A riverside heaven in natural bush

After driving almost five hours to get to Sabi River Sun Resort, the limbs were a bit stiff and the body was tired of being trapped in a car for a long time.

It was perfect to go straight to the spa after checking into my room. My therapist Barbara Sithole at Heather's Spa was waiting for me and immediately set about taking out all the knots and kinks from my body.

Besides trying to fight a hard knot on my left shoulder that stubbornly refused to go anywhere, the hour-long massage relaxed me for the weekend ahead.

The hotel situated off the R40 is near three Kruger National Park entrances - Phabeni, Numbi and the Paul Kruger gates.

There are several exciting activities nearby, such as elephant rides at the Elephant Whispers sanctuary and adrenalin-fuelled rides such as quad biking and zip-lining less than 20km from the hotel.

I had the option to stack up my weekend with one more activity besides the game drive the next day, but chose to slow down and enjoy the facility.

The surrounding golf course gives the hotel's location a sense of serenity and it is so green everywhere that you appreciate its natural beauty. A walk down to the bottom part of the property is the chance for visitors to come face to face with hippos in the natural pools of the Sabie River.

The hippos can be viewed from the lookout point, to avoid provoking the majestic but fearsome large mammals.

I headed there after my massage and at the enclosure, which is also a bird lookout point, I spotted at least 20 hippos in all sizes, including the cutest babies clinging onto their mommies' backs.

They were so close I could have reached out and touched them but for the safety of visitors, an electric fence is there to prevent unwanted encounters.

As the sun was setting, the trees surrounding the pool attracted a lot of big white birds. At one time the birds looked like they were ornaments decorating Christmas trees. The birds chirped away as the hippos roared loudly in the water.

I later retreated to my room's balcony to relax and savour a cocktail before dinner.

Dinner and breakfast at Sabi River Sun Resort are served at the family friendly Sesonke restaurant in buffet style or from an a la carte menu.

I ordered deboned chicken thighs which were quite tender and yummy in a creamy sauce, but the vegetables, which I ignored, were wilted and not tasty.

The hotel is used by the community for dinners and celebrations and on that night four women at a table next to me were giggling as they drank champagne celebrating the 50th birthday of one of the friends.

After breakfast the next day, it was time to go into the Kruger Park for the highlight of the trip. After entering via Paul Kruger gate, we saw more animals and birds on our way to scout some lions that had been spotted earlier. No luck with the big cats but it was still exciting to see herds of elephants, vultures, dazzling zebras and towering giraffes.

- Nkosi was hosted by Tsogo Sun.

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