If you’ve ever considered going on an African safari, you’ve likely wondered where you would stay and what the accommodations would be like. There are plenty of ‘glamping’ options that range from tents and huts to pods and domes. There are even a few cottages and some treehouses if you are so inclined. But if you’ve ever wondered if such a thing as a ‘luxury’ safari exists, then prepare for a surprise because Sabi Sands, located adjacent to Kruger National Park, has more than its fair share. And one that is a standout among them is Rock Lodge, owned by Virgin tycoon Sir Richard Branson.
Off the beaten path and deep in the heart of wild game country lies Ulusaba Private Game Reserve, set in the western sector of South Africa’s Sabi Sands Game Reserve. If you’re looking for rhinos, buffaloes, leopards, lions, and elephants, you’re likely to find them on an open-air Land Rover tour offered here. And if you want to play tennis and lounge pool-side, you can do that, too. The best of both worlds is just one hour from Johannesburg by plane and located at Rock Lodge.
Rock Lodge, spanning the cliff face of Ulusaba Mountain, has views of the wilderness and private sun decks off every room. All eight rooms feature artifacts, weavings and the traditional colors of African tribes and regions, as well as air conditioning, telephones, laundry service, DVDs, videos, music, libraries and board games. Not what you would expect in the midst of safari country, right? They also include large bathrooms and well stocked minibars. Rock Lodge envelops Cliff Lodge which houses two spacious one-bedroom suites — ideal for an exclusive getaway.
All guests have use of the two Rock Lodge tennis courts and viewing pavilion, along with the swimming pool, gymnasium and Aroma Boma (beauty therapy room). Other thoughtful touches include insect repellant, mosquito nets, sunblock and email access upon request. Cuisine at the reserve caters to individual dietary requirements and focuses on Pan-African dishes influenced by local cultures, flavors, and spices. Guests may dine under the African sky, in the boma, on a deck or in the dining room; private events can also be accommodated.
Of course, the wilderness is Ulusaba’s biggest draw. A professional tracker and field guide accompany each early morning and afternoon-into-night tour in four-wheel drive safari vehicles. Guided bush walks are also available. On a tour, you are likely to see an amazing diversity of flora and fauna, plus more than 300 species of birds, as well as giraffe, antelope, cheetah, zebra, hippopotamus, impala, wildebeest and several types of reptiles. Animal encounters can range from newborn baby elephants to crocodiles, and exhilarating excursions range from helicopter flights over Blyde River Canyon, the world’s third deepest canyon to personal interactions with elephants and trips to nearby villages.
Guests at Ulusaba can request a special itinerary to volunteer with the local community through Ulusaba’s charity affiliate, Pride ‘n Purpose, which focuses on sustainable development and improving access to food, water, and health services. One couldn’t ask for more adventure combined with so much relaxation in the wilds of South Africa.
Of course, such a vacation does not come cheap. If you’re looking to take the family on safari for a week, with an African-themed hotel that offers unforgettable views of big game animals… but you’re not willing to pay the price for such an adventure, then we strongly suggest you consider booking your vacation at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom Lodge which does its best to emulate South Africa and the safari experience.
However, if you’re looking to embark on the REAL THING, and you’re prepared to pay approximately $800 US per night/per person for an all-inclusive experience (plus or minus depending on the type of room you desire to book), then you won’t be disappointed if you choose Rock Lodge for its intimate setting, upscale accommodations and amenities, and personalized service.
PROS: Comfortable. Unique. Plenty of amenities. Views. Great Service
There’s no denying this resort is absolutely beautiful and will provide memories to last a lifetime. Surely, your camera and social media will get a good workout as you post some of the most stunning photos you’re likely to ever take. This isn’t just a vacation, it’s an experience. And it will leave you simply amazed!