3 Day Sabi Sands Safaris
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3-DAY SAFARI TOUR TO SABI SANDS
Are you looking at a 3-day safari tour to Sabi Sands in the Greater Kruger National Park? Good choice. It’s an opportunity to visit one of the finest protected wilderness areas in southern Africa for an authentic Big 5 safari tour.
MoAfrika Tours partners with a leading operator in Sabi Sands to offer you the best the region has to offer at a highly affordable rate. A 3-day safari tour is ideal for travellers who have time constraints but don’t want to miss out on seeing this magical part of South Africa and the Big 5, particularly leopard which Sabi Sands is famous for.
Where is Sabi Sands?
Sabi Sand Game Reserve is located in the northern region of South Africa in a protected conservation area known as the Greater Kruger National Park. The vast wilderness region spans north-western Mpumalanga and north-eastern Limpopo provinces.
The Greater Kruger should not be confused with the Kruger National Park, although the two are right next to each other and combined make up the largest protected wilderness region in Africa; spanning some 2 180 square kilometres.
Sabi Sands is one of 20 unfenced private game reserves that collectively make up the Greater Kruger National Park. The private reserve shares an unfenced 50-kilometre boundary with Kruger Park on its eastern border and animals are free to roam across the two bushveld areas.
What is the difference between the Greater Kruger and Kruger National Park?
Kruger National Park
The Kruger National Park is an iconic destination in South Africa that’s controlled and operated by SANParks, a government body responsible for managing South Africa’s national parks. Kruger Park is Africa’s largest protected wildlife reserve and the flagship of national parks in South Africa.
The vast wilderness region stretches 352 kilometres from north to south with Mozambique lying on its eastern border and Zimbabwe lying on its far northern boundary.
There are private concessions in the Kruger Park which offer a safari experience similar to Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve but the majority of people visiting the Kruger Park explore the national park in their own vehicle and stay in a selection of SANParks rest camps that are comfortable but not nearly as luxurious as the safari lodges found in the Greater Kruger.
The Kruger National Park is the core of the Kruger2Canyons (K2C) and Vhembe UNESCO Man and Biospheres, and the core of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTP Treaty, 2002). The 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’s 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 hectares of formally-protected ecozones (state-owned reserves) and 400 000 hectares of conservation land (privately-owned game farms). The entire registered Biosphere Reserve spans some 2.5 million hectares.
Greater Kruger National Park
The Greater Kruger National Park also falls within the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park which in turn forms part of the Kruger2Canyons Biosphere; a designated UNESCO International Man and Biosphere Reserve.
Unlike the Kruger Park which is a state-supported national park, the Greater Kruger is made up of a collection of privately-owned game reserves. It’s an extension of the Kruger National Park that was created by pulling down the fences that separated the private game reserves. The initiative added 180 000 hectares to the Kruger Park.
The private game reserves of the Greater Kruger are some of the finest in southern Africa and almost all of them offer accommodation and facilities that are far superior to what SANParks offers in the Kruger Park, except for the safari lodges in the Kruger private concessions.
Interested in a 3-day safari tour in Sabi Sands?
Check what has to offer here
Which is better? Sabi Sands or Kruger National Park?
It’s hard to compare the two because they’re both located in a wilderness region that’s a designated UNESCO International Man and Biosphere Reserve. It really comes down to what type of safari tour you prefer and your travel budget. Kruger Park is the “people’s favourite park” in South Africa but Sabi Sands offers travellers a more exclusive safari experience.
Sabi Sands lies on the boundary of the Kruger National Park. With no fences separating the two, animals are free to roam between the Kruger Park and Sabi Sands. The luxury safari lodges in Sabi Sands are unashameably marketed at the high-end traveller and offer an unrivalled Big 5 safari experience.
At the same time, guests visiting Sabi Sands can ‘pop across’ to Kruger Park and only need to pay the Kruger entrance fee. The same does not apply in reverse. Sabi Sands is limited to guests staying in one of the luxury safari lodges in the reserve. The beauty of this is there is virtually no safari traffic congestion in Sabi Sands and the problem of “queue to view” at wildlife sightings.
Another big drawcard to Sabi Sands is the open safari vehicles are allowed to go “off road” to gets guests closer to animal sightings. This isn’t allowed in the Kruger Park; visitors must stay on the designated tar or dirt roads in the national park, unless visiting one of the private concessions.
The only way you’d experience anything similar to Sabi Sands in the Kruger Park is if you booked in to stay at one of the luxury safari lodges in the private concessions in the national park. You’ll have all the joy of a wonderful Kruger Park holiday without the tourist congestion.
How big is Sabi Sands?
Sabi Sands covers an area of 65 000 hectares (650 square kilometres). It’s made up of a collection of privately-run safari lodges located on independent game reserves that all fall under the auspices of an association that oversees its conservation management and other initiatives to maintain the high standards of the reserve.
Which is the best safari lodge in Sabi Sands?
It’s impossible to say which is the best safari lodge in Sabi Sands because they’re all fabulous and offer something different for discerning travellers. You have the choice of going ultra-luxury staying at the more famous places in Sabi Sands like Londolozi, MalaMala and Ulusaba or you can opt to stay at the more intimate, family-run lodges that offer the same incredible safari experience for a lot less.
One option to consider is Tydon’s Bush Camp which is located on the Sand River, nestled in the confluence of Londolozi, Lions Sands and &Beyond Kirkman’s game reserves. It offers a choice of 4 luxury safari tents and daily game drives in Sabi Sands. It’s perfect as an intimate retreat four couples wanting an authentic safari experience without the high price tag.
The other private safari destinations in Sabi Sands are:
- &Beyond Kirkman’s Kamp: is a well-known historic camp built in the 1920s
- Arathusa Safari Lodge; traditional luxury safari lodge overlooking a large lake
- Cheetah Plains Lodge: an authentic safari experience in incredible bushveld surrounds
- Chitwa Chitwa Lodge: overlooks one of the largest lakes in the Sabi Sands
- Dulini Game Reserve: with 3 well-known safari lodges in Sabi Sands
- Elephant Plains Lodge: intimate family-owned luxury lodge
- Idube Game Lodge: family-owned private safari camp
- Inyati Game Lodge: situated on the banks of the Sand River
- Leopard Hills Lodge: small luxury lodge owned and operated by Seasons for Africa
- Lion Sands Game Reserve; with 5 exclusive safari lodges in Sabi Sands
- Londolozi Game Reserve: world-famous family-run safari destination with a collection of treehouse camps and luxury suites
- MalaMala Game Reserve: one the oldest and finest safari destinations in southern Africa
- Nkorho Bush Lodge: exclusive safari lodge with stylish thatched chalets
- Notten’s Bush Camp: one of the original family run lodges in Sabi Sands
- Sabi Sabi Game Reserve: with 4 ultra-luxury safari lodges in Sabi Sands
- Savanna Game Lodge: much-loved exclusive safari lodge
- Silvan Safari Lodge: stylish suites nestled in a forest of leadwood and jackalberry trees
- Simbambili Game Lodge: sophisticated safari lodge for the discerning traveller
- Singita Game Reserve: with 4 deluxe safari lodges in Sabi Sands
- Tydon Bush Camp: family-run classic tented safari camp
- Ulusaba Private Game Reserve: owned by Virgin Limited Edition’s award-winning collection of retreats and Sir Richard Branson’s private safari lodge
- Umkumbe Safari Lodge: personalised, owner-run safari lodge with rustic ambiance
Interested in a 3-day safari tour in Sabi Sands?
Check what has to offer here
What is Sabi Sands famous for?
They call Sabi Sands the “Leopard Capital of South Africa”. Sightings of leopard in the reserve are spectacular and you’re almost guaranteed to see them on daily game drives. For wildlife photographers, it’s a dream destination.
Sabi Sands got its name from two permanent rivers that run through the reserve: Sabi River and Sand River. Wildlife sightings are excellent in Sabi Sands largely because it has such an abundance of water on the property which attracts animals and birdlife to the area.
Sabi Sands is probably more famous than other private game reserves in South Africa because it’s been around for the longest. It’s the oldest safari destination in South Africa with a rich history. It was founded in 1934 as Sabi Private Game Reserve and later renamed Sabi Sands Private Reserve in 1948. However, the seeds were planted long before that in the late 1800s to develop the area into a protected wilderness region with limited hunting.
It’s also won international acclaim for its dedication to conservation which almost supersedes its positioning as the leading safari destination is South Africa.
What is the closest town to Sabi Sands
The closest town to Sabi Sands is Hoedspruit (meaning ‘Hat Creek’ in Afrikaans), which is the “Safari Capital of South Africa”. It lies at the foothills of the Klein Drakensberg in the Limpopo Province.
Hoedspruit was always a nondescript town that people passed through enroute to the private game reserves in the Greater Kruger or stopped at to stock up on provisions and grab a bite to eat. However, with its proximity to the Greater Kruger and Kruger Park it has literally exploded in popularity in recent years and is now a destination in its own right.
You’ll find a great selection of retail outlets, supermarkets, restaurants and pubs as well as a vast array of accommodation to suit different budgets. You can buy just about anything in Hoedspruit these days and have a brilliant night out on the town as a change from quiet nights in the bush.
What is the closest airport to Sabi Sands?
Eastgate Airport – otherwise known as Hoedspruit Airport – is located a short 15-minute drive from the town of Hoedspruit. It services daily scheduled flights from Johannesburg and connecting flights to Cape Town.
It boasts having the second longest runway in South Africa and is ideally suited to handling private charter flights. The main service is operated by South African Express Airways which is SAA’s regional domestic carrier.
To get to Eastgate Airport, travel southeast from Hoedspruit towards Nelspruit on the R40 for 6.6 kilometres. Turn left at the Eastgate Airport sign and drive a further 5.9 kilometres to the entrance.
How to get to Sabi Sands?
The quickest way to get to Sabi Sands from Johannesburg is flying there on a private scheduled flight. It’s expensive to fly direct from OR Tambo International Airport to Eastgate Airport so another option is to fly to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA) in Nelspruit and pick up a rental car or shuttle bus to Sabi Sands. As an alternative, you can do the same flying to Skukuza Airport in the Kruger Park instead of KMIA.
The journey by road from Johannesburg to Sabi Sands takes about 5 hours 30 minutes; without stops and travelling 453 kilometres via the N12 and N4. It’s an easy and comfortable road, and mostly on a national highway. If you stop for snacks and drinks along the way, the trip from Johannesburg to Sabi Sands will take up to 6 hours.
What are the opening and closing times of the Sabi Sands entrance 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
Is there an entrance fee for Sabi Sands?
There is an entrance fee that you are required to pay to visit Sabi Sands. The rate is ‘per vehicle and per person’ and is inclusive of VAT. Credit cards are accepted at all Sabi Sands entrance gates.
Rates for 2020
- ZAR 310 per vehicle
- ZAR 1840 per person
These rates increase annually with inflation. Please check online for the current entrance rate.
Interested in a 3-day safari tour in Sabi Sands?
Check what has to offer here
Is there malaria in Sabi Sands?
Sabi Sands is located in a malaria area and it’s highly recommended that you take the necessary precautions to prevent being bitten by a malaria-carrying mosquito and falling ill. It’s a life-threatening disease and can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated early.
Visitors to Sabi Sands are advised to take anti-malaria tablets regardless of the time of year. The hot, rainy summer months between November and April are a high risk period for malaria but as a precaution, travellers should take anti-malaria tablets throughout the year.
If you’re travelling to Sabi Sands with young children, you need to get advice from your doctor or a travel clinic on giving them anti-malaria tablets.
It’s not advisable to visit Sabi Sands if you are pregnant unless your doctor prescribes anti-malaria tablets that are safe to use during pregnancies. It’s not the anti-malaria tablet that’s the issue but the treatment of the disease. Your unborn baby would be seriously at risk if you contract the disease and are treated with extremely strong medication.
Extra precautions include changing into long-sleeved shirts and long pants and wearing socks and shoes in the evening. Mosquitoes are more active between sundown and sunrise. Sleep under a mosquito net if provided and use anti-mosquito spray around the camp and in the evenings. Apply late afternoon before leaving for a game drive in Sabi Sands.
When is the best time to visit Sabi Sands?
Sabi Sands is a year-round safari destinations but there is a “reason for every season”, depending on what you want to see in the reserve.
The best time for game viewing in Sabi Sands is in the winter months from May to September. It’s out of the rainy season and the bushveld is dry, sparse and thinned out which makes it easier to spot game. You’ll also find more game and birdlife congregating at permanent water sources and grazing in easy walking distances of the rivers and waterholes.
The summer months between October and April are the rainy season in the Greater Kruger and the bushveld is lush and thick. Game is not only more difficult to spot in the dense undergrowth but the animals also tend to move deeper into the bush because water is more widely available. However, it’s an excellent time for bird lovers with an array of migrant birds descending on the area to escape the cold European winter.
Is Sabi Sands safe to visit?
Sabi Sands itself is a safe place to visit, particularly staying at the luxury safari lodges on the reserve. As long as you follow the game rangers instructions on the daily game drives, you and your family with be safe on a safari tour.
However, there are other issues to consider. Crime in South Africa is high, although violent crime is restricted to ‘crime hotspots’ in the country. Travellers need to use common sense when travelling in South Africa and avoid falling victim to petty theft, street muggings and car jackings.
If you’re travelling to Sabi Sands with a reputable tour operator like MoAfrika Tours, you shouldn’t have any problems as they make safety a priority and will avoid any areas or situations which put their clients lives at risk.
Safety tips for a game drive in an open safari vehicle
Stay in the vehicle at all times except when you’re allowed to get off for sundowners or to visit a rest camp; always follow your game rangers instructions and ask him/her where you can go when you stop for a bush pitstop.
Don’t stand up in the vehicle, hang out the window or look out through the sunroof. Keep your arms tucked in; if they’re hanging off the side of a vehicle, they’ll make a tasty morsel for a lion or leopard.
Don’t talk or laugh too loud. Keep quiet on game drives out of respect for your fellow passengers and so you don’t startle game and birds at wildlife sightings.
Stay close to your guide and group on a walking safari and always walk in single file. Watch where you put your feet while walking in the bush.
Cover your arms and legs in the evening and use insect repellent to protect against mosquitoes. The repellent should contain at least 30% DEET.
Wear a hat, use sunscreen and drink plenty of water.
Don’t wear bright and colorful clothes or too much perfume. This is especially true for walking safaris and, to a lesser extent, for other wildlife viewing activities.
Bring a warm jacket, gloves and beanies for morning and evening game drives in open vehicles during the cold months between May and August. Even in the summer months, it’s a good idea to take a warm jacket with you on the game drives because it gets cold if there’s a rain shower.
Is Sabi Sands fenced?
Sabi Sands is made up of a collection of privately-run game reserves and safari lodges. All fences have been removed which allows game to roam freely between Kruger National Parks and the Greater Kruger.
The safari lodges in Sabi Sands are also not fenced. Safety is a priority and a ranger will escort you to your chalet or safari tent after dark. Never wonder off on your own in the bushveld or walk down to the water’s edge if you’re staying close to a river or waterhole. Apart from hungry wild animals, you’ll have crocodiles and hippos to contend with.
Can I visit Sabi Sands with young children?
There are a few safari lodges in Sabi Sands that welcome children of all ages but it’s generally not encouraged. The ones that do allow children to stay, tend to specify that they must be 6 years and older. Most of the luxury safari lodges are not child-friendly.
The main issue is children 6 years and younger are not allowed on game drives in open safari vehicles. And it’s still at the discretion of the game ranger whether a child between 6 and 12 years may join a game drive. This is mostly for the safety of the child but also because young children can cause a disturbance on game drives which is not fair to guests paying a high price for the experience.
If you do go on a safari tour to Sabi Sands with young children, you’ll have to watch them like a hawk. The safari lodges are unfenced and wild animals can freely roam through the camps. You also need to speak too your doctor about putting them on anti-malaria tablets.
Interested in a 3-day safari tour in Sabi Sands?
Check what has to offer here
Is a 3-day safari tour in Sabi Sands long enough?
A 3-day tour of Sabi Sands is perfectly fine if you have time or budget constraints. The Big 5 aren’t necessarily easier to find in the Sabi Sands but the trackers are highly experienced and there are enough safari vehicles out on game drives that eventually someone spots something exciting.
So, you’re almost guaranteed to see the Big 5 on the three game drives you go on. You’ll almost definitely see leopard, which is one of the main reasons Sabi Sands is so popular. Game tracking can be tricky, especially if the weather isn’t good and the bushveld is thick. That’s why the more game drives you go on, the more sightings you’ll have of the Big 5.
There’s a highly experienced game tracker on each safari vehicle who has the eyes of an eagle and a professional game ranger who knows the territory well. This should be enough to guarantee you an outstanding safari experience on a 3-day tour of Sabi Sands.
How long in advance must I book a 3-day safari tour of Sabi Sands?
Sabi Sands is in high demand and the safari lodges run at high occupancies during the peak safari season which runs from June to August. If this is when you’d like to visit Sabi Sands, it’s recommended that you make a booking at least 6 months in advance.
The “less popular” months are just as fabulous in Sabi Sands so if you can’t get in over the peak safari season, don’t let it worry you. Your safari experience will be just as enjoyable, and you’ll see different things such as newborn babies that drop in Spring and an abundance of migrant birds that arrive in our summer months.
Out of peak season, you can probably get into one of the safari lodges a few weeks or up to two months in advance. The only exception is the December festive season which coincides with the long South African end-of-year holiday. The Sabi Sand lodges are fully booked over this period so it’s best to book well in advance if you’d like Christmas in the bush and to wish the New Year in under starry African skies.
MoAfrika Tours partners with a leading operator in Sabi Sands that offers tented accommodation in the reserve that’s thoroughly enjoyable and highly affordable, if you compare the rates to other luxury safari lodges in the Sabi Sands. The bush camp is simple and stylishly rustic, and fully equipped for your comfort and convenience.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a 3 day Sabi Sands Safari provide a unique wildlife experience?
Yes, a 3 day Sabi Sands Safari can provide a unique wildlife experience. The Sabi Sands Game Reserve is known for its exceptional wildlife viewing opportunities, with a high density of big game and rare species. Additionally, the Sabi Sands is known for its intimate and exclusive safari experiences, offering a more personalized and immersive wildlife experience.
How does a 3 day Sabi Sands Safari compare to traditional African safaris?
A 3 day Sabi Sands Safari is considered a more exclusive and luxurious option compared to traditional African safaris. Sabi Sands lodges and camps are known for their exceptional comfort and personalized service, offering a more intimate and exclusive safari experience. On a traditional African safari, you may have a wider range of destinations to choose from, but the wildlife sightings and luxury accommodations may vary.
What makes a 3 day Sabi Sands Safari a must-do for adventure seekers?
A 3 day Sabi Sands Safari is a must-do for adventure seekers because of the following reasons: a Rich wildlife experience, High chances of leopard sightings, Unrestricted game drives, Luxury accommodation in the heart of the bush and insightful educational tours by knowledgeable, experienced wildlife guides.