I was given a media rate for the duration of my stay at Dulini. Any coverage is at my discretion and 100% honest.
If you’re wondering where to stay on a safari in South Africa, you’ve come to the right place. When I first began my research, I had no idea where to start. I saw a flight deal to Johannesburg and jumped on it. I didn’t even know if there were safaris in South Africa, but after extensive google searching, I narrowed down my options. I discovered that Kruger National Park is the best place to go on a safari in South Africa. I knew I wanted to do it right, which to me means a lodge with all the amenities; no tents here, please! And when you want a luxury safari experience, you go to Sabi Sands.
Sabi Sands is a private game reserve that is actually connected to Kruger National Park. There’s no barrier – animals roam free from one to the other. The difference is that Sabi Sands is private. You can only go on a safari there if you’re staying in a lodge on the game reserve. Sabi Sands Game Reserve consists of a group of private game reserves, including where we stayed: Dulini Private Game Reserve. On the Dulini grounds, there are three different lodges. Ours had only six rooms, so there is a maximum of twelve guests at any given time, allowing complete individual attention for each guest.
After arriving on the private airstrip via Federal Airlines, we were picked up in an open-air safari vehicle by Isaac, who remained our tracker for the entire time we were there. On the ride to the lodge, we saw impalas, kudu, giraffes, and wildebeests. We even saw elephants roaming the grounds when we got to Dulini!
We were greeted at the lodge by the friendly staff who served us a welcome drink and explained how our stay would work: each morning we’d get a 5 am wake up call. (I’m not a morning person, so the thought of this was brutal, but I promise it is so worth it!) All guests are to meet in the outdoor lobby area where light bites and coffee is served. The morning safari lasts from about 5:45 am to 9:30 am, with a quick coffee and Amarula break around 8:45 am. Upon arrival back at the lodge, full breakfast is served in a group setting. Guests then have free time until 1 pm, when lunch is served. You can take your lunch out by the pool at any time between 1 and 3.
After lunch, there is more free time to swim, lounge, or do whatever your heart desires. Ryan and I worked, but I imagine a lot of people probably take a nap. The evening safari begins at 4:30 pm when guests meet in the outdoor lounge again before heading out into the bush. The evening safari lasts until about 7:30, with a stop for cocktails around sunset every night. Each evening safari has a brief 30-minute period where we were actually out there in the dark. There are no lights in the bush, so it’s quite an amazing experience. Isaac does bring a flashlight and we were lucky enough to see a few animals at night, including a leopard.
See photos of the animals we saw here!
Finally, dinner can be at whatever time you’d like. We usually ate around 8 or 8:30 pm. During our three-night stay, dinner was different each night, and it was absolutely perfect. The first night, everyone sat at different tables in the same candlelit area, which allowed for some privacy and romance in the intimate setting. The second night, we were surprised with a gorgeous setup in our room, complete with flowers, candles, and a bottle of champagne. It was truly a dream come true. The last night, a beautiful, large table filled with lanterns and flowers was set up in a different area near the lobby. We were all treated to a group dinner, buffet style, where we talked, laughed, and danced the night away. Several staff members entertained us with local music, singing, and dancing. It was a night I will never forget.
Dulini Private Game Reserve is without a doubt the best place to stay in Sabi Sands. Everything is included with your room: delicious fresh food, two safaris a day, unlimited alcohol, and impeccable service. Each guest has two rotating butlers for the duration of their stay as well as friendly staff around the lodge. Dulini is the definition of luxury, but they also give back. Not only do they collect donations for various local charitable organizations, but they also run their own community trust.
I was actually lucky enough to meet one of the owners, Iain Garratt, while I was there and he explained to me why he bought Dulini: he’s passionate about conservation. Poaching is still very much an issue in South Africa and since Kruger National Park isn’t heavily funded, they don’t have the resources to provide extensive protection for the animals. On a private game reserve, the owners are free to spend profits on what they choose, which in Dulini’s case, is keeping the animals safe. They take security seriously and poachers don’t dare enter Sabi Sands. Iain’s passion and genuine love of the bush and all its creatures is so very apparent when speaking with him. His hospitality is beyond anything I’ve ever experienced and it’s clear he leads by example as I felt the same warmth from every employee I met.
We left Dulini feeling like part of a family and I would love nothing more than to go back one day soon. I can’t recommend Dulini highly enough!
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Photos by Ryan Carpenter.