Richard Branson brings his singular attitude toward luxurious living to this private reserve in Kruger National Park.
Off the beaten path and deep in the heart of South Africa’s Sabi Sand Reserve, Ulusaba Private Game Reserve is worth the journey. If you're looking for the "big five", you're likely to spot them on one of the open-air Land Rover tours offered here. But if you'd rather play tennis or lounge poolside, you can do that too. The best of both worlds are just one hour from Johannesburg by plane at this swanky safari destination owned by Virgin tycoon Sir Richard Branson.
The reserve consists of two unique lodges. Rock Lodge spans the cliff face of Ulusaba Mountain and boasts private sun decks off every room, the better to savor sweeping views of the wilderness 800 feet below. All eight accommodations here are tastefully decorated with artifacts, weavings and earthy colors that blend with the natural environment. On the comfort spectrum, amenities include air-conditioning, telephones, DVDs, libraries and board games. For the ultimate in luxury guests can book both of the suites at Rock Lodge's exclusive Cliff Lodge. When doing so, privileges include a private chef, private vehicle for game drives and the sole use of a gym and spa treatment room. Cliff Lodge is ideal for family gatherings.
Down below, located in the riverine bush, Safari Lodge provides a quiet setting sheltered by trees. Its 11 thatched chalets come with amenities similar to those found at Rock Lodge, and décor includes antique Mali mud-cloth cushions and handcrafted bush beds. The Elephant Rooms in Safari Lodge are linked to the main lodge by a wooden swing bridge, and all rooms have private plunge pools with the exception of the Treehouse Suite overlooking nearby Xikwenga Dam.
All guests enjoy use of the two Rock Lodge tennis courts and viewing pavilion, along with the swimming pool and fitness room. For spa services, there is the Aroma Boma (beauty therapy room), as well as facials, yoga, herbal infusions and the signature Sharman's Journey treatment with warm quartz and crystals. Other thoughtful touches include insect repellent, mosquito nets, sunblock and email access upon request. Cuisine at the reserve caters to individual dietary requirements and focuses on Pan-African dishes influenced by local cultures, flavors and spices. Breads and pastries are baked daily. Guests may take their meals under the African sky in the dining boma, on one of the decks or in the dining room. Private events can also be accommodated.
Kids up to 11 are invited to join the Cub's Club, with complimentary babysitting and goodies to entertain and educate. But of course, the wilderness is Ulusaba's biggest draw. A professional tracker and field guide accompany each early morning and afternoon-into-night tour in four-wheel drive safari vehicles. Animal encounters can range from newborn baby elephants to crocodiles, and exhilarating excursions include helicopter flights over Blyde River Canyon (the world's third deepest canyon), personal interactions with elephants and trips to nearby villages. On a game tour you are likely to see more than 300 species of birds, as well as giraffe, antelope, cheetah, zebra, hippopotamus, impala, klipspringer, steenbok, duiker and wildebeest.