Expert Reviews – Ulusaba GR

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Ulusaba – top of the world
Overall rating

On the whole, Sabi Sand isn’t renowned for its scenery. The gameviewing at this 65 000 hectare/153 000 acre network of private game reserves linked to the southwestern corner of the Kruger National Park is unsurpassed with over 145 species of mammal and around 500 species of bird, but the best of the local scenery is on the edge of the escarpment, a few kilometres outside the game area. The great exception to the rule is Ulusaba’s Rock Lodge, dizzyingly perched between the giant boulders of a rocky kopje with vast panoramic views. Part of Richard Branson’s Virgin empire, the reserve has every possible luxury including a world-class spa and private plunge pools in some suites. But it is those views that really make it worthwhile. Many top safari lodges ban children. Although I don’t have any, I grew up being taken to game parks by my parents and believe passionately that unless we educate the next generation to care for the animals they won’t be there in years to come. So Ulusaba wins massive brownie points from me for welcoming children of all ages at Rock Lodge where a Cub’s Club offers a hugely imaginative programme of entertainment, child-friendly safari walks, babysitting and even sleep-inducing junior spa treatments!
And if, like me, these days, you have arthritic knees that don’t like climbing, Safari Lodge, set amongst ancient trees along a dry riverbed at the bottom of the hill, may not be as showy but has a drama all its own with tree-house style rooms linked by rope bridges.

Celebrity-friendly luxury in Sabi Sand’s wild west
Overall rating

With a famous owner – Richard Branson – and a galaxy of famous names in the guest book, Ulusaba has real star quality. Its setting, a richly wooded strip of bush in the far west of the Sabi Sand Reserve, is beautiful, and I think its lodges are among the most inspiring and imaginative places in this lodge-rich region.

Though perched up on a granite kopje, the Rock and Cliff lodges manage to blend beautifully with their surroundings, and the larger, tucked-away Safari Lodge, reached by rope bridges, has subtle charm. Though unashamedly luxurious, none of the accommodation is encumbered with unnecessary (or inappropriate) glitz. Instead, there are gorgeously tactile natural materials wherever you look, and elevated views to revel in. Those hoping to feel totally immersed in the wilderness will want to keep looking east, as I couldn’t help noticing that if you look west or northwest, you can just make out the nearest towns in the distance. But when you’re out on a Big Five game drive, you could be miles from civilisation.

Average Expert Rating

  • 4.0/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

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