Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve, Mpumalanga
Did you know?
The Sabi Sand is the oldest private game reserve in South Africa, formally declared in 1948.
The north pride lioness must have just finished weaning her cubs, because she was alone for once, and clearly relishing her own company. The sun was setting over the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve as she washed her face like a giant tabby cat, yawned, stretched and went to look for her cubs and the rest of her pride.
A group of tourists sat enthralled in an open game-viewing vehicle, breathing in the lioness’ rank scent, mingled with that of wild sage crushed beneath the wheels, listening to the ranger explaining lion behaviour in a quiet undertone. Meanwhile, the tracker scanned the earth for other big-game spoor.
Perhaps they’d be lucky enough to find a leopard stashing her kill in a tree that night; or see jackals bounce through the high grass as they pursued invisible rodents, oblivious to the ranger’s spotlight.
What was certain was that later they’d find themselves around a sheltered campfire being served a delectable dinner, with some of South Africa’s best wines to hand. That night they’d lie down on the finest linen, hearing the eerie whoop of hyena in the distance, perhaps the child-like cry of a bush baby, and almost certainly, the roaring of lions.
This is the allure of the Sabi Sand Reserve, which adjoins the south-western boundary of the Kruger National Park, and is therefore also part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. The 50km fence that once divided the Sabi Sand from the Kruger is long gone, and wild animals, including the Big 5, move back and forth along their old migration routes.
The origins of the reserve (now about 65 000 hectares) date back to the 1920s, when a number of people held hunting concessions there in the dry winter months. Later on, this became an association of freehold landowners.
The fact that 2 perennial rivers (after which the reserve is named) flow through it means that the area offers excellent wildlife viewing all year round. Some of South Africa’s finest luxury game lodges are found here – the best known include Sabi Sabi, Mala Mala, Singita, Londolozi, Ulusaba, Chitwa Chitwa, Idube, Lion Sands, Exeter and Djuma.
They all offer individual attention, privacy, outstanding cuisine and luxurious accommodation, while the décor is often breathtaking. Some of the lodges offer spas with masseurs, aromatherapy and reflexology.
In addition, the guides at the lodges know every inch of their areas. They can often take you right to rare leopard sightings or to where wild dogs have hidden their pups in dens.
Incidentally, the only hunting these days is done with a camera...
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Sabi Sand Game Reserve
Tel: +27 (0)13 735 5102