Your family will meet many new families on a Sabi Sabi game safari;  roaming the neighborhood are lion and rhino families, giraffe and impala families, and leopard and zebra families.  The bushveld is full of families.

A fearless lion family.

Sabi, in the local Shangaan dialect, means “Fear”, so I guess Sabi Sabi means “Fear Fear”, but rest assured, the outstanding rangers and trackers at Sabi Bush Lodge will coordinate a fabulous fearless family adventure that will be remembered for years.  Sabi Bush Lodge is expertly set up for families.   The kids I visited with in the viewing terrace over the waterhole were so excited to be on safari.  They expressed eagerly with wide eyes the animals they had seen or expected to see, and their enthusiasm rubbed off on me.

To get to Sabi Bush Lodge my General Aviation pilot, Dassius, made a smooth landing at the private Sabi bush airport where I was met by Solomon, my Sabi driver. 

Along the sandy, dun colored track leading to the lodge we came across a family of elephants that were making serious business out of stripping the leaves off the acacia trees lining the road. Acacia, or also called umbrella trees, always appear to have a head of hair pointing due north.  You can use the directionals like a compass.

A fearless elephant family.

Giraffe get the best morsels - at tree top.

Just before turning off to the lodge, a family of giraffes (called a journey) conveniently lined up for a photo shoot in an open, grassy plain.  If the horns are bald, the giraffe is a male, and he was involved in a family feud. 

Even though it was approaching winter, the grass was lush and green because of unusually heavy rains for this time of year. Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve is situated in the 65,000 hectare Sabi Sand Wildtuin in the western section of Kruger National Park.  There are no fences between Kruger and Sabi so consequently all the big game moves freely about, guaranteeing exceptional animal family viewing by your family.

Sabi Sabi has two huge game units, one north and one south. Sabi Bush Lodge charges a gate/conservancy fee upon entrance to the reserve that is settled on your own, and not included in safari packages unless booked with a tour operator such as African Travel Inc.

A fearless giraffe family is called a Tower or Journey.

At night paraffin lanterns
light the path to the dining hall.

At Sabi Bush Lodge all meals are included in a family safari package, including lunch, but there is an additional charge for soft drinks and alcohol; there is a full bar just off the dining area. I had arrived just in time for the buffet style lunch that had a carving station, and I must say, I snagged onto a perfectly braised King Fish caught in South African waters. There was an endless larder of pasta salads, noodles, grilled kudu, mixed vegetables, and other locally grown fare.  Another table shelved piles of desserts and drinks.

If weather permits meals are served in the outdoor boma complete with a roaring fire. A blast on a kudu horn brings all families to dinner at the boma.  The lodge also has a vast wine cellar.

The EleFun entrance.

Families with children have always been welcomed at Sabi Sabi's Bush Lodge. Now the family experience reaches a new level with the opening of the EleFun Centre, a fully fledged children's facility within the lodge environs which fosters children's awareness and appreciation of nature. The recently completed centre was designed by child care professionals who set about creating a space that is fun, safe and educational. The EleFun Centre will be offering hands-on, interactive activities designed for two distinctly different age groups. The Junior Tracker program is for 4 to 8 year olds, and the Junior Ranger program is for children between the ages of 9 and 12. After lunch I visited the EleFun Centre and a small child was ecstatic to be able to smear her hands in paint pigment and leave her handprints on the wall like the Bushmen did thousands of years ago, but with fresh blood.

Family suites at Sabi Bush Lodge.

The suites are cool and comfy.

Sabi Bush Lodge has 25 air conditioned thatched suites with ethnic décor.  The exterior walls are painted the color of elephant or rhino hides to blend into the landscape.  All suites are equipped with fans, hairdryer, mini-bar, in-room mini-safe, telephone, and coffee making facilities.

The suites have a private outdoor lounge area that resembled a nguni cattle kraal, where smoking is permitted. The shower can open up to the outdoors, or indoors, and nightly warm water is drawn after a game drive in the huge bath tub.

Before going out on a safari, the curio shop can equip the family with leather hats, safari vests and bush shirts and clothing, and photo supplies.  Sabi Sabi is well known for its photography and birding opportunities. For business, Sabi Bush Lodge has a conference center with internet access.  I never saw anyone swimming in the deck pool near the main lodge because two game drives are included daily in a safari package and families were out meeting the animal families.

Sabi Bush Lodge Spa.

Sabi Sabi is internationally known for its lion prides and white rhino crashes — a bunch of rhinos is called a crash.  I saw an unusual confrontation between a family of lions and a family of rhinos that was played out right on the Sabi airport landing strip. During the evening game drive we followed the lion pride out of the bush and onto the tarmac where they would lie resting, the warm asphalt aiding in digestion. Behind us a crash of rhinos slowly came out of the bush. The rhino family was accompanied by young rhinos and the older males made a diligent path straight for the lions.   The lions paid little attention to the rhinos until they came within feet of the group and they moved off with an attitude. Lions rarely attack rhinos because they can’t strangle their thick necks. I think the rhinos just wanted to catch the next flight out.

A fearless rhino family confronts a fearful lion family.

On the game drive the next morning on a plains plateau a mother leopard and her almost grown cub frolicked in the spear grass and rolled and tumbled in a playful family feud. They were deciding who would go out and hunt up breakfast.  We then disturbed a disgruntled Cape Buffalo chewing the cud contently in the thatch grass.

A friendly leopard family romp is called a Leap.

One afternoon I took a bush walking safari with Jabu, my ranger, whose knowledge of the native plants was phenomenal. 

Jabu leads me on a walking safari.

We stopped at the toothpick tree (acacia thorn bush) and he broke off a hard, dried spike and clipped the tip off for dental use. Nearby was the toothbrush tree. Jabu snapped off a six inch twig and peeled back the bark with a finger nail and separated the fibers and began brushing his teeth.  The tree’s ingredients are used in the African toothpaste Sarakan, which also whitens the teeth. Jabu showed me mint plants that cleanse the bacteria from the mouth

Jabu plucked a bunch of green, sweet smelling, common sage that the natives boil and drink as an elixir for stomach aches.  The amazing bush fern was so soft that the fronds are used as bush toilet paper.   It was out of season for the marula berries from a huge marula tree; the berries are fermented for a local beer during the summer season in January and February.

Jabu pointed out a type of acacia that produces a poison that is bad for humans but good for ruminant digestion problems.  Rhinos and elephants eat it to flush out the parasites. Gardeners don’t use elephant dung in the garden because they eat the acacia thorns — all of a sudden the vegetable patch is a plot of thorn bushes.  Rhino and Cape Buffalo dung is the best for nurturing domesticated plants. Rhinos eat the spear grass, so called because when wet it propagates itself by spearing a seedling into the ground for next season’s propagation.

In ancient times the natives buried water filled clay pots in the termite mounds and they would gather a tasty, high protein meal when the insects fell in. Sometimes the pots were forgotten and archaeologists still find the pots in the broken down mounds, called cathedrals.

The African-fashionable Earh Lodge at Sabi Sabi.

There are four lodges located within Sabi Sabi, and besides Sabi Bush Lodge there is the Earth Lodge, Selati Lodge, and Little Bush Lodge, all unique in their own way. 

The new Presidential Villa at Selati Lodge.

Selati was closed for winter renovations; both Selati and the smaller Little Bush Lodge can be rented as a complete unit for a family gathering.  The Little Bush Lodge is located along a small ravine with excellent game viewing possibilities.  Selati means sugar in the local dialect and it once was a stop along the sugar train route that operated from 1910 to 1970.  Selati has a new villa that is dressed out in colonial era décor.  

On the return from Selati Jabu wheeled the Land Rover onto the old rail bed, the steel now ripped out. The line ran straight as an arrow in both directions. Old piles of coke can be seen where they dumped the spent clunkers from the steam train.

The earthy concrete Earth Lodge.

Although I visited each lodge, the Earth Lodge was far and away the most fashionable and unique.  I met Zulch, the General Manager, who explained that the lodge just went through a multi-million dollar makeover, even though it is only a decade old. The magnificent Earth Lodge is an open air panoply to the bush panoramas.  The spa and lodge felt as if it had been carved right into the cliff side. The lodge is an architectural marvel with a breezy atmosphere, with dripping water falling off the concrete overhangs, drizzling into the river rocks, with the huge crocks and jars embellishing the attractiveness. The peaked tops of the suites were designed to resemble termite mounds.  

Earth Lodge suites have private Jacuzzis.

The spa is rated one of the best in South Africa. It took a sculptor months to source and then carve the dead marula tree branches that he turned into enormous artworks with embedded seating; they were displayed around the enormous common area as if washed up in the last torrential seasonal flood.

The Earth Lodge has one Presidential Suite and numerous other thatched roof suites, all isolated for privacy, and with private outdoor Jacuzzis that make them even more appealing.

Along the drive on the Selati railroad bed a huge group (called a rank) of impala suddenly appeared out of the bush. It was the largest family of impalas I saw at any reserve in South Africa. Impala are the preferred game of most predators because they taste so good, which I can attest to from the impala shank I devoured at the Sabi Bush Lodge.  

A family of impala is called a Rank.

Shagaan is the local tribe, so here are a few Shagaan words to make your family safari more enjoyable:

The viewing terrace above
the waterhole and plain.

Kujani is one person.

Minjani is a group of people.

Avuyeni is good morning.

Nltikani is good afternoon.

Ripilile is good evening.

Ndzi Kombela is please.

Inkomu is thank you.

Before leaving Sabi Bush Lodge the next morning a family of white Rhino browsed the plain above the waterhole in front of the viewing terrace and the kids lined up with excitement.

On the ride out of Sabi Bush Lodge a family of zebra and blue wildebeest (gnu) gathered together for mutual comfort and protection from a roving family of lions. 

A family of zebras is called a Dazzle;
a family of gnu is called an Implausibility.

A family safari at Sabi Bush Lodge is fearless, because the predator families are only stalking families that are on their bush menu.

Your unique family safari should begin by contacting African Travel Inc. at because their experience and expertise can create a seamless package that includes safaris, ground and air transportation, pre-set itineraries for any length of stay, and of course, they know Africa. Or contact your professional travel agent who consults with African Travel Inc.

— Feature and photos by Kriss Hammond, Editor, Jetsetters Magazine.