The most prestigious game park in South Africa, the Sabi Sand Game Reserve is renowned for some of the best Big Five game safaris in the country. The beautiful and historic Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve comprises of 65 000 hectares of incredible Mpumalanga plant and animal life. 50kms of its unfenced border adjoins the Kruger National Park, allowing wildlife to roam freely between the reserve and the park.
The longstanding and most prosperous private reserve in South Africa. In 1948, landowners established a formal association with the aim of creating a private nature reserve. Credit for the association, however, should go to the original initiators of the reserve in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. Of these initiators, no less than six of their families are now third and fourth generation owners of the land.
The Sabie Reserve was proclaimed in 1898 and incorporated what is today both the Sabi Sand and the Kruger National Park. However, in 1926 the National Parks Act of South Africa was enacted, and numerous private landowners were removed from the Sabie Reserve. They in turn founded the Sabi Private Game Reserve in 1934 – a forerunner to the Sabi Sand. It was in 1926 that the tourists were permitted into the Kruger National Park – the commencement of sustainable wildlife tourism that is the formula for conservation management in Africa today.
In 1961 a pressing threat of foot and mouth disease emerged and the unrelenting hunting on neighbouring private land, fences were raised between the Sabi Sand and the Kruger National Park. The Sabi Sand also fenced their boundary to the west to prevent the movement of game from the area. In 1993, however, after protracted discussions between the Kruger National Park and Sabi Sand, the fences between the two reserves were once more folded and discarded and wildlife soon roamed between the park and the private reserves to the west. The Sabi Sand is now amalgamated to form part of the greater Kruger National Park wildlife territory and its enormous wildlife.
With no boundary fences between it and the Kruger Park, the Sabi Sand benefits from the great diversity of animals found in one of the richest wildlife areas on the African continent and is particularly well known for leopard sightings.
The Sabi Sand consists primarily of bush savannah, which is made up of dense trees and shrubs, interspersed with grasslands. A forest of tall trees and thickets growing along the river’s course remains green throughout the year and attracts leopard, bushbuck, buffalo and other animals.
3. Game viewing experience
With a high density of wildlife, guests to the Sabi Sand are virtually guaranteed to encounter most, if not all, of the Big Five, as well as a variety of other species.
Several of the Lodges offer suites with private plunge pools and viewing terraces and all serve up amazing cuisine and matching wines.
From Nelspruit and Skukuza airports you are able to gain easy entrance into the southern Sabi Sand, through Newington and Shaw’s Gates. Road travel from Nelspruit takes about 1¼ hour and from Skukuza, it is about 25 minutes. Hoedspruit Airport enable you to gain easy access to the northern Sabi Sand. The road travel from Gowrie Gate to Gowrie Gate takes just over an hour.
The finest road to Sabi Sands from Johannesburg would be travel via Nelspruit and then pass through White River, then head-off to Hazyview. Take the Paul Kruger Gate Road from Hazyview, until you reach the turnoff to the Sabi Sand on the left. Only Shaw’s and Newington gates can be reached via this route.
Weather & Best Time To Visit
The May – October dry season is generally regarded as the best time for game viewing: the vegetation is thin and trampled which makes animals easier to see – especially since wildlife is often concentrated around waterholes and rivers. Waterhole game viewing is very rewarding in late winter – even from the comfort of your lodge.
But summer rains transform the Sabi Sand. Thick rivers now flow through a lush and flowering landscape full of birds and new-born animals. Antelope herds with young become targets for big cats and wild dogs, making the summer green season a great time of year to witness predator/prey interaction.
Visitors to Sabi Sand in the May to October dry season enjoy plenty of bird watching. Most lodges have specialist bird guides and with 250 resident species, it’s a great birding destination during its coolest and driest time. But the summer rains attract a similar number of migratory species – brightly coloured rollers and bee-eaters, storks and eagles among them. Birders prepared to risk a bit of rain will find the November to March summer months the best time for bird watching. Wetlands and rivers teem with birdlife, and rainstorms often trigger termite swarms which attract huge numbers of raptors.
Although the incidence of malaria is rare, it would be best to take adequate precautions if you choose to visit these areas. The cheapest, safest and most effective measures against malaria are physical barriers, such as a mosquito net, and the use of a good insect repellent. If you decide to take malaria prophylaxis, it is essential that you take the drugs according to the directions on the package insert. You will need to start a week or two before entering a malaria-endemic area, and should continue taking the drugs for four weeks after leaving the malaria risk area. It is advisable to consult a medical professional before embarking on a course of malaria prophylaxis.
Health & Safety
Your guide will always perform a safety talk prior to commencement of safari, whether your game viewing is to be done from a vehicle, or on foot. Wildlife is potentially dangerous, but as long as you adhere to what you guide tells you, there is very little to worry about. Although Africa is known to be home to a number of potentially dangerous species, especially snakes, scorpions, spiders, and insects, very few visitors are adversely affected. Snakes tend to be shy, and generally stay away from built-up areas. Lodges and camps generally have insect (especially mosquito) proofing in their rooms. If you go on a walk, it is always a good idea to comfortable, enclosed walking shoes, socks, and long trousers just as a precaution.
Whilst you are on road travel to the lodge from Nelspruit or Hoedspruit, the vehicles allocated to these transfer is air-conditioned. From Skukuza transfers from Skukuza are usually performed in game drive vehicles. Open 4X4 vehicles are utilized on all game drives undertaken whilst you on vacation at any lodge in the Sabi Sands.
Land Rover Defender or Toyota Land Cruiser vehicles are utilized by the lodges are designed for the kind of terrain found here. These vehicles offer a comfortable journey whilst affording maximum photographic opportunities and ensuring no or little obstruction between guests and the wildlife to which game drives are devoted.
Are there any lodge choices for those on a budget?
Arathusa, Idube or Notten’s Bush Camp are good contemplation for those with a low budget.
Do I need to take Malaria medications?
Yes, we recommend you obtain advise from you doctor as to the type of medicine best suited for you.
Which is the finest lodge in the Sabi Sand?
From the writer’s perspective the Lion Sands Ivory Lodge is a notch above the rest.
Is the water safe to drink?
Yes, water is safe to drink, and bottled water is readily available at the lodges.
Are there any other private game reserves as good as the Sabi Sands?
Yes, there is the Timbavati, is relatively unknown, offers the same excellent game viewing in the Greater Kruger National Park.
Are there fences between the Sabi Sand and the Kruger National Park?
No, wildlife is free to roam uninhibited between these conservation areas.
What is the rarest animal that can potentially be spotted?
Black rhino and wild dog are the most crucially endangered species that could potentially be spotted on a safari in the Sabi Sand.
What are the chances of seeing all of the Big Five?
Should your stay be extended to 3 days or more then, you are practically assured of seeing all of the Big Five.
Can I view animals at night?
Yes, all game drives performed during the late afternoon and encroach into the first hour or two of darkness.
Are my valuables safe at the lodges and camps?
Most lodges rooms are equipped with a personal safe and therefore security of your valuable belongings is assured.
Will I have mobile reception and reception and access to the internet?
Yes, and most of the lodges offer free WiFi.
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A typical safari that extends great value for money. Take on an expedition to two of the most admired destinations in Southern Africa – the Kruger National Park and Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe side …
Suitable for safari fanatics with little time. This hasty overland break to the southern Kruger National Park guarantees several encounters with wildlife and take pleasure in the natural exquisiteness of this world legendary wilderness.
65 Casa Bella, 247 Sullivan Street, Centurion, Pretoria,South Africa, 0157
Mon – Fri 08.00 – 17.00
Sat – Sun 08h00 – 13h00
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