About a year ago, the Lion Sands River Lodge, in the Sabi Sand Reserve succumbed to fire and was destroyed to the point that a brand new building would replace what was once there.

It should be noted that the fire was contained quickly and that nobody was hurt when this spontaneous combustion occurred. Guests who were there at the time were relocated to the other lodges at Lion Sands and the functioning of the Lodge pretty much carried on.

The news of the fire was very sad to those who know the lodge, but this unfortunate turn of events proffered a chance for some rejuvenation and a different take on what we have come to expect at a reserve such as Lion Sands.

Liesl and I feeling very VIP at the launch of Lion Sands River Lodge

Within a year a new River Lodge was built and in May 2018 opened to rave reviews.

To give it a first hand gander, me and my fellow foot soldier down our daily tools and headed off for a mandatory look-see courtesy of the good folk at Lions Sands. A little perk of our livelihood that not even the tax man can ruin.

On a – finally and thankfully – wet and chilly Cape Town morning we met at the airport to check in on Airlink, had a relaxing breakfast in the lounge before jetting off to Nelspruit.

Upon our arrival, our driver met us with trays of biltong and dried fruits to fortify us on the two hour drive to the lodge, where a sumptuous lunch was laid on as a welcome.

And there went my diet. Damn!

I’ll start again next month…

The sleek new design of Lion Sands River Lodge

The new lodge is different. Very different. Think Meghan Markle to Camilla Parker-Bowles divergent.

Not that I am saying, for one moment, that one is better than the other. But very chalk and cheese.

Whereas the previous lodge had a thatched roundness and warm traditional feel, the new one says that Lion Sands has got its funk on. Stylish modern squareness and sleek lines with a profusion of light and air and views that never end brings the outside inside. Walls are kept to a bare smidgeon, exposed steel and a sea of glass announce the arrival of chic contemporaneousness to the African bush. The contemporary décor exudes elegance and polish but not too minimalistic as to give one the feeling that the movers’ lorry broke down and is yet to arrive.

It really is most striking. It’s Meghan in Jimmy Choo’s and an Apple watch.

The central area has a Safari Lounge and Bar and Barista’s Station serving yummy assorted coffees as well as an art gallery with works by local artists and a swish boutique for the shopping fix.

The lodgings include eight Luxury Rooms, six Superior Luxury Rooms and four River Suites.  The River Suites each have their own plunge pool for private frolicking.

But it’s not only the lustrous new building that makes such an impression, the staff are marvellous too, striking the perfect balance of professionalism and friendliness. This could be in large part due to them staying there in bednights at the camp, so that they themselves can experience it as guests. And it shows in their enthusiasm, their wide knowledge and their overall fabulousness.

River Lodge has an offering that I found to be really rather cool; they have a photographic lab, or memory Lab -with software and facilities that help you with your own photo editing and also can, should you so wish, have them printed straight onto canvas for you to take home.

Although one could easily be tempted to simply languish oneself in the luxury of the lodge, Lion Sands is of course about so much more. And so we headed out to the Sabi Sand reserve for some wonderful game viewing whilst being treated to diet confounding snacks and gin and tonic as the sun gently called it a day.

Double sit ups next month…

The fire pit at Lion Sands River is sure to be the stage of many a fireside safari story

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