By standing for conservation and community, Sabi Sabi ensures an incredible safari experience that safeguards both people and the planet
Ever since 1979, Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve in South Africa has protected and evolved the precious wilderness in its care. Situated in the Sabie Game Reserve, part of Kruger National Park, Sabi Sabi is committed to the sustainability and upliftment of its local community and to the protection of the diverse fauna and flora found on the reserve. At the heart of it all, Sabi Sabi provides incredible safari opportunities and incomparable comfort across four 5-star lodges.
The vision set out by the founders of Sabi Sabi was that for conservation to be successful in Africa, there needs to be a strong, participatory relationship between tourist operations and the neighbouring communities. Sabi Sabi has long recognised that its greatest asset are its staff, the majority of whom hail from local communities of Huntington, Lillydale and Justicia, many of whom have been part of the Sabi Sabi story since the very beginning. Today, there are second generation employees right across the Sabi Sabi operation, working in both hospitality and out on safari.
At Sabi Sabi, guests can choose from a range of luxury accommodation. From the contemporary Earth Lodge, which blends seamlessly into the natural setting, to the romantic suites of Selati Camp, which evokes the historic railway lines that once ran through the reserve. Then there’s the secluded Little Bush Camp, which hugs a dry river bed, while the vibrant Bush Lodge is ideally suited for families with its Elefun Centre to inspire the conservationists of the future.
Custodians of tomorrow
At the heart of the set-up is the Sabi Sabi Foundation, which was established to foster custodianship of the region’s natural heritage through education, employment and conservation. The mission is to have positive impact on the communities bordering the reserve through:
• Coordinating poverty relief in line with identified needs
• Supporting the provision of quality education
• Bridging access to employment
• Nurturing the development of future leaders
• Protecting and conserving indigenous fauna and flora
The benefits of tourism extend beyond the boundaries of the Protected Area and to the people in the neighbouring communities. The challenge is to ensure that these benefits are sustainable by supporting various community projects and instilling good governance. The Sabi Sabi Foundation currently supports a number of ongoing initiatives including; The Swa Vana Care Centre, The Dreamfields Sports Programme, the Lillydale Digital Learning Centre, and a Chef’s Mentorship Programme.
The foundation is committed to expanding the reach of the regional conservation efforts, and lending support to wildlife conservation best practice. By doing this, Sabi Sabi believes it will leave its natural heritage in a condition which it can proudly hand over to the next generation – a generation which is equipped and empowered to manage this challenge and take it to new heights.
Guarding precious ecosystems
Sabi Sabi is situated in the Sabie Game Reserve, which is a rich Open Wildlife System, meaning game can venture back and forth, The reserve supports a myriad of biodiverse species across many different habitat and microhabitats. These include rolling hills, open savannah, woodland, and denser bush along rocky outcrops and riparian forests.
Central to the conservation efforts is the ranger and guide training. New rangers are enrolled in an intensive training programme to learn all about the reserve, animal and plant identification, the principles of ecology, and guest etiquette. In essence rangers become environmental educators; the knowledge they impart to Sabi Sabi’s guests will hopefully transcend the reserve’s boundaries, spreading the conservation message far and wide. Opportunities are offered to young school leavers within the local communities to join these selection camps, paving the way for an exciting and rewarding career path.
Sabi Sabi offers guests a luxury experience at one of four exclusive lodges, each characterised by its own unique style. The historically themed Selati Camp exudes a classic safari feel-wild yet sophisticated, adventurous but romantic. The family friendly Bush Lodge offers a contemporary vibrant and eclectic style, while Little Bush Camp embodies the elegance of safari chic. Earth Lodge is sculpted into the surrounding environment and is a masterpiece of architectural design and innovation.
But ultimately, memorable close encounters with Africa’s wildlife, amid the breathtaking sights and sounds of the bushveld, are what Sabi Sabi is all about. Out in the bush in open safari vehicles waits the chance to see a leopard scaling a tree, a pride of lion feasting on buffalo, rare black rhino sauntering to a watering hole, or dramatic elephant dust-ups. The relaxed behaviour of animals in the presence of game viewing vehicles is the result of Sabi Sabi’s minimal impact on the environment over the last four decades. It is also due to its highly skilled ranger and tracker teams following disciplined safari practices.
Sharing their intimate knowledge of the African bush in hushed English or with each other in the local dialect, the rangers and Shangaan trackers ensure that guests are in the safest and best position for spectacular sightings. Trackers not only recognise the slightest nuances of the bush, but also navigate the rangers when driving off-road-pointing out branches, rocks and burrows. Off-road driving is restricted to high-profile sightings (the Big 5 plus cheetah and wild dog) where a limited number of vehicles are permitted at a time. Ecological etiquette is observed at all times by avoiding driving on seasonal roads and certain soil types, leaving sensitive vegetation and ecosystems intact. Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve is vast, therefore the rangers keep each other up to date by radio of nearby animal activity. The animals always come first and certain approaches will not be made, especially when there are small cubs or pups around. Sabi Sabi allows the animals to naturally gain confidence in all stages of their lives, with the ultimate result of completely normal behaviour in the presence of the safari vehicles. Minimum impact and absolute respect for the wildlife at all times has been the secret to Sabi Sabi’s success for four decades – the ethos that we are merely observers in the animal’s domain. ‘This commitment to the highest conservation standards is what makes Sabi Sabi so special, and why it is globally celebrated as a leading ecotourism destination.