Leopards in the trees. Leopards sauntering along the riverbed. Lions devouring a buffalo. Lions chilling with the cubs in the grassland. Hyenas here, hyenas there. Predators just about everywhere.
The Sabi Sands Game Reserve is nothing short of a show-off. On a game drive through this vast tract of Mpumalanga bushveld bordering the Kruger National Park you’ll hardly have time to let your mind wander — one of my favourite things on a long game drive — before the radio crackles and there’s another cat spoiling your reverie.
But the interruption from furry residents is a small price to pay for the unabashed adventure of discovering one of the world’s most famous safari destinations. Particularly when you have a lodge like Dulini Moya to return to at day’s end.
Dulini Moya is both the oldest and the newest of the three lodges in the Dulini Collection. Though they’re spread not far apart along the banks of the Mabrak and Sand Rivers, each has its own character and charm, from the bright Scandi-chic of Dulini River to the moody, sexy aesthetic of Dulini Leadwood.
The revamped Moya is now the Goldilocks option, an all-new creation that defines, as its name suggests, the “spirit” of the collection. The camp has stood on the banks of the Mabrak River for decades, but a rebuild earlier this year has entirely reimagined the lodge.
In the new lounge and dining areas walls have been demolished and roofs rebuilt to bring the outside in. Interior designer Cate Simpson blends classic safari décor — think leather campaign chairs and leather Chesterfields in the cosy Winter Lounge — with a sense of playfulness in the fabrics and layout. The new Dining Sala flows easily from welcoming indoor space, with leather armchairs warming their feet at a crackling fire, to airy daytime dining destination.
The six guest suites have seen a similar transformation. Ceilings have been lifted, living areas extended and a fresh new look moved in. Here rough stone walls and an organic palette of fabrics and textures neatly reflect the bushveld views that lie just beyond the private deck and plunge pool.
The real spirit of Dulini is perhaps less about the bricks and mortar though, and is instead delivered from dawn to dusk by the staff, many of whom have been at the lodge for decades. There’s undeniable warmth, a sense of hospitality that’s so often lacking at safari lodges.
That’s on full display come lunch or dinner, when there’s no shortage of generosity on offer.
Breakfast and lunch are served as a private tableside buffet, with dainty bowls of deliciousness delivered on silver platters. Lunches turn up the dial on creativity. One day may see a panko-crumbed scotch egg with cured gemsbok and a piquant mustard relish. Another brings the playful “Kentucky Fried Quail” and a fragrant fish-burger bursting with bright coriander notes. Fresh, light, flavour-packed cuisine is a trend among safari lodges with an eye, or palate, for the zeitgeist of contemporary safari travellers, and I couldn’t be happier.
Well, perhaps if they left me unattended in the wine cellar for the weekend. Enormous care has been paid to curating an enviable collection of SA’s big-hitters and boutique superstars, from a rare Sadie Family Columella to Alheit Vineyards’ Magnetic North. You’ll find them both here, along with dozens of other remarkable releases. Perhaps even more remarkable is that most wines are included in the standard room rate.
As summer days start to warm and the first rains bring a welcome hint of green to the Lowveld, there are few better places to book an indulgent safari escape than the elegant confines of this reinvented safari classic.