Sabi Sabi, South Africa Combines Ecological Approach With Luxury

As pioneers in South Africa’s private Game Lodge industry since 1979, Jacqui and Hilton Loon, co-owners of Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, have created a “home in the bush” atmosphere for their guests, resulting in a world-renowned reputation for warmth and informality in their Game Lodges. Their latest endeavor, Earth Lodge, captures the essence of Africa with breathtaking results. Jacqui Loon has always been involved in the décor of Sabi Sabi but she is particularly passionate about this new venture, born of the close collaboration between herself, her husband, architect Mohammed Hans and sculptor Geoffrey Armstrong. The result is what a visiting conservationist called “the most ecologically-sensitively-designed lodge in Africa.”

Earth Lodge represents a new concept in architecture where the buildings, consisting of 13 separate suites and a main facility, are excavated into the slope of a site, and the sand and plants are put back onto the roofs.  They merge into the landscape so seamlessly that they seem sculpted from the earth. Guests enter the main facility through an uncovered corridor that winds deep into the earth to open up onto a wonderful discovery—a spacious entrance foyer offering panoramic views over the game reserve. 

The ethic and philosophy behind Earth Lodge was intensely personal.  By the very nature of the architectural design and minimal artistic interior décor, the Loons wanted each guest to have a profound, holistic experience. The walls are a combination of sand, stone, thatch and cement.  The individual luxury suites are positioned so they are almost invisible in the landscape.  Each has panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows in the large living room, bedroom and bath.  All have terraces that include a secluded plunge pool and open air shower, overlooking the game reserve.

The main building holds a bar and dining area, a well-stocked library, art gallery, vaulted wine cellar which doubles as a unique dining facility, spa and exercise center, a terrace where breakfast and lunch are served and a separate “boma.”  The main swimming pool uses natural stone, driftwood, flowing water and plants to provide the feeling of being at one with nature.  Close-by is a Zen garden for meditation.


Geoffrey Armstrong’s sculptures in the form of headboards, writing desks and benches are created from trees washed away by floods in the year 2000 and others pushed over by elephants.  Each piece is a masterpiece of art, design and functionality and makes the transition between buildings and nature as one.

All design and materials are from Southern Africa.  For example, the raffia curtains were woven in Swaziland.  Organic forms, textures and images were brought into the furniture in a contemporary, sophisticated way.  Luxurious suede, indigenous African hardwoods and bronze-plated metals were used to create a warm and comfortable atmosphere that is totally in harmony with the outside environment.

Furniture was designed specifically for Earth Lodge by Brave New World, a firm in Cape Town with two young, talented designers.  Examples of this are the “twig” legs of the dining room chairs and the three-legged “Rhino horn” bar chair.

An ecological attitude of care and restraint is expressed throughout.  This style is a departure from the traditional “colonial” treatment of Game Lodge décor and is a reflection of the new South Africa and its Renaissance.  It is the world of tomorrow.

Situated at the edge of Kruger National Park, suites at Sabi Sabi’s Earth Lodge are R5,000 or approximately $680 per person, per night, based on double occupancy. The Amber Presidential suite is R10,000 or approximately $1,360 per person, per night, double occupancy.  Price includes Sabi Sabi’s unsurpassed safaris to see African Game in open Land Rovers by day and night, environmental awareness walking safaris, visits to hides, all meals, tea and coffee. house wines, local beer, mineral water and soft drinks. 

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