I dream, like many, of returning to Sabi Sand Singita Ebony Lodge, which is situated on 18,000 hectares bordered by the Sabi and Sand rivers in northeastern South Africa. I remember from my last visit that it’s 12 thatched villas are an Olympian feat of vertical support poles growing out of precipitously steep undergrowth, ingeniously evolving, as if organically, around massive living trees. On to these vertical supports are joined a series of horizontal boardwalk platforms with lots of connecting stairs and shade or ceiling is supplied by some upper wood blocks and, overall, an open-sided and open-ended thatched cathedral ceiling. I look out at the view and say “wow” for the first of countless times.
I am in Villa 10, a soaring L-shaped room, rising via rush-lined cathedral ceiling to big cross beams. Straight ahead, past a two-way log-burning stove with a ceiling-high chimney, you look down two black steps and through all-glass walls up to three metres high to part of the private deck – big enough for two khaki-covered loungers, to descending undergrowth, shallows and a river trickle
A water buffalo grazes the other side. A wooden cabinet holds a mini-bar, Nespresso machine, tea kettle and Villeroy & Boch china, a whole lemon with sharp Victorinox knife on a black slate and two miniatures each of assorted spirits. Hardbacks here range from David Balducci to Shakespeare’s King Henry IV. All windows have khaki canvas rolled-up blinds and another big blind could separate bedroom from the bathroom of the main area. I have a grey exterior, ball-foot freestanding tub with handheld shower; there is a glass-walled shower to the right and outside, bordered by a jigsaw-wall of big stones, an outdoor shower.
My guide drives one of the lodge’s 19 Land Rovers for the regular three-hour sunset excursion – we see a whole family of lion, plus giraffe, water-buffalo and a range of antelope. Just before the sun goes down, he sets up a full bar on the back of the vehicle. Back at the lodge, some are already congregating around the central bar. The canvas-and-leather dinner menu offers four starters and five mains. After a garden patch salad, I choose slow roast pork belly with sweet potato.
Back home, the mosquito nets were down. As the sun rose I had an invigorating swim. At breakfast, from my khaki-covered armchair, I look to the Sand River, a slight breeze rustles. This is indeed Out Of Africa. During the seven-minute rugged bush track to the airstrip, a leopard snoozes up against a post of the thatched-hut Singita ‘terminal’. As the eight-seat Pilatus PC12 takes off I savour a really juicy smoked salmon and guacamole bagel, in a brown paper carrier, of course.