sabi camps, it offers a range of treatments including boy rituals, massages, wraps, facials, waxing, manicures and pedicures and special treatments for men. Each of the three treatment rooms is coloured differently with each shade corresponding to a principle of Shakra: orange for peace, green for healing and red for love. The rooms, which each have an iPod docking station, are used for different treatments while outside is a shower and a zen meditation garden. An additional treatment at the spa sees guests covered in mud before going into a steam room where drops of water help to clear away the mud which has slimming and hydrating properties. The friendly staff uses all natural products using ingredients found in the bush such as aloe, merula, African potato and rooibos. For couples, there is a double treatment room.
Although the lodge cannot boast the best views in Sabi Sands, there is certainly a special atmosphere around the camp thanks to the light, (you can see the sunrise from you bedroom window) the unique architecture/decoration and the well tended to grounds. The staff too is a credit to the lodge making guests feel welcome and seeing to their every need. The lodge itself is kept in excellent shape, being spotless and tidy without exception.
The lodge boasts 12 generously proportioned suites as well as a presidential suite, Amber. The walls and ceilings have been left bare, exposing the concrete, river sand and thatching grass mixture in which the lodge is built. Upon entering the room you'll notice straight away the large picture window framing the bushveld outside, in front of which are a couple of armchairs and an occasional table with binoculars (which you can take on your game drives) so you can contemplate the beauty of the wilderness up close and in comfort. Turn to your side and you'll see the bedroom with its king size bed dressed in luxury linens flanked by contemporary bedside tables one of which contains a painting kit for all you artists out there. Above the bed is a piece of driftwood running almost the entire length of the wall which, like the wood for the desk (complimentary water, sherry fruit and snacks), was recovered from the 2000 flooding of the Sabie River. At the foot of the bed is a seating area with a couch upholstered in a pewter cloth and a coffee table with books and traditional crafts. In the other half of the room is a space for your suitcase as well as a coiffeuse complete with mirror and hairdryer. The bathroom, just as spacious as the bedrooms, boasts a double vanity of solid stone sinks, a large walk-in shower, a deep stone soaking tub and Chrysalis toiletries. Outside is your private covered terrace with armchairs in front of a plunge pool and sun loungers on the grass just beyond. For those who prefer to wash in the open air, there is a shower outside the room. The rooms have all the amenities you'd expect from a lodge of this standing including bathrobes and slippers, safe, air conditioning and fan, tea and coffee facilities, telephone, international plug adaptor and anti-mosquito products. As well as these practical items there are traditional decorative items around the room such as jewellery, pottery and ceramics. Although there is no suite specifically adapted for wheelchair users, suite number seven would be the most practical as there are no steps leading to its entrance.
The food at Earth Lodge is not only of an impressive quality, but it is also inventive and extremely well presented. Breakfast and lunch are more often than not taken under the covered dining area on-site. The space, which gives onto the surrounding bushveld, is filled with beautifully worked round edge square tables while to the back of the room is a chunky wooden buffet counter where a continental breakfast spread is presented. Lunch is chosen à la carte and there are some excellent salads as well as some heartier dishes if you can manage them after your big breakfast. From time to time either of these meals will be taken in the bush for a truly special experience. Dinner, which also changes its location between the dining area and the boma, is a treat with some excellent ideas amongst the dishes. There is usually a choice of several dishes for each course and chef Ryan will present each of these pre-dinner to help you make your choice. At least once during your stay your ranger will join you for dinner while for the rest of the time you will either dine alone or with the other guests in your 4x4. If, however, you feel like eating in your room, on your terrace, privately in any of the locations or have special requests, dietary or otherwise, the staff will be delighted to cater to your wishes as best they can. In addition to the main meals, you will be given hot drinks and a snack before and during the morning game drive and a tipple and another snack during the evening drive.
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