There is something rather enchanting and slightly worrying about an African safari under canvas immersed within the heart of the bush, knowing wild animals are roaming freely all around you—their calls permeating the tent.
I’d seen images of Saseka; I had selected it because of its funky, stylish take on a traditional safari tent, and in the flesh, it was love at first sight! Saseka Tented Camp is utterly spoiling glamping with a uniquely contemporary take on the romanticised safari expeditions of the 1920s and ‘30s.
As we drive up to the main lodge, a rather unassuming single-level structure quietly greets us. Constructed from natural materials, it blends discreetly within its setting, harmoniously grounded in the landscape. Nothing jars; there are no flashy signs or fanfare.
However, as I enter through the large wooden doors, I experience an immediate flicker of joy. Set before me, a voluminous space arranged over two levels overlooks the seasonal Monwana Riverbed. There much to take in—slowly, I cast My eyes around, taking in the gorgeous interior. It feels good; it’s both inviting and relaxing with a restrained and unpretentious, rustic elegance in a calming neutral colour palette—Yes, I love it!
A cleverly designed roof mimics the dappled light of a tree canopy allowing the sound of the wind blowing through the nearby tree branches to filter through. An unusual, large abstract pendant light constructed from metal, wood, and rattan hangs overhead setting the tone. Nearby a handsomely crafted wooden hanging seat by David Krynau Ontwerp is definitely deserving of a twirl.
There is no gimmickry, no style over substance; the design is considered beautiful and engaging. The upper floor has a selection of casual sitting zones, a library area, a very cool shop; on the lower deck is an allocated dining area and a bar, with access to the river bed where fabulous star-studded sundowners take place. Eight eco-friendly tented suites plus a tented family lodge designed by safari lodge maestros Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens of Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens Architecture and Design have a contemporary take on a traditional safari tent. They have a delicate balance of luxurious, cutting-edge design and a nostalgic nod to the glamorous days of safari.
It’s imaginative, creative, visionary, inspired, insightful, innovative, with a bit of whimsy. It doesn’t shout or show off; it’s good honest design that works. Each tented suite is a massive 2,153 sq ft. The designers took inspiration from the indigenous riverine bush vegetation, the Apple Leaf, and Leadwood trees. Soft ivory recycled, environmentally friendly flooring sets off the muted hues of greens and a hint of pink, allowing the bespoke design elements to shine. The Stylish black muslin mosquito-netted draped beds immediately draw the eye. Bold botanical artwork designed exclusively from the herbarium in Pretoria of the region’s plants sprawls across the canvas ceilings. The bathroom has a beautifully crafted privacy screen with a full-length mirror, contemporary light fittings, and a cosy sitting area. Floor-to-ceiling stack-back glass doors lead to the deck and private pool, with inside and outside showers. A unique signature throughout the suites is the exposed metal framework used for everything from the room screens, mirror, cupboards to the vanity and standalone bathtub. There is incredible attention to detail.
Saseka means ‘beautiful’ in Tsonga, and it is, it’s absolutely gorgeous- and definitely not camping as we know it; there is no roughing it here, no Primus-stoves or tent pegs anywhere in site. It’s an uber-stylish retreat, the ultimate in glamping without any compromise on luxury. I think you can tell I rather like the decor! The game drives are an absolute bonus, and with no fences between Kruger and the 14,000-hectare private Thornybush Game Reserve, the wildlife flows freely between them. The viewing begins immediately, around your tent and along the riverbed below, but don’t worry; you’ll be safely guided back to your tent in the evenings. Game drives in an open Land Cruiser with Shaun [our ranger] and Anthony [our tracker] are pure joy. Whereas in Kruger, you can’t go off-road here at Saseka; you are up close with the animals. Anthony’s signature triple gins are another joy! The reserve is home to the big five, elephants, rhino, lion, buffalo, leopard, as well as wild dog, cheetah, antelope, giraffe, zebra, and sooo much more. There’s fabulous bird spotting too. I never thought I’d enjoy birding, but it’s fascinating and completely addictive; identifying them and pairing them with their distinctive calls is fun. Once darkness falls, spotlight-lit night drives searching for nocturnal animals and big cats on the move is very exciting indeed. The many perennial rivers, good groundwater levels, and a range of vegetation mean there is no shortage of game drawn to Thornybush, which, in turn, attracts predators. However, our favourite animal of the trip was Dash, a teeny tiny tree squirrel befriended and adopted by staff member Demi. Dash “dashes” out to greet you between tents 2 and 3, fearlessly sidling up to you; he’s adorable. Dash roams freely during the day and spends the night cuddled up with Demi, his mom.
Locally inspired cuisine uses the freshest ingredients from the Saseka community garden, the Thousand Herbs, and Vegetable gardens that is run by a co-operative of 5 local ladies. Breakfast and lunches start with an abundance of tapas-style
dishes followed by a main dish and delicious desserts for lunch and dinner. There is sooooo much food — breakfast, lunch followed by pre-game drive high tea at 3.30! Sunset drinks and snacks in the bush, pre-dinner drinks, and dinner —Phew! Saseka is such fun; we met fabulous fellow guests from all walks of life, the staff are great, and best of all, it has a refreshing laid back, anything-goes attitude.
To find out more about Saseka Tented Camps, click here.
All images and story were written by Anji Connell ACID+Anji Connell Interior Design.