Not only does the Cliff Lodge sit high above the rest of the lodges in the Sabi Sands from a physical point of view, it also leaves most of the other camps in its shadow from a sheer quality perspective too. Sir Richard Branson's private lodge offers five floors of the most stunning safari-inspired design throughout the immense bedrooms, living spaces and pool-bedecked terraces. No matter how sublime the interiors, it's the stunning views from atop the rock that make this place a cut above the rest. Perfect for groups of friends or several couples (with or without kids), Cliff Lodge offers an unrivalled safari experience for those with pockets on the large side.
The Cliff Lodge is situated high up in the western sector of the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve, which shares an unfenced order with the Kruger National Park. Close to the banks of the Sand River the area is known for the quality of its leopard sightings. There are flights from Johannesburg to both Hoedspruit and Kruger Mpumalanga International Airports from where you can either complete the journey by car or by charter (using either Federal Air or Bateleur Air). If you decide to drive (from either the airport or anywhere else around the country) you should enter through Newington Gate where you will have to pay a modest entry fee and then simply follow the signs to Ulusaba.
Ulusaba has a separate charitable arm called Pride 'n' Purpose which works closely with local communities developing sustainable initiatives and provides improved access to food, water and health services to their inhabitants. They have also built three crèches, a library and computer lab in a local school and help support young children with their educational costs. If you would like to tour any of the surrounding villages or even give up some of your time to help out with any of the projects this can be included in a tailor-made itinerary.
Hold on tight as you ride up the path to the lodge's sister property through which you must first traverse in order to reach Cliff Lodge. You might want to wait though until the top to look back at the view to save both the surprise and your neck. After a short walk which includes some stairs, you'll arrive at your destination: Richard Branson's very own South African getaway with quite spectacular views of the reserve. You enter on the fourth of five floors into a tall, hardwood floor hallway with stairs going down to the right and up to the left and with an elaborate stone chandelier hanging from the high ceiling. Neatly tucked under the rising staircase is a cushioned bench with scatter cushions in front of which sits simple yet attractive wooden coffee table placed on a traditional round rug. Down on the third floor is a round living space with floor-to-ceiling windows framing the beautiful bushveld. At the centre of the roomy salon is a round dining table bordered by mustard armchairs while just the other side of a gorgeous worn wooden drawer unit is the seating area with an inviting array of sofas and armchairs in cloth and leather. Other features of the space include a television and DVD player with surround sound, a fully stocked bar, a working fireplace and a host of local and African art, sculpture and animal horn. Just outside is a lengthly terrace lining the living space complete with wooden dining bench and of course unbeatable view.
The lodge also boasts a fully equipped kitchen, with all crockery provided and whose fridge is full of goodies if the lodge is hired exclusively (it is also possible to take just one room). For those who need to get a bit of work done while they are away, there is a study area too which can be converted into an extra bedroom. Another terrace lies just outside, also with its own pool. There is a basic fitness room with both cardio and weights machines as well as a small treatment room for massages, although there is a greater choice of treatments and facilities available at the neighbouring Rock Lodge, to which Cliff guests also have access. Aside from the morning and afternoon game drives, guests at Cliff Lodge can experience the bush on foot with a walking safari after breakfast. There are two floodlit tennis courts on site as well as a curio shop.
Cliff Lodge is often rented in its entirety, although it is possible to make use of just one of its two suites. It can accommodate a total of nine people (five adults and four children) having also a study room that can be converted into an extra bedroom. The master bedroom on the third floor is a stunning space which is dominated by the beautifully crafted wooden king bed and the huge canopy above it. Dressed in fine linens and decorated with a plaid and scatter cushions, the bed is flanked by a couple of kudu horn-embellished bedside tables, one of which has a cordless telephone and iPod docking station. The room also has a desk as well as armchairs, a traditional rug and, most impressive of all, a sweeping view of the wilderness. Behind the bed is ample space for your case and personal effects with a coiffeuse and collection of books to boot. The bathroom boasts a split double vanity with Africology products and a deep soaking tub and huge round monsoon shower each with the same incredible view. The room of course has a spacious terrace from which you can spot the animals below at the watering hole. The second bedroom at the top of the lodge is perhaps more impressive for its living space and small dining table. The floors are in Rhodesian teak and the ceiling is thatched giving a real bush feel. The room enjoys the same bathroom amenities as the master bedroom but has a pool on its terrace and a working fireplace. The décor throughout, which was the brainchild of a local Nelspruit-based designer, is as sumptuous as it is in good taste and guests will find all the amenities they would expect from a lodge of this standing such as bathrobes and slippers, anti-mosquito products and a beautiful collection of African crafts.
Guests at the Cliff Lodge are spoilt for choice when it comes to both the food they enjoy and the location in which they enjoy it! Those guests who hire out the lodge in its entirety can have the privilege, if they so wish, of a personal chef who will cook their meals (including poikies) for them in the fully equipped kitchen or on the braai outside on one of the lodge's terraces. Presuming you stay over for more than one night, you should experience all the various meal locations which include the lodge's terraces, the boma over at Rock Lodge, tree house dining and even a champagne stop at the observatory. Examples of some of the dishes you can expect at Cliff Lodge are springbok carpaccio for starter, beef filet or venison for mains and panna cotta or chocolate pudding to finish with. All breads and pastries at the lodge or baked on site and there is usually an option for those non-meat eaters amongst you. 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 during the morning game drive and a tipple and another snack during the evening drive.
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