Chitwa Chitwa, Sabi Sand Reserve

Review by Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby.

If safari lodges are about location, location, location, then Chitwa Chitwa is our favourite yet. After a long dusty drive, we step onto the expansive boardwalks and immediately the peace and tranquility starts to ooze into our bones.

Speaking of bones, around Chitwa Chitwa there are lots of them. Elephant skulls form sculptured statues, a chandelier of bones adorns the lodge area, our suite has what looks like a giraffe tibia decorating the coffee table. The outdoor showers of some of the suites have towel rails comprising skeletal remains of some large mammal. Original, and impressive.

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The main pool overlooks the magnificent dam with several resident hippos, Chitwa Chitwa

Art meets the bush

And continuing with the décor theme, the lodge and suites are adorned with abstract art that is the work of the owner. Each piece is unique, and ties in with the theme of each room. Every suite is themed in a completely different way, showing off the owners’ interior design talent covering a wide, wide spectrum. This is where art meets the bush.

But back to location, and what the main lodge and the suites do all share in common is their incredible position on the edge of a small dam, an oasis in the surrounding bush. While most lodges may boast a modest waterhole, or partially dry river, this dam beats them all hands down. As we unwind with a cold drink, two pods of hippo honk 50 metres away, while the cries of a fish eagle echo over the still water. It’s a fantastic magnet for birds and game, and you don’t need to stray from the deck of your suite to see it all close-up.

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Each suite has a private pool overlooking the dam, Chitwa Chitwa

Leopards, leopards, leopards

But located deep in the Sabi Sand reserve, our favourite game viewing area anywhere, there’s no way we’re missing a game drive, and soon we’re cruising the area with our guide, Surprise, and tracker, Ralph. It’s not long before Ralph spots a leopard in a Marula tree, with a recent impala kill draped over a branch. We have the sighting to ourselves and watch spellbound as the leopard tucks in, at one point accidentally dropping the entrails to the ground. In a single fluid movement, it slides down the tree to recover it, before slinking off into the sunset. Not bad for the first drive.

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Leopard on impala kill, Chitwa Chitwa

The food at Chitwa matches all the other superlatives, with superb plated meals and friendly staff. Our waiter (improbably named Coconut) was genuine and endearing. Meals are refreshingly unpretentious, and you don’t feel as if you’re being plied with food constantly. Sophie tried out the small gym anyway, watching a herd of waterbuck come down to the dam to drink while hammering the treadmill. And hosts Claudia, Leon and Gaby do a brilliant job in making guests feel not just relaxed, but also at home. The owners’ great emphasis on attention to detail comes through in every aspect of the lodge, and leaves a lasting impression.


We can’t wait for the morning drive with Surprise. Surprise is an old-hand Shangaan guide, who worked his way up the ranks from bush clearing, tracking and finally guiding. Mostly self-taught, he’s one of the best guides we’ve had in years of safaris. This morning he lives up to his name with a stunning sighting of a male leopard stalking a steenbok, just metres from our open-top vehicle. We watched with our hearts in our mouths as he crept closer and closer…but the steenbok was too quick and darted away in the nick of time.

If resting in your suite after breakfast sounds too lazy, you can take a game walk. I’ll take any opportunity to learn from a good Shangaan guide and as we stroll in the heat of the morning following tracks and identifying trees, Surprise tells me stories of his most radical sightings – lions eating lions, leopards eating leopards. You can see anything in Sabi Sand; you just need time and luck.

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Main deck area, Chitwa Chitwa

Our incredible luck continues next day with more leopard sightings on every drive – hunting impala at night, and two leopards mating. Oh, and lions on two buffalo kills, elephant, rhino and lots more. We’re stunned. Our only disappointment? When the time came to leave.

In a climate where more and more safari lodges are becoming corporate owned and correspondingly bland and much less personal, Chitwa still retains the air of a private lodge. Touches of magic are everywhere. And did we mention that location?

Good for: Art and bush lovers alike, honeymoon couples, leopards (no guarantees!).

Not so good for: Still trying to work this one out.

Our verdict: Eclectic décor style and astonishing attention to detail, combined with a superb setting in the best game viewing area in South Africa, make Chitwa Chitwa one of our favourite choices.

Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge, Sabi Sand Reserve

Review by Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby.

Earth Lodge is like no other place. If you’re thinking warm colonial touches, kudu leather couches and zebra skin carpets as your idea of a safari lodge, forget it. Earth lodge is an assault on the senses, a monstrous statement, a wild experiment.

And we love it. Cast out of cement, river sand and straw, the lodge has a cave-like quality, while the furnishings are even more outlandish than the architecture. Driftwood from floods has been sculpted and polished and made into furniture and individual pieces of art, with mesmerising results. The bar, for example, comprises a large chunk of a dead tree, so extensive it’s integrated into the actual structure of the building, its contortions so convoluted it would have been impossible to design.

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Exquisite interior of our suite, Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge

We were so busy marveling at this that we almost missed the a la carte lunch so it blended into afternoon tea with an array of delicious cakes, before being introduced to our guide Marcus and tracker Louis for our afternoon game drive.

As the name suggests, Sabi Sabi is situated in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, bordering Kruger National park, the uncontested jewel of safari areas in South Africa. After an assortment of plains game and a sunset G&T it was starting to look like a quiet afternoon, until tracker Louis made a miraculous spot – the ears of a leopard crouched in the long grass some way from the road.

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Leopard, Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge

Driving off-road, we followed him for 15 minutes as the dusk turned to night, stalking into a dry river-bed, while a troop of monkeys in the tree above screeched their fury at the deadly intruder. There are many places you see the Big 5, but if you want more than a fleeting chance of seeing this majestic animal, Sabi Sand is about the only place to come.

Dinner at Earth Lodge is a lavish affair. Each night’s venue can be somewhere different – under the stars in the boma, the intimacy of the library, or even the elaborate wine cellar. Our 5-course extravaganza of Prawns, Pear & Gorgonzola soup, Spring Rolls, Lamb Rack, Pork Belly and Chocolate Fondant was under the stars, attended to by our jovial and excellent waiter George.

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Dining is a lavish, decadent experience at Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge

The staff at Earth Lodge are worthy of extra mention. At many top lodges, even in the very highest price bracket, staff will be competent but wooden, where you’ll feel comfortable but not at home. At Earth lodge, the hospitality comes naturally, and the barmen and waiters don’t need to ask your name: they know it already, and they don’t forget.

From afar, the well-spaced suites resemble termite mounds, little earth domes protruding from sunken caves, and inside too, with the earth-like, straw-textured walls and small skylights sending shafts of sunlight into the dark interior. The suites actually blend in so well that it is not unheard of to spot lions perched on the rooftops. Keep an eye out…

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Solitude, peace and out-there architecture, Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge

The furnishings are minimalist but very comfortable, with the same driftwood theme that characterizes the main lodge. Outside you can perch on a huge sculpted Leadwood bench next to the plunge pool, or relax on comfy loungers set in the bushveld itself. All with absolute privacy.

At 6am next morning sleep is interrupted (I was dreaming of giant termites invading our suite) by our wake-up call for the morning drive, and after a pre-breakfast we’re off into the cold, winter sunrise. Hornbills sit motionless in the trees until the weak sun warms their feathers and starts to warm us too, on our way to find rhino and wild dog.

Sabi Earth lodge, Sabi Sabi’s flagship lodge, is more than a statement, it’s a declaration. In their own philosophy, its futuristic lines represent ‘Tomorrow’. The nearby Bush Lodge and Little Bush Lodge represent ‘Today’ and it’s here that you’ll find your traditional contemporary, quintessential African safari themes. Bush Lodge is big, with outstanding child facilities, while Little Bush Lodge is small and intimate, with just six chalets.

Finally, Selati lodge is themed on the historic Selati railway line that ran close by, full of colonial charm and memorabilia from this golden age, and represents ‘Yesterday’. (It also overlooks a cracker of a waterhole, with great game close to the lodge).

But if it’s your thing, the prize is for Tomorrow.

Good for: Big splash out, something you can’t experience anywhere else.

Not so good for: Intimate, cosy feel (although if this is your thing, Little Bush Lodge offers plenty of it).

Our verdict: Out-of-this age architecture, something genuinely astonishing in South Africa’s premier game viewing reserve.

Nottens Bush Camp, Sabi Sand Reserve

Review by Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby

When most people think of Sabi Sand Reserve, they think big, 5-star safari lodges with a price tag to match. Think again. Tucked away in a little corner is this family-run gem, where rustic charm replaces extravagant luxury.

At Nottens, things are done the way they’ve been done for years – yet nothing about this lodge feels dated, including the wonderful staff, some of whom have been at Nottens for decades. Dale, the assistant general manager and a member of the Notten family, has been coming here all his life and from talking to him you sense the pride that he and his family takes in the place.

Despite being the most affordable lodges in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve Nottens provides a top-notch safari experience with the most low-key, heart-warming and incredibly hospitable atmosphere we’ve experienced for a long time. On our first day at the delectable buffet lunch, all our fellow guests swing by our table to introduce themselves – informality is the order of the day at Nottens. And that’s wonderfully refreshing!

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View from main lounge area, Nottens Bush Camp.

Although Nottens is on a small concession within Sabi Sand, traversing rights are shared with neighbouring Sabi Sabi so guests have access to a large game viewing area, and guides all share information on sightings. On our first game-drive with our excellent guide, Thomas, we are lucky to see a large pride of 11 lions all sharpening their claws on the same tree, perhaps in preparation for their next meal…

Back home (and at Nottens, it quickly feels like it), we freshen up for dinner in our tastefully decorated, candlelit room. All suites do have electricity, but no lights are fitted, which means lighting sources are from paraffin lamps and candles. This is as it’s always been – no fuss, no frills, just you and the African bush. The suites are nicely spaced and overlook the waterhole in front of the lodge; and for those visiting in the heat of summer there is a beautiful lap and plunge pool to cool off in.

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Deck overlooking waterhole, Nottens Bush Camp.

For dinner we’re treated to a feast beyond expectation – Dale takes on the role of braai master while the rest of the kitchen cooks up a storm of a 4-course meal. The intimate feel of Nottens becomes particularly evident in the evenings, where guests dine together by candlelight at one long table in a cosy dining room with a roaring fire in the background. The African bush tends to draw together like-minded people and we quickly find ourselves indulged in fascinating conversations. One of our fellow guests is a 93-year old ex-WW2 glider pilot, bolt upright and sharp as nails, it all made for a lively evening.

The following morning a flask of hot water is delivered to our room along with that (very early) wake-up call. The essential pre-game-drive coffee or tea is also available in the lounge should you not wish to make your own. We set off in the cold on our last game drive and are rewarded with very close-up sightings of white rhino along with antelope and giraffe – and as we drive back into camp, a large herd of zebras come gallivanting down to have a drink at the lodge’s waterhole.

After a scrumptious breakfast we go for a very entertaining and rewarding bush walk with Joseph, the oldest (and wisest!) guide at Nottens. Walking in the wild African bush is always a highlight for us, learning about the smaller things. And we were deeply impressed not only by the level of Joseph’s knowledge but also by his legendary incredible animal sound impersonations!

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White rhino on morning game drive, Nottens Bush Camp.

All in all, it became evident to us (after only one night’s stay!) that the bush heart beats loud and clear at Nottens. The lodge, and many of its staff, have been around for decades and guests come back year after year. Before long you’ll also feel part of the Nottens family. And when that magical experience comes at a very affordable price, you have a winner on your hands. We were deeply impressed by the low-key atmosphere and intimacy of the lodge – and its sense of timelessness and familiarity will stay with us for long time.

Good for: Families, bush lovers, value-for-money

Not so good for: Luxury extravaganza

Our verdict: Quaint, old-school feel and great value in South Africa’s top safari area.

Grootbos Private Nature Reserve

Francois talks about their trip to GROOTBOS

Only 2 hours from Cape Town en route to Hermanus and the Garden Route, Grootbos is centred in the heart of the Cape’s abundant sea, floral and wild life landscapes. The reserve boasts some of the world’s most distinct and unique plant, bird and animal species.

Klein Collection: How far is GROOTBOS from Cape Town?

Francois: Grootbos is located about 180 km from Cape Town driving though Hermanus and Stanford respectively.

Klein Collection: What made you decide to stay at GROOTBOS?

Francois: We love Grootbos for what it stands as well as the experience. Grootbos is also a winner for our two boys (aged 5 and 3).

Klein Collection: What was your first impression of GROOTBOS on arrival?

Francois: Unobstructed views of fynbos and ocean (The Walker Bay) as far as the eye can see. You just know that you have arrived at a very special place.

Klein Collection: What was the service like?

Francois: Grootbos staff are very friendly and attentive to all needs. They are particularly good with children (e.g. entertaining the kids while the parents can have dinner alone)

Klein Collection: Is it child friendly?

Francois: Yes, the Garden Lodge accommodates families with children of all ages. The Forest Lodge is not open to children, being a good strategy for those adults not wanting noisy children around…

Klein Collection: What activities are offered at GROOTBOS?

Francois: What is great about Grootbos is the fact that all meals as well as most of the activities are included in the rate. Horse riding is a must for the kids. Nature walks, picnic at the beach or going to the limestone caves are all memorable activities.

Klein Collection: What was the food like?

Francois: The food at Grootbos is included in the rate and the selection at every meal is very good. Food quality is top end and they make a conscious effort to cater for the children’s tastes as well.

Klein Collection: What was the highlight of your stay at GROOTBOS?

Francois: The nature setting, views and simply feeling spoilt. And of course seeing my boys’ faces on the horses. Grootbos is a personal favourite of mine.

Klein Collection: What should potential visitors take note of?

Francois: You need to try and stay at Grootbos for at least 2 nights – if the bank balance allows it…

Klein Collection: Who is GROOTBOS ideal for (i.e. the type of client you would sell this product to)?

Francois: Discerning nature lovers with an appreciation for understated luxury.

Point out of 5
Service  5
Location  5
Food  5
Facilities  5
Décor  5
Attention to detail  5
Value for money  5

Should GROOTBOS sound like music to your ears, contact Klein Collection at to book your stay.

Steenberg Hotel

Francois talks about his stay at Steenberg Hotel

The luxurious Steenberg Hotel is situated on the Cape’s oldest farm, a mere 20-minute drive from the bustling heart of Cape Town. The hotel nestles in the tranquil Constantia Valley, against the slopes of the Steenberg Mountain, offering sweeping views over the False Bay.

Klein Collection: How far is STEENBERG HOTEL from Cape Town?

Francois: About 25 km. Location in the beautiful Constantia Valley

Klein Collection: What made you decide to stay at STEENBERG HOTEL?

Francois: I was attending a corporate conference at Steenberg and decided to stay over the night prior to the event.

Klein Collection: What was your first impression of STEENBERG HOTEL on arrival?

Francois: Traditional Cape Dutch wine farm. Luxurious and excellent service for the discerning guest. Open spaces and top end facilities, art and antiques. Elegance and traditions of the 17th century blended with the most refined luxuries and conveniences of our modern age.

Klein Collection: What was the service like?

Francois: The staff were very friendly and helpful with the duty manager greeting me on arrival.

Klein Collection: Is it child friendly?

Francois: Yes, Steenberg caters for families and some suites have ample space to accommodate children traveling with parents.

Klein Collection: What activities are offered at STEENBERG HOTEL?

Francois: Steenberg has one of the top South African golf courses. It is also situated within the Constantia Valley winelands and within a 5 km radius of top South African wine estates. There are two restaurants (Catharina’s as well as Bistro Sixteen82) on the estate as well as a unique Cap Classique wine bar called Gorgeous. There is a luxury spa as well as a swimming pool area with cocktail bar. I was also impressed with Steenberg’s conference facilities.

Klein Collection: What was the food like?

The Steenberg Hotel's Conferencing FacilitiesFrancois: I had a lovely dinner at Catharina’s – best rack of lamb in a long time! Breakfast also exceeded my expectations and not only was there great variety and choice, but effective service, presentation and attention to detail is one of the consistent threads at Steenberg.

Klein Collection: What was the highlight of your stay at STEENBERG HOTEL?

Francois: Overall luxury and style – with 17th century monuments and furniture combined with modern luxury. My spacious room and sophisticated facilities was definitely a highlight.

Klein Collection: What should potential visitors take note of?

Condé Nast Traveler voted Steenberg as the Top Hotel in Africa and the Middle East in 2012 – so be prepared to be impressed!

Point out of 5
Service  5
Location  5
Food  5
Facilities  5
Décor  5
Attention to detail  5
Value for money  5

Should STEENBERG HOTEL sound like music to your ears, contact Klein Collection at to book your stay. Alternative, complete the form below.

Wedgeview Country House & Spa in Stellenbosch

Francois stays at Wedgeview Country House & Spa in Stellenbosch

Wedgeview Country House & Spa is located on a one hectare plot just outside the picturesque and historic town of Stellenbosch, where the luxury of a five-star hotel mingles with the exclusivity of a private country residence. Your hosts Dave and Anouk Bakker, together with the Wedgeview team, will look after you and will also welcome your business meeting or other events.

Klein Collection: How far is Wedgeview from Cape Town?
Francois: About 30 km.

Klein Collection: What made you decide to stay at Wedgeview?
Francois: Carien, myself and our youngest son (Francois Jr) wanted to break away for a night in the Stellenbosch Winelands.

Klein Collection: What was your first impression of Wedgeview on arrival?
Francois: Beautiful setting, very secluded on a working farm.

Wedgeview Country House and Spa

Klein Collection: What was the service like?
Francois: The service was good and we received a warm welcome. There were a few things that I thought could have been done better if one compares Wedgeview with other smaller boutique hotels: the luggage should automatically be taken to the rooms (i.e. the guest should not be asked if someone can assist with the bags…). The same goes for check-out procedures.

Klein Collection: Is it child-friendly?
Francois: Yes – but there is a fishpond and swimming pool outside with no child protection in place. The chef made a good effort to create a special meal for Francois Jr for dinner.

Klein Collection: What activities are offered at Wedgeview?
Francois: Private dinner, beautiful swimming pool setting, conference facilities for about 15 delegates.

Wedgeview Country House

Klein Collection: What was the food like?
Francois: The food is really excellent and I have never eaten a croissant like the one I had at Wedgeview!

Klein Collection: What was the highlight of your stay at Wedgeview?
Francois: The breakfast croissant.

Klein Collection: What should potential visitors take note of?
Francois: The gravel road to the hotel is not very smooth and it is advised to drive slowly.

Wedgeview Country House and Spa Honeymoon SuiteKlein Collection: Who is Wedgeview ideal for?
Francois: Small corporate groups doing a team breakaway / conference for a day to two.

Score out of 5
Service  3
Location  4
Food  5
Facilities  4
Décor  4
Attention to detail  3
Value for money  4

Average rating: 77%

Should WedgeView sound like your ideal weekend getaway, contact Klein Collection at to book your stay. Alternatively, please complete the enquiry form below.

N’kaya Lodge, Thornybush Game Reserve

“Everyone feels right at home here,” – there’s no hesitation from Lianne, the super-friendly host at N’kaya Lodge, when we ask her to describe the atmosphere here at this small and intimate family-friendly lodge. Nestled among trees and with a big lawn surrounding the property, and with four chalets, this is the perfect spot for families or small groups.

The chalets are arranged in a semicircle around the crystal clear swimming pool, while the dining area and honesty bar are only a few meters away. During winter, expect a roaring fire as you sip your gin and tonic or sample one of the wines available from the small, but charming wine cellar.

Just a short stroll away you’ll find a small but popular waterhole – popular with game, that is. When we visited N’Kaya Lodge there was a beautiful male giraffe drinking and we had a great view of him from the hide (where you might be lucky to spot the family of bush babies living in the ceiling). This entire camp can be enjoyed while staying connected with the outside world – there’s full wi-fi coverage, even (fear not!) at the waterhole.


What makes it different: Stunning chill-out spot by the waterhole

What we liked best: This unpretentious but very welcoming lodge is ideal for small groups and families.

Contact us to book your own safari experience today.

Email: info[at] | South Africa Tel. +27 (0) 21 813 6961