Visit the Sabi Sands Game Reserve, located alongside the famous Kruger National Park in South Africa. The reserve is home to an incredible variety of wildlife across an impressive 65 000 hectares.

Despite being older than the Kruger Park, it was only established in 1948 as the Sabi Sands Reserve. It comprises more than 20 reserves and boasts the highest concentration of big game in South Africa.

This honest guide covers some of the best private game reserves available in Sabi Sands.

Sabi Sands Doesn’t Offer Day-Visiting

Tourists observing lions in an open safari vehicle, Sabi Sands Game Reserve, South Africa

Day visitors are not permitted to visit the Sabi Sands Game Reserve. The world-famous game reserve hosts guests in luxury lodges and more affordable tented camps. Unfortunately, there are no camping facilities on offer for budget-conscious travelers.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sabi Sands Game Reserve

Quickly find answers to the most common questions asked about the Sabi Sands Game Reserve.

Where is Sabi Sands Game Reserve?

Male kudu crosses a dirt track in the Sabi Sands

The game reserve is in Mpumalanga and starts in the west at the Newington Gate, in the north at the Gowrie gate, and ends at the Shaw’s gate in the south. It shares its eastern border with the Kruger National Park.

What does Sabi Sands mean?

Sabi Sands Game Reserve received its name from the two rivers which flow through it. The Sabi River, on its southern boundary, and the Sand River.

What is the best time to visit Sabi Sands?

Hippo storming out of a waterhole in the Sabi Sands

The Sabi Sands provides incredible game viewing opportunities all year round. It does have two distinct seasons and the best time will depend on your expectations and interests.

The summer season is from November to March. You can expect heavy rainfall from November to January. Temperatures are hotter during the summer, averaging 30℃ (86℉) and it is not uncommon to reach 40℃ (104℉).

Rainfall transforms the Sabi Sands environment and fills the rivers. Newborn animals around this period lead to a high probability of seeing a predator hunt.

The winter season is from May to October. It is the coolest and driest period of the year, with May to June being the most comfortable weather for a safari. However, early morning temperatures can be below freezing. The watering holes are typically more active during this period.

How much does a Sabi Sands safari cost?

The Sabi Sands safaris take place from a variety of lodges which range from moderate to expensive. A single night at the most affordable Elephant Plains Game Lodge starts at $266 per person. It offers guests the use of a library, a games room, two swimming pools, and a gym.

If you can afford it, the Sabi Sands is home to some of the most luxurious safari experiences. A night at the Londolozi Private Granite Suites costs from $1660 per person.

They offer guests first-class dining, astronomy talks, a private pool and an outdoor bath. Unfortunately, children younger than the age of 16 are only able to stay here when the entire camp is privately booked.

What should I wear for a Sabi Sands safari?

Safari guide tracking animals in Sabi Sabi

There is no need to dress in typical safari attire, however, general best practice is to choose tranquil colors. Green, khaki, brown and black clothes are less likely to scare the game away.

Wear a comfortable outfit and pack a sweater, scarf and hat. When joining a walking safari, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to protect yourself from mosquitoes and plants.

Animals You See on a Sabi Sands Safari

While Sabi Sands has received great reviews for frequent leopard sightings, there are various animals to see during your safari. The reserve is home to elephant, rhino, Cape buffalo, lion, and leopard – known as the Big Five.

Prepare to spot large numbers of wildebeest, zebra, cheetah, hyena, giraffe, and hippo. Notable bird species are the red-billed oxpecker, black-bellied bustard, Burchell’s coucal and bateleur.

Twitchers can look forward to ticking off over 300 bird species during the migratory months of November to April.

The Sabi Sands Safari Experience

A guest at any private reserve will receive a premium safari experience while staying in top-notch accommodation. Award-winning service, alongside delicious food and wine, gives you the chance to experience luxury while in a natural setting.

When on vacation, it is essential to relax and unwind. Elephant Plains, Lion Sands, Londolozi, Ulusaba, Singita Boulders, and Singita Ebony all offer great spa treatments from the lodges.

Full-day game drives

A pride of lions crosses the river during a Sabi Sands game drive

A day on safari starts early and typically begins at 5:30 am with a warm-up tea before departing on a morning safari. After a three-hour game drive, enjoy a delicious breakfast. Next, you can choose to head off on foot, guided by a ranger, on a walking safari.

Relax after lunch and enjoy an afternoon tea before heading off on another safari. The lighting during the evening safari provides the most incredible setting for wildlife photography.

Walking or off-roading

The andBeyond lodges in the Sabi Sands, Tengile River Lodge and Kirkman’s Kamp, both offer incredible walking and off-road safari experiences.

A walking game viewing is an unforgettable way to experience a safari. Guides provide intimate knowledge of the location and wildlife while keeping an eye on freshly laid tracks. Sabi Sands private reserves do not permit self-drive or walking tours without guides.

Easy game viewing

African wild dog playing in water, Sabi Sand

The Sabi Sands intimate size makes game viewing easier.

Prestigious brands like Singita, Londolozi, Sabi Sabi and Ulusaba all have lodges in Sabi Sands Game Reserve and offer great game viewing close to the lodges.

One of the more private lodges is MalaMala which does not permit other vehicles to enter its surroundings.

A focus on dramatic battles

It is not only predator versus prey in the Sabi Sands game reserves. Dramatic battles take place between hyenas and lions which can have serious consequences for the loser.

A fresh kill will often attract competition from wild dogs and scavengers. Keep an eye out for vultures circling in the sky!

The Best Sabi Sands Lodges

Sign to the Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge

The Sabi Sands Game Reserve plays an important role in protecting South Africa’s natural heritage, while sharing these pristine environments with tourists.

The lodges listed below all offer a unique connection to the surrounding environment, and are perfect for visitors who are looking for an authentic safari experience.

1.Ulusaba, Richard Branson’s safari lodge under a canopy of trees

As a member of the Virgin Limited Edition’s award-winning collection of retreats, this game reserve is in a spectacular location perched above its surroundings and the Mabrak riverbed.

It costs between $770 and $1413 per person per night depending on which suite you choose. The Ulusaba Safari Lodge and the Rock Lodge are in the western sector of the Sabi Sands Game Reserve.

2. andBeyond’s Tengile River Lodge and Kirkman’s Kamp to celebrate the untouched wilderness

andBeyond offers incredible service and won Africa’s best conservation company in the World Travel Awards in both 2016 and 2017. They provide unique walking tours and game drives in 4×4 safari vehicles to enjoy the surrounding nature.

The Tengile River Lodge is in a tranquil setting located on a bend of the Sand River and costs $1381 per person per night. The lodge has nine suites, each with its own private lounge, dining area, bar, and swimming pool.

Kirkman’s Kamp is set higher up on a ridge above the Sand River and costs between $745 and $820 per person per night. Relax while staying in this 1920’s vintage-style safari lodge. Each cottage has its own private verandah and fireplace.

3.Sabi Sabi Game Reserve lodges have it all, from romance to African renaissance

Sabi Sabi safaris are available from 4 lodges. The Bush Lodge, its flagship lodge, offers luxurious safari accommodation in the heart of the bushveld. The lodge charges between $896 and $1030 per person per night sharing.

The Earth Lodge follows a more modern approach in both architecture and furnishings. Celebrated as an environmentally friendly lodge, it is almost invisible from its surroundings. It is the most expensive of the four lodges and costs between $1355 and $1558 per person sharing per night.

The Selati Camp is reminiscent of a bygone era. It features vintage decor and is the most romantic of the Sabi Sabi accommodation options. Rates per person sharing are between $948 and $1090 per night.

The Little Bush Camp is suitable for small groups or families. It offers unparalleled intimacy from the secluded location on the banks of the Msuthlu River. Rates per person sharing are between $948 and $1090 per night.

4. Feel at home in the Notten’s Bush Camp

The family-run lodge sets a romantic atmosphere with the use of oil lamps and candles for lighting. Beautiful suites with private decks set the scene for a relaxing safari experience.

The lodge is proud of its down-to-earth feeling while still providing essentials like electricity to charge your phone and camera. It is more affordable than the neighboring lodges and costs $480 per person per night sharing.

Making the Most of a Sabi Sands Safari

  1. Book an appropriate lodge for your intended style of safari.
  2. Spend at least 48 hours in the game reserve.
  3. Be prepared to wake up early for game drives.
  4. Remember to relax and unwind while on vacation.
  5. Alongside the Sabi Sands is the Kruger National Park, which is also worth visiting.

Now It’s Time to Relax

Impala rams fighting in the Greater Kruger, South Africa

Now that you are well informed on the best available lodges in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve, you can relax. Remember to keep an eye out for deals on safaris to the private game reserves in South Africa.