Discover Sabi Sand Private Reserve

The Sabi Sand offers exceptional game viewing and a variety of luxurious lodges in the Greater Kruger National Park. We offer expert advice on the best lodge choices and fly-in safari packages. This reserve also features in a number of our pre-designed luxury tour, safari, and honeymoon packages that explore the treasures of Southern Africa.

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Sabi Sand

Top Safari Activities in the Sabi Sand

Traveling to the Sabi Sand is all about wildlife and wilderness. Exceptional game viewing, luxurious lodges, and impeccable service are what you can expect during your stay in the Sabi Sand. It is a privately owned wildlife oasis unrivaled in the quality of lodgings and the diversity of animals in their natural environment.

The primary safari activity in the Sabi Sand is close encounters with the fauna and flora of this part of Africa from the back of open 4X4 vehicles.

Bush walks offer a harmonious way of experiencing the African wild and the animals that grace it. Armed rangers ensure your safety throughout.

Sabi Sand is a year-round birding destination with more than 300 identified bird species. Opportunities for bird watching abound on game drives and while in camp.

Sabi Sand Travel Overview

The Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve is South Africa's premier private game reserve and forms part of the Greater Kruger National Park. It is named after the two principal rivers that flow through it, the Sabie and Sand, and has the distinction of South Africa's oldest private game reserve. When visiting this reserve, you can be sure of some of the finest game viewing available on the African continent.

The best luxury safaris in South Africa, maybe even Africa and the entire world, are available in the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve.

Size
650 km²
Access Gates
Shaw's, Newington, Gowrie
Gate Opening Times
05:00
Gate Closing Times
23:00
Gate Fees
R250 Per Vehicle, R110 Per Person
Closest Town
Hazyview
Closest Airport
Skukuza

Recommended Safari Lodges

The Sabi Sand is home to some of the world's finest safari lodges. With over 24 years of experience in booking packages to the reserve, these are our favorites.

Lion Sands Ivory Lodge

Ivory Lodge is one of the world's most luxurious safari getaways. It is one of only a handful of lodges set on the banks of the Sabie River, the primary watercourse in this part of Kruger.

Leopard Hills

Perched at the side of a hill with sweeping views of the surrounding bush and a waterhole below, Leopard Hills provides luxury safaris in the south-central part of the Sabi Sand.

Dulini Lodge

On the banks of the episodic Mabrac River lies one of the area's most intimate and authentic lodges. It provides excellent safaris and an exceptional ambiance.

Lion Sands River Lodge

The sister lodge of Ivovy lodge shares the same exceptional concession in the southern part of Sabi Sand with an outstanding location in prime Big Five country not far from Skukuza Airport.

Idube Safari Lodge

Idube is one of the best choices for a more affordable safari in South Africa's premier private reserve. It is a recently refurbished 4-Star lodge with excellent amenities and superb game viewing.

Arathusa

Located in the northern part of the reserve, Arathusa overlooks a waterhole that attracts many animals during the dry season. This 4-Star property should be considered by those who do not wish to break the bank.

Reasons to Visit

1

Wildlife

Sabi Sand is internationally renowned for being one of the world's finest game viewing areas. The reserve has been a pioneer in sustainable eco-tourism since the 1960s and is arguably the best place in the world to view the elusive leopard.

2

Luxury Accommodation

Sabi Sand lodges range from affordable 4-Star to some of the world's most luxurious accommodations. The largest of these can accommodate forty guests, the smallest only eight. In all cases, the safari experience is intimate, the quality of meals excellent, and the entire experience almost always leaves a lasting impression.

3

Untamed Africa

Reconnect with the wilderness in an area that offers much more than viewing large mammal species. Savor the views of the bush, take the time to relax, listening to the ever-present sounds emanating from your surroundings in this untamed part of Africa.

4

Impeccable Service

A very high staff-to-clients ratio means that you will be cared for in a way that is superior to that experienced at five-star hotels. From friendly camp staff, chefs, and cleaners to the rangers and trackers that lead safaris. All are committed to making your adventure unforgettable.

Sabi Sand Vacation Options and Travel Tips

Our Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve vacations typically comprise fly-in packages that range from affordable 4-Star to exclusive top-end safaris.

Transport

It will be in an air-conditioned vehicle when transferred to your Lodge from Nelspruit or Hoedspruit. Transfers from Skukuza are typically in game-drive vehicles. All game drives conducted while staying at a lodge in the Sabi Sand are in open 4X4 vehicles.

The lodges utilize specially adapted Land Rover Defender or Toyota Land Cruiser vehicles. These vehicles offer a comfortable journey while affording maximum photographic opportunities and ensuring no or little obstruction between guests and the wildlife to which game drives are devoted.

Experiences to be Savored when traveling to the Sabi Sand Private Reserve

While the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve is renowned for its prolific Big Five game viewing experience, there is much more to savor here – from the tranquility of early mornings in the bush to some of Africa's most breathtaking sunsets.

Morning Coffee

Your morning game drive will stop at a spot in the wild where you can enjoy morning coffee with rusks. Take some time to listen to the multitude of sounds made by passing mammals and the plethora of birds – you are sure to find it a most calming and serene experience.

Sundowner Drinks

Shortly before sunset on your afternoon game drive, the ranger will choose a scenic spot from where to appreciate the sun setting over the wilderness of Africa. Savoring this experience with your favorite drink will surely be a highlight of the day's safari.

Bush Picnics

A Bush picnic is an excellent way of enjoying quiet time in the bush, savoring the scenery while enjoying well-prepared snacks and the excitement of potential animal sightings.

Best Private Tours and Safari Packages

18 Days From: ZAR 69,270 pp Exclusive Top-End Code: T01

The finest safari areas in Kruger and northern KwaZulu-Natal kick off this South African safari tour that also visits the Garden Route, Cape Town, and the Winelands.

14 Days From: ZAR 69,270 pp Luxury 5-Star Code: T02

This two-week journey focuses on safari, wine, natural spectacles, and vibrant city life. It is one of the most popular trips in Southern Africa.

7 Days From: ZAR 69,270 pp Luxury 5-Star Code: KP05

Experience two private game reserves that form part of the Greater Kruger National Park. Luxury safari lodges in the Timbavati and Sabi Sand feature as accommodations.

Mealtimes in the Sabi Sand

Morning

Coffee, tea, juice, rusks, and cereal are served shortly before departing on the morning game drive between 05:30 and 07:30. Guests are then treated to coffee or tea in the bush before returning to camp for breakfast between 09:00 and 10:00.

Afternoon

Lunch is from about 13:00 to 14:00, and high tea with snacks before departing on the afternoon game drive between 15:30 and 16:00. Guests enjoy sundowner drinks just before sunset on the afternoon/evening game drive.

Evening

Dinner is a lavish affair usually enjoyed in the dining room or on the deck one evening and in the "boma" on alternative nights. Occasionally, dinner is in the bush, where camp staff has created a fairy tale setting.

Room Service

In addition to a well-stocked mini bar, guests will, at most times, be able to order from the bar or indulge in light snacks prepared by the kitchen. It would rarely be necessary, taking into account the frequency of meals.

FAQ

Which is the finest lodge in the Sabi Sand?
In the author's opinion, Lion Sands Ivory Lodge is a cut above the rest.
Are there any lodge choices for those on a budget?
Those with a limited budget should consider a stay at Arathusa, Idube, or Notten's Bush Camp.
Are there any other private game reserves as good as the Sabi Sand?
Though not as well known, the Timbavati offers the same exceptional game viewing in the Greater Kruger National Park.
Do I need to take Malaria Medication?
Yes - after consulting your doctor about the type that would be best suited for you.
Can I view animals at night?
Yes, all game drives conducted during the late afternoon extend into the first hour or two of darkness.
Are my valuables safe at the lodges and Camps?
Most lodges provide personal safes in the rooms that will ensure the safety of your valuable belongings.
What are the chances of seeing all of the Big Five?
If your stay is three days or more, you are virtually guaranteed to see all of the Big Five.
Are there fences between the Sabi Sand and the Kruger National Park?
No, animals move freely between these conservation areas.
What is the rarest animal I can spot in the Sabi Sand?
Black rhinos and wild dogs are the most critically endangered species you can potentially spot on a safari in the Sabi Sand.
Will I have mobile reception and access to the Internet?
Yes, and most of the lodges offer free WiFi.

Useful Travel Info

Getting There

By Air

The Southern Sabi Sand, Shaw's Gate, and Newington Gate are easily accessible from both Nelspruit and Skukuza airports. The drive from Nelspruit is about an hour and fifteen minutes. From Skukuza, it is about 25 minutes. Hoedspruit Airport is the gateway to the northern Sabi Sand. It is just over an hour from Hoedspruit Airport to Gowrie Gate.

By Road

The best route to take from Johannesburg would be via Nelspruit and then on to first White River, then Hazyview. Take the Paul Kruger Gate Road from Hazyview until the turnoff to the Sabi Sand on the left. You can reach Shaw's and Newington gates via this route.

Weather & Best Time To Visit

Sabi Sand is now virtually fully booked throughout the year, and with good reason. It is, however, best to visit the reserve during the spring to autumn months, from the middle of April to the end of September.

During this period, the temperatures are moderate, and the game viewing is even more exceptional since water sources are limited and animals tend to congregate around available water sources during the early morning and late afternoon.

Medical Considerations

As with the Kruger National Park, the Sabi Sand is a malaria area, and it would be prudent to discuss anti-malarial prophylactics with your physician. It is also advisable to have your allergy medication handy, for dust and pollen may necessitate taking these medications.

Health & Safety

Once you are in the care of the staff of one of the lodges in Sabi Sand, it is very safe. They take precautions to ensure client safety in the wilderness by having an escort to and from your room before dawn and after dusk. Rangers accompanying game drives are well-trained and can utilize their knowledge of animal behavior to avoid risky or potentially risky encounters, ensuring that you can relax and enjoy the safari experience.

Private Reserves inside the Sabi Sand

The Sabi Sand consists of individual private reserves of varying sizes. We offer a brief description of each and have classified these reserves according to the Sabi Sand access gate via which you can reach them.

Southern Sabi Sand (Shaw’s Gate)

Kirkmans Camp guests enjoy a sundowner while overlooking the river.

Kirkman's

Kirkman's is one of the most southerly reserves in the Sabi Sand - it used to form part of Mala Mala. This magnificent tract of land is home to only one camp, &Beyond Kirkman's Camp. It is the beautifully restored homestead of Harry Kirkman, one of the original game rangers in the area.

Lion Sands River Lodge is one of a few lodges that overlook the Sabie River.

Lion Sands

Owned by the More family since 1933, the Lion Sands Reserve today boasts four luxurious lodges (two in Sabi Sand, two across the river in a private Kruger concession). It is the only private game reserve with lodges built on the banks of the Sabie River - the largest of the two primary rivers that flow through the area.

A unique open-air bath at Londolozi.

Londolozi

One of the original pioneers of the Sabi Sand, Londolozi Private Game Reserve is home to several world-renowned lodges offering fine safari experiences for many decades. The Varty Family owns the reserve and, after Mala Mala, is the largest tract of privately owned Big Five land in the Greater Kruger Park.

Enjoy a sundowner with a view at Mala Mala Game Reserve.

Mala Mala

The pioneer of eco-tourism in South Africa, Mala Mala still occupies the largest tract of privately owned Big Five land in the Greater Kruger National Park. Mr. Michael Rattray, a legend in conservation circles, built up the reserve over his long lifetime. It was sold in 2013 to a local tribe after a land restitution claim.

Boma evenings are wildly festive occasions.

Sabi Sabi

The Sabi Sabi Reserve has been synonymous with luxury safaris in South Africa for over thirty years. From its flagship Earth Lodge to its more moderately priced Selati and Bush lodges, many guests have enjoyed unforgettable safaris at Sabi Sabi over a period that exceeds three decades.

Enjoy views of the wilderness from the deck of your suite at Notten's.

Notten's

Notten's Bush Camp shares traversing rights with Sabi Sabi. This family-owned camp is one of the few family-friendly camps within the Sabi Sand, as children over six years old are welcome. A unique feature of the camp is that, while still sumptuously luxurious, it is entirely electricity-free, which makes it wondrously tranquil.

Central & North West (Newington Gate)

An elephant drinks from the river in front of Dulini Lodge.

Dulini

Originally a corporate getaway, the Dulini Private Game Reserve is set on some of the finest game-viewing lands in the western part of the Sabi Sand. The reserve is home to one of the smallest and most romantic Sabi Sand lodges. It offers an authentic and personal luxury safari experience. In 2016, it extended to include Leadwood and River Lodge.

The extensive viewing deck at Inyati Lodge in Sabi Sand.

Inyati

Inyati Private Game Reserve is the most northwesterly of all the properties in the Sabi Sand. The area borders the Sand River and offers good game viewing. The only lodge built on the property offers some of the best value for money in this prestigious wilderness area.

A safari vehicle stopped a short distance from Leopard Hills Lodge.

Leopard Hills

Leopard Hills shares traversing rights with the northwestern section of Sabi Sand, even though it is in the central part of the reserve. The reserve features one award-winning lodge perched on a granite outcrop. It offers visitors splendid views of the endless wooded savanna surrounding the lodge.

An elephant encountered during a safari at Idube Game Lodge.

Idube

Idube Private Reserve is adjacent to Leopard Hills. The lodge built here offers some of the best value for money in Sabi Sand. In the author's opinion, it is the finest of all the 4-Star lodges in the area and should be considered by those seeking an authentic safari at a reasonable price.

The luxurious deck of a Singita lodge in Sabi Sand.

Singita

The largest of the private reserves in the central Sabi Sand, Singita is internationally renowned as an exceptional safari destination that offers the most luxurious accommodation and the best in service that money can buy. The reserve is home to three of Singita's five Lodges in Greater Kruger.

An afternoon game drive taken from Savanna Lodge in the Sabi Sand.

Savanna

Savanna Private Game Reserve is one of the reserves that form the western boundary of the Sabi Sand, Ulusaba being the other. The lodge you will find here is a fine 5-Star property that offers good service and a luxurious stay. It is better to choose a reserve, not on the western boundary of Sabi Sand.

Ulusaba is perched on a mountaintop with beautiful views across the Sabi Sand.

Ulusaba

Ulusaba is the property of legendary British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson. Two fine 5-Star lodges provide accommodation to those visiting this family-friendly reserve, which plays a very active role in supporting local communities.

Northeastern Sabi Sand(Gowrie Gate)

A ranger sets up refreshments during a game drive at Arathusa Safari Lodge.

Arathusa

Arathusa reserve shares borders with Simbambili, Chitwa Chitwa, and Elephant Plains in the northeastern corner of the Sabi Sand. The reserve features only one lodge with the same name built on the banks of a permanent waterhole called Lake Arathusa.

Giraffes spotted on safari at Chitwa Chitwa in the Sabi Sand.

Chitwa Chitwa

The Chitwa Chitwa reserve is home to the largest body of water in the Sabi Sand. The area attracts significant animal concentrations during dry seasons when water sources become scarce. The reserve is home to the most luxurious lodge in the northeastern Sabi Sand.

A boma evening at Cheetah Plains.

Cheetah Plains

When visiting Cheetah Plains, you experience incredible wildlife encounters in pristine bushveld on the border of the Kruger National Park. The property is home to a thatched-style lodge that offers some of the best value for money in Sabi Sand.

Guests enjoy a mid-safari sundowner at Djuma in the Sabi Sand.

Djuma

Djuma reserve has hosted international clients on quality safaris for a period that now exceeds twenty years. It is the most northerly of the Sabi Sand's properties. Djuma is bordered east by Kruger Park and to the north by the Manyeleti Reserve.

An elephant sighting during a safari at Elephant Plains Lodge.

Elephant Plains

The land that Elephant Plains reserve occupies lies in the central part of the northeastern Sabi Sand. The lodge constructed here only opened its doors to the public in 1998, making it one of the newest lodges in Sabi Sand.

A lion spotted on safari at Nkorho lodge in the Sabi Sand.

Nkorho

Nkorho reserve lies on the border of the Kruger National Park to the east, Chitwa Chitwa to the west, Cheetah Plains to the south, and Djuma to the north. It occupies prime game viewing land and is home to one of the most affordable lodges in the Sabi Sand.

A private dinner with a view of the wilderness at Simbambili Lodge.

Simbambili

Simbambili rounds out the private reserves that make up Sabi Sand. It is home to a luxurious lodge that offers accommodation in nine stylish rooms, each with its private plunge pool. The spa experiences on offer here are particularly noteworthy.

History

The Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve is the oldest privately-owned reserve in South Africa. The same families who originally came together to take down their internal fences to provide a more extensive range for the wild animals, for the most part, still own and operate the reserve today. Some are now in the third and fourth generation. The vision that their forefathers had of a sustainable reserve with sustainable eco-tourism is still being driven and maintained by their descendants.

Conservation efforts started in the 1920s and culminated with the establishment of the Private Sabie Reserve in 1934. Today, the Sabi Sand forms part of the Greater Kruger National Park and, as such, also shares a portion of the largest conservation area in Southern Africa, namely the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park. This vast tract of wilderness has only ever been a wilderness area and is thus being preserved and maintained with as little interference by human hands as possible.

Terrain

Sabi Sand is relatively flat, with changes in elevation ranging from 329m to 504m. A few hills lie scattered from the western section and the Ulusaba reserve to the central area, where Leopard Hills Lodge is on one of these elevations. Two major rivers are notable: the Sabie River, which forms the reserve's southern boundary, and the Sand River, which runs through the area from northwest to southeast. Most of the lodges in this wildlife refuge are on the banks of the Sand River.

Varying degrees of wooded savanna typify the vegetation in the area, with most trees, apart from a few species that line the water courses, being deciduous, an advantage during the winter months when this enhances the ability to spot animals at a greater distance from game drive vehicles.

Geography

The Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve is situated in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa and borders the fabled Kruger National Park. The area is a summer rainfall region and a malaria zone. The spring season is from September to November, and during these times, temperatures range from 20°C - 31°C. (68°F - 87°F). Summer is from December to February, and temperatures range between 22°C - 35°C (71°F - 95°F). Autumn is from March to May, with average temperatures of between 19°C - 28°C (66°F - 82°F ). Winter stretches from June to August, and temperatures drop to an average of 12°C - 25°C (53°F - 77°F).

The rain makes the bush dense and lush during spring and summer, which is also the birthing season. Some visitors find it difficult to spot wildlife under these conditions. Still, the rangers and guides of Sabi Sand have a lot of experience scoping out wildlife in any circumstances. In the wintertime, the bush dries out, and the animals converge around dams and rivers, which makes for excellent viewing opportunities from the many vantage points and hides.

Conservation

The rhino poaching problem has become one of South Africa's most serious conservation issues. As a custodian of a part of the rhino's habitat in the Greater Kruger National Park, Sabi Sand plays an essential role in protecting one of Africa's iconic large mammal species.

Ntomeni Ranger services head up the anti-poaching team in the Sabi Sand. This professional anti-poaching organization has advised various African national parks on the security of their rhino populations. Since assuming the reins of anti-rhino poaching efforts in December 2013, rhino poaching incidents have declined somewhat. In 2014, rhino losses were reduced by 74%, and again by 85% in 2015. The struggle against poachers will continue in 2022.

Various individual lodges in the Sabi Sand contribute to this cause with community outreach and education projects that ensure the following generations understand the importance of conserving our natural heritage and that these conservation efforts have tangible economic benefits to surrounding communities.

Activities in Sabi Sand

  • Game Drives

    Lodges conduct two game drives daily, one in the early morning and another during the late afternoon, extending into the first hour of darkness. A local ranger assisted by a tracker accompanies these 4x4 safaris. These professionals are there to ensure guest safety and to provide an interpretive nature experience through their knowledge of the fauna and flora of the Sabi Sand.

  • Bush Walks

    Following the morning game drive and breakfast, most lodges in the Sabi Sand offer guests a two to three-hour bush walk accompanied by an armed ranger. These walks provide a different perspective on the bush. Rangers can point out animal tracks, the droppings of various creatures, and other small nocturnal animals not generally encountered on game drives. Avid nature lovers are encouraged to participate in these daily walks to gain a deeper understanding of the ecosystem and the interdependence of all life in the area.

  • Bush Dinners

    Occasionally, clients are surprised when their evening game drive ends in a lantern-lit part of the bush that seems almost magical. Chefs are busy preparing the evening meal under the star-studded African Sky. The experience brings new meaning to the words' exclusive dining'.

  • Spa Treatments

    Almost all of the lodges in the Sabi Sand offer spa treatments. Guests can choose between having these treatments in the spa itself or on the deck of their private room. The spa treatments range from manicures and pedicures to various massages and facials. Well-trained professionals provide treatments.

  • Stargazing

    Stargazing in the company of a guide trained to highlight the galaxies and star systems of the Southern skies is an activity available at some of the lodges in the Sabi Sand. Suppose you are a keen amateur astronomer or simply interested in the night skies above the Southern hemisphere. In that case, African Sky could propose a lodge with the necessary equipment and expertise to add stargazing as an activity to your safari in the Sabi Sand.

Activities near Sabi Sand

  • Hot air balloon flights

    Take a hot air balloon flight from a launch site not far from the town of Hazyview. If you stay at a lodge with access to Newington or Shaw's gate, you can enjoy hot air ballooning over the Lowveld savanna. The flight departs shortly after dawn and lasts about one and a half hours, after which guests enjoy a champagne breakfast. Please remember that this activity relies on good weather and that you will have to leave your lodge just after four in the morning to reach the launch site before dawn.

  • Golf

    Two nine-hole golf courses are available not far from the Sabi Sand. These are the Kruger Park Lodge and Skukuza golf courses. If you wish to play a round of golf on one of South Africa's finest courses, play at the Leopard Creek Golf Course near Malelaan - often referred to as 'the Augusta of Africa.' Depending on the specific lodge you are staying at, it will be about two and a half hours to Leopard Creek and again when returning.

  • Helicopter flights 

    Helicopter flights are available from Lion Sands Private Game Reserve. These flights explore the escarpment of the Drakensberg and the Blyde River Canyon, one of South Africa's most scenically impressive areas. The flight continues over the Berlin and Lisbon waterfalls before landing at a secluded spot with fantastic views to the east. Guests enjoy a picnic before embarking on the return flight that lands at the helicopter pad at Lion Sands.

  • Cultural Village tours

    The Shangana Cultural Village at Hazyview is accessible from most of the Sabi Sand lodges. Here trained guides immerse guests in the cultures and traditions of this proudly South African nation. The experience includes lunch and offers the opportunity to purchase hand-crafted curios created by community-based projects.

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