|LUXURY resort: earth lodge, sabi sabi, south africa
Style: organic meets chic
Scene: Sabi Sabi Reserve
Seen in the lobby: Stylish safari-goers only, no bad taste T-shirts here
ARRIVE at Earth lodge and at first you can’t see the safari camp at all, sculpted into a slope the lodge slides seamlessly into the landscape. A walkway, curved as an elephant’s trunk, leads you downwards until there in front of you is the sweep of the lodge’s lobby, in inside-outside area which frames the lake and waterfalls beyond. It is one of the most stunning entrances to a safari lodge I’ve ever seen. There is nowhere else like this anywhere else in Africa. Sculpted into the earth, hence its name, the lodge borrows heavily from nature, using textures, space and light in a completely original way.
It is one of four lodges that make up the Sabi Sabi reserve, with the tag line yesterday ,today and tomorrow: Bush Camp and Little Bush Camp (today), Selati Camp with an ‘Out of Africa’ feel ( yesterday) and Earth Lodge (tomorrow).
The organic design of Earth Lodge certainly ticks the ‘tomorrow” box so it is amazing to think that this innovative, original design is actually twenty years old, It was designed by South African architect, Mohammed Hans and South African sculptor Geoffrey Armstrong with unadorned plaster finishes, stone floors, hand crafted wooden furniture and sculptures. It opened to international acclaim in 2001 and the design hasn’t aged a day.
The lodge was the brainchild of Sabi Sabi co-owner Jaqui Loon and five years ago she and interior decorator Stephen Rich recreated the interiors in spectacular style. The new theme celebrates the richness of Africa's mineral wealth combined with the beauty of the natural world. Hues of gold, copper, silver and bronze shine from the walls, handmade twig chandeliers with gilded metal branches twinkle softly above and Nguni hide rugs adorn the floors.
I’d describe the style of our suite (one of only 13) as Flintstones meets African chic. It breaks with any tradition of any safari camp I’ve ever been in but it works … beautifully. Above our bed a wooden Armstrong sculpture twists sinuously as if we’re underground and the roots of a giant tree have grown straight through. Our glass-walled bathroom looks out onto a private plunge pool beyond and the suite seems so much part of the landscape that it is no wonder elephants come to drink there as if it were their own personal designer-waterhole.
In the main area leather chairs squat beside nests of quirky tables made from a mass of painted branches, metal birds peeping out from lampshades, ottomans resemble a group of pebbles in a pond and benches are wrought from salvaged trees torn out of the bushveld by elephants and floods.
A decadent salon has been created beyond the lounge where guests can doze in salas enclosed by white muslin curtains. On hot days you sip cocktails at stone topped tables inside the pool, while cooling your feet in the ankle-deep water. In the evening an outdoor boma is lit by twinkling lanterns. An underground wine cellar with a collection of over 6000 bottles of rare wines, ensures that the wine is as good as the gourmet food.
It is as if the magic of Earth Lodge extends to its game drives too. Each morning and evening we leave the lodge in the company of our game ranger and Shangaan tracker. Our game drives are so exciting that my son doesn’t even complain about having to wake up before dawn to pile onto the 4WD. We find a herd of zebra so dazzlingly black and white they look as if they are posing for a fashion magazine –“Stripes are so in this year darling”. Then gentle giraffes running with such a long-legged stride that they look as if they are moving in slow motion despite the distance they cover. At a waterhole we are surrounded by a herd of over 200 buffalo, their horns curled around their heads like helmets.
Our evening drive spotlights a leopard on the prowl in the beam of the 4WD’s high-powered lamp and lions so sleepy they are lying with their heads in the dirt road, clearly expecting any truck just to go round them. Lion, leopard, elephant, rhino buffalo … we’ve ticked off all of the Big Five but it is the unexpected moments we remember most. Like the evening we come across a den of baby hyenas; with mum nowhere in sight the pups come out and playfully bite the wheels of the safari vehicle.
|Check in: Earth Lodge, Sabi Sabi, Sabi Sands Game Reserve, South Africa.
|Ultimate Luxury: The Amber Suite with a magnificent carved wooden headboard in the master bedroom, a deep egg-shaped bath, its own steam room, study kitchen butler and chef.
|Most Indulgent Moment: Time spent at the impressive Amani Spa at Earth Lodge for an holistic body or beauty ritual.
|Insider Secrets: Sabi Sabi co- owner Jaqui Loon's paintings, amongst them portraits of staff members, adorn some of the Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge walls.
|The Little Things: Tea before the afternoon game drive always offer up new cakes and flights of delicious fancy
|Junior Luxies: Over 12s welcome and catered for well by the rangers
|Dent in the platinum:
|Luxury Resorts Link: www.sabisabi.com
Sarah Bryans 10/5/15
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