User Reviews – Sabi Sands

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Great game viewing, great lodges. Wild Dogs.

Wildlife extravaganza at Sabi Sands Game Reserve
Overall rating

Having started our South African Holiday with a Great White Shark cage diving trip, followed by Whale watching from our hotel balcony in Hermanus, our four days at Sabi Sands Game reserve had a lot to live up to.
We need not have worried, from the moment that we were picked up at Hoedspruit airport by a very friendly courier, everything exceeded our expectations.
A quite long, dusty journey was frequently interspersed with sightings of various animals expertly spotted by the driver who slowed down when he could to give us the best possible sighting
Our Journey also took us through many villages, which given that we were heading for a four day stay in beautiful accommodation was a humbling experience.
Despite the poverty there were smiling faces everywhere, and washing lines full of beautifully clean coloured clothing which formed an almost rainbow like illumination against the sandy earth and concrete block dwellings.
On arrival at Sabi Sands we were given a warm welcome with refreshments and hot wet flannels to freshen our faces, this became the norm for all returns from the bush.
Our lodge was situated in a beautiful position overlooking the large Water hole/lake and already Hippopotamus were in full view from our verandah,
However we had little time to settle at that time as we were given the opportunity to head straight out on our first safari within the hour!
The guests were divided into three groups and and each group had its own Ranger and Tracker, Our guide was Ryan and his tracker was De'beer. Over the next four days their knowledge, humour, and patience made for one of the most stunning experiences of our lives.
We had incredibly close views of Rhino, Elephant, Water Buffalo, Giraffe, and various other animals, but the highlight for me was the opportunity to view close up at least four different Leopard which seemed totally at ease in the presence of the land rover, however Ryan made it very clear that the animal must be given total respect with no sudden movement or noise, and keeping firmly in our seats. despite this i managed some stunning photographs which i will treasure forever.
The only animal of the " Big Five" we didn't see was the Lions. this was unusual but apparently the pride had moved across the boundary into another reserve and Etiquette deemed that it was not correct to encroach onto another reserve.
This was no problem to me, but there were murmuring of discontent from others, but hey, you're on safari, Wild animals don't turn up to order,
All meals were eaten communally on the decking overlooking the lake, apart from a barbecue which was cooked for us out in the bush one evening and was a wonderful surprise , We ate beside a roaring fire with traditional African singing competing with the calls of the Hyenas and owls (absolutely magical) The standard of food was excellent throughout the whole stay.
All in all i would recommend Sabi sands game reserve to anyone looking for a first experience of African safari. I'm sure there are more rugged and wild Safari experiences, but if you want excellent accommodation and food, coupled with a truly memorable Wildlife experience provided by funny but very knowledgable guides, who have the animals welfare at heart first and foremost, then this could be the safari destination for you.

Sabi Sands is a hidden door to the Africa of my dreams.
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South Africa's climate and landscape was strikingly similar to that of my home US state of Oregon (i.e., rainy, lowland, rainforest coast separated by mountains from a high, dry arid, semi-desert plateau. It was also similar in terms of land use and economy (farming, ranching, forestry). But where we would have elk roaming the fields, South Africans have rhinocerouses!
Before I left Oregon, people who had been to Kenya and Tanzania told me I would be disappointed in South Africa because of all the brush: you can't see anything, they declared. To be fair, there might be a point there, in summer, when everything is green and growing, but in September winter is at its end; the bush is dry, the animals are hungry for fresh growth, and the grass and brush has been nibbled and gnawed to bare twigs. I loved the bushveldt! It has a feeling a mystery and awe, a sense of closeness, and it evokes powerful feelings especially at sunset, when the heat and dust of the day filter the sunlight.

I selected Tydon African Safaris, a small, family-operated safari business that offers extremely good value for a more than fair price. Although I'd signed on for a shared safari vehicle, in nearly every game drive I shared the vehicle with no more than two companions and a driver. We had fabulous rides, plentiful sightings of game, and very knowledgeable guides.
I took a walking safari and learned a tremendous amount about bushveldt ecology which happens to dovetail nicely with aspects of my professional work. A walk in the African bush is in someways better than riding around looking for animals; the difference is, on a bush walk, you are mostly interested in learning about the poop that all of the animals leave around. It's all part of the ecology!

September is a good time to travel to South Africa and Kruger NP region if you want to avoid malaria. Most of South Africa is out of the malaria zone, but KwaZulu-Natal Province, and Mpumalanga Province (Kruger-Sabi Sands) are in the malaria zone. Mosquitoes become active as soon as the rains begin. That's what I learned from the locals.

In Sabi Sand Game Reserve, you really do get what you pay for!
Overall rating

During our trip to Kruger National Park, we felt that it would only do the trip justice if we spent a few nights in Sabi Sand Game Reserve before heading back. We had read about the differences between the two and were quite certain we would be short changing ourselves if we didn't pay a visit to Sabi Sand. We stayed in Umkumbe Lodge which is one of the smaller lodges in Sabi Sand. That being said, Umkumbe brought along with it a wonder crew ranging from the chef to the tour guides. There was alot of personal attention and you could see and feel the extra mile they go to making sure your stay is as comfortable as can be. We were a family of vegetarians and they made it a point to make special meals for us and they were honestly some of the best meals we had on the trip. The game drives were alot of fun, the guides were very knowledgeable and the coordination of the drives was great. The highlight was spotting the rhinos and it helped us complete our list of the big 5 (of which we had seen the other 4 in Kruger). I would recommend Sabi Sand for anyone who has the ability to pocket the price you would be paying for it, but once that staged is past, be prepared to have a thrilling, luxurious and very pleasant time in Sabi Sand.

Overall rating

Very nice place, to make a safari, beautiful landscapes and a lot of animals.

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We had great wildlife sightings in Sabi Sands, including a very close encounter with a pair of mating leopards! Incredible!

We did find that we saw more people and safari trucks than in Timbavati, and therefore the "bush vibe" is not the same. We felt more "in the wild" in Timbavati.

The game viewing was fantastic. We had close encounters with elephants, lions eating a kill, rhinos with a calf, and even saw a pair of leopards mating - right beside the Land Rover! We did have one quiet game drive, which goes to show you that the animals are wildlife, and nature is unpredictable. But our guide was determined to get us a close encounter with a leopard, and during the last hour of hour final drive, we sure did!!! Other highlights included sundowners (cocktails at sunset in the bush), and wild life viewing right from the dining area (some a little too close!!).

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The great private lodges and the big five are all here. Savanna Lodge was where we stayed and loved.

I could not imagine a better safari experience than that provided to us at Arathusa - just superb.
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Where do I start?

The accommodation was very comfortable and spotlessly clean. We had a hut on the edge of the waterhole, this meant that in the rest periods between game drives we did not get much rest - too many animals visiting the waterhole to keep us entertained !!

The game drives - early morning and late afternoon each day - were well organised. Our guide Rein and Tracker DeBeer really knew their stuff. The wildlife was abundant - we had not realised just how close we got to all of the animals. We had been told that on a 3 day safari, if you saw all of the Big 5, as well as the other numerous animals, you did well. We actually had a 5 day safari, but on day 2 we saw the Big 5 in about 90 minutes !!! There were 3 vehicles leaving the lodge each drive, and all kept in close touch on the two-ways, to ensure that if one group saw a particular sight, the others were informed so they could get there too. On the last day we even saw a pack of African Wild dogs with a kill, which is extremely rare.

The food was excellent - only about 30 guests, with the most enthusiastic chef - Malcolm - announcing full details of each meal before it was served. Other facilities were good as well - pool overlooking the waterhole, good bar, massage and beauty salon (excellent massages by the way). Everything was very well organised and always on time.

Would recommend this resort to anybody without qualification - but definitely get a hut on the edge of the waterhole.

Rich wildlife viewing
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Spent only 3 days on safari at one of the beautiful intimate lodges in the Sabi Sand but was treated to a tremendous number of sightings! Apart from the Big 5 (on least 3 occasions each, elephants on every game drive!), we'd also seen the cheetah (albeit from a distance due to a fire causing the ground to be temporarily restricted) and the highly endangered African Wild Dog. Saw zebra as well even though they are usually rare in this wooded bush. Had also seen lion cubs, leopard cubs, lions mating and a fight over a wildebeest calf. Extremely exciting! The sunsets during the evening sundowners were gorgeous too and there is a real rugged beauty in the bush. You'd need a good and experienced ranger-tracker team though, and we're lucky we had a really good one!

Everyone should visit here at least once in a lifetime
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What an amazing time we had in Sabi Sand. It was our first time on safari and wow, what an incredible experience we had! We did not expect to see so many beautiful animals so close up. We loved the off-roading too tracking cheetahs, leopards and lions. What an adrenalin rush that gives you! It was the springtime when we visited so it was very easy to spot the animals. The river beds were dry and we enjoyed our morning bush mix stops there with the vervet monkeys and baboons overhead in the trees. One night we watched the sun set on the river whilst the elephants played in the puddles. Early one morning we tracked a hippo moving from one water hole to another. So many wonderful memories of the most beautiful animals will be forever imprinted on our minds. We have already booked to return again as four days did not seem enough!

Average User Rating

  • 4.9/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

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