Out of this world!! Treehouse is a MUST!!! – Review of Lion Sands River Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve, South Africa

My wife and I decided to go to the Lion Sands game reserve as part of our honeymoon. We stayed for 6 nights as part of a 3 week honeymoon.

In summary, the best experience we have ever had on a holiday. Everything was perfect. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. Everyday was a new adventure and done in style.

Check In:
Painless process. We arrived with a group of honeymooners on a light aircraft. We were welcomed into the bar area where we received a refreshing drink of ice tea and sat down to go through the check in process. Most of it was done in advance and it was more of a meet and greet.

The Rooms:
We stayed in the river lodge, lovely room. When we entered we taken in with the room. Looks like a mud hut from the outside but luxurious when we entered.

The butler service for the rooms was spot on, I would say we had the room cleaned / turned down at least 4 times a day from what we could see.

I think it is worth reminding people that you are in the wild. There are bugs and creepie crawlies to contend with. Not a najor problem, there are mosquito nets around the bed and each room is equiped with a large can of “DOOM” (Bug spray). I think we saw 2 spiders and a small lizard over the time we stayed here.

How We Spent Our Time:
Each day has a fairly tight schedule but never feels rushed and always relaxed:
05:30 – wake up call
06:00 – Coffee & Snacks
06:30 – Drive Begins
09:00 – Breakfast
10:30 – Chill Time / Bush Walk
13:00 – Lunch
14:00 – Chill Time
15:30 – Coffee & Cakes
16:00 – Drive Begins
19:30 – Meet in Bar for pre dinner drinks
20:00 – Dinner & Drinks

Eating is a very big part of the day. You eat before the drive, during the drive, after the drive…. I think any weight we lost for the wedding was put back on during the first week!

As mentioned eating was a large part of the day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner all had amazing menus to choose from. We were never disppointed and we sampled lots of local meats from some of the game we saw on the drives.

The dining areas are very clean and you are assigned a butler who will serve you each day. We got to know our butler very well and the professional and friendly manner he had was appreciated. Occassionally we would ask for something a little bespoke and there was never a problem and he would make sure we got everything as we liked.

I would note (this may not suit all but did for us) that dinner alternates between group and private dining each night. Private dining is essentially who you come with having dinner together. Group dining is with your ranger and the group you have in the 4×4 during the day. We met some really nice couples and we are fairly outgoing so this aspect was great for us and most evenings we were the last group still drinking wine. So late on one evening a Hyena decided to pop in and say hello. They are pretty big…. the ranger (Jono) scared it off though. The infamous “hand clap,” we will never forget!

Activities / Facilities:
There is a gym, I’ll be honest and say I never visitied once.

There is an outdoor pool, not heated. It was freezing, but also quite refreshing. Beside the pool is a nice decking area with sun loungers for use in the chill time.

Wi-Fi – There is a connection and it is free. Pretty slow but at least it is something. There is an internet PC which is a bit faster. My only criticism of this is the lack of a printer. Not great when trying to print boarding passes. Not a big deal as we managed to print when we got to our hotel in Jo’Burg.

The Drives:
2 drives a day, you are assigned a ranger and a tracker who will stay with you for the duration of your stay. This is a nice touch as you really get to know them.

We saw LOADS of animals and the respect that has been built up between the rangers and the animals is amazing. There are protocols the rangers follow that doesn’t stress the animals, as a result we could get very close and the animals were more than happy and would get on with whatever they were doing.

I have a good camera with a 400mm lens so managed to walk away with some amazing images. If you are going, invest in a good camera and a fast lens. First thing in the morning and last thing at night it’s quite dark / dull. A fast lens in needed.

The drives are done in style. Stop offs in the morning for coffee and cakes (yes more food) and a champagne drinks reception in the evening. Note that all the drink will come back eventually. Refer back to the clapping as you may need if a toilet break required. You are in the wild, there are animals. I was coming back from a bush and a hyena walked past where I was 10 seconds later. This was a recurring joke our 4×4 had about clapping when approching bushes.

On a few of the days our Ranger arranged for a bush breakfast and a sunset drinks gathering. Both were pretty special. Safari in style.

Check Out:
Again this was a painless process.

There was a mistake with our bill, they tried to charge us for transfers but we had already paid when we booked with Virgin Holidays. This was quickly corrected and no issues about the push back.

I can honeslty say we were sad to go. This was an experience of a lifetime, well it was meant to be but we have decided that we are going to make this an annual holiday as we have fallen in love with the safari experience.

My only worry is that the Lion Sands has set the bar very high and other game reserves may not be up to scratch forcing us to go back there again…


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