This post is about the family fun and games in the Sabi Sabi Game Reserve in South Africa. The Sabi Sabi Game Reserve is a private safari game reserve in the Sabi Sands area of Kruger National Park in South Africa. There are four lodges in Sabi Sabi and Bush Lodge is the one most suitable for family safari experiences.
GETTING TO SABI SABI
The Pilatus jet flew from Johannesburg to the air strip of the Sabi Sabi Game Reserve. In a little over an hour, we’d landed and our ranger Michael was driving us to Bush Lodge, our holiday home for the next four days.
I knew this routine quite well as I’d already been at Sabi Sabi two years ago, on a wondrous and memorable safari at two of its other lodges. I still remember how we’d seen giraffe and zebra from the Sabi Sabi Game Reserve airstrip, and from that instant, I’d become completely enamored with the safari experience.
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SEEING THE BIG 5 IN SOUTH AFRICA
This time, we were even luckier. Within the first 15 minutes, we’d seen the Big 5, and this was such a shock to all of us that even Michael could not contain his surprise. “We can go home now,” I’d teased him, for spotting the Big 5 is the ultimate objective of most safari goers.
But, of course, we were here to stay. A group of us – all avid safari goers – had flown to Africa to bring our children on their first safari; and for this special trip consisting of a series of stays at some of South Africa’s most special places, I’d chosen two famous game reserves in the general area of world-famous Kruger National Park because they offered excellent programs for children.
SABI SABI GAME RESERVE: ONE OF THE BEST SAFARI EXPERIENCES IN THE WORLD
The Sabi Sabi Game Reserve is considered one of the best safari experiences in the world, and it has four specialty lodgings. Among these, Earth Lodge is the most innovative, Selati Camp is the most authentic (this is my favorite, although I love all the lodges) and Bush Lodge is the only one that accepts young visitors.
Bush Lodge is a sprawling contemporary camp with spacious and well-designed public facilities, including a 1920s-inspired living room and a covered terrace where you can sit all day and watch animals approach a watering hole. There’s also a casual child-friendly dining restaurant that serves buffet meals. If the weather is fine, dinner is outdoors in an enclosed area with a big bonfire in the middle.
As with Sabi Sabi’s more intimate adults-only camps, service is conducted flawlessly and efficiently, and always with that friendly South African vibe.
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FAMILY SAFARI EXPERIENCES AT SABI SABI
However, for families on safari, the piece de resistance of Bush Lodge is a large compound at one end of the camp, aptly named the Elefun Center. As of this writing, this is probably the most well-equipped and best-maintained children’s center in a safari camp. Complete with Sabi Sabi coloring books and personalized materials, it functions as a school, a daycare, and a creative place for young travelers all rolled into one – and it definitely offers parents significant and much-needed “me” time.
It also has its own dedicated “school” building, a secure outdoor play area and a large playground with the kind of equipment that makes little hearts beat faster. And its walls are filled with the happy scribbles and colorful hand prints of the young travelers from all over the world who have visited Sabi Sabi.
CHILDREN ON SAFARI IN AFRICA
Sabi Sabi offers the Junior Tracker program for children from ages 4 to 8, and the Junior Ranger program for ages 9 to 12. Bushveld-themed educational and entertainment activities can include specially-planned children’s game drives, games, contests, and walks and talks on animals, bugs and birds, tracking, and map-reading.
Children can be dropped off after breakfast for a morning session, and then again after lunch for an afternoon session, to be picked up just in time for the late afternoon game drives.
WONDER WOMAN AT WORK
When we were there, the Elefun Center of the Sabi Sabi Game Reserve was manned by an energetic young lady who taught the children to swing on a zipline, decorate bags, make animals out of paper cups, and even how to spell correctly. Single-handedly, she ticked off everything on the wish list of the kids and their parents, with a good balance of age-appropriate children’s games, outdoor fun, crafts and school lessons.
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The Elefun Center enables an excellent balance of activities for families, including enough time for mom and dad to relax, enjoy a leisurely afternoon tea or a morning of spa treatments between meals and drives.
This is exactly what I did, taking advantage of several free mornings to sample the offerings at the spa of Bush Lodge just before sitting down to a long lunch of salads and kebabs with everyone.
It’s a testament to the success of Sabi Sabi’s formula for keeping families happy that everyone in our group wanted to do a re-run next year, at the end of it all – including the parents. With the Elefun Center as an anchor – or perhaps more accurately, as a lifeline – we all realized that a safari with children need not be stressful after all. There were long faces everywhere as we reluctantly said “See you again soon” – not goodbye – to our new friends at the wonderful Sabi Sabi Game Reserve.