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LUXURY RESORTS: cliff lodge, Ulusaba, South Africa

Style: Tribal Chief chic

Scene: atop a hill in Sabi Sands Game reserve

Seen in the lobby: well-heeled families, serious safari lovers

I AM  sleeping in Richard Branson’s bed, although, I hasten to add, not when he is in it.  Ulusaba is Virgin Limited Edition’s South African safari lodge, situated in the heart of the Sabi Sands Game Reserve and the canopied bed, swathed in frothy netting is to found at Cliff Lodge, Ulusaba’s most luxurious accommodation.

The three-bed private house is where Sir Richard stays when he visits Ulusaba.  You’ll find it at the end of a long wooden walkway attached to the Rock Lodge camp (one of two camps that make up the Ulusaba complex).

Ulusaba lounge the Luxury Travel Bible
Ulusaba lounge the Luxury Travel Bible
ulusaba cliff lodge The luxury travel Bible
ulusaba view The luxury Travel Bible
Ulusaba leopard The Luxury Travel Bible1
Ulusba Rock Lodge the Luxury Travel Bible

 

The three-storey house looks like some tribal chief’s castle with intricate patterns carved into its circular walls and bone and shell chandeliers. From its wide decks you feel like the king of all you survey.  No safari lodge in the Sabi Sands has more panoramic views; we are perched high on one of the few hills. One night we watch from our African eagles’ eyrie as see an electric storm sweeps in, lighting the sky like a firework display. When the rain stops the remaining clouds make shadow patterns across the bushveld and we notice game as tiny as toy animals far below us.

Cliff Lodge can be booked by families (the last kids to use the in-room iPad searched up The Lion King) and groups of friends. Residents can organise a private chef but we eat in the main lodge at a long table where we meet and mingle with other guests who are staying and chat over venison cheeseburgers and ostrich sosaties. Swapping tales of our game drives over evening cocktails is half the fun.

  And there are plenty of tales to tell. As soon as we land at the private airstrip we are whisked to see a cheetah curled around two fluffy kitten-like cubs. It is a rare treat; we haven’t even unpacked and already our cameras are snapping away. Although when the mother fixes us with her impassive stare,  I decide she doesn’t look quite so cuddly after  all; there’s the call of the wild in those golden eyes.

We spot our first leopard because we can’t understand why a huge hyena is sitting out in the rain when there is a perfectly good bush behind her. “I smell leopard” says our tracker and indeed he does, hidden in the thicket is a sheltering cat who clearly doesn’t want to share the space.

There are so many impressive ‘finds’ by our tracker and guide that we take to calling them the Awesome Twosome because they seem to be able to find anything.

One evening we get so near a pride of female lions, stretched out next to each other like women at a spa, that I can see them flex their paws. Now there’s a set of claws I wouldn’t want to manicure. Another day we track four male lions with shaggy manes and adolescent attitude. “That one really does look like Alex the Lion out of ‘Madagascar’,” says my son and indeed the lion in question does have a suitably comic expression. However, most of the time I’m struck by just how different from zoo animals (or cartoon versions) these creatures are.

Our last drive is pachyderm day.  We watch hippos at the waterhole, commune with elephants munching loudly as they rip into trees with gusto and see wrinkly-skinned white rhinos vacuuming up grass. I could sit quietly and watch them all day. 

 

Save the Elephants
The ever present poaching threat to the rhinos and elephants really hits home once you have been on safari. Unless we do something our children or grandchildren will never get a chance to see these animals, within twenty years they will be l gone.

This is one of the best articles we have seen on saving elephants:

http://intelligenttravel.nationalgeographic.com/2013/08/23/how-to-save-africas-elephants/

To learn more or donate contact:

http://savetheelephants.org/

http://www.tusk.org/

Luxury Resorts Link: http://www.virginlimitededition.com/en/ulusaba
Hilary Doling 15/5/15
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