Deep in the world-renowned Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve is Jaci’s Sabi House, a favourite retreat for families looking for a completely private bush experience. It sleeps just six guests so whether you’re three couples or a family with kids, it feels like a home-away-from-home and your time is your own… imagine waking when you feel like it, having drives planned around the family and a fabulous team of staff who are brilliant with kids – but most importantly, this intuitively caring team give you space to be yourselves and truly relax. Surrounded by a mature succulent garden and with interiors inspired by striking African fabrics and basketry, with vibrant colours that offset a collection of original local contemporary art, it’s a happy and very informal space. Everything’s open-plan and the plunge pool overlooks a waterhole so game drifts by all day.
Our stay was part of the beautifully scenic Panorama Route road-trip and so after exploring all day, we were eager to hop in the game vehicle and soak up the unmistakable scent of the bush at sundown. But there’s nothing quite like starting an evening game drive with a black mamba sighting to sharpen your senses… this was to be a series of firsts in the Sabi Sand and some superb leopard and lion sightings with Ralph Mabunda who’s been taking guests on safari for no less than 25 years. He was always one step ahead of us, patiently watching, sharing insights and predicting moves…like the tell-tale signs that a protective mother elephant was about to charge two male lion bothers and effectively send them packing!
Knowing the area like the back of his hand – and that we were up for an adrenaline rush so early in the morning – we first tracked the lion and leopard we’d heard in the early hours to mark their location and then Ralph took us for a magnificent bush walk, keeping us in quiet running commentary all the way as we discovered birds, trees, tracks, seeds and grasses, with his deep knowledge and love of the bush coming through time and again. (On a personal note, I will always treasure this memory as I write this in week three of lockdown. What a privilege it is to walk in the wild here in Africa, and if there’s one thing I’ve taken from this is there’s no better time to do it again, just as soon as this is all over!)
But the best news is that Jaci’s Sabi House is now bookable through Perfect Hideaways as a self-catering safari house but with its team of staff – a rare opportunity has opened up for bookings at our rates – practically unheard of in the Sabi Sand. Everything’s geared for families here: on arrival, I spy rhino biscuits baked by Eunice Mathonsi, and Dimpho Mothusi’s warm smile says it all when she shows me her favourite cookery books. Not surprisingly, high tea before the game drive is delicious – complete with mouthwatering vegetarian treats and an irresistible carrot cake. Dinner around the fire that night started with a more-ish beetroot carpaccio, and Thapelo Seleke, who has been at the lodge for years too, is an insightful host. Within hours, you’re part of the ‘family’ here. We have the next day free to relax around the pool while watching elephant come to drink, and realize that we are slowing down to bush time, and could easily stay a week.
What we love!
- The location: set in the Sabi Sand, Jaci’s Sabi House is nearest Gowrie Gate, and is close to lodges such as Cheetah Plains and Chitwa Chitwa.
- The waterhole in front of the house – game drifts by all day – and the beautifully laid out succulent garden.
- Privacy and the lack of regimented times for game drives.
- That staff are brilliant with kids.
Need to know…
- The paint colours might not be to everyone’s taste but it’s essentially a home and not intended to be a designer safari lodge.
- As a self-drive destination, it’s easy to get there from Acornhoek but the last 30 minutes of road is slow and typically potholed. We took the tarred road to Orpen Gate and cut through a local village using Google maps and it was 100% accurate and is well signposted at main junctions. Your nearest airstrip is Arathusa (we can book private charters) or fly direct into Hoedspruit (then it’s a 1.5-2 hour road transfer).
- Combine a stay here with a stopover on the way and then take the scenic Panorama Route via Graskop and Blyde River – it’s spectacular!
Reviewed by Michelle Snaddon