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Philip lives in South Africa and has authored many guidebooks to African destinations, including the Rough Guide to Game Parks of South Africa.
Philip lives in South Africa and has authored many Africa guidebooks, including the Rough Guide to Game Parks of South Africa.
Philip is the author of many Africa guidebooks, including the Rough Guide to Game Parks of South Africa.
Philip is author of the Rough Guide to Game Parks of South Africa.
Sabi Sands shares a 50km/30mi unfenced border with Kruger National Park and offers the best wildlife viewing in South Africa. The area is divided into individual private game reserves, all offering the ultimate Big Five experience, luxury accommodation, great service and excellent food.
Sabi Sands is the place in South Africa to easily see all of the Big Five in a short period. Even a two-day visit is usually enough to see all flagship species. With a good population of highly habituated leopards, Sabi Sands is one of the best places in Africa to see these normally elusive cats. Lion and cheetah are also easily seen.
Sabi Sands is an extension of Kruger National Park and has the same relatively thick vegetation consisting of woodland savannah. Two rivers run through the reserve, providing water. The riverine vegetation makes an excellent habitat for leopard and other wildlife.
How to Decide Where to Stay
Most places within Sabi Sands offer the same deal: upmarket safari packages, including accommodation, all meals and activities. Some upmarket lodges include drinks while others don't. The individual reserves share fenceless borders with the Greater Kruger ecosystem and offer a comparable wildlife viewing experience. All Sabi Sands reserves are excellent safari destinations. When deciding where to stay, the differences in the following factors could be taken into account:
Property size and traversing rights Traversing rights mean that the guests of one reserve are allowed to enter the property of another reserve on game drives. While traversing rights give people access to a greater area, it also means that areas shared by multiple reserves often get more crowded. This can create congestion and time pressure around wildlife sightings since only three vehicles are allowed at any particular sighting. The best deal is a large property with limited or no traversing rights. Singita and Londolozi, for example, have a large property without traversing rights. The same applies for MalaMala, which used to be part of Sabi Sands, but now operates as an independent reserve.
Luxury level and rates Although all offer luxury and expensive options, there are some differences. Londolozi and Singita are, for example, more expensive and very luxurious. The unpretentious Umukumbe Safari Lodge is a lot more affordable. Elephant plains has a range of accommodations including well priced rondavels.
Access to river frontage River frontage is a plus because it attracts animals. While waterholes have the same effect, a river is also a scenic feature, and it provides an opportunity to see elephants in the water. Some of the reserves have no river frontage but have traversing rights onto a property that does, which amounts to the same thing.
Arathusa Star rating: 4; family owned/managed, well-priced small property on large traversing block, no access to river frontage. www.arathusa.co.za
Cheetah Plains Moderately priced (in comparison), small property on large traversing block, but only limited traversing allowed, no access to river frontage. www.cheetahplains.com
Chitwa Chitwa Moderately priced (in comparison), small property on large traversing block, no access to river frontage. www.chitwa.co.za
Dulini Three luxury lodges with river frontage on a medium-sized property on large traversing block with river frontage. More about Dulini
Elephant Plains Star rating: 4; well priced, small property on large traversing block, no access to river frontage. www.elephantplains.co.za
Idube Star Rating: 4; small property on large traversing block, access to river frontage. More about Idube
Inyati Medium-sized property on large traversing block, owns river frontage. More about Inyati
Kirkman's Kamp Part of the excellent & Beyond group; moderately priced (in comparison), & Beyond lodge, large property with extra traversing rights on MalaMala, owns river frontage. www.andbeyond.com
Leopard Hills Very expensive, small property on big traversing block, access to river frontage. www.leopardhills.com
Lion Sands River Lodge: 5 Star; moderately priced (in comparison), Ivory Lodge: 6 Star; very expensive, large property without any traversing rights, very exclusive with wide river frontage. More about Lion Sands
Londolozi Very expensive and luxurious, large property without any traversing rights, very exclusive with river frontage. More about Londolozi
MalaMala Game Reserve Unpretentious, moderately priced to very expensive. Independent from Sabi Sands but neighboring the same area without fences. By far the biggest property in the Sabi Sands area, with the most extended river access. Very limited traversing rights with one property far away from MalaMala's usual wildlife viewing area. More about MalaMala
Nkorho Star rating: 4; well-priced, small property sharing traversing with two other small properties, no access to river frontage. www.nkorho.com
Nottens Unpretentious, owner-managed, authentic bush experience, well-priced, medium-sized property, no traversing, lodge overlooks the Sand River. www.nottens.com
Sabi Sabi Very expensive except for Little Bush Camp which is moderately priced (in comparison), large property with limited traversing to one small property, very limited river frontage access. More about Sabi Sabi
Savanna Star rating: 5; Moderately priced (in comparison), medium-sized property on big traversing block, river frontage access. www.savannalodge.com
Singita Very expensive and luxurious, large property without any traversing rights, very exclusive with river frontage. More about Singita Sabi Sand
Ulusaba Star Rating: 5; very expensive, medium sized property on big traversing block, river frontage access. More about Ulusaba
Umkumbwe Unpretentious, owner-managed, well-priced, medium-sized property, no traversing, lodge overlooks the river. www.umkumbe.co.za
Weather & Climate
Winter in Sabi Sands (May to September) is when the landscape dries out due to lack of rain. The temperatures are agreeable during the day, but it gets cold when the sun is below the horizon – put on plenty of warm clothes for early or late game drives. The summer months (October to April) bring afternoon thunderstorms and soaring temperatures.
Sabi Sands can be visited throughout the year and wildlife viewing is good at any time. There is a slight advantage in the dry winter months (May to September) when animals congregate around the rivers and the bush thins out. The summer months (October to April) see some rain and it tends to be very hot and humid during the day. But the scenery is lush at this time and evenings and early mornings are pleasantly mild.
Stephen is a travel writer and avid conservationist whose work appears in prestigious magazines such as Africa Geographic and Travel Africa.
Big Five Bonanza
Flanking the unfenced western boundary of the Kruger National Park, the Sabi Sand Game Reserve is Southern Africa’s most exclusive and famous wildlife safari destinations. It is also one of the oldest private nature reserves and the...
It was the best safari I have been on and I have been to Kenya, Tanzania and Kruger before. (not been to Okavango Delta yet, which is probably the pinnacle), but it is the first time I really experienced interaction between all the animals...