Some people may criticize the fact that staying in a luxury five-star lodge is not the way to experience a safari.  However, others would totally disagree, and this is where Lion Sands Ivory Lodge comes in.  Lion Sands has found a perfect balance to immerse their clients into wild and practically untouched nature yet surrounding them with absolute luxury, design and true hospitality.  The nine villas at Lion Sands Ivory Lodge are built from the earth using natural materials that enhance the surrounding bush environment.  The decor of the lavish 145 square-meter villas is designed to perfection, with African yet contemporary touches throughout.  The use of metal, stone, and wood inside flows perfectly outwards to the viewing deck with private dip pool.  At any point you decide to relax in the pool or have tea on the deck, you are met by curious impalas grazing on the shrubs.

I was pleasantly surprised by the high standard of food served at the property.  The menu is creative and always perfectly cooked and presented; probably the best food I have been served in any hotel in Africa.  You will be awakened before sunrise with juice and snacks placed in your kitchen through a pass, to not invade your privacy, before the first daily safari excursion.  Lion Sands is the only private game reserve rooted in both the Saba Sand Game Reserve and Kruger National Park.  Lion Sands Kruger National Park is one of only seven private park concessions, and protects 5,000 hectares of pristine wilderness, as well as sites of cultural and historical significance.

Lion Sands is family owned and operated by the fourth-generation More family. During the safari, you are driven with a spotter that sits on the front of the open-top Land Rover and are driven by a guide. One thing you will notice is that almost everyone at the lodge or reserve has grown up in that area, absolutely loves the land and will do anything to protect it. Until you are there you don’t realize the lengths they go through not to ruin Mother Nature, to the extent of not driving off already established roads after the rain, as it may the cause erosion at a later stage. The people of Lion Sands are truly special, simple, kind and always smiling.

During my three days stay on the reserve, I managed to see four of the Big Five, with exception of the rhino. I would highly recommend being there at least for three full days to view as many animals as possible. On my last, third morning, I saw one of the most beautiful sights: a herd of 12 or so elephants making their way down to the river to drink, with the baby elephants playing joyfully and spraying each other in the water.

On our last night, just before sunset, we were driven to what was our most overwhelming experience during the stay. Cross a small drawbridge, set amid the pure and untouched wilderness, and you will be surrounded by African bush and uninhibited wildlife at their best.  The Kingston Treehouse is constructed entirely from wood and glass, with contemporary decor in understated hues of greys, white and browns.  You are met with a gourmet basket of food, champagne and lanterns to set the tone.  The staff explain how everything works, and then leave you by lifting the drawbridge to be alone for 12 hours, with nothing but pure nature, the African sky and a million stars around you.  Besides the monkeys playing on the roof of the treehouse and a few scary sounds, you will fall into a beautiful sleep, only to be woken up by an amazing sunrise.

During my stay, I wanted to visit the amazing “Get Your Hands Dirty” initiative by the More family and More Community Trust.  More Community Trust’s purpose is to empower people in the local communities in which the family operate.  They do this by providing access to basic education and childcare, skills development through community-based development initiatives and access to fresh water.  Over the years, the Community Trust has built close relationships with our local communities, and guests are encouraged to visit and roll up their sleeves to help with development programmes in place.  This gives them the opportunity to experience a different and humbling way of living while connecting with local people and positively impacting on their lives.