The Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve has quite rightly earned its reputation as South Africa’s premier game viewing destination. It is an exceptional destination for 'Big Five' safari, without any doubt one of the best on the entire continent. It is particularly famous for its leopard sightings. These are the most elusive of all the cats and the most difficult of the Big Five to find. In many game parks, visitors return with only sightings of footprints or an old kill left in a tree. However, in Sabi Sand leopards have become accustomed to vehicles and will allow you great viewing. Perhaps the most special thing about these sightings is how completely unfazed most of the animals seem to be here. The professionalism of the guides has ensured that they do not feel threatened by the vehicles at all and they will often pass by within a few feet. Both the quantity of leopards in the park and the quality of the game viewing almost guarantee a sighting – indeed, many visitors have multiple leopard encounters.
How to reach Sabi Sands Game Reserve
Sabi Sand is located on Kruger’s south-western border and shares a 50 km unfenced boundary with the park, enabling game to move freely between the two areas. With both the Sand and Sabie rivers flowing through the reserve, there is plenty of sustenance to ensure good game viewing all year round.
When to visit Sabi Sands Game Reserve
Sabi Sand is a year-round destination and great to visit at any time. However, the best season is winter, July to mid-October. The climate at this time is dry and cool with little rainfall, making game drives more comfortable and game easier to spot due to less foliage.
November to March is the rainy season, with higher temperatures. There can sometimes be dramatic thunderstorms during the afternoon. This season is very popular for bird enthusiasts. It is also good for game, with the calving season taking place for most animal species. However, while the rains create stunning green growth and scenery, this does make game viewing slightly more difficult than during the winter months when the grasses and foliage are low.
Where to stay in the Sabi Sands
Choosing where to stay in Sabi Sand is key. In our experience, the best game areas are those bordering the main Kruger Park, due to the movement of game between the two regions. We have also found that the reserves on the rivers, particularly Sand River, have much better concentrations of game. However, with unparalleled levels of luxury, the accommodation in the Sabi Sands is not cheap, but you certainly get what you pay for. The quality of service and hospitality comfortably match the rest of the experience on offer.
With so many fantastic lodges in one place, how do you choose the right one?... We believe that the answer lies with the rivers – the mighty Sabi and the gentle Sand Rivers, which give the reserve its name. These two life-giving ribbons of water quench the thirst of all their inhabitants and pull in huge amounts of game, especially during the dry season. Their power and influence over the experience here cannot be denied.
The best affordable safari lodges in Sabi Sands:
Notten’s Bush Campis a little gem that falls into our ‘Adventure’ category. This lodge just cannot be beaten for sheer value for money. It is by far the most personal and authentic of the more affordable properties in the area – and because it is owner-run, you can feel how lovingly it has been built.
Chitwa Chitwais located up in the reserve’s northern sector. This is one of the busier areas in terms of vehicle traffic, but this lodge must get a mention for the sheer audacity of its design. It could be mistaken for an eclectic art gallery in the form of a safari lodge and the entire place is beautifully accentuated with statement pieces.
Kirkman’s Kampis the more traditional in style. It was originally the campsite of the park’s first warden and is therefore steeped in rich history. As it is run by &Beyond, the levels of service and hospitality are very consistent and it can also be combined with their other properties in the Timbavati and Phinda for some much-reduced rates.
- Lion Sands is one of the newer properties in the reserve and consists of two beautiful lodges – River Lodge, the larger and more social of the two, and Ivory Lodge, which is stunning and could compete with anything else in terms of sheer luxury and exclusivity.
- Dulini River Lodge and Dulini Leadwood Lodge: in the western sector. This is another busy area in terms of vehicle traffic, but the quality of the Dulini brand cannot be denied. The Leadwood suites are lavish and completely magnificent, tucked away amongst a dense stand of trees on the Sand River.
Our favorite high-end lodges in the Sabi Sands:
- Singita... the most famous lodges in Sabi Sand are Singita’s Ebony Lodge and Boulders Lodge. These have set new standards of luxury for safari and no expense has been spared with these two icons. Everything is of the best, from the size of the suites, the quality of the fittings and furnishings, the fine wine and cuisine, and even down to the vehicles, the guides, and the reserve itself.
- Londolozi... is extremely popular too, boasting some very luxurious lodges. It comprises five different lodges, each sprawling out next to each other along the Sand River and each with its own signature. The three more expensive properties (Tree, Pioneer, and Granite) easily compete with the likes of Singita for the top spot, but we believe the two more affordable properties (Varty and Founders) are what this place is all about. You see, they share the same traversing area as well as the same vehicles and guides, so the safari experience is identical at all of them.