Sabi Sabi responsible tourism, Mpumalanga
Did you know?
A century ago, near present-day Sabi Sabi, ladders were placed against trees so train passengers could escape lions.
A few years before 'responsible tourism' became a catchphrase, Sabi Sabi was already way ahead of most other private game reserves in practising this.
This was one of the first commercial tourism operations to create an artificial wetland dealing with wastewater, returning it to nature in roughly as good a condition as it arrived.
This system won the private game reserve several Imvelo Responsible Tourism Awards for best practice in conserving the environment.
Other eco-projects include the unglamorous but critical task of removing fast-growing and invasive alien vegetation. Grasslands and drainage lines are particularly at risk.
In 1996 Sabi Sabi won their first international award for their responsible tourism efforts. These stemmed in large part from their deep involvement in uplifting the lives of their 200 staff members who come from the neighbouring towns of Justicia, Huntington and Lillydale.
Sabi Sabi was also among the first tourism destinations to be Fair Trade in Tourism certified, back in 2002, an honour they have consistently upheld.
Much of their upliftment efforts since then have centred around education. For example, there is the Lillydale Environmental Education Centre, a community-run initiative supported by Sabi Sabi that acts as a multi-functional centre promoting rural development tourism and that encourages local conservation efforts as well as promoting Shangaan culture.
In addition, the surrounding communities are exposed to adult literacy classes, training in English proficiency and business orientation.
Sabi Sabi has also set up a subsidised bicycle programme that provides bikes to high school children who used to have to walk 7km to 11km every day to and from school.
The bicycle programme teaches the children about ownership, co-operation and maintenance. They learn a little about investment and finance, too.
In addition, Sabi Sabi has invested in education programmes like 'Reach and Teach' and 'Teach the Teachers'.
There are also ongoing training programmes for staff members to help them acquire new skills and strengths.
It seems particularly appropriate that Sabi Sabi’s slogan is 'Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow'.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Sabi Sabi Head Office
Tel: +27 (0)11 447 7172
How to get here
There are daily scheduled flights from Johannesburg's OR Tambo Airport to Sabi Sabi's airstrip. Alternately you could fly to the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport in nearby Mbombela (Nelspruit). From there it's a 2-hour drive or a short hop by aeroplane to Sabi Sabi.
Best time to visit
Late winter and early spring (August-September) are particularly good for game viewing since the animals are more concentrated at waterholes, the vegetation is low and this is the baby season. That said, any time of year is nice.
Around the area
Sabi Sabi is set within the larger Sabi Sand Game Reserve, so there are a number of other private game lodges in the vicinity. You're also close to the Kruger National Park and a few hours' drive from scenic spots like the Blyde River Canyon.
What will it cost
Sabi Sabi is a five-star lodge, and has a price tag to match. Inquire directly from the lodge about rates.
Length of stay
Two to three nights would be ideal.
What to pack
Most people like to dress in khaki clothing when visiting game lodges. If you don't have any, or you need an extra pullover or scarf for night drives, you can purchase these items at the lodge shop.
What to eat
All meals are included in the rates. Like the lodge, the food is top-notch. Let Sabi Sabi know ahead if you have any special dietary requirements.