Ulusaba private game reserve | Sabi Sands Game Reserve
Ulusaba Private Game Reserve is Sir Richard Branson’s luxury safari lodge in southern Africa and part of the Virgin Limited Edition. This is a collection of unique retreats and luxury hotels owned and operated by Richard Branson’s global company.
The premier safari destination is located in the western corner of Sabi Sand Private Nature Reserve in South Africa and boasts three exceptional lodges of world-class quality. All the luxury safari lodges in Sabi Sand are spectacular in their own unique way but what is special about Ulusaba is its gorgeous views over the beautiful surrounding bushveld.
Ulusaba Private Game Reserve is 13 500 hectares of pristine bushveld and home to the Big 5. The luxury safari lodges are positioned high on a granite hilltop and boast an uninterrupted panoramic outlook of the Greater Kruger. The hilltop was named Ulusaba meaning ‘place of fear’ in the local language because it provided ancient Shangaan warriors with the perfect vantage point during an era of heated tribal wars.
Sir Richard Branson’s Ulusaba luxury safari lodge in Sabi Sand Wildtuin is the recipient of many safari lodge awards including the latest 2017 ‘Top Resorts in Africa’ voted by the readers of Condé Nast Traveller (USA). Other accolades for Ulusaba include being named the ‘Best Luxury Safari Resort’ in 2017 by Travel+Leisure; voted by readers of Conde Nast in India and South Asia.
Ulusaba is located in a premier wildlife corridor in the Greater Kruger and guests can expect spectacular game viewing on a safari tour of Sabi Sands. But what makes Ulusaba special is it exudes the warmth and open-hearted spirit of Sir Richard Branson himself which makes it a family-friendly safari destination even though it’s regarded as one of the most exclusive safari lodges in South Africa.
Guests have the choice of 21 spectacular rooms or suites at Ulusaba. Rock Lodge is the original lodge at Ulusaba building was completed in 1983. Sir Richard Branson bought the property in 1994 and transformed Rock Lodge into a world-class safari destination with the addition of the Rock Cliff Suites, Cliff Lodge and Safari Lodge as well as the Treehouse Suite at Safari Lodge.
Ulusaba Safari Lodge injects a sense of adventure in the Ulusaba safari experience with rope swing bridges and raised walkways taking guests to luxurious suites and a magical treehouse.
A stay at Sir Branson’s favourite African bushveld retreat is not only an exceptional wildlife experience but made extra special by the added features which make a stay so memorable. This includes guided bush walks, moonlit dinners, wonderful spa treatments, wine tasting and star gazing in the bush observatory.
Ulusaba boasts a well-equipped gym, an excellent spa and two tennis courts. There are two outdoor pools on the property both with an incredible outlook of the surrounding bushveld. The outdoor decks are excellent for game viewing with beautiful sunrises to start each day.
Award-winning chefs prepare a gourmet feast for guests paired with excellent wine from premier wine estates in the Cape Winelands. There’s a well-stocked wine cellar at Rock Lodge where guests can sample a choice of South Africa’s finest wines and order a selection which are couriered to their homes. There’s a gift shop at Ulusaba stocked with quality items which are perfect for presents to take home to family and friends.
The perfect way to appreciate an authentic African experience is to visit the local communities and find out more about their way of life and traditional cultures. Ulusaba supports a number of community projects in the region through their Pride ‘n Purpose programme and volunteers are always welcome. An excursion to a traditional Shangaan village located close to Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve is a wonderful way to get to know the local people and their traditional lifestyle.
Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve is located on the western border of the Kruger National Park and falls within the Greater Kruger. Sabi Sands is made up of 21 private game reserves that have been incorporated into an expansive wildlife region. It spans 65 000 hectares and shares a 50 kilometre long unfenced border with the Kruger Park.
Animals are free to roam between the two wildlife regions but Sabi Sands is not open to the public and restricted to visitors staying at one of the private lodges in the reserve. This exclusivity offers guests unrivalled game viewing without the busy crowds that descend on the Kruger National Park in peak holiday periods.
Ulusaba is in a private game reserve world-renowned for its dense concentration of fauna and flora which includes 330 plant species, 45 fish species, 500 bird species and 145 mammal species. It is home to the famous Big 5 which includes elephant, rhino, buffalo, leopard and lion. In particular, Sabi Sands is renowned for excellent up close and personal sightings of leopards.
Ulusaba is ideal for single travellers, groups of friends, couples and families with facilities suited for an array of guests. It’s a luxury Kruger safari experience in an idyllic corner of Africa which comes with a sense of adventure and warmth which reflects the charm and character of its owner, Sir Richard Branson.
Ulusaba means ‘place of little fear’ in the local Shangaan language. The Shangaans occupied the region decades ago and used the rocky hill as an outpost for the tribal chief and senior warriors. The elevated positioning gave the Shangaan tribe a tremendous advantage in territorial wars because it meant a surprise attach was virtually impossible. The tribal members lived in relative safety in the ‘place of little fear’; the local meaning of Ulusaba.
Your safari experience includes accommodation in luxury rooms and suites, a morning and late-afternoon game drive and all meals and drinks which includes top quality wines from the Cape’s finest wine estates. A professional game ranger and highly-experienced tracker accompanies you on your game drives and on daily bush walks if that’s something you’d like to do at Ulusaba.
The Ulusaba rate includes transfers from Ulusaba’s private airstrip to the lodges as well as all reserve entrance fees and conservation taxes. Daily excursions to community villages close to Ulusaba or the many renowned tourist destinations in the Greater Kruger region can be arranged. This includes the town of Hoedspruit, Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre and the spectacular Panorama Route which includes Blyde River Canyon and God’s Window.
After your morning game drive, you have the choice of a guided bush walk with a professional game ranger or a session at the well-equipped gym if you’re wanting to be active or you can laze at the pool enjoying a selection of cocktails or treat yourself to a luxurious pamper session at the Aroma Boma spa.
Big 5 game drives
Ulusaba Private Game Reserve is located in the premier wildlife destination of South Africa, the world-renowned Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve. It falls within the Greater Kruger which is famed for its incredible fauna and flora.
The Greater Kruger is home to the Big 5 which includes elephant, buffalo, rhino, leopard and rhino as well as a magnificent array of antelope, predators and the regular bushveld animals. Bird life is prolific in Sabi Sands and it’s heaven for bird lovers. In particular, Sabi Sands has earned itself a reputation for excellent sightings of the elusive leopard.
Wildlife poaching is rampant in Africa but Sabi Sands has managed to protect its precious numbers of elephant and the endangered rhino through unrelenting conservation and anti-poaching initiatives. The Guest Conservation Contribution instituted by Sabi Sands Wildtuin makes a significant contribution to financially supporting anti-poaching programmes which ensures the reserves elephant and rhino population is safeguarded against unscrupulous poachers.
Morning drives from Ulusaba around the magnificent Sabi Sands reserve is the best time to see game. Your day at Ulusaba starts with freshly baked pastries, homemade rusks and tea and coffee. Then it’s onto an open safari vehicle with a professional game ranger and highly experienced Shangaan tracker for a few hours of excellent game viewing. You’re on the bush tracks as the sun is rising and the scenery is breathtaking at this time of day.
A morning game drive is broken with a stop at a special vantage for a picnic in the bush. Hopefully you’ve ticked off a few of the Big 5 but at the very least, you’ll have seen an array of wildlife waking up and starting their day in the beautiful African bushveld. The temperature is cool in the early morning during the warm summer season and a little nippy on winter mornings; the sights, smells and sounds of the bush are everything you’d expect of a glorious game drive through one of Africa’s premier wildlife destinations.
The second game drive leaves Ulusaba mid-afternoon after a light serving of pastries and drinks or tea and coffee. This is a stunning time to drive through the bushveld on a safari tour as the wildlife is more active and the bushveld changes hue as the sun slowly settles over the horizon.
The afternoon game drive is broken as the sun is setting for sundowners and a feast of South African’s favourite snacks which includes biltong and ‘drooiwors’ (dry beef sausage). Accompanied by a crisp glass of wine, gin & tonic or one of South Africa’s popular beers; it’s the perfect way to end a lovely day in the bush.
International travellers are in a hurry to see the Big 5 on a safari tour but Ulusaba guides will introduce you to the little species that play such an important role in sustaining the African bushveld. This includes the Little 5 which is the rhino beetle, elephant shrew, leopard tortoise, buffalo weavers and ant lions; as well as the Ugly 5 which includes wildebeest, warthog, spotted hyena, lappet-faced vulture, and the marabou stork.
You’ll also enjoy sightings of an array of antelope such as kudu, waterbuck, impala and blesbok as well as bushveld regulars such as zebra, giraffe and hippos. Be on the lookout for endangered wild dog as well as predators such as black-backed jackals and brown hyenas.
Sabi Sands has earned itself as the ‘Leopard Capital’ of Greater Kruger. The elusive leopards are territorial so your guide and tracker will always be able to find one or two on your safari tour. You’ve also got a good chance of seeing cheetah in the Sabi Sands who also stick quite closely to territorial boundaries.
Guided safari walks at Ulusaba
Guided safari walks at Ulusaba depend on the weather. If it’s not raining, guests are taken on a short but interesting walk in the bushveld surrounding the lodges. A professional game ranger and a tracker accompany guest and it’s an ideal opportunity to learn more about the fauna and flora of Sabi Sands which is often missed on an open safari vehicle.
Guides and trackers at Ulusaba are some of the best in southern Africa and have an intimate knowledge of birds, plants and animal species. Ulusaba trackers will share interesting information on tree and plant species and their medicinal use. The guides are also accomplished photographers and will take guests to special vantage points for the perfect sundowner shot.
Spa treatments at Ulusaba
Enjoy signature treatments at Ulusaba’s world-class spa facility called the Aroma Boma. Treatments range from a complete body treatment with anti-ageing properties that intensively hydrate the face and body to aroma steam and shower treatments using products with traditional medicinal properties.
Ulusaba allocates 15% of the cost of a treatment to their Pride ‘n Purpose programme which assists in upliftment projects in the local community. Guests can contribute to the programme by buying an essential oil candle from the Africology range; proceeds from the sale of the scented candles go towards Ulusaba’s Pride ‘n Purpose programme.
The Aroma Boma spa’s signature pamper session is the La Stone thermo-therapy full body treatment using warm basalt stones. Hot stones relax and nourish tight and stressed muscles while the cool marble stones flush out toxins and melt away muscular tension. It’s the ultimate treatment, leaving you with a deep sense of calm and wholesome relaxation.
For a romantic couples pamper session, opt for the Devotion Journey. It begins with the ceremonial lighting of an essential oil candle that symbolises a couple’s pledge of unity and love and followed by a full body massage. It’s ideal for couples on honeymoon at Ulusaba or anyone who’d love to experience something a little more romantic and special for a spa treatment.
The Soul of Africa treatment uses a miracle oil made from the Marula seed. It has been used for centuries by local tribes for skin treatments and in traditional ceremonies. The Soul of Africa treatment starts with an application of warm, soothing mud to release negativity stored in muscles and followed by an intuitive body and scalp massage using the Marula conditioning oil.
Other fabulous and uniquely African spa treatments include the Zambian healing ritual to restore balance and boos the immune system; the Africology Body Experience is a full body scrub and mud application using an authentic African treatment to eliminate toxins while exfoliating lifeless skin cells; the Intonga Amasatchi stick massage to stretch tight muscles and ease toxic buildup from daily stress; and a bespoke body yoga massage for runners and active individuals which targets sore and stiff muscles.
The treatments at the Aroma Boma at Ulusaba are ideal for guests who’ve taken long flights and are tired from the long journey to Sabi Sands; and guests on honeymoon wanting a romantic couples experience after the tension of all the wedding planning.
Ultimate relaxation at Ulusaba
Sometimes it’s best to do nothing at Ulusaba and just soak up the peace and tranquility of the African bushveld. The luxury suites at Ulusaba are designed with complete relaxation in mind and the viewing decks are a peaceful retreat and ideal for game viewing.
Ulusaba has two pools; each with a stunning view overlooking the gorgeous bushveld surrounds. The pools at Ulusaba are heated in winter as the most popular time for an African safari tour is the cold, dry winter months in South Africa.
Star gazing at the Bush Observatory
Ulusaba has set up a magnificent Bush Observatory which is ideal for star gazing on a clear night. A professional guide will show you the constellations in the southern hemisphere.
Wine tasting at Ulusaba
Ulusaba showcases the finest selection of wines from premier estates in the Cape Winelands. The wine cellar overlooks a waterhole and dry riverbed which attracts an array of antelope and the Big 5. Wine tastings can be organised as a private affair or you can join in with a group of guests for a fun and pleasant evening.
Gift shop at Ulusaba
Ulusaba supports local communities and South African artists by stocking their arts and crafts in the lodge gift shop. Everything from typical African souvenirs to caps, clothing, handbags and jewelry is available to purchase for gifts for family and friends back home.
Get active at Ulusaba
Ulusaba has a well-equipped gym for guests who want to be active and keep up their fitness levels while on a luxury safari tour. This usually involves working off a hearty Ulusaba breakfast or a decadent three-course meal.
You can also stretch your legs with a leisurely bush walk with a professional guide and tracker. Game drives are a big part of a safari tour to Sabi Sands but it usually involves spending long hours cramped in a small space in the vehicle. It’s great to get down to grass roots level and walk through the stunning bushveld that surrounds Ulusaba.
Ulusaba added two quality tennis courts to their facilities and have balls and racquets available for guests to borrow. The courts are floodlit so it’s something fun to do in the evenings after an open vehicle safari tour to stretch your legs. Guests are escorted to the tennis courts as they’re positioned at the bottom of the rocky hill in rugged bushveld surrounds.
Community tours and volunteering
If you have extra time and would like to spend time learning more about the lifestyle and traditional cultures of the local Shangaan community, Ulusaba organises community tours to different villages in the region. This forms part of Ulusaba’s Pride ‘n Purpose charitable programme which is aimed at empowering community members to uplift themselves and improve their quality of life.
The Pride ‘n Purpose programme plays a vital role in educating the local community on conservation and promotes sustainable farming practices. It has the full support of Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Unite which is the group’s entrepreneurial foundation.
Virgin Unite promotes the philosophy that international travel is always richer if you have the opportunity to interact with local communities and give something back to the people who welcome you to beautiful regions in the world.
For an exceptional life-changing experience, guests staying at Ulusaba have the opportunity to volunteer on one of the many community projects. This could include helping with the vegetable garden projects or helping fix up old and broken infrastructure in the villages.
Excursions to tourist attractions close to Greater Kruger
Ulusaba organises day tours to tourist attractions close to Greater Kruger. This includes the famous Panorama Route along the Drakensberg Escarpment and the spectacular Blyde River Canyon, the Three Rondavels and Bourke’s Luck Potholes as well as the historic towns of Graskop, Pilgrim’s Rest and Sabie.
A fantastic way to get a full perspective of the Greater Kruger and the major attractions of Mpumalanga is to take an exhilarating helicopter flight that swoops over the deep and mysterious gorges and over the lush Lowveld agricultural farmlands. It’s a bird’s eye view of a magnificent corner of South Africa.
Other excursions include a day tour of Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre which is home to orphaned wildlife and birds of prey; it’s an opportunity to stroke a tame cheetah and other wild ambassadors of Africa. The town of Hoedspruit is the safari hub of Mpumalanga and a great spot for a day trip with a choice of great restaurants and pubs as well as a selection of retail outlets if you need to do some shopping.
Photographic safaris at Ulusaba
Ulusaba offer guests an excellent facility in partnership with Africa Photographic Services where you can hire photographic equipment and the services of a qualified wildlife photographer for an incredible photographic safari in Greater Kruger.
Photographic equipment available to hire through Africa Photographic Services is itemized on the Ulusaba website.
Conservation and sustainable tourism at Ulusaba
Conserving and protecting its precious natural resources is a high priority for Ulusaba and Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve. Apart from making a significant financial contribution to conservation and anti-poaching initiatives in the reserve, Ulusaba practices sustainable tourism where the aim is to operate with minimum impact on the natural environment.
This includes waste and water disposal programmes, clearing bush and controlling the spread of alien plants, maintaining roads to prevent erosion, avoiding driving off-road into the bush as much as possible to protect endangered plant species, game counts on Ulusaba and monitoring the health of wildlife populations, assisting with anti-rhino poaching initiatives and educating guests on the plight of this precious species, wildlife inoculations against harmful diseases and general conservation practices to protect and conserve the reserve’s fauna and flora.
Sustainable tourism at Ulusaba means instilling a philosophy among its staff and guests to limit the impact of tourism on the natural bushveld surrounds. Initiatives include using the Africology brand at the Aroma Boma spa which uses natural products such as Marula oil, African potato and Rooibos which means no artificial ingredients filter into the water system.
Meals at Ulusaba are made using fresh local produce sourced from the local farming community and fish dishes are limited to sustainable varieties as per the World Wildlife Foundation standards.
Other environmentally-friendly initiatives implemented by Ulusaba include recycling up to 50% of water used at Ulusaba, providing drinking water in reusable bottles, eliminating disposable toiletry items by refilling containers in the suites with products from the Africology range and turning elephant dung into paper which is used to make the menus and guest welcome letters.
Conservation at Ulusaba goes hand-in-hand with ecotourism and community development. Through Virgin Unite, Ulusaba is committed to caring for and uplifting local communities in the region in addition to protecting, maintaining and enhancing the Sabi Sands bushveld and its wildlife.
Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve raises much-needed funds for conservation and anti-poaching initiatives through a fee generated by the Guest Conservation Contribution charged on all bookings made at lodges in the game reserve. Ulusaba raises further income for the region through its own Pride ‘n Purpose programme.
Birding at Ulusaba
Birdlife in the Greater Kruger is prolific and Ulusaba itself is heaven for bird enthusiasts. When the rains arrive from late October, the guides and trackers at Ulusaba get very excited as they see the old familiars returning to the area after a long trip over from Europe.
The bushveld undergoes a dramatic change when the rains arrive in the summer rainfall season in Mpumalanga and the bush comes alive with the sound of birds. This is not the best time for game viewing as the bush is thick and animals go deeper into the bushveld because water is abundant. The new lush grass plains attract browsers like buffalo, waterbuck, zebra and wildebeest as well as large numbers of seed-eating bird species.
This includes huge flocks of red-billed quelea and large numbers of the widowbird species. An increase in insects brings out woodland kingfishers and European rollers as well as buttonquail, swifts, swallows, bee-eaters and yellow-billed kites.
Steppe eagles and hornbills enjoy a feast of insects scavenged from the many termite mounds on the reserve and large numbers of sunbirds, barbets and green pigeons are attracted to the indigenous flowers and fruits that come out in the summer season.
On the river banks, you’ll see a wide selection of water birds which includes sandpipers, storks , herons, kingfishers and bitterns. If you’re a ‘twitcher’, you’ll be ticking off your bird list madly as you cruise around the lush bushveld in the summer season.
Children staying at Ulusaba
Ulusaba loves kids and has a dedicated Cub’s Club to keep youngsters entertained during their stay. Children of all ages are welcome at Rock Lodge (including Cliff Lodge) but Safari Lodge is limited to children 12 years and older.
Children aged 6 years and older are allowed on the open safari vehicles for daily game drives, although it’s at the discretion of the professional game ranger on duty. Parents have peace of mind that their young children are in safe hands if left behind at Rock Lodge at Ulusaba during a morning or afternoon game drive as the Cub’s Club team take excellent care of them. Children are treated to a fun line up of activities which usually revolve around educational safari themes.
The Cub’s Club has a dedicated room where children can join in on daily activities. Health and safety are a priority and parents are kept informed on what is happening each day and how the kids are doing. Each child under 12 years staying at Ulusaba is automatically signed up for the Cub’s Club and receives a Ulusaba cap and a backpack filled with educational safari items.
Young children staying at Ulusaba can be accommodated in certain suites with their parents on fold-out or rollaway beds.
Cliff Lodge 1 is close to Rock Lodge and the best option for families with young children as it has a separate room off the lounge with twin beds. The two-bedroom configuration at Rock Suite is ideal for families with children; and rollaway beds can be placed in the two Makwela Suites as well as in Cliff Lodge 2.
For a romantic date night, you can book a babysitter to look after your young child/children. The ladies put the youngster to bed with a good night story and will stay with them for as long as the parents are out enjoying themselves.
Some of the fun activities put on by the Cub’s Club team include a mini game rangers course which teaches kids about the African bush and how to track game and identify animal footprints and dung droppings; safari walks with a professional game ranger and tracker to show them birds, insects, lizards and tame game around the camp; safari master chef classes, visits to a local community village to find out more about the lifestyle and culture of the local Shangaan people; and special spa treatments at the Aroma Boma tailored just for children.
Look out for specials at Ulusaba which include a ‘kids stay free’ offer. This is a massive savings on a reservation at Ulusaba and one more reason to choose Ulusaba for a family safari holiday.
Typical day at Ulusaba
If this is the first safari tour you’re booking at Ulusaba Private Game Reserve, here is an idea of what to expect each day:
Early morning wake up; tuck into breakfast pastries and have a hot cup of coffee or tea before departing for your sunrise game drive at 5h30.
5h30 to 9h00
Incredible game viewing in Sabie Sands which spans 65 000 hectares. That excludes the Kruger National Park which can be included in a safari tour booked through Ulusaba. Sabi Sands Wildtuin is home to the Big 5 which includes elephant, rhino, buffalo, leopard and lion but there’s so much more to see in the bushveld.
If you are a birding enthusiast or wildlife photographer, private safari tours can be arranged and tailor-made to your interests.
Return to Rock Lodge or Safari Lodge at Ulusaba for a hearty breakfast. You have the choice of a continental breakfast served buffet-style or you can choose off the à la carte menu for a hot dish of bacon, sausages and eggs.
Relax in your suite, game watch from the outdoor decks or treat yourself to pamper session at the Aroma Boma spa. Pre-arrange a bush walk with a professional guide or book a short excursion to a local Shangaan village to learn more about their lifestyle and traditions.
Lunch is served on one of the lodge sundecks and tables are set up restaurant style. All dishes are made to order and it’s a gastronomic feast with delicious dishes created by the kitchen staff. Try something different like a Kudu burger.
Enjoy an afternoon sleep in your luxurious suite at Rock Lodge or Safari Lodge or spend the afternoon at the pool sipping tasty cocktails or sampling one of South Africa’s premier wines.
A delicious spread is served for afternoon tea before guests depart on an afternoon game drive at 16h00. You should see a number of nocturnal animals that start coming out to forage and hunt as the sun sets over the magical African bushveld.
The game drive is broken with a stop at a special vantage point. You can stretch your legs, take photos of the setting sun and enjoy a spread of traditional bushveld snacks which includes South Africa’s famous biltong and ‘drooiwors’.
Guests return to Rock Lodge and Safari Lodge after an exciting 3-hour game drive. Enjoy pre-dinner drinks on the outdoor deck followed by a delicious meal at the lodge restaurant. Dinner is a casual affair usually served outside under the stars around a roaring fire at the boma or inside if the weather is nippy.
Entertainment often includes a fun evening with tribal dancers and singers putting on an authentic Shangaan show.
ACCOMMODATION AT ULUSABA
Ulusaba Private Game Reserve has 21 rooms and suites spread across three lodges which includes Rock Lodge and the beautiful Cliff Lodge and Safari Lodge.
The main lodge is Rock Lodge; it’s perched high on top of a rocky outcrop with a panoramic view of the surrounding bushveld. Cliff Lodge is a short walk from the main lodge and comprises two safari suites which can be hired on an exclusive use basis or separately. Safari Lodge is built on the bank of a dry riverbed. Guests staying at Safari Lodge get to their rooms by crossing a swing bridge.
Ulusaba is the perfect setting for a wedding or milestone celebration and both luxury lodges can be booked out on an exclusive-use basis. Your stay can be uniquely tailored to your dream safari experience whether it is a bush wedding in a remote corner of Ulusaba or a massive safari-style bash at the main lodge.
ULUSABA ROCK LODGE
You’re on top of the world at Rock Lodge. The safari lodge and suites have been built high up on a rocky hill offering guests endless views of the surrounding bushveld and opportunities to spot wildlife roaming through the bush in the distance.
The granite rock of the Ulusaba koppie (small hill) is a feature of the design of the Rock Lodge and enhanced by a contemporary African tribal/safari theme.
Rock Lodge has 8 rooms which includes the Master Suite, Makwela Suites, Rock Cliff rooms and the 2-bedroomed Rock Suite. A few of the suites have a private plunge pool; all of them have an outdoor deck which is ideal for game viewing.
Rock Cliff rooms
4 rooms with private balconies
The Rock Cliff rooms are south-facing with panoramic views of the Sabi Sands game reserve. The rooms are spacious, air-conditioned and have a spacious ensuite bathroom.
Two Rock Cliff rooms are built on a split level; a spiral staircase connects the bedroom with the bathroom.
Rock Suite is a spacious two-bedroom suite with a living area and a master bedroom. The ensuite bathroom has a wonderful view looking out over Ulusaba Private Game Reserve.
The second bedroom has a Queen-size bed but two twin beds can be placed in the room to suit a family with young children. The second bedroom has a small ensuite bathroom with only a shower.
This is Sir Richard Branson’s favourite room and ideal for couples on honeymoon. The Master Suite at Ulusaba is built on three levels and each offers a panoramic view; it’s air-conditioned and has an lavish ensuite bathroom, a large living room, private balcony and an infinity plunge pool.
The living room leads out onto an outdoor deck where guests can relax on sun loungers; scanning the bushveld below for wildlife.
The Makwela Suites are two luxurious suites built on two levels where privacy is a priority. Each suite is air-conditioned and has a luxurious ensuite bathroom. Special features at the Makwela Suites include a separate lounge and library area which leads out onto a private balcony with an infinity plunge pool.
Young children can be accommodated at the Makwela Suites on rollaway or fold-out beds.
ULUSABA CLIFF LODGE
Cliff Lodge is a short walk from Rock Lodge and features two luxurious suites which can be booked for exclusive use or separately. If you book both Cliff Lodge 1 & 2; a personal chef, professional game ranger and a private open safari vehicle is available for the duration of your stay.
Cliff Lodge can accommodate up to 5 adults and 4 children when booked exclusively.
Guests staying at Cliff Lodge have access to the outdoor pool at Rock Lodge as well as the private gym and Aroma Boma spa.
ULUSABA SAFARI LODGE
Safari Lodge at Ulusaba is tucked away beneath a grove of ancient trees on the edge of a dry riverbed in Sabi Sand Wildtuin. It was created with a sense of adventure that personifies the owner of Ulusaba, Sir Richard Branson.
Swing bridges link the rooms with the lodge as well as the Treehouse Suite which overlooks the Xikwenga Dam. The Safari Lodge rooms have their own private balcony and a few have a private plunge pool. All the rooms at Safari Lodge have a panoramic view of the surrounding bushveld and the outdoor decks are a great spot for spotting game and bird watching.
Guests staying at Safari Lodge at Ulusaba have access to the two swimming pools on the luxury property as well as a fully-equipped gym, a wine cellar stocked with a selection of the finest Cape wines, the Aroma Boma spa, a Bush Observatory for star gazing and two tennis courts.
The Safari Lodge experience includes a morning and afternoon game drive, bush walks with a professional game ranger as well as moonlit bush dinner or a gastronomic feast at the lodge’s restaurant.
Three spacious suites at Safari Lodge called the Elephant Rooms have an ensuite bathroom and a large viewing deck with a spectacular outlook. Elephants historically used a migratory route which passed in front of the Elephant Rooms at Safari Lodge and guests still see these gentle giants loping past their rooms.
The Elephant Rooms are ideal for families with older children. Safari Lodge welcomes children 12 years and older.
There are 4 suites at Safari Lodge called the River Rooms; two of the rooms have their own private plunge pool. The River Rooms are tucked under a grove of majestic Jackalberry trees and designed in a treehouse style. They’re positioned in a secluded nook of Ulusaba and offer guests complete privacy. The view over the river bed is striking and the outdoor decks are excellent for game viewing.
The River Rooms are a short walk from the main lodge and three of them are accessible by swing bridge.
Sleeps 2 people
The Treehouse Suite at Ulusaba is a recent addition and offers guests an authentic safari experience. The magnificent suite is positioned overlooking the Xikwenga Dam which is home to a pod of hippos and where elephants regularly come to bathe.
The Treehouse Suite has a lovely lounge area which leads out onto a large outdoor deck. Guests can order meals in their suite and enjoy the privacy and seclusion of the suite.
Features at the Treehouse Suite at Safari Lodge include a King-size bed draped in a mosquito net, a spacious lounge with a sofa bed, a deluxe dining area and a private viewing deck. The suite is air-conditioned and boasts a lavish ensuite bathroom with an oversized bath. The windows reach from the floor to the ceiling, offering guests the most spectacular view of the surrounding bushveld.
The Treehouse Suite is a short walk from the main area at Safari Lodge and accessible by swing bridges and a raised walkway. It’s the ideal location for avid photographers and birders and a special treat for couples on honeymoon or needing the ultimate romantic getaway.
FACILITIES AT ULUSABA
After a spectacular day in Sabi Sand Wildtuin (Private Game Reserve) soaking up the sights and sounds of a truly remarkable wildlife experience, you have the rest of the day to look forward to at Ulusaba and all its feature attractions.
Ulusaba organises excursions to local community villages and major attractions close to the Greater Kruger but if time is limited or you want to completely relax and enjoy all Ulusaba has to offer, here’s what you can look forward to on your stay at Rock Lodge, Cliff Lodge or Safari Lodge.
There are two outdoor swimming pools at Ulusaba. Spend a lazy few hours on a sun lounger sipping on cocktails from the Rock Lodge bar or reading a good book. It’s an excellent vantage point for game viewing.
The pool at Rock Lodge is heated in winter so it’s a lovely place to enjoy all-year-round at Ulusaba. This is a clever idea by Ulusaba because the best time for a safari tour in Africa is in the cool winter months when the grass is thin and dry and game congregates around waterholes or at the river banks.
The viewing decks at Ulusaba are perfect for game viewing. Ulusaba has placed telescopes on the outdoor decks which guests use for game viewing. The viewing decks are perfect place at night for star gazing.
Ulusaba built a special bush conservatory for guests interested in star gazing using a giant state-of-the-art telescope. The bushveld region in South Africa is ideal for astrophiles; people who love stars. You don’t get the light pollution you get in most cities and towns.
Professional safari guides at Ulusaba are fellow astrophiles and love to share their knowledge with guests on constellations in the southern hemisphere. Make an evening of it at the Bush Observatory at Ulusaba with only the sound of lion roaring in the distance and the gentle call of an owl to disturb your star gazing.
Ulusaba boasts a 5-star wine cellar at Rock Lodge which is stocked with a selection of fine wines from premier wine estates in the Cape Winelands. The wine cellar is also stocked with wines from international wine estates.
The wine cellar at Ulusaba is the perfect place for a private dinner for up to six people. You’ll be in the company of a wine steward who’ll present a delightful selection of South African wines which are paired to suit the meal you’ve ordered.
Ulusaba has a fully-equipped gym at Rock Lodge which is available for all guests staying at Ulusaba. While getting in a good work, enjoy the magnificent outlook over the surrounding bushveld.
Guests have the choice of a running machine, stationary training bicycle, a multi-functional weight station and free weights for novice and advanced levels of fitness. It’s the best way to work off the calories you’ll pick up from the delectable meals and snacks the Ulusaba kitchen team serves up.
The lounge area at Rock Lodge at Ulusaba is a wonderful place to relax; boasting a magnificent view of the Sabi Sand wilderness. It’s the perfect place to settle in with a good book, enjoy a selection of movies on the big screen in the entertainment area or soak up the late afternoon sun with a pre-dinner cocktail.
The lounge area leads out onto a beautiful wooden outdoor deck which is built over the granite rocks. You can cool off in the outdoor pool and relax on sun loungers with a good book or magazine.
Aroma Boma Spa
The Aroma Boma Spa at Ulusaba is where you’ll go for a morning or afternoon of luxurious pampering by qualified and experienced therapists. The selection of spa treatments is truly mind-blowing and one visit to the Aroma Boma won’t be enough.
The spa centre at Ulusaba prides itself on only using environmentally-friendly and natural products produced by Africology. The company creates creams and oils using magical ingredients sourced from traditional healing herbs and plants in Africa. This includes extracts of rooibos, aloe, marula and the African potato.
The therapists have adopted unique techniques to eliminate buildup of toxins and smooth tense muscles for the ultimate spa treatment and relaxation.
Boma is the traditional African word for an enclosure (mainly for animals). It’s been adopted by South Africans as a well-known word for an outside meeting place, usually an authentic African barbeque under the stars. The Aroma Boma is an affectionate term adopted for the spa centre at Ulusaba because it’s the perfect place to relax and unwind.
Guests have use of two tennis courts which were built at the bottom of the Ulusaba hill. You can borrow tennis racquets and balls from Ulusaba so you don’t need to bring your own. Guests need to request a security escort to the courts as it’s not safe to walk there or be there on your own.
The tennis courts are floodlit so it’s something fun to do in the evenings after a long game drive; particularly, if you have young children and teens who need to run off a bit of energy after sitting in an open safari vehicle for a few hours.
Ulusaba has a well-stocked gift shop at Safari Lodge which is stocked with a selection of local arts and crafts as well as small gift ideas, books and a clothing range which includes caps, t-shirts, beanies and gloves.
The gift shop at Ulusaba also carries a limited range of camera batteries and memory cards as well as a basic range of toiletries such as toothpaste, deodorant and shampoo.
WEDDINGS AT ULUSABA
Ulusaba has earned itself a reputation for being the perfect wedding venue in Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve. The staff at Rock Lodge and Safari Lodge love hosting a good party, especially weddings. Its also ideal for couples on honeymoon where romance is always in the air.
WEDDING ACCOMMODATION AT ULUSABA
Wedding guests have the choice of 21 rooms and suites at Ulusaba spread across Rock Lodge, Cliff Lodge and Safari Lodge. Ulusaba can be booked out for its exclusive use or a few rooms booked for a small and intimate affair.
Rock Lodge and Cliff Lodge are perched high up on the side of a granite hill with panoramic views of the Greater Kruger. Safari Lodge is about 500 metres away and built along the bank of a dry river bed, nestled in a grove of ancient Jackalberry trees.
Sabi Sand Wildtuin restricts the number of guests and vehicles permitted in the reserve at any one time so the maximum number of guests Ulusaba can accommodate for a wedding if the whole place is booked out is 42 guests.
Rock Lodge and Cliff Lodge accommodates up to 20 guests and Safari Lodge accommodates a maximum of 22 guests. Children of all ages are welcome at Rock Lodge but Safari Lodge is restricted to children 12 years and older.
WEDDING VENUES AT ULUSABA
Each lodge offers something different and special for the wedding couple and guests to make a wedding at Ulusaba happy and memorable. Over the years, Ulusaba has created memorable moments for couples and their family and friends; from simple, intimate affairs in dry river beds to lavish functions on the viewing deck at Rock Lodge under a brilliant African sky.
The lower deck at Rock Lodge
This is Ulusaba’s most popular choice for weddings and special occasions. Time it right and you’ll exchange vows with the setting sun as a perfect backdrop.
Mabrak dry riverbed at Safari Lodge
A picture-perfect setting surrounded by a grove of ancient Jackalberry trees
The beach at Ulusaba
The ‘beach’ is a sandy spot on the far side of Xikwenga Dam near Safari lodge. Its perfect for a small intimate wedding surrounded by the magnificent African bushveld.
You only have the company of a few game rangers and a pod of curious hippos at an intimate ceremony at a beautiful spot on the bank of the Xikwenga Dam.
Ulusaba has created a beautiful clearing in the bush close to Marula which is an open-air bushveld restaurant on the reserve. It’s ideal for weddings with large numbers and for more intimate, exclusive weddings.
Rock Lodge lounge
The spacious lounge at Ulusaba is turned into a stunning wedding venue; with massive windows offering the wedding party a panoramic view of the surrounding bushveld. The wedding team at Ulusaba can cater for an intimate affair or a wedding with larger numbers by extending the function facilities out onto the magnificent viewing deck.
Safari Lodge wine cellar deck
What’s better than pairing an intimate occasion with fine wine and a spectacular view. The wooden deck leading off Ulusaba’s wine cellar is the perfect spot for a small, intimate wedding.
Ulusaba’s Bush Observatory has been built in the heart of the bushveld and is ideal for an intimate wedding party of up to 6 people.
Treehouse Suite deck
The deck at the Treehouse Suite at Safari Lodge is a magnificent spot for a small, intimate wedding dinner with panoramic views over the surrounding bushveld during the day and the beautiful African sky glittering above at night.
The Treehouse Suite looks out over the Xikwenga Dam where hippos wallow and the Big 5 come down to drink. Time it right and you can exchange vows as the sun is setting and hopefully with a herd of elephant as a backdrop.
It’s easy to get married in South Africa as a non-resident but there are a few things a couple needs to know to assist with the planning. Ulusaba has years of experience helping engaged couples plan the perfect bushveld wedding and will help with every stage in the process.
The Ulusaba wedding coordination team host and arrange both religious and secular ceremonies. Services included in the wedding rate at Ulusaba include a minister to process all the legal documents in preparation of the ceremony and to prepare your marriage certificate; and the issuing of an abridged Marriage Certificate.
The minister applies for a full marriage certificate for you, which is dealt with through South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs and takes about two months to process. The formal unabridged marriage certificate is mailed to an address provided by you.
Ministers who perform wedding ceremonies at Ulusaba are willing to perform a marriage ceremony for same sex couples. This needs to be discussed with the Ulusaba wedding coordinator prior to your wedding date.
WEDDING ENTERTAINMENT AT ULUSABA
For something different and uniquely African, the Ulusaba wedding team can suggest a variety of entertainment options that’ll surprise and delight your guests. These include:
Local marimba band
The local marimba band is made up of a group of 8 member who play homemade xylophones. The sound is phenomenal, particularly as it reverberates over the still African bushveld. The marimba band usually plays as background music before or after the ceremony during dinner but they can also put on a great party for guests who’ll love the unique sound and songs the band produces.
This is an energetic and vibrant group of dancers who replicate the traditional dancing of the local Shangaan tribe. The dancers put on a brilliant display before and after the wedding ceremony and can help kick start the festivities at the reception by getting guests on their feet and dancing the traditional African way.
Gumboot dancers exude energy and power and it’s mesmerizing to watch them perform their traditional African mining dances. At least 12 traditional Shangaan dancers make up the group; kitted out in mining overalls, hard hats and gum boots. Their dance moves include energetic hand-clapping rituals and slapping of boots to create a fantastic sound and beat. The timing of the dancers is well-tuned and impeccable.
Ulusaba has created its own choir group made up of a group of talented Shangaans whose singing and dancing talents are memorable. The choir is made up of 15 Ulusaba staff members who sing beautiful songs from their own cultural traditions and perform amazing traditional dances. The Ulusaba Choir puts on a vibrant and enthralling show which will delight your guests.
Justicia Best Boys
This is a group of boys and young men who have formed a choir, singing beautiful Shangaan songs in soulful harmony. The boys have fun interacting with guests and encouraging them to join in on a few traditional songs which leaves guests feeling warm-hearted and deeply touched.
PHOTOGRAPHIC AND VIDEO SERVICES AT ULUSABA
Ulusaba entrusts this important function to a company it has partnered with for many years to capture incredible moments which will be memories that last a lifetime. The service includes both photographs and videos. The rate includes the photographer’s travelling cost and gate fees.
TOURIST ATTRACTIONS CLOSE TO ULUSABA
If you are staying at Ulusaba for a few days and would like to explore the Greater Kruger region, there are a number of great excursions you can arrange and book through Ulusaba. These excursions are not included in the daily rate for Ulusaba.
Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre
Take a day tour to Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre and meet several of Africa’s finest wildlife ambassadors. The centre is a safe haven for abandoned, injured and poisoned wildlife and birds of prey; some of which are healed and re-introduced to the bush, while others take up permanent residency because they are too badly damaged to fend for themselves.
You’ll see a wide array of animals at Moholoholo; from lion, leopard, serval, cheetah and hyena to Stoffel the famous honey badger as well as vultures, eagles and other magnificent birds of prey. The centre plays an extremely important conservation role, has a very successful breeding programme and is actively involved in anti-poaching initiatives.
The centre is entirely self-funded and relies on the support of visitors and generous donors. There is a small fee for guided tours which last about two hours. Your visit to Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre helps keep this incredible facility going.
Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre is 90 kilometres from Ulusaba Private Game Reserve; about 2 hours driving time
Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC)
HESC is a non-profit organisation which runs a successful breeding and research programme and plays a vital role in protecting endangered species in Africa. It is world-renowned for the role it has and continues to play in protecting dwindling predator populations in southern Africa.
The centre provides a safe haven for orphaned, sick and injured animals and has set up an impressive education centre where the general public and school children can learn about endangered wildlife species and interact with them. HESC plays a major role in assisting anti-poaching initiatives, in particular, saving our precious rhino from extinction.
HESC is based at Kapama Game Reserve which is a short drive from Simbavati Safari Lodges. A visit to HESC exposes guests to the incredible work researchers and conservationists are doing in the field; it’s a chance to interact with the animals on a closer level and helps towards raising much-needed funds for conservation and anti-poaching initiatives.
HESC is 76 kilometres from Ulusaba Private Game Reserve; about 2 hours driving time
Hoedspruit Helicopters is the only scenic helicopter charter company operating in the Hoedspruit. Contact them directly for a one-of-its-kind helicopter flip over the majestic Drakensberg mountain range and the Blyde River Canyon. Gain a different perspective of the lush Lowveld from high up in the air.
Blyde River Canyon Cruise
Blyde River Canon is the third-largest canyon in the world and the largest ‘green’ canyon in the world. You’ll enjoy an interpretation tour of the canyon which takes you to the rare living Kadishi Tufa waterfall; a fascinating 200-metre high natural phenomenon which builds up and lays down tufa rock as a result of a chemical reaction which precipitates cultrate out of the reaction between plant, water and rock.
A canyon cruise is awe-inspiring; the steep cliff faces tower above you while the boat cruises in the shadow of the Three Rondavels (a mountain landscape shaped like three small huts). The tour takes 1 hour 30 minutes and departs from the Blyde River Dam jetty which you get to from Swadini Forever Resort.
Swadini Forever Resort is 105 kilometres from Ulusaba Private Game Reserve; about 2 hours driving time
Hoedspruit is the largest town in the region and a thriving tourism hub. It’s grown so much in the last few years that it’s now a destination on its own. A modern shopping centre has just gone up and you’ve got a choice of a number of great restaurants, coffee shops and pubs. It’s where the local farmers and game farm owners come to shop and meet friends and the town’s packed with tourists either passing through or spending a few days in town.
Hoedspruit lies nestled in a fertile agricultural valley at the foot of the majestic Klein Drakensberg, which means ‘Small Dragon Mountain’ in Afrikaans. It lies on the railway line which links Tzaneen in the north-west with Kaapmuiden in the east.
The town got its name – which means ‘hat creek’ in Afrikaans – from an intrepid explorer who allegedly made the long and arduous trek over the Drakensberg mountains, down into the scorching Lowveld. When he reached the cool waters of the Sandspruit River, he threw his hat into the creek and declared he would settle there.
There’s a lot to do in and around Hoedspruit; plan to spend at least a day exploring the area. Most trips to Hoedspruit end at one or other restaurant or pub where the locals will greet you warmly and convince you to drink up and stay awhile.
Hoedspruit is 100 kilometres from Ulusaba Private Game Reserve; about 2 hours driving time
Panorama Route tour
If you are driving to or from Ulusaba Private Game Reserve; one way at least should go via the Panorama Route. It’s an incredibly scenic route with spectacular views around every corner; taking you from Hoedspruit via the historic towns of Graskop and Pilgrim’s Rest to the town of Sabie. It tracks the ancient paths of gold diggers who came to the area during the gold rush to seek their fortune.
An iconic feature along the Panorama Route is Blyde River Canyon. It’s the third-largest canyon in the world and the largest ‘green’ canyon in the world. Other highlights along the way include God’s Window, a breath-taking viewpoint on the Drakensberg escarpment; the Pinnacle, a rocky outcrop which some people call God’s Finger; and Bourke’s Luck Potholes, a beautiful and strange natural phenomenon where river water has over centuries eroded the rocks and created perfectly formed smooth potholes and unusual sculptures.
Stop for pancakes at the legendary Harry’s Pancakes in Graskop or delicious craft beer at the Sabie Brewing Company.
If you have time, enjoy the ride of your life on Misty Mountain’s Long Tom Toboggan which is located on Long Tom Pass. It’s a 1.7 kilometre track that winds down a mountain slope at speed; it’s the longest toboggan run in Africa and a huge amount of fun for children and adults.
Graskop is 99 kilometres from Ulusaba Private Game Reserve; just under 2 hours driving time
TRAVEL & BOOKING INFORMATION
How big is Ulusaba Private Game Reserve?
Ulusaba Private Game Reserve spans some 13 500 hectares and is located in the world-renowned Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve (officially Sabi Sand Wildtuin). Sabi Sands is a 65 000 hectare private game reserve in South Africa, sharing a 50 kilometre boundary with the Kruger National Park.
The fences between Kruger Park and Sabi Sands have been removed and wildlife can roam freely between the two wildlife reserves.
What should I pack for an Ulusaba getaway?
Bring a good camera, preferably with a long lens. Ulusaba has partnered with Africa Photographic Safari and you can hire a selection of cameras and lenses from the company if you want to use equipment designed for excellent wildlife photography.
Bring a pair of good binoculars. You’ll need them on your morning and afternoon game drives and also for game viewing on the outdoor decks at Ulusaba which provide guests with a panoramic view of the surrounding bushveld. Ulusaba is built high up on a granite hill so you can see for miles and have an incredible outlook over the Greater Kruger.
Bring sunglasses, even in winter. The African sun is ferocious in summer and the glare can give you a headache.
Bring a sun hat or cap. It’s ideal to wear a hat with a wide brim that throws shade on your face and neck but it’s not essential to have one on a game drive as the vehicles have a canopy top. You’ll need a decent hat if you go on a bush walk around the camp as you’ll be out in the hot sun.
Bring a set of clothes with long sleeves and long pants. Ulusaba is in a malaria area and mosquitoes are more active at night. Long shirts and long pants with socks and closed shoes is a preventative measure against being bitten by a malaria mosquito.
Bring sunscreen cream and insect repellent. If you forget or run out of sun protection and insect repellent, you can buy some at Ulusaba’s gift shop.
Bring a few warm sweatshirts or cardigans and a weather resistant jacket. You only need a light jacket for summer evenings but you do need a warmer jacket for cold winter evenings. In summer, temperatures cool down during a heavy downpour and it does get nippy on game drives when the sun goes down.
Bring a scarf, beanie and gloves for game drives in the winter season between April and October. If you forget, you can buy them from Ulusaba’s gift shop. Ulusaba provides warm blankets and raincoats to keep guests cozy and dry on game drives.
Bring a comfortable pair of walking shoes. You don’t need heavy-duty hiking boots, just decent closed shoes that you can get dirty when you jump off the open safari vehicle for a sundowner or go on a bush walk around Ulusaba.
Dinner at Ulusaba is not over-the-top fancy and guests are encouraged to dress in comfortable, casual clothing suited for the hot African summer weather. Bring a pair of closed shoes if you’re visiting Ulusaba in winter as the evenings get cold and they’re recommended to prevent mozzie bites.
Pack a set of clothing that suitable for your game drives. Pale and neutral colours are recommended; bright colours look a bit silly in the natural bush and might attract unwanted attention from hungry animals.
Leave expensive jewelry at home. This is recommended for your safety travelling around South Africa as flashy, expensive jewelry attracts the attention of criminals. It also creates unnecessary temptation for hospitality staff at hotels and safari lodges in South Africa.
Leave your mobile phone behind in the safe at your safari lodge. If there is an emergency, you can be contacted on a game drive by radio in the open safari vehicle. There is nothing more annoying than the sound of a cell phone ringing when you’re sitting under a magnificent Jackalberry tree gazing up at a splendid leopard.
What is Ulusaba’s child policy?
Children of all ages are welcome at Rock Lodge and Cliff Lodge at Ulusaba.
Children aged 12 years and older are welcome at Safari Lodge at Ulusaba.
Children 6 years and younger are not permitted on open safari vehicles for game drives.
What is Ulusaba’s ‘Kids Stay Free’ offer?
Small children sharing a room with parents in one of the lodges at Ulusaba stay for free and are accommodated on roll-away or fold out beds.
The ‘Kids Stay Free’ offer at Ulusaba does not apply during peak tourism periods such as the busy holiday season from mid-December to mid-January. The offer is subject to the availability of rooms which are suitable for children sharing with adults on roll-away beds. Some rooms in Rock Lodge and Cliff Lodge have a separate bedroom with twin beds which are suitable for young children sharing with adults.
Separate beds can be put in rooms and suites for young children but this needs to be pre-arranged through Ulusaba’s booking office.
An infant is regarded as a child 6 years and younger. Infants stay free at Ulusaba and share a room with their adult parents.
A child is regarded as aged from 6 to 12 years old.
An adult is a guest staying at Ulusaba aged 12 years and older.
Ulusaba have a fantastic facility called the Cub’s Club which is for children up to 12 years old. The Cub’s Club team organise activities to keep young guests busy so their parents can relax and enjoy their holiday at Ulusaba.
The Cub’s Club is particularly important and useful for parents travelling with children 6 years and younger as children of this age are not allowed on game drives in open safari vehicles, unless pre-arranged as part of a private travelling group. Children are looked after extremely well by Ulusaba’s trained babysitters so it’s not necessary for one parent to stay behind and miss out on a Sabi Sands game drive.
What is Pride ‘n Purpose?
Pride ‘n Purpose is a social responsibility programme set up by Ulusaba to help disadvantaged communities living adjacent to Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve. All the charity’s running expenses are covered by Virgin Limited Edition and Virgin Unite which is the Group’s non-profit foundation; 100% of donations made by guests go directly to supporting much-needed initiatives in these impoverished communities.
Pride ‘n Purpose can proudly claim to have helped over 35 000 people across 6 communities since it was established in 2003. The programme focuses on initiatives which are uplifting and sustainable; where the local people are empowered to improve their lives through education and social initiatives.
How can I make a donation to Pride ‘n Purpose?
Donations of all sizes are welcome and there are three ways you can give back to the local communities:
- make a transfer directly to the Pride ‘n Purpose bank account; see the Ulusaba website for more information
- make a donation in person during your stay at Ulusaba
- make a donation via Virgin Unite; see the Virgin Unite website for more information
Most of the work Pride ‘n Purpose does is divided into 4 key areas: access to clean and safe water, education at all levels, extracurricular activities for children and support for local entrepreneurs.
What is Pack for a Purpose?
You can also make a donation in the form of clothing and other supplies needed by the community. This falls under the safari tour initiative supported by all safari lodges in Sabi Sands called Pack for a Purpose.
When packing for your Ulusaba safari tour, include extra items which you’d be happy to donate to villagers who really need them. This could include shoes, clothes, hats, sunglasses and other clothing accessories.
Leaving behind items of clothing and shoes is a great way to create space in your suitcase for gifts and souvenirs which you can buy at Ulusaba’s gift shop. This is another way to support local communities living adjacent to Sabi Sands because Ulusaba makes a point of supporting and stocking arts and crafts created by talented villagers in the region.
What is the Guest Conservation Contribution?
A Guest Conservation Contribution of R115 per person per night is added to the Ulusaba rates regardless of the length of your stay at Ulusaba. It applies to all lodges in Sabi Sand Private Nature Reserve and includes 15% VAT which is a national levy charged by the government of South Africa.
The revenue generated from the Guest Conservation Contribution goes directly to the Sabi Sand Conservation Trust and assists in the funding of anti-poaching and conservation efforts which are vital to secure the long-term survival of endangered and compromised animal species in the region.
Is Ulusaba in a malaria area?
Ulusaba Private Game Reserve is located in a malaria area in South Africa. The highest risk period is the rainy season between December and April. The risk is lower in the cold, dry winter months.
It is recommended that all guests take anti-malaria tablets when visiting Ulusaba and the Greater Kruger. Consult your personal doctor or a travel clinic on advise on anti-malaria tables and the prevention of malaria at safari destinations in southern Africa.
Take other precautions to prevent malaria including using a quality insect repellant, sleeping under mosquito nets provided by Ulusaba and wearing clothing with long sleeves and long pants in the evening. Change out of short sleeved shirts and short pants into these clothes before the sun sets as malaria mosquitoes are most active in the early evening and during the night.
Closed shoes and preferably socks are recommended in the evening if you’re planning to sit outside. It’s another preventative measure to avoid falling ill from malaria.
Is there Wi-Fi at Ulusaba?
Ulusaba has internet connectivity and offers guests free Wi-Fi. Connectivity is sometimes poor depending on the weather and the service provider and is not available in all the rooms or suites. Check this information when you make a reservation to stay at Ulusaba.
Is there a medical centre or hospital close to Ulusaba?
Ulusaba Private Game Reserve in Sabi Sands is within an hour’s drive from the nearest medical facility which is a medical clinic in Skukuza in the Kruger National Park. The on-call doctor at Skukuza will treat minor ailments and stabilise more serious conditions.
Patients who need emergency medical treatment will be sent to one of two big private hospitals in Nelspruit. In an extreme emergency, a badly injured or sick guest will be flown to Medi-Clinic in Nelspruit for urgent treatment.
It is important that guests staying at Ulusaba or any safari lodge in southern Africa for that matter take out travel insurance which covers them for urgent medical treatment.
Which famous people have stayed at Ulusaba?
Ulusaba Private Game Reserve is owned by Sir Richard Branson of the famed Virgin Active Group. Branson loves retreating to Ulusaba and has entertained many famous friends at his much-loved safari retreat. His son, Sam Branson, married Isabella Calthorpe at a spectacular wedding celebration at Ulusaba.
Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie are great friends of the young Branson couple and attended the wedding at Ulusaba. Sam and Isabella Branson never got to taste the delicious 4-tiered wedding cake that was made by a lady in Nelspruit because it was eaten by a hungry elephant who happened upon the delicious cake in the bush while the couple were exchanging their wedding vows.
Sabi Sands itself has hosted famous heads of state, royalty and international celebrities. Nelson Mandela enjoyed a wonderful stay at Sabi Sabi and Michelle Obama stayed at Madikwa Game Reserve.
Other famous celebrities which have visited the Greater Kruger and stayed in luxury safari lodges in the area include Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel who spent their honeymoon at Singita Grumeti Private Reserve, and famous sports stars such as Anna Kournikova and John McEnroe.
GETTING TO ULUSABA
Ulusaba Private Game Reserve is located in the western corner of the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve which shares a 50 kilometre border with the iconic Kruger National Park.
The private reserve falls within the Greater Kruger which comprises the national park as well as private game reserves such as Sabi Sands, Timbervati and Klaserie.
There are daily flights to Ulusaba and/or airports close to Sabi Sands. Guests may prefer to travel in luxury airconditioned tour vehicle operated by a reputable tour operator such as Moafrika Tours.
A road trip to Ulusaba is an opportunity to see more of South Africa and it could include detours to popular tourist attractions along the route. This includes the famous Panorama Route and the historic towns of Sabie, Graskop and Pilgrim’s Rest.
Ulusaba is a 1 hour and 20 minute flight from one of the two main airports in Johannesburg (OR Tambo International Airport and Lanseria Airport).
OR Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg) to Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve
Federal Airlines (FedAir) offer private schedule flights between OR Tambo International Airport and Ulusaba’s air strip. You’ll be met by a flight representative from FedAir as part of a ‘Meet and Greet’ service who will assist you with your check-in. You’re only required to book in 10 minutes before your flight so you have time for some last minute shopping at the impressive OR Tambo airport.
Other services offered by FedAir at OR Tambo International Airport include hot showers, free Wi-Fi and snacks and beverages while you wait for your flight. This is an excellent service if you’re in transit from overseas to Sabi Sands.
There are two daily FedAir shuttle flights to Sabi Sand Game Reserve from OR Tambo International Airport.
FedAir Johannesburg to Sabi Sands schedule:
- Depart OR Tambo at 10h30; arrive at Sabi Sands at 12h00
- Depart OR Tambo at 12h30; arrive Sabi Sands at 14h00
FedAir Sabi Sands to Johannesburg flight schedule
- Depart Sabi Sands at 11h00; arrive OR Tambo at 12h30
- Depart Sabi Sands at 12h30; arrive OR Tambo at 12h30
Please note: departure and arrival times by differ by up to one hour to accommodate delayed flights. Please bear this in mind when booking connecting flights home.
If travelling on the morning flight to Johannesburg, no connecting flights should be booked departing before 15h00 (domestic) or 16h30 (international).
If travelling on the afternoon flight to Johannesburg, no connecting flights should be booked departing before 17h00 (domestic) or 18h00 (international).
FedAir operate shuttle flights to Sabi Sand Game Reserve; it is not a scheduled domestic flight. Departure and arrival times are affected by local weather conditions and it is possible there might be multiple stops enroute to your destination (with a maximum of 3 landings. Flights are also subject to change without notice.
FedAir baggage restrictions
There are baggage restrictions for the FedAir shuttle flights between OR Tambo and Sabi Sands. Visitors fly on a small aircraft, either a Cessna Grand Caravan or Beechcraft 1900. Visitors may carry maximum 20 kilograms per person in a soft duffel-type bag. This includes hand luggage and camera equipment.
Your baggage for the rest of your holiday can be kept in safekeeping at the FedAir baggage storage facility at OR Tambo International Airport at no extra cost. Baggage restrictions are strictly adhered to and no exceptions are made for safety reasons.
Nelspruit, Mpumalanga to Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve
It’s a 30 minute flight from Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA) and a 20 minute flight from Skukuza Airport in Kruger National Park to the Ulusaba airstrip.
Ulusaba has its own private airstrip for the convenience of its guests arriving by private air charter. Ulusaba will arrange transfers from KMIA or Skukuza Airport in the Kruger Park for an additional cost. The transfer from Ulusaba’s airstrip to the lodges is complimentary.
Guests travelling to Ulusaba by road from Johannesburg or Pretoria can expect the journey to take about 5 hours 31 minutes (448 kilometres) excluding stops. The route to Ulusaba from OR Tambo International Airport is a beautiful scenic drive travelling over a mountainous escarpment into the lush Lowveld valley via the Nelspruit, White River and Hazyview. It’s a great way to see more of the scenic wonders of Mpumalanga in South Africa.
Guests travelling by road from Nelspruit will take about 2 hours 30 minutes to arrive at the entrance gates to Sabi Sands. Allow extra time as you’re required to drive slowly through the reserve to avoid hitting animals. Try to arrive at Ulusaba by 13h00 in time for a light lunch; then you can unpack at your leisure and be ready for afternoon tea before departing for a game drive at 16h30.
Airlink flies guests from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg to the international airport in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga.
Visitors to Sabi Sand Game Reserve have the option of renting a hired car on arrival at OR Tambo International and driving to the game reserve via Mpumalanga Province
- OR Tambo International Airport to Shaw’s Gate:
4 hours 50 minutes(438kms) via N12 and N4 from OR Tambo International Airport
- OR Tambo International Airport to Gowrie Gate:
5 hours 40 minutes (470kms) via N4 from OR Tambo International Airport
SABI SANDS ACCESS GATES
The Sabi Sands has three access gates:
Shaw’s Gate: Open from 05H00 to 22H00
Newington Gate: Open from 05H00 to 22H00
Gowrie Gate: Open from 05H00 to 22H00
Check with the safari lodge you are staying at to find out which access gate you must use.
SABI SANDS GATE FEES
Visitors staying at a safari lodge in Sabi Sands Game Reserve are required to pay a vehicle entry fee as well as a per person fee. Credit cards are accepted at all Sabi Sand entrance gates.
Only South African Rand is accepted if paying in cash.
MORE ABOUT SABI SANDS
Sabi Sand Game Reserve is regarded as one of the finest game reserves in southern Africa. It is made up of a group of private game reserves and spans some 65 000 hectares of savanna thornveld. Officially named Sabi Sand Wildtuin (meaning ‘wilderness’ in Afrikaans), the premier wildlife sanctuary falls within the Greater Kruger.
There are no fences between the privately-owned reserves in Sabi Sands and the Kruger National and game moves freely through the wilderness region.
Sabi Sand Game Reserve, or Sabi Sands as locals call it, offers wildlife enthusiasts the ultimate Big 5 safari experience along with a selection of some of the most luxurious safari lodges in South Africa. It is the oldest private reserve in South Africa and dates back to 1934.
The 65 000 hectares of wilderness consists of a patchwork of 18 unfenced private game reserves including world-renowned places such as Londolozi, Exeter, Sabi Sabi, Singita and Richard Branson’s Ulusaba. Sabi Sands premier safari lodges and unparalleled bushveld competes with the likes of the Masai Mara.
It is world-renowned as a premier destination for wildlife photography and it’s paradise for bird watchers. Luxury accommodation combined with pristine bushveld in one of the richest biodiversity regions in southern Africa puts Sabi Sand Game Reserve on the bucket list of well-heeled travellers from around the world.
Access to the private reserves in Sabie Sands is restricted to guests staying at the luxury lodges on the properties which promises visitors exclusivity to game sightings and privacy at the lodges.
Sabi Sands is situated in the southwestern corner of the Greater Kruger and shares a 50-kilometre border with Kruger Park. It has one of the richest game populations in the country and renowned for its leopard sightings.
Sabi Sands is home to the Big 5 which includes elephant, buffalo, rhino, leopard and lion as well as an abundance of antelope and predators. Bird life is prolific with some 500 species recorded in the reserve; many endangered and rare bird species can be found in Sabi Sand.
The reserve was named after two mighty rivers that flow through the protected wildlife reserve. The Sabie River runs along its southern boundary and the Sand River flows from northwest to southwest. The Sabie River is part of the Komati River System and has a catchment area of some 6 320 square kilometres.
Sabie River is one of the most biologically diverse rivers in South Africa and an excellent source of quality water for humans and animals. Sabie River rises in the Drakensburg range of mountains and flows eastward through Mpumalanga Province to the low-lying bushveld regions. It crosses the Greater Kruger and flows on to Mozambique where it exits into the massive Corumana Dam.
The two major rivers are a contributing factor to Sabi Sands being a sought-after safari destination. The private enterprise boasts over 145 species of mammal, 110 reptile species and 30 plus amphibian species aswell as 500 plus bird species and over 330 tree species.
The area is not only rich in game but also cultural history with many archaeological sites on the reserve bearing testimony of inhabitants from as far back as the Stone and Iron Age.
Sabi Sands is unashamedly marketed to the high-end traveller. There are marginally cheaper lodges but staying at Sabi Sands is still way out of the budget for your regular South African wildlife enthusiastic. This exclusivity offers guests spectacular game viewing sightings as congestion around animal sightings and kills is negligible and strictly controlled by game viewing protocols.
The only issue with visiting Sabi Sands is it is located in a malaria area. It’s considered a low-risk malaria region and the safari lodges take all precautions to limit mosquito bites and irritations. Consult your GP or a travel clinic for information on taking anti-malaria tablets before arriving at Sabi Sands.
Once back home or during the remainder of your holiday, watch out for symptoms of malaria which includes extreme headaches and fever, much the same as the start of a bad case of flu. See a doctor immediately if you experience any of the malaria symptoms ten days after going to a malaria area.
Where is Sabi Sand Game Reserve?
Sabi Sand Game Reserve is located adjacent to the Kruger National Park in the Mpumalanga Province of South Africa. It lies in the southwestern corner of what is known as the Greater Kruger. There are three entrances into Sabi Sands: Newington Gate in the west, Gowrie Gate in the far north and Shaw’s Gate in the south of the private reserve.
Why visit Sabi Sand Game Reserve
Sabi Sands is a premier Big 5 safari destination renowned for incredible game viewing, in particular leopard sightings; excellent game rangers and trackers who take you out on two game drives a day; off-road driving which gets you up close to wildlife, in particular lion kills; and superior high-end luxury safari lodges that rival those in the Masai Mara and Okavango Delta.
The only off-putting issue is the cost of staying at Sabi Sands. It’s reserved for those with very big vacation budgets. At the same time, this offers guests exclusivity and a high degree of privacy. There is a strong emphasis on the safari tours of ticking off the Big Five; elephant, buffalo, rhino, leopard and lion. Don’t forget that there is so much more to Sabi Sands than these five famous fellas.
Sabi Sands is particularly popular because of its leopard sightings. For aspiring wildlife photographers, you should get many excellent shots of beautiful leopards lounging in trees. Leopards are territorial and your tracker should easily find a resident leopard and possibly a few cubs on every game drive in Sabi Sands. Wild dogs are also fairly common sightings in Sabi Sands; they’re endangered and strictly monitors so trackers usually have a good idea where to find a hunting pack on an evening game drive.
One reason to visit Sabi Sands is for birdwatching. It’s a birders paradise. Sabi Sands’ guides and trackers are all extremely clued up on their birds, particularly the birds of prey. They love escorting bird lovers on walking trails and game drives as it takes a little bit of the emphasis off the Big 5.
History of Sabi Sand Game Reserve
The original Sabie Reserve was proclaimed in 1898. The man behind this iconic initiative was the president of the Transvaal Republic, Paul Kruger. He proposed the region be declared a protected wildlife sanctuary because of concern over unchecked hunting and rampant poaching. It would be some 12 years later that Paul Kruger’s proposal finally came to fruition and South Africa’s precious wildlife were provided with a safe haven to roam freely.
The area between the Sabie and Crocodile rivers was named Sabie Reserve and declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1898. Hunting was severely protected and conservation programmes initiated to boost depleted game numbers. The National Parks Act was proclaimed in 1926 and Sabie Reserve and Shingwedzi Reserve were combined to become the Kruger National Park. Under this act, the wildlife sanctuary became a state sponsored national reserve and private landowners whose farms fell with the Sabie Reserve were excised from the Kruger Park.
In 1948, the private landowners owners set up a formal association to amalgamate the private reserves that bordered the southwestern boundary of the Kruger. Sabi Sand Private Reserve was created and would later be renamed Sabi Sand Wildtuin (meaning ‘wilderness’ in Afrikaans). Of that group of pioneering private game reserve owners, six families still own land in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve with third and fourth generations still living off the land.
Fences were erected between the Sabi Sand and the Kruger National Park in 1961 because of the threat of foot and mouth disease and hunting concessions on the private lands adjacent to the Kruger. In 1993, after exhaustive negotiations, the fences between Sabi Sand and the Kruger National Park were taken down and the Greater Kruger was established as an expansive wilderness region.
The land that Sabi Sands Game Reserve now occupies was previously used for subsistence farming, mostly cattle farms and some tropical fruit farming. There was a shortage of water at the time and private landowners assisted local communities by putting in boreholes and dams. These boreholes and dams were kept intact when Sabi Sands became a private game reserve and are a valuable source of permanent water supply for the wildlife.
Sabi Sand Game Reserve is home to landowners who care passionately about conservation and the well-being of communities living adjacent to the reserve. Environmental management programmes and studies include, among others; alien plant control, micro catchment management to combat erosion, monitoring wildlife and habitat densities, anti-poaching and control of runaway fires. Most luxury lodges in the Sabi Sands have initiated their own social responsibility programmes geared to uplift neighbouring communities.
Setting the trend for luxury lodges
Sabi Sands set the trend in South Africa for high-end luxury safari lodges. In the 1970s and 1980s, accommodation at the Kruger National Park was limited to the traditional rondavels (round huts) and family bungalows. There was little on the tourism market in the Kruger region for travellers who have a taste for the finer things in life.
Family homes were converted in to beautifully decorated safari lodges with touches of modern elegance seamlessly integrating with an authentic African bushveld experience. Originally, the lodges were decorated with the “old hunting” colonial-era safari theme but most today are modern and contemporary masterpieces. A stay at a luxury lodge in Sabi Sands is as much about the architectural and décor experience as it is about the Big 5 experience.
Most lodges in Sabi Sands offer luxurious pamper treatments at their own spa and wellness centres. There’s no skimping when it comes to treating their guests and most establishments set up beautifully appointed spas in a bushveld oasis with top quality therapists seeing to their guests.
Coupled with award-winning head chefs at the helm with a team of culinary magicians, the most qualified game rangers and trackers in the industry and professional service staff; a stay at any lodge in Sabi Sands is on par with the best of the best in the world.
Rich in cultural history
The Greater Kruger is rich in cultural heritage and is as popular for its archaeological wonders as it is for its wildlife. There is ample evidence in the Kruger Park and Sabi Sands that inhabitants from the Stone Age and Iron Age lived in or passed through the region. This includes Stone Age artefacts, Bushmen paintings and trading artefacts linked to the Arab, Portuguese and Dutch traders that traversed the region many moons ago.
The Voortrekkers passed through the game-rich area as well as the Shangaan tribe who were fleeing tribal territory wars with King Shaka and the Zulus. Ancient traders the likes of Joäo Albasini crisscrossed the region, creating a network of trading routes which started in Lourenço Marques (now Maputo in Mozambique) and reached inland as far as the Lowveld and even the Great Zimbabwe Ruins.
Big 5 safari experience at Sabi Sands
Sabi Sands is home to the Big Five which includes leopard, lion, rhino, buffalo and elephant. This term was given to the five most dangerous animals to hunt but over the years has been adopted by safari operators to describe the five best sightings in game reserves.
The Big 5 are exciting to see but there’s so much more to the Sabi Sands bushveld in the big guys. Sabi Sands, in particular, is well known for its incredible leopard sightings but the reserve also has an exciting lineup of antelope and predators as well as incredible birdlife.
Weather at Sabi Sands
There is a season for everyone at Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve and each quarter of the year promises something different.
The summer rains in the Lowveld fall between October and March. The dry bushveld is transformed into a lush verdant paradise and comes alive with baby animals and migratory birds. Temperatures can reach a high of 40°C during the day and cooling off to 20°C in the evenings.
The best thing about being in the Greater Kruger in summer is experiencing one of the region’s legendary thunderstorms. Ferocious lightening streaks across the sky and the rain buckets down to thunderous applause. As long as you’re inside in the warmth and safety of the lodges at Ulusaba, there’s nothing more spectacular than watching a mighty African thunderstorm.
The bushveld is green and thick which makes it harder to spot wildlife. There’s also an abundance of water throughout the reserve so animals aren’t forced to congregate close to permanent water sources. It’s a spectacular time to be in the African bushveld but not ideal for a safari tour to Ulusaba Game Reserve. The main issue is the risk of malaria is highest during the wet, rainy summer season.
Winter in the Lowveld is between April and September. This is the dry season for Sabi Sands and water becomes scarce towards the end of a particularly cold winter season. Winter days in Sabi Sands are relatively mild; day temperatures are pleasant with the occasional cold front forcing guests to wear an extra jersey or jacket.
Winter nights get quite nippy when the sun goes down but this isn’t a problem when there’s a roaring fire at the boma to gather around. In June and July in the middle of the winter season in the Lowveld the temperature at night might drop to freezing point but it’s rare and doesn’t last long.
The best time to visit Sabi Sands
The best time to visit Sabi Sands is during the dry winter season (June to September). The region is very dry and the grasslands thin out so game viewing is much easier. Water is scarce and you’ll see more game in the winter season because the animals tend to congregate close to a reliable water source.
Once the rain comes in summer, the animals disperse deeper into the bushveld and are well hidden in the thick, green grass. The Lowveld region experiences summer rainfall and game viewing between October and March after the rains arrive is not as good as the dry winter months.
The best time to visit Sabi Sands if you’re a bird enthusiast is from November to April, when the migratory birds are present.
If you’re interested in a combination of great game viewing and bird watching, the best time to visit the Ulusaba in Sabi Sand Wildtuin is towards the end of summer in April.
MORE ABOUT GREATER KRUGER
Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve falls within the Greater Kruger which, in turn, falls within the internationally-declared Kruger2Canyons UNESCO Man and Biosphere and within the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation area (GLTP Treaty of 2002).
The Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa. It is situated across the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces of South Africa, and its borders stretch up to Zimbabwe in the north and Mozambique in the east. It was known in 1898 as the Government Wildlife Park; later became known as Sabi Game Reserve and then the Kruger National Park in 1926.
Kruger National Park is the core of the Kruger 2 Canyons and Vhembe UNESCO Man and Biospheres, and the core of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTP Treaty, 2002).
The Kruger to Canyons (K2C) Biosphere Reserve was registered in September 2001 in Paris by UNESCO. It became the 411th Biosphere Reserve site to be registered in 94 countries worldwide and acknowledged for its global significance.
The K2C Biosphere Programme is an extensive community-driven initiative that bridges the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces in South Africa. It is also the interface of the Eastern Transvaal Drakensberg Escarpment and the Central Lowveld.
K2C has 1.4 million hectares dedicated to long-term conservation; 989 000 of formally protected area (state-owned reserves) and 400 000 hectares of private-owned conservation land (privately-owned game farms). The entire registered Biosphere Reserve spans some 2.5 million hectares.
Vhembe Biosphere Reserve is located in the north-east of South Africa near the border with Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The reserve includes the northern part of Kruger National Park, Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage site, several Provincial Nature Reserves, two recognised centres of biodiversity and endemism (Soutpansberg and Blouberg), and the Makgabeng Plateau, which contains more than 1 000 rock art sites.
The area has a relatively large and rapidly growing human population with a high unemployment rate. This has a severe negative impact on natural resources, which are harvested in an unsustainable manner. The role of the conservation programmes is to manage the needs of communities living adjacent to the wildlife sanctuaries and the protection of South Africa’s valuable natural resources.
The luxury safari lodges of Sabi Sands are committed to ‘Responsible Tourism’ which is about ‘making better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit’. Responsible Tourism requires Sabi Sands operators to make tourism more sustainable where both people and natural resources in the region benefit.