ULUSABA - South Africa's Ultimate Luxury Safari by Kaya Morgan
Situated at the edge of one of the most breathtaking natural resources of the world, the Ulusaba Private Game Reserve is truly one of southern Africa's finest safari destinations. During the early 1920's, the area was stocked with cattle when between 1927 and 1933, over 500 lions were shot to help eliminate the threat to the livestock. Then in 1938, ironically, a Foot-and-Mouth epidemic resulted in the remaining cattle being put down. As the idea of conservation began to take hold, the conflict between man and beast needed to be minimized which culminated in the resettling of local tribes outside the reserve in 1976.
The now 10,000-acre, privately-owned subsection, was once part of the 145,000-acre, Sabi Sand Game Reserve bordering Kruger National Park. This rugged land has finally come unto its own thanks to billionaire Richard Branson, Virgin Atlantic mogul, who has forged a luxury safari experience like no other.
Although the flight can be rather tedious twelve hours from London to Johannesburg, then another hour by prop plane to the town of Skukuza or better yet by private charter whisking you directly to Ulusaba's own airstrip undeniably well worth the extra effort. You know you've entered another world as the wheels touch down on the sandy-red, dirt airstrip in the middle of the bush where you are greeted with a champagne welcome by the reserve's local Shangaan staff. Your guides then load you into the open-air Land Rovers and begin a brief tour of the property on the way to the elaborate, luxury accommodations of Rock Lodge or the more quiet, rustic luxury of the nearby Safari Lodge.
Perched high on the crest of the mountain some 800 feet above the bushveld, Ulusaba, meaning "place of little fear," offers sweeping vistas of wildlife within the surrounding reserve as you gaze towards the hills of Mozambique, 40 miles to the east.
Unlike most African safari lodges festooned with hunting trophies, interiors reflect the natural surroundings with many local fabrics of traditional colors and weavings, and authentic African artifacts from various tribes used creatively throughout. Luxury abounds in the lush, sunken living and dining area with state-of-the-art TV and music rooms to the adjacent spa and gym.
Leather sofas and tables are strewn with Mali mud cloths while the grand-style dining table is surrounded by chieftain chairs topped with ersatz antlers. The infinity pool with its natural waterfall is the ideal location to relax after a vigorous game of tennis on the cool, night-lit courts situated between the lodges. Or, you may prefer to spoil yourself with the full-body aromatherapy massage complete with a heavenly mix of essential oils followed by a hydrating facial.
Magnificent Rock Lodge, carved right into the side of the mountain, has ten luxurious, air-conditioned rooms with private sundecks affording breathtaking views of the Savannah below. Many migrating species, sustained by the Kskwenga dam as the largest source of nearby water, are easily viewed from Rock Lodge. Each room sports a tribal theme filled with items made by various tribes including ornate beadwork and jewelry, beaded pillows on the bed, leg bracelets on the bedposts and copper bangles on the arms of the chairs. The feeling is so authentically African, you might forget for a moment, you are in the lap of luxury and believe you are a welcomed guest at the hearth of a tribal leader.
Safari Lodge, located about one mile away in a luxurious camp-like setting, is its own small oasis. Nestled in the Riverine bush and tucked away on the banks of the Mabrak River, it has become an established elephant path and closer to the wilds of Africa. Unquestionably unique with six private rooms including tree house style, private wooden bungalows perched above the ground on stilts. Six of the most private suites, situated directly across the riverbed, are accessed only by suspension bridge and offer the ultimate in creature comforts.
The six elevated chalets offers fascinating views of the wildlife as they assemble at the watering hole with specially designed wooden swing bridges that pass through the treetops allowing safe access to the lodge while animals slowly amble below.
Early morning and late afternoon is when the animals are most active and the real bush adventures begin. Whether you choose the safari drives or choose to enjoy the spectacular game walks along the river systems, you will surely come across Africa's finest variety of wildlife lion, leopard, giraffe, rhino, zebra, buffalo, cheetah, kudu, hippo and, of course, the mighty elephant.
The safari drive is an outstanding event, accompanied by a qualified tracker and a ranger who cheerfully describe the finer points of lion-tracking as they push deeper into the bush. Animals tend to congregate around the watering holes also frequented by the predators experts at recognizing and exploiting weakness as they hunt their own meal of the day. Your day's trek is artfully broken up with frequent stops for tea, coffee, sodas and in the evenings, sundowners that oh-so-civilized safari tradition of cocktails in the bush.
A herd of waterbuck scattering in all directions, the shrill call of a hyena, a group of rare White Rhinos, Zebra, giraffe and prides of lions are all frequent sights and sounds while on safari. Elephant viewing is superb, with large herds being found almost everywhere. Many large bulls patiently follow the wandering herds in hope of finding a female in season. It can be an amazing experience being in the close proximity of such large and majestic creatures.
Should you opt for a more up close and personal adventure, the safari walks all with experienced local guides, move you closer to the hippos, crocodiles, and smaller mammals and birds in the surrounding area. The silence and excitement can be explosive as you make your way to the waters edge where you might well find hippos wallowing in a pond.
Upon your return to the lodge, you will wish to sample the superb cuisine of daily offering whether it be a traditional bush dinner served in the safari manner alongside the warmth of a campfire or in the lavish lodge dining room. African cooking is a mystical event, synonymous with life on safari, as the chefs artfully prepare a genuine taste of the splendid surroundings.
Ulusaba has developed its own signature style a kind of Pan African cuisine using fresh seasonal ingredients and strong visual appeal. A candle-light dinner might include fresh oysters at the bar before sitting down to chilled yellow pepper soup with deep fried leeks, crocodile medallions with salsa verdé, butterfly leg of lamb with green olive and tomato relish, battered chicken spiced with chilies served on a banana leaf or the grilled prawns skewered on porcupine quills with Thai dipping sauce. Wherever it is served, the cuisine is a rare feast for the senses of course, complete with the finest wines and apéritifs.
Beyond the ultimate safari adventure you might enjoy a balloon flight over the surrounding forests, a visit to a traditional tribal village, white water rafting through the deep gorges of the rugged bushveld or even a relaxing game of golf. Still not enough to do, there are always shopping safaris to the nearby town where you can find awesome collections of raw silks, mud cloths, batik, pottery and exquisite local jewelry of all kinds.
If roughing it was not really what you had in mind, then Ulusaba's luxury safari captures the true African spirit and adventure at its best. Be prepared to experience a breathtaking, wild Africa on your own terms.
To reserve your ultimate luxury safari, call 800.225.4255 or at www.ulusaba.com
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