Sabi Sand welcomes visitors thanks to reserve-wide vaccine programme

Posted on 2 September 2021 By David Henning

Temporary Covid-19 vaccination stations set up at Sabi Sand Nature Reserve in Mpumalanga will see Sabi Sand employees, their families, security personnel as well as rhino anti-poaching and conservation staff vaccinated by the end of this week.

Vaccinations are also being made available to the neighbouring communities of Dixie and Dumphries. Oscar Mthimkhulu, CEO of Sabi Sand, says: ‘This vaccine drive aims to achieve reserve and community-wide immunity, attract visitors back to one of South Africa’s major eco-tourism destinations and retain jobs. Tourism in South Africa has been hard-hit by the Coronavirus pandemic, and Mpumalanga has not been spared. We have partnered with Dis-Chem Pharmacies and Eurolab to roll out the programme.’

The Mpumalanga MEC for health, Sasekani Manzini, visited two of the four vaccine stations at Sabi Sand’s Ulusaba reserve and in the Dixie village today. Manzini says, ‘The communities surrounding Sabi Sand are central to its operations as a large proportion of its staff come from nearby villages. Covid-19 has seen people in rural provinces like Mpumalanga suffer because they rely on employment offered by businesses in the area. It is heart-warming to see Sabi Sand make this concerted effort to vaccinate staff and communities close by. This initiative is an exemplar for other tourism companies, especially those operating in rural provinces.’

Mpumalanga MEC of health, Sasekani Manzini.

Sabi Sand, which spans 62,000 hectares, includes several safari lodges and shares a border with the world-renowned Kruger Park, is one of the largest employers of eco-tourism and conservation in Mpumalanga. Each staff member employed at Sabi Sand supports around nine people.

Mthimkhulu adds that “This vaccine drive also supports the Tourism Sector Recovery Plan released in March this year which encompasses the implementation of norms and standards for safe operations to enable safe travel and rebuild traveller confidence. We hope to create a ‘bubble of safe operations’ within the Sabi Sand reserve and among nearby communities to promote the recovery of tourism.

‘We have worked closely with Dis-Chem Pharmacies and Eurolab to plan and coordinate vaccinations across four vaccine sites. These are at the Ulusaba and Thornybush lodges as well as the nearby Dixie and Dumphries communities.’

Dis-Chem has provided the vaccine infrastructure, set up the vaccination site and is administering the vaccines. Oncology company Eurolab is also supporting the initiative, and through its subsidiary Oncolab, is establishing a Covid-19 testing station with same-day results for Sabi Sand staff and guests.’

Ivan Saltzman, Dis-Chem Pharmacies CEO, says, ‘The more jabs we can get into arms, the quicker South Africa can return to a sense of normality across all sectors, as well as eco-tourism and conservation. The EVDS is efficient and user-friendly and has made the coordination of this vaccination campaign seamless.

According to Statistics South Africa, foreign arrivals in South Africa dropped by 71% from just over 15,8-million in 2019 to less than 5-million in 2020. Visitors to Mpumalanga mostly come from the USA, Germany and the United Kingdom, and eSwatini and Mozambique.


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A look inside Kruger National Park’s Skukuza Airport

Pictures: Sabi Sand

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