Game Experience: Play hide and seek with the Big Five in this bushy, hilly reserve.
Rangers: Ask for Justinus by name and you will get a top guide who’s funny too.
Decor: Mediaeval heavy metal with 21st century twist – very masculine but very luxurious with private Jacuzzi sunk into each deck.
Food: Fabulous in look and taste. Lots of game meat and yummy veggie options too.
Staff: Stunning staff, all amazingly helpful with meal room service that had Frans trotting up and down the long paths delivering a 4-course meal (one course at a time), with a big smile.
Sediba was conceived through an overabundance of testosterone. It is a bastion of a place, built with huge burnished rocks that litter the surface of the hillsides in the Welgevonden Game Reserve, just 3 hours north of Johannesburg.
Sediba is a man’s world. It’s like a mediaeval fortress with a giant double doorway that creaks open to reveal a huge dark bedroom. The metal-studded doors close behind you with a ‘Hummer’ of a clunk. Iron wheel-shaped chandeliers criss-crossed with beaten metal, hang from the rafters on monster chains, and cast-iron holders for flaming torches are fixed on exterior walls.
This lodge is larger than life; from the height of the ceiling, to the deep colour of the walls and bedspreads (both a mottled hue of river-mud), to the size of the tree trunks thrown into the massive fire pit, around which I dined on a whole rack of lamb all to myself. I felt the need to dispense with knife and fork and eat the entire meal with hands, as any self-respecting cave woman would do. I fell short of throwing the bones over my shoulder onto the polished cement floor, which was so slippery that morning dew or a splash of rain would have you skating across it like an Olympic champion.
There was a roaring fire in the bedroom too, and all I needed was a hunky man clad in animal skin and a thick sheepskin rug to make the scenario of cave man meets 21st century safari tart, come true. All I had was my friend Toni (female), whom of course the management thought would be a man, so they kindly had the honeymoon suite ready for us.
But Sediba is seriously 21st century too, as Paul (a fellow guest) pointed out when he said you need a degree in engineering to work out how to operate all the lights in the bedroom suite. I counted sixteen switches to work four wall sconces, two hanging lights, underfloor lighting, two air conditioners somehow linked to the underfloor heating, two overhead fans, spotlights and lights in the walk-in closet, bathroom and toilet. The switches are all over the room, positioned without relevance to the lights they operate. It took about 15 minutes to get them all off before getting into bed.
When Daisy, the Guest Relations Manager saw that we were certainly not a honeymoon couple, she had the room next door made up with twin beds while we freshened up in the honeymooner’s copper bath, which stands in the bedroom behind a great boulder. Teak flooring in this free-flow bathroom area, with invisible underfloor drainage, means that you can shower straight onto the floor, then wrap yourself in a thick, soft bath robe.
Daisy, hailing from Zambia, is a very sweet and beautiful woman with the patience of a saint and is looking for a nice husband. Where she’s going to find one out here in the middle of nowhere, I am not sure. Sediba is the kind of place only couples or families visit, although they do hold quite a few conferences, so I hope she nets a smart, kind rich delegate.
They often put families in the smaller of Sediba’s two lodges (Letlapala), which has only five chalets, instead of Letlapa which has ten huge suites. Letlapala has a less masculine edge and is somewhat more intimate with a smaller main lodge and an appealing rim-flow pool overlooking a red rocky, Martian landscape.
All suites have their own private Jacuzzi sunk into the deck and you can be sure I spent a good deal of time in it, soaking up the winter sun or at night staring up at the stars. Poor old Paul, here on a birthday treat with girlfriend Sue, couldn’t make his Jacuzzi work, nor his hot water and here were Toni and I unromantically attached and wallowing in our hot bubbles while sipping aperitifs from the mini bar.
But Paul did get serenaded at dinner in the oudoor boma, when sixteen uniformed staff (from the chef to the game ranger) came out to sing for him. In a praise song his name got translated as Pauly, and he got teased about it for the rest of the evening. There is something cellular about the way African harmony touches your very soul and they sang and danced against a backdrop of fire. This was no professional dance troupe, but consisted of whichever staff were on duty that night. Their natural acapella harmonising and rhythmic dancing was mesmerising.
Notwithstanding the few small oversights, like not having ice in the minibar fridge, no salt in the shaker, shampoo in the body lotion bottle and of course Pauly’s hot water problems, Sediba is a wonderful experience.
But of course you come on safari for the animals and it is something of a hide and seek activity to spot the Big Five and other creatures of this reserve. This is because the unrelenting masculinity of the lodge is mirrored in the terrain, which is harsh and rocky and thick with bush, even in the dry winter months when the grass is golden and leaves are dropping. It’s not a place where you can spot the big five in one game drive, even though they are most definitely here. Of course one bonus of this area is that it is malaria free and only a short drive from Johannesburg, or an even quicker helicopter hop straight to Sediba’s helipad (where I saw a couple of klipspringer antelope having a morning snooze).
Sediba is certainly one of the more sophisticated lodges in Welgevonden Game Reserve and surprisingly, one that has the highest amount of African staff, running the whole show. To help them navigate the long undulating path to the suites, they use golf carts, which devoid of passengers, are driven like Formula 1’s. My poor Oakley sunglasses fell out during the ride and were presented to me at dinner after having been well and truly run over. Now if you had told me that my sunglasses would get broken while on safari, I never would have thought it would be by a golf cart!