Short stay: Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge, Sabie Game Reserve, Sabi Sand Wiltuin, South Africa

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Earth Lodge, as organic as it sounds, is Sabi Sabi’s vision of the future of the safari lodge. Forget any notions that an eco-conscious sustainability manifesto elbows out high-end. Earth Lodge sits at the very pinnacle of luxurious safari living in terms of architecture, facilities and impeccable service.

From a distance, Earth Lodge’s 13 thatched suites look like the local Tsonga people’s dwellings. Low-rise and open to the elements, the central facilities of bar, lounge, reception and restaurant blend seamlessly into the straw-themed palate of the low veldt.

Largely staffed by employees from the Shangaan people, some of them third generation Sabi Sabi employees wearing traditional colours of burnt orange and yellow, there is a comforting link between Earth Lodge and the local villages.

The welcome

Most guests fly into the thatched terminal at the bush airstrip of Skukuza airport. A Sabi Sabi driver picks up luggage and loads it into the Land Cruiser. Essentially, the hour transfer is a game drive of buffalo, elephant and lions, checking off three of the Big Five before we have even checked in.

Innocent greets us with a chilled flannel, an iced rock shandy and a heart-felt welcome. He walks us to our suite. An ice-bucket, home to a bottle of sparkling wine, awaits us.

The suite

An entrance-hall, larger than many a safari lodge room, hosts an all-inclusive bar that is far from mini.

No miniatures here, just full-size bottles, a fully stacked fridge and a range of glasses that could have come straight from Harrods. Sliding glass doors provide the first exit to the open-plan exterior lounge overlooking a private plunge pool.

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