Bordering Kruger National Park, the Sabi Sand Game Reserve is a collection of privately-owned game reserves which have dropped their fences by mutual agreement. There is also no fence between the Sabi Sand Game Reserve and Kruger, allowing the free movement of animals through the reserve. Sabi Sand is without a doubt South Africa's top luxury safari destination and the best place in the world to see leopards in the wild.
- Private reserve and part of Greater Kruger Park
- Large selection of luxury safari lodges
- Excellent Big 5 game viewing
- Best wild leopard sightings in the world
- Off-road game drives and night drives are possible
- Easy to access by road or by air
The Sabi Sand Game Reserve is home to South Africa's top luxury safari lodges Singita, Londolozi, Lion Sands, Dulini and many others. The game viewing in the Sabi Sand is excellent. Although the animals and bush are exactly the same as in the rest of the Kruger National Park, your chances of seeing the Big Five are better in the Sabi Sand due to the number of open safari vehicles that are out on game drives at any one time, all of them in radio contact with each other. This means if one vehicle spots something exciting, the sighting will be called in on the radio to alert other vehicles in the area.
Off-road game drives
A key difference between the Sabi Sand Game Reserve and Kruger National Park is that the open safari vehicles are permitted to drive off-road to get closer to the animals. Off-roading is prohibited in the Kruger Park itself where vehicles have to stay on the roads. This means the quality of big cat sightings are usually better in Sabi Sand than in Kruger Park and photography is easier because you can position the vehicle with the sun behind you.
Also, trackers are able to follow the tracks of Big 5 animals, making it easier to find some of the more elusive ones. Game drives usually continue after dark with spotlights, allowing you to view the nocturnal animals and predators which are more active at night.
These things, along with the ideal habitat, have made the Sabi Sand Game Reserve famous for being the best place in the world to see leopards in the wild. They are spotted frequently and you can get very close to them.
The wildlife in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve is the same as in the Kruger National Park and includes the Big 5 (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo), as well as giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, warthog, kudu, impala, waterbuck, hippo, crocodile, wild dog, cheetah, hyena, jackal, baboons, monkeys and many smaller antelope and cat species. The birdlife is also prolific.
In order to fully appreciate the phenomenal wildlife experience the Sabi Sand Game Reserve has to offer, we recommend a minimum stay of two nights, while the ideal stay would be three to four nights. If you have more than four nights available, you may want to combine the Sabi Sand with another destination for some variety.
Safari camp and game lodge accommodation
There are a large number of privately-owned game lodges and safari camps in the Sabi Sand, priced from below $ 500 per person up to over $ 2,000 per person per night. These rates are usually all-inclusive, although at most of the less expensive lodges drinks are not included. At the more expensive lodges, you can generally expect world-class service and luxury accommodation. At the less expensive lodges, the level of luxury is a bit lower.
The game viewing is similar at all the lodges, except that some lodges have better traversing areas and better access to the main rivers, the Sand River and Sabie River, which can impact the game viewing somewhat. And keep in mind that the more upmarket lodges usually take up to six people per vehicle during game drives, whereas the more affordable lodges fill the vehicle with up to nine people (three rows of three seats per row).
A couple of lodges are situated close to the western and southwestern boundary of the reserve and from some of them, it's possible to see the lights and hear the sounds of the nearby villages at night. While this is an authentic aspect of Africa, some safari-goers prefer a more remote lodge where there's no sign or sound of human inhabitants nearby.
Some lodges accept children, others don't. Some lodges have luxury rooms with private-viewing decks, plunge pools and outdoor showers, making them great honeymoon destinations. Other lodges are more suitable for families with children. Some lodges offer tented accommodation, others have brick and thatch chalets.
This is where our expertise and local knowledge comes in. We've visited almost all the lodges in the Sabi Sand. Tell us your requirements and we'll recommend the perfect lodge for your safari, within your budget.
You can drive yourself or book a road transfer with us. Or you can fly there from Johannesburg, Nelspruit or Skukuza. The Sabi Sand Game Reserve is roughly divided into two sections; the area north of the Sand River and the area south of the Sand River. If you're driving to a northern lodge, you need to enter through the Gowrie Gate in the north. If you're going to a lodge in the south, you need to use Newington Gate or Shaw's Gate.
It's not possible to drive from a southern entry gate to a lodge in the north or vice versa. This means if you're staying at two lodges, one in the north and then another lodge in the south, you will have to exit the reserve and drive around to get to your next lodge. The game viewing in the north and the south is exactly the same.
It's also possible to fly direct from Johannesburg to one of the lodge airstrips in the Sabi Sand, via light aircraft. The flight takes about one hour. Please ask us for details.
Our take on the Sabi Sand
We love the Sabi Sand Game Reserve! After the Kruger National Park, it is South Africa's most famous safari destination. But it is also South Africa's most expensive safari destination with many lodges priced above US$ 1,000 per person per night. But if your budget allows, you won't easily find a better place to see the Big Five up close, especially leopards, which the Sabi Sand is famous for.
If there is a downside, it would be that the focus of many visitors (and, therefore, of the guides, too) is to see the Big 5 and, in particular, the big cats, which means the general game viewing is often not a priority here. Some guides (not all of them) race around from predator sighting to predator sighting, barely stopping for the more common animals like warthogs, monkeys or baboons, impalas, kudus and other antelope species.
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A guided safari in Kruger Park (using the national park camps) is quite different to a safari at a private game lodge. Both have their advantages. This trip idea combines two nights in Kruger, followed by two nights at a private game lodge for you to experience the best of both worlds. All game drives in open vehicles with expert and knowledgeable guides.
Our 15-Day Southern Africa Signature Safari is what we consider to be an ideal safari itinerary on a mid-range budget to see the best of Southern Africa within a limited time frame. Take in some of Southern Africa's top destinations – the spectacular Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe; Chobe National Park in Botswana; picturesque Cape Town and the Garden Route; the Kruger National Park and the famous Sabi Sand Game Reserve in South Africa.
Leopard Hills is situated within the Sabi Sand Game Reserve and forms part of the greater Kruger National Park. This luxury 5-star lodge is built on a hill that overlooks a natural waterhole and boasts eight glass-fronted suites with spectacular views.