Sabi Sands: The ultimate safari

The Sabi Sand Game Reserve is one of the most sought after safari destinations in South Africa. Not only is it well-known for its big game viewing but also its experienced trackers and game rangers. Together with world-class safari lodges, set in prime locations in the heart of the African bush, you’re guaranteed an unforgettable safari.

Founded in 1948 as the first private game reserve in South Africa, the Sabi Sands has come a long way and now forms part of the Greater Kruger National Park. Now sharing a 50km unfenced border with the Kruger National Park to the east, game moves freely, without restriction, between the 65,000 hectare Sabi Sands Game Reserve and the adjacent Kruger.

Going on a safari in Africa has to be on your bucket list at least once in your lifetime. I couldn’t think of a better place to do that than the exclusive Sabi Sand Game Reserve. It offers guests everything they envisage, with them going back time and time again. Here are a few reasons that make the Sabi Sands a great choice for your next African safari.

Private Safari Lodges

The Sabi Sand Game Reserve has a range of private safari lodges on offer: from ultra-luxurious to more affordable modest accommodation. For the ultimate bush escape, world-class safari lodges like Singita, Dulini and Londolozi offer the very best in luxury, design, cuisine and service. Providing the discerning traveller with an unforgettable bush experience, these upmarket lodges pride themselves in being intimate with the highest standards.

Some lodges are perfect for a romantic honeymoon or intimate wedding, and others that cater well for families with children. Some lodges also provide options like pampering spa treatments, spending the night in a luxury treehouse, approaching game on foot on a guided bush walk and offering specialised photographic safaris. It’s also good to know that all lodges in the Sabi Sands include all meals and two daily game drives – with some including bush walks as well. The high-end lodges being on an all-inclusive basis.

Whatever your budget and taste, each lodge is individually unique, offering the guest something special. The Luxury Traveler helps guests in finding the perfect fit for them when planning their safari. Talk to one of their African safari experts and they’ll match the right lodge to your needs.

Experience a night in a luxury treehouse in the wild bushveld of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve in South Africa. Photo credit by MORE

Impressive Wildlife Sightings

The Sabi Sands is well-known for its incredible leopard and Big-5 game sightings. Although wildlife sightings can never be guaranteed, it’s not uncommon for guests to see all the big five animals – namely elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard – in a single game drive! The game reserve has an excellent reputation for showing guests incredible animals and birds – and their behaviour. You could find yourself watching a pack of African wild dog playing with their pups or soaring vultures making their way down to a lion kill to feed. One never knows what you’ll see, and that’s what makes an African safari so thrilling.

The Sabi Sand Game Reserve has one of the highest biodiversity of fauna and flora in Africa. With over 500 bird species and more than 145 mammals recorded in the reserve, you won’t have to drive far to see a variety of wildlife. With a year-round supply of water, provided by the perennial Sand and Sabie Rivers, together with the many boreholes that dot the area, there is water even in the dry season. This ensures that animals stick around throughout the year, with only some of the bird species migrating during different seasons.

Guests can expect to see common favourites like zebra, giraffe, hippo, wildebeest, kudu, hyena and warthog – in addition to the Big-5. Iconic species like wild dog, cheetah and pangolin may also put in an appearance if you’re lucky. Night game drives also give you a unique opportunity to see the lesser-known nocturnal species that come out. You may be privileged to see bushbaby, civet, nightjars, owls, porcupine, genet, honey badger and the African cat species on a hunt

Leopards are a common sighting in the Sabi Sands. They’re almost dropping from the trees. Photo copyright Claudia Hodkinson.

Experienced Guides and Trackers

A huge advantage of going on safari in the Sabi Sands is the experienced guides and trackers that work hand in hand to find incredible game sightings for their guests. The trackers, who sit at the front of the vehicle on game drives, are highly-skilled in picking up on signs and tracks in the bush, which they follow to find animals.

Unlike Kruger National Park, one is allowed to drive off-road in the Sabi Sands to follow tracks and animal movements. It also allows one to get up really close to animals, especially big cats like cheetah, lion and leopard. The guides are also in constant communication with other vehicles in the area about sightings. This increases the chances of seeing game.

If you have a particular interest like photography or birding, the guide and tracker will make every effort during the game drive to deliver on your request. Not only do the guides and trackers have information about animals and their behaviour, but they have a wealth of knowledge about other aspects of nature too like medicinal properties of trees, folklore and the stars.

The trackers and guides of the Sabi Sands are highly experienced to find and interpret the African bush. Photo courtesy of MORE.

Easy Access

Travellers have a variety of ways to get to the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. The most convenient and fastest way is to take a charter (shuttle) flight from Johannesburg or Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA) to an airstrip in the Sabi Sands. This will ensure you spend the maximum amount of time at your lodge and out in nature. Alternatively, you could take one of the scheduled flights from Johannesburg or Cape Town to one of the three main access airports. This will be followed by either a road transfer to your lodge or a charter flight to the nearest airstrip.

Those that are on a self-drive package, using a rental car, can also reach the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. It will take you a relaxed 6 hours to drive the approximately 450 kilometres from Johannesburg to the southern Sabi Sands and 7 hours to the northern section of the reserve. A travel consultant will help put your safari itinerary together, including all relevant flights, transfers and car hire that you require.

Year-Round Destination

The Sabi Sand Game Reserve offers excellent game viewing throughout the year. Each season has its advantages. During the dry season (May-September) the bush vegetation thins out, making it easier to spot wildlife. With little rain over this time, waterholes and rivers attract many animals to drink. Fewer crowds and mild daytime temperatures also make this a popular month for many visitors. Mid-winter can get cold, but the risk of malaria is also at its lowest. Overall, the Sabi Sands is considered a very low-risk malaria area all year round. Summer (October-April) brings warmer temperatures and thunderstorms that revitalise the bush. Vegetation becomes lush and green, with migratory birds flocking back to the area with a good chance of seeing newborn animals. Birding is sensational over this time. Fish eagles, vultures, rollers, nightjars, owls, cranes, bee-eaters, falcons, hornbills and storks all form part of a dazzling avian display.

Every season in the Sabi Sands is unique with incredible game viewing throughout the year. Photo copyright Claudia Hodkinson.

 

The Sabi Sands also makes a great addition to a longer multi-destination holiday. You can easily combine your Sabi Sands safari with a trip to Victoria Falls or the Okavango Delta in Botswana for instance. Another great option is to combine it with a beach component to your itinerary. Why not add a few nights in Cape Town or Mozambique to the end of your safari? You’ll get to relax on sun-kissed beaches after watching game, providing a great end to a thrilling start.

Contact

I recommend that you book your safari to Africa at least 8-12 months in advance. The Luxury Traveler can help you do that. Start planning your safari to the Sabi Sands Game Reserve today and enquire here with your details. Alternatively, you can send them an email to [email protected]

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