The 6-day safari tour to Sabi Sands gives you four full days to explore one of southern Africa’s finest wildlife conservation areas in southern Africa and spot the Big 5. It also includes a guided bush walk with a professional ranger which is a wonderful way to experience the bushveld. This tour includes game drives in the Kruger National Park which lies on the eastern border of Sabi Sands. Combined the two wilderness regions offer guests an incredible safari experience with outstanding animal sightings.
Sabi Sand Game Reserve is a 65 000 hectare private game reserve 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.
Sabi Sands is one of 20 unfenced private game reserves that collectively make up the Greater Kruger. 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.
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.
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” but Sabi Sands offers travellers a more exclusive safari experience.
Guests staying in the 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 traffic congestion in Sabi Sands and the problem of “queue to view” at wildlife sightings.
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.
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 to stay at one of the luxury safari lodges in the private concessions in the national park.
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.
For the 6-day Sabi Sands tour offered by MoAfrika Tours, guests stay in a safari camp that’s situated right next to one of the main entrances into Sabi Sands. It’s a family-run business offering accommodation that’s highly affordable and a safari experience that’s wonderfully authentic.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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. Extra precautions include changing into long-sleeved shirts and long pants and wearing socks and shoes in the evening when mosquitoes are more active, and using insect repellent throughout the day.
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 and thinned out which makes it easier to spot game; and game tends to congregate closer to waterholes and rivers.
The summer months between October and April are the rainy season in Sabi Sands and the bushveld is lush and thick. Game is slightly more difficult to spot in the dense undergrowth and the animals also tend to move deeper into the bush because water is more widely available. It’s an excellent time iin Sabi Sands for bird lovers.
Sabi Sands itself is a safe place to visit, particularly travelling with a reputable tour operator like MoAfrika Tours and staying at the luxury safari lodges on the reserve. As long as you follow the game rangers instructions, you and your family with be safe in Sabi Sands. Use common sense when travelling in South Africa to avoid falling victim to petty theft, street muggings and tourist scams.
There are a few safari lodges in Sabi Sands that welcome children of all ages but taking very young children on a safari tour is 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.
A 6-day tour of Sabi Sands is an excellent choice because it gives you four full days with eight game drives and one guided walking trail. It’s more than enough time to spot the Big 5 and thoroughly enjoy your time in the gorgeous African bushveld. 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.
Off-road driving is allowed in Sabi Sands which gets you up close and personal with lions and leopards. You’ll almost definitely see leopard, which is one of the main reasons Sabi Sands is so popular.
MoAfrika Tours partners with a leading operator in Sabi Sands that offers a tented camp in Sabi Sands and two right next to one of the reserve’s main entrances. All three are highly affordable, if you compare the rates to other luxury safari lodges in the Sabi Sands. Regardless of where you stay, you’re promised a thoroughly enjoyable stay and an authentic safari experience. The route back to Johannesburg via the famous Panorama Tour is one of the highlights of the trip.