Sabi Sands Game Reserve is located in Mpumalanga, a province situated to the west of Kruger National Park. Sabi Sands is the oldest private park in the country, and it has an excellent reputation for outstanding lodges and safaris. I personally believe it is the best place to see leopards, and it is also one of the best places to see all of the Big Five in the wild.
There are outstanding lodges in this 60,000-acre reserve, such as Sabi Sabi, Londolozi, Lion Sands, Chitwa Chitwa and Inyati, which all offer varying standards of luxurious accommodation.
Fences between Kruger and Sabi Sands were removed in 1994, allowing the wildlife to roam freely between the parks. The two rivers, Sabie and Sand, provide an abundance of water, ensuring that the wildlife prefer to be in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve.
There are more than 145 mammals, 110 reptiles, 330 types of tree and over 500 species of birds (including migratory birds) in Sabi Sands. The big difference between safaris here and in Kruger National Park is that the jeeps in Sabi Sands are allowed to go off-road if there is a special sighting. This allows you to get really close to the wildlife.
A typical game drive in Sabi Sands Game Reserve, one of the most beautiful parks in South Africa:
A day in Sabi Sands starts early. The game drives leave just before sunrise, ensuring that you get to see the entire bush wake up. The 4x4 safari jeeps usually take between 4 and 9 people, depending on the level of luxury of your lodge. During the morning drive, you stop en route for a cup of coffee or tea, but otherwise you will be on the move tracking wildlife in the bush.
When you arrive back at the lodge, usually about 3 hours later, you’re welcomed with a delicious breakfast. After that it’s time to relax, and then later lunch is served, and then it’s time for more relaxation, until high tea at 3.30pm. Active types can arrange a walk through the bush with a ranger after breakfast. The emphasis on the walk is more on flora and smaller animals.
After the high tea you go on another safari, just as the sun is slowly starting to make its way to the horizon. Now that the weather is cooler, most of the animals are a lot more active. You stop en route to enjoy sunset and then continue with the game drive. The crew uses spotlights to spot wildlife in the dark, and I can tell you that it’s quite a remarkable experience to follow a leopard or lion in the bush while they are on a hunt.
I’m not a morning person, but when I go on safari I can’t get up early enough. The feeling of excitement, adventure and being at one with nature is indescribable. Driving through the bush, seeing all kinds of wildlife, and not knowing what I will discover...it’s what I live for.