Sabi Sabi - 30 Years of Excellence
Sabi Sabi Newsletter - August 2009

Sabi Sabi's 30th anniversary has been all about awards and accolades. The year had a fabulous start. We were voted into the number two spot in Travel + Leisure's Best Service Awards (Africa and Middle East). Little did we realize that this would be the first of many. Following close on the heels of the Service Awards, Earth Lodge received 2 Conde Naste Awards: the lodge was named Africa's top destination in the Ambience and Design section of the Conde Nast Travelers Gold List as well as being awarded a position on Conde Naste's international Gold List. In July Sabi Sabi was voted the 3rd Best Hotel in the World and the 2nd Best on the African continent in Travel & Leisure Magazine's Best in the World 2009 rankings. Also in July, Earth Lodge's new Amani Spa won top honours at the prestigious Les Nouvelles Esthetiques South African Spa Awards in the highly contested Safari Spa category.

A focus on outstanding service, luxury lodge accommodation and the best safari experience on offer has reaped rewards, according to marketing director, Jacques Smit. "Our steady presence in the World's Top 10 and our thirty-year remarkable track record in the safari industry speaks for itself. We are continually upgrading our lodges and training our wonderful staff in order to deliver the ultimate guest experience, while at the same time ensuring that our unique style of warmth and welcome brings guests back time and time again. We are extremely grateful to travelers of the world who have given us their stamp of approval."


Three Sabi Sabi rangers have bacome the first guides in South Africa to become accredited as Trails Guides Mentors & Assessors by the Field Guide Association of South Africa (FGASA). Will Lawson, Nadia Schoeman and Cameron Els - all experienced rangers - completed an intensive practical assessment course that qualifies them to evaluate and train potential guides for walking trails. On their three-day course, they had twenty separate close encounters on foot with elephant, lion, buffalo and hippo.

The training course covered 36km of walking, ensuring that as diverse terrain as possible was covered, with much emphasis being placed on safety, and preparation for different real-life situations. The importance of making the most of each walking experience was also emphasised during the training. During walking safaris, rangers are encouraged to show their guests a completely different perspective of the bush from that which is experienced while on a Land Rover. There is a focus on feeling the pulse of Africa through the soles of ones feet: a closer interaction with the smaller animals of the bushveld, the birds, trees, bush lore and history rather than the myriad big game that inhabits the Sabi Sabi reserve.

This is the first time that FGASA has run this course, which it hopes will become adopted by other private reserves. Sabi Sabi's rangers and trackers have always received excellent scores on their FGASA qualifications. Sabi Sabi places a lot of emphasis on ongoing education and training in order to maintain world class guiding standards. The knowledge and experience gained on this assessment course will further enhance the legendary Sabi Sabi safari experience.

Says Bruce Lawson of FGASA: "It was a pleasure and a privilege to be able to mentor and workshop people of such a professional nature and calibre. All three candidates showed true professionalism, impeccable ethics, superb walking abilities and all had the thirst and eagerness to learn. All true qualities of a good guide! "This is a step in the right direction for both FGASA and more so for the private sector. I commend Nadia, Will and Cameron for a job well done and wish them all the best in carrying the Trails Guide mentorship program and 'back-up' role forward.

"I sincerely hope more private lodges take the initiative as Sabi Sabi has done."

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Playful, muscular and stealthy - they lay there sprawled out before us. The lion pride looked as if they had put their heads down for the day with the 'king' not far behind the females. He laid his enormous head down with a deep sigh of recognition, knowing all was well in his kingdom.

As the day began to warm our faces on this cold morning, we decided we had spent an adequate amount of time with the pride, and so would be moving off soon. As we were departing, one of the lionesses sat up and cocked her ears forward, paying full attention to something in the distance. My tracker Voster and I remembered passing a herd of zebra grazing upon new sweet grass shoots in a nearby open area. We concluded that the female had picked up on their scent.

Our instincts were right because just then the she got up. Accompanied by another two lionesses, she began to move toward the zebra herd. The females soon got visual of the herd which at this stage was stationary. The lionesses began to spread out. In seconds we were only able to see one of them. One female moved quietly behind the zebras, maintaining a good distance. We then caught sight of the other two females, which were positioned at opposite ends of the clearing. We stood by anxiously- the lions waited patiently.

The zebra herd began to head in a north-westerly direction. The lioness in the closest position turned toward them, picking up the pace of her stalk. We then saw cubs and the remaining lionesses on the horizon. At this point two of the females gave chase, were joined by three others and the zebra were driven straight towards the female waiting with the cubs. This lioness managed to get her paws onto one of the zebras but was viciously kicked off, somersaulting backwards and allowing the zebras to make their escape.

As the kicked female came to her senses, seemingly out of nowhere emerged a charging warthog. With a swift sidestep the dazed female caught the warthog, but made no immediate attempt to kill it. She held it belly-up and immobilised - apparently waiting for the cubs to get to her so they could give the pig the killing blow. Unfortunately for the cubs the warthog's violent thrashing and squealing forced the lioness into the kill before the cubs arrived. An fight then ensued as the pride fought for scraps from the small catch. What a sighting!

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SPOTLIGHT ON … Nadia Schoeman

As assistant head ranger and assistant lodge manager at Earth Lodge, Nadia is one of the most experienced guides at Sabi Sabi. Having worked at all four lodges with husband, Stefan, she juggles guiding, lodge management and motherhood. Working in "the only industry I ever really wanted to be in" makes life interesting, challenging and diverse."The industry is extremely demanding, especially if you have a family," she says.

SPOTLIGHT ON … Nadia Schoeman

"It is important to maintain world-class standards and keep introducing new and fresh ideas into the competitive private lodge industry in South Africa. On top of that, we are ambassadors for our country as we play host to so many international guests, many of them on first visits to South Africa."

Admitting to a special love for birding and bushwalks, Nadia recently underwent a gruelling assessment course enabling her to train and assess trail guides. "I love conducting bushwalks. During walks you have the opportunity to focus on the smaller aspects as well as experiencing the bush at a completely different level," she continues. Her advice to newcomers to the guiding industry is to work hard and keep on studying and qualifying. Having a baby almost two years ago has forced her to look at the bush with fresh eyes. "My son taught me to see the bush through the eyes of a child which definitely changes one's perceptions of how everything fits together. I must admit it does make things a lot simpler!"

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Limited space is still available at Sabi Sabi for the duration of the 2010 World Cup; and as final qualifiers are decided and the schedule finalised, a surge in demand is expected. Contact Sabi Sabi reservations +27 11 447 7172 or for up-to-date information about bookings at this time.

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A whole host of celebrities have been seen at Sabi Sabi recently. Making the most of the awesome safaris, luxury lodges, secluded settings and restful ambience, celebrity visitors include sports stars and Hollywood actors. South African cricket legend and current Proteas fielding coach, Jonty Rhodes visited Earth Lodge with wife, Kate. There they enjoyed a well deserve break from a hectic schedule, were amazed by the diverse safari sightings, knocked out by the cuisine and bowled over by the Amber Suite.

An excerpt from Jonty's thank you note reads, "…we were treated like royalty from the moment we stepped out of the transfer vehicle. Looking around, we could see that this sort of treatment was not reserved for us alone, and all the other guests seemed to benefit from the same treatment!" Shortly afterwards Dave Anable (Justin) and Luke MacFarlane (Scotty) from television hit, Brothers and Sisters visited the lodge. Their comments when they arrived back home speak for themselves, "..we'd much rather be on safari right now… pass along a special thank you to Cameron who gave us an experience we'll never forget."

Sabi Sabi recently hosted the Italian fashion icons - Dolce & Gabbana - from Italy, who enjoyed their African experience at Earth Lodge. Sabi Sabi is also looking forward to hosting a team of NBA basketball stars in October.

For more information contact

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