We all know the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve, that hallowed place where – for one night’s accommodation and ridiculously good game viewing – wealthy overseas tourists pay the average monthly salary of a middle-class South African. For most of us regular folks, this super-exclusive reserve might as well be as far away as the Caribbean. But away from the dollar-denominated elite lodges, the Djuma section of the Sabi Sand hides a pair of highly comfortable, affordable self-catering camps which give you the chance to own a slice of this paradise for a few glorious days.
Galago and Vuyatela boast chalets and rooms which compete in comfort with their glittery counterparts. Both lodges host up to ten people each, and the rates include guided game drives and bush walks. The lodges are only available for exclusive use, so you and your family and friends literally have the whole place to yourself. With rates for the entire lodge costing less than half of the nightly per person rate at the higher-end lodges, we were understandably a little wary when we bundled into our cars and took the drive from Nelspruit to the reserve. But all concerns were vanquished as soon as our smiley guide greeted us at the Galago parking lot and showed us around our home for the weekend. Galago’s clean and spacious chalets are nestled privately along a dry river bed, and boast outdoor showers, air conditioning, large decks and cavernous bath tubs. Decorated with African cheer, the main lodge has a lounge area with satellite TV, an outdoor campfire surrounded by plush safari chairs, a verandah with dining table and a kitchen equipped with enough equipment to satisfy a Michelin star chef. As if this weren’t enough, there’s also a swimming pool to beat the bushveld heat, and a tree-shaded viewing deck overlooking a waterhole in front of the lodge.
But quite possibly the best thing about Djuma is that two guided game drives per day, as well as bush walks, are included. We found the guides and trackers to be just as knowledgeable and friendly as anywhere else in the Sabi Sand, and they treated us to some of the magnificent sightings which have earned the reserve its worldwide repute. During our two-night stay, we watched both leopards and lions mating, saw the rest of the Big Five and had our vehicle thoroughly examined by a wild dog pack with a dozen curious pups. Guests aren’t subject to the military scheduling of most other lodges: you can stay out in the bush for longer than usual, extend the afternoon drive into a night drive or depart later in the morning if a lie-in is in order. We came across several other game drive vehicles during our stay, filled with wealthy, overdressed overseas tourists. Comparing their super-luxurious, exorbitantly expensive experience of the Sabi Sand with our laidback, flexible and well-priced adventure, we weren’t jealous in the slightest.
For more information, visit www.djuma.com.