Travel Guide Sabi Sand Game Reserve
You can drive yourself, or book a road transfer with us, or fly there from Johannesburg, Nelspruit or Skukuza. The Sabi Sand Game Reserve is roughly divided into two sections, the area north of the Sand River and the area south of the Sand River. If you are driving to a northern lodge, you need to enter through the Gowrie Gate in the north. If you are going to a lodge in the south, you need to use Newington Gate or Shaw’s Gate.
It is not possible to drive from a southern entry gate to a lodge in the north, or vice versa. That means if you are staying at two lodges, one in the north and then another lodge in the south, you will have to exit the reserve and drive around to get to your next lodge. The game viewing in the north and the south is exactly the same.
It is also possible to fly direct from Johannesburg to one of the lodge airstrips in the Sabi Sand. The flight takes about 1 hour. Please ask us for details.
There are a large number of privately-owned game lodges and safari camps in the Sabi Sand, priced from around $ 300 per person up to over $ 2000 per person per night. These rates are usually all-inclusive, although at most of the less expensive lodges drinks are not included. At the more expensive lodges, you can generally expect world-class service and luxury accommodation, while at the less expensive lodges the accommodation could be smaller and more basic.
The game viewing is similar at all the lodges, except that some lodges have better traversing areas and better access to the main rivers, the Sand River and Sabie River, which does impact the game viewing somewhat. And keep in mind that the more upmarket lodges usually take up to 6 people per vehicle during game drives, while the more affordable lodges fill the vehicle with up to 9 people (3 rows of 3 seats per row).
A couple of lodges are situated close to the western and south-western boundary of the reserve, and from some of them, it is possible to see the lights and hear the sounds of the nearby villages at night. While this is an authentic aspect of Africa, some prefer a more remote lodge where there is no sign or sound of human inhabitants nearby.
Some lodges accept children, others don’t. Some lodges have rooms with private-viewing decks, plunge pools and outside showers, and are great as honeymoon destinations. Other lodges are more suitable for families with children. Some lodges offer tented accommodation, others have brick and thatch chalets.
This is where our expertise and local knowledge comes in. Tell us your requirements and we will recommend the perfect lodge for your safari, within your budget.
The wildlife in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve is the same as in the Kruger National Park, and includes the Big 5 (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo), as well as giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, warthog, kudu, impala, waterbuck, hippo, crocodile, wild dog, cheetah, hyena, jackal, baboons, monkeys and many smaller antelope and cat species. The birdlife is also prolific.
We recommend a minimum stay of 2 nights in the Sabi Sand, while the ideal stay would be 3 to 4 nights. If you have more than 4 nights available, you may want to combine the Sabi Sand with another destination, for some variety.
Our take on the Sabi Sand
We love the Sabi Sand Game Reserve! After the Kruger National Park, it is South Africa’s most famous safari destination. But it is also South Africa’s most expensive safari destination, with many lodges priced above $ 1000 USD pp per night. But if your budget allows it, you won’t easily find a better place to see the Big Five up close, especially leopards, which the Sabi Sand is famous for.
If there is a downside, it would be that the focus of many visitors (and, therefore, of the guides, too) is to see the Big 5 and, in particular, the big cats, which means the general game viewing is often not a priority here. Some guides (not all of them) race around from predator sighting to predator sighting, barely stopping for the more common animals like warthogs, giraffe, zebra, and various antelope species.