Frequently Asked Questions
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Access to Sabi Sands Game Reserve
How do I get to Sabi Sands Game Reserve?
Guests may travel to the Sabi Sands by vehicle (self drive or transfer); by scheduled flight to one of the three main access airports (and travel onwards by means of a vehicle or transfer); by scheduled flight on a light aircraft to one of the airstrips located in the reserve; or by Fedair shuttle flight (twice daily from Johannesburg to a lodge). For more information please see our 'getting here' page.
What are the opening times of Sabi Sands Game Reserve?
The three main access gates for guests staying in the reserve -Newington Gate, Shaw's Gate and Gowrie Gate- open at 05H00 and close at 22H00. We recommend not to arrive at any of the gates later than 13H00 so that you may join the afternoon game drive on your arrival day.
What are the entrance fees or gate fees for Sabi Sands?
The per person entry fee currently is ZAR 140 (once per entry regardless of number of nights spent). When travelling by car an additional ZAR 310 per vehicle is charged (light vehicle, once per entry). All entry gates accepts credit cards.
Should I fly in or rather drive myself to Sabi Sands Game Reserve?
This depends on your personal preferences, on your budget as well as on the overall design of your holiday. Flying to and from the reserve is the most time effective mode of travel. If your intention is to visit Cape Town or Victoria Falls before or after your stay in Sabi Sands we recommend to make use of flights. If you plan a holiday that includes a visit to Kruger National Park, Swaziland, the Drakensberg or KwaZulu Natal we recommend to self drive.
I would like to fly. Which airport should I arrive to?
No less than six airports facilitate guests arriving by flight to the Sabi Sands area. These being Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (MQP) near Nelspruit, Skukuza Airport (SZK), Hoedspuit Eastgate Airport (HDS), Londolozi (LDZ), Arathusa (ASS) and Ulusaba (ULX). Flights to either of these airports may be booked through the South African Airways website. Your recommended arrival airport depends on the location of the lodge where you will be staying as well as the location travelling from.
How long does it take to fly to the Sabi Sands?
Flights from Johannesburg OR Tambo International Airport (JNB) to one of the main access airports (Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (MQP), Hoedspruit Eastgate Airport (HDS) or Skukuza Airport (SKZ)) take between 45 minutes and 1 hour one way. Flights from Cape Town International Airport (CPT) to one of the main access airports take between 2 hours and 30 minutes to 3 hours on way. The flight between Livingstone (LVI) in Zambia and Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (MQP) takes approximately 1 hour and 35 minutes one way. Flights to Londolozi (LDZ), Arathusa (ASS) or Ulusaba (ULX) depart from Skukuza Airport (SZK) or Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (MQP) and take about 15 minutes up to 30 minutes one way. Fedair serves (almost) all lodges directly from Johannesburg with a flight time of approximately 90 minutes one way.
I would like to drive. Where should I access the reserve?
The Sabi Sands has three access gates: Newington Gate, Shaw's Gate and Gowrie Gate. Your access gate depends on the lodge where you will be staying. Lodges located in the northern section of the Sabi Sands (i.e. Elephant Plains, Chitwa Chitwa, Cheetah Plains, etc.) may be accessed through Gowrie Gate only.
How long does it take to drive from Johannesburg to the Sabi Sands?
Self driving from Johannesburg to the Sabi Sands takes approximately 6 hours one way. However, we rather recommend to calculate about 7 hours one way allowing you to stop on your way. Please note that driving times may vary between destination lodges.
Am I able to access and drive in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve in a standard 2WD vehicle?
Yes you are. There is no need for a 4WD vehicle. However, we strongly recommend to make use of a vehicle with high ground clearance (e.g. Ford Ecosport, Toyota Rav, Nissan X Trail or Hyundai Tucson). General access road are in good condition (weather dependent) but lodge access roads may get uneven and very bumpy.
Am I allowed to self drive from one lodge to another within the reserve?
This depends on your lodge locations: when staying at one of the lodges in the southern section (e.g. Kirkmans Kamp or Notten's) or in the western section (e.g. Ulusaba or Dulini) one is allowed to travel between those. It is not possible to travel from the southern or western lodges to lodges located in the northern section (e.g. Chitwa Chitwa or Elephant Plains) or vice versa as it is not possible to cross the Sand River dividing the reserve. When travelling from south or west to north or vice versa one needs to exit the reserve and enter again through the designated access gate. Gate fees will apply when
the Sabi Sands through another gate.
Can I access Sabi Sands from Kruger National Park?
Unfortunately not. The Sabi Sands is only accessible through its three access gates: one is not allowed to enter the reserve from Kruger National Park. This means that -when travelling from Kruger National Park- you need to exit the national park and enter the reserve through one of the gates.
About Sabi Sands Game Reserve
What is the size of the reserve?
The Sabi Sands measures 49,481 hectares which is about 189 square miles. It is slightly bigger than the island of Barbados in the Carribbean. The reserve shares an open border with the Greater Kruger National Park which is 19,485 square kilometres (7,523 square miles) in size.
When was the reserve established?
The Sabi Sand Wildtuin -in its current form- was established in 1948 by fourteen private landowners. The Sabi Sands was the first ever private game reserve in South Africa.
Where does the name Sabi Sands come from?
The Sabi and the Sand are the two most important rivers that flow through the reserve.
Is Sabi Sands part of Kruger National Park?
The reserve is part of the Greater Kruger National Park ecosystem: the reserve is located adjacent to the national park and is an open ecosystem. All fences between the Sabi Sands and Kruger National Park have been removed in 1993 allowing wildlife to roam freely.
Is Sabi Sands malaria free?
The Sabi Sands is considered to be a (very) low risk malaria area. All lodges take preventive measures (applying insecticide to interior walls, spraying the area, applying mosquito traps, etc.) significantly lowering any risk. For further information guests are encouraged to consult with their local clinic or doctor.
Staying in the reserve
What is the best time to visit Sabi Sands?
The Sabi Sands offers excellent wildlife viewing all year round. However, some travellers prefer the autumn and winter months (March through August) as the bush is less dense, resulting in better visibility for wildlife viewing. Autumn and winter is also the dry season and with the resulting lack of water, wildlife are inclined to visit waterholes more often. In spring and summer months (September through February) the reserve is teeming with life (with flora and fauna at their most spectacular): this is the season that you will see many new-born animals. Summer also offers excellent birding opportunities.
What is the weather like?
Spring and summer (from September through February) is the time that the bush is lush, thick and green. This is the result of the rains which gradually start falling in September. From December through February the area is hot and humid (day time temperatures range from 22 °C / 71 °F to 40 °C / 104 °F). It is very unusual for it to rain all day long in this period, however expect some spectacular thunderstorms in the late afternoon or early evening. Winter months are characterised by dry and mild days: enjoy crisp blue skies with virtually no rain. Average day time temperatures in June, July and August range from 12 °C / 54°F to 25°C / 77°F. Bringing warm clothes in this season is wise, as it may become rather cold during morning and evening game drives.
Am I allowed to go on self drive safari whilst staying at one of the Sabi Sands lodges?
No, you are not allowed to explore the reserve and search for wildlife on your own. Please bear in mind that this also not necessary, as all activities are included in your stay.
Will I be going into Kruger National Park whilst staying at a Sabi Sands lodge?
No, safari activities (game drives) are restricted to the Sabi Sands area only. Game drives takes place in so-called concession areas, which divide the Sabi Sands in smaller portions.
What does a typical safari day look like?
Your stay at any Sabi Sands lodge includes two daily game drives (and sometimes a bush walk): small variations occur between lodges but morning game drives start usually start about 30 minutes before sunrise (around 06H00 in summer and around 07H00 in winter). After the morning game drive, you return to the lodge (around 09H30) where breakfast / brunch is being served. Thereafter you may join a bush walk (subject to availability and lodge dependent). Bush walks usually take about 1 to 1.5 hours. Lunch is then served from 13H00 / 13H30 after which there is time to relax in the privacy of your room (or sunbathe poolside). Tea and coffee (sometimes in the form of high tea) is served just before the afternoon game drive, which departs between 15H00 and 16H00 (season dependent). Afternoon game drives continue after dark, allowing you to see nocturnal animals, and return to the lodge around 18H30 / 19H00. Dinner is served afterwards.
My signifcant other doesn't like bugs. Is the Sabi Sands a suitable travel destination?
Absolutely! All lodges sweep common areas and rooms for bugs every day. However, as the Sabi Sands is a wilderness area it is impossible to remove all bugs. Insects and bugs occur in much lower numbers in the winter months.
Which animals will I see?
Specific wildlife sightings can never be guaranteed when staying in a wilderness area such as the Sabi Sands. Therefore we can't tell you in advance whether you will be seeing lion, leopard, or any other wildlife species. The reserve has an excellent reputation when it comes to wildlife viewing, and is world renowned for its leopard sightings. The Great Kruger area, including Sabi Sands, boasts all species of the Big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant, Cape buffalo and rhino) and it is not uncommon to see these during one single game drive. The area is home to more species of large mammals than any other wildlife area in South Africa, a total number of 147 species has been recorded. Also, a staggering amount of bird species take to the air in this area (517 species).
Do I need binoculars for a safari?
A pair of binoculars definitely adds the fun of increased visibility when staying in the Sabi Sands, and therefore we recommend bringing a pair. In most cases your ranger / guide will have a pair of binoculars available in the game drive vehicle, but this is never guaranteed.
With how many people will I be sharing the safari vehicle?
The number of guests per game drive vehicle varies from lodge to lodge. The rule of thumb is that the more affordable lodges will host up to eight (sometimes nine) guests per vehicle, whereas the more exclusive lodges will accommodate a maximum of six guests per vehicle.
Accommodations and safari lodges
What type of accommodation is available?
The Sabi Sands is home to an incredible range of accommodation options in the form of safari lodges. These range from intimate bush camps (e.g. Notten's Bush Camp) to ultra luxurious design properties (e.g. Lion Sands Ivory Lodge).
How much does it cost me to stay at a lodge?
The Sabi Sands boasts a wide variety of accommodation options: the most affordable lodge option costs around ZAR 3,200.00 per person per night; the most exclusive lodge will cost around ZAR 25,000.00 per person per night. All prices displayed on our website are per person per night rates (based on two guests sharing a room).
What activities are available / included?
All lodges located in the Sabi Sands offer twice daily game drives. Some lodges offer bush walks as well (subject to availability). Hot air ballooning is not available in the Sabi Sands, and neither are animal encounter experiences.
Are activities always included in the price when booking accommodation at a lodge?
Yes, activities are always included in the rate at any lodge. The minimum number of activities included is two daily game drives. In addition some lodges offer bush walks as well (always subject to availability). You are welcome to join the afternoon game drive on your arrival day (not the morning game drive) and the morning game drive on your departure day (not the afternoon game drive).
Are my meals and drinks included when booking a stay in Sabi Sands?
All meals (breakfast and/or brunch, lunch and dinner) are always included in your stay, regardless of your lodge choice. Whether your drinks are included in your stay depends on the lodge: some lodges include all drinks (including premium drinks, champagne and alcoholic beverages); some lodges include local drinks only (including alcoholic beverages); some lodges include non-alcoholic drinks only. The bare minimum is that tea and coffee is always included.
What time is check and check out?
The check in time at the Sabi Sands lodges is from 13H00. We recommend not to arrive any later as this check in time allows you to have (light) lunch, settle in for a bit at the lodge and get ready for the afternoon game drive. Check out time is between 10H30 and 11H00 (after the morning game drive and breakfast).
Do all lodges offer private plunge pools?
No, not all lodges offer private plunge pools. The rule of thumb is that the more exclusive safari lodges offer private plunge pools.
Which is the cheapest lodge in Sabi Sands?
The most affordable safari lodge available in Sabi Sands is Umkumbe Safari Lodge.
I have heard about Sir Richard Branson's safari lodge. Which one is that?
Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Limited Edition operates two lodges in the Sabi Sands; both are located in the Ulusaba concession area.
Can I get married in the Sabi Sands?
Yes, you sure can! A limited number of lodges is able to facilitate your magical marriage in the African bush. The most notable lodges able to assist are Leopard Hills Lodge, Savanna Private Game Reserve and Ulusaba. We strongly recommend to start planning your wedding as early as possible (especially when travelling with a group) as most lodges are very small and intimate.
Planning your stay
How far in advance should I book my safari accommodation?
All Sabi Sands lodges run at extremely high occupancy levels. Therefore, we recommend that you start planning your safari to Sabi Sands approximately 8 to 12 months in advance. If you wish to travel during peak periods (e.g. Christmas and Easter) we strongly recommend that you start planning between 12 and 18 months in advance. For some lodges - when it concerns peak periods - it is not uncommon to find they are fully booked two (!) years in advance. Also, when travelling with family (children), or in a group, one should start planning as early as possible: due to their modest scale, the lodges have a limited number of total available rooms.
How long should I stay in the reserve?
Most guests spend three to four nights in the reserve, which also is our recommended length of stay. We do not recommend a stay shorter than two nights.
Are children allowed on safari?
Many lodges do not allow children on safari (for safety reasons) and the number of rooms suitable for families is extremely limited. Child policies differ from lodge to lodge and may exclude children younger than 16 years old, younger than 12 years old, or younger than 6 years old. Some properties will allow children to join safaris if a private game drive vehicle is being booked (at an additional cost). Other lodges offer a dedicated children programme for young visitors (most notably Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge); whereas other lodges offer a baby sitting service.
Are the lodges suitable for disabled travellers?
A limited number of lodges offer wheelchair friendly rooms.
Are there special offers available?
Yes, some lodges offer special offers or reduced (honeymoon) rates. These special may be reviewed on this page.
What should I pack for a safari?
Although all lodges in the Sabi Sands make sure all your needs are met, bringing some of your own tools can be fun and useful. Here are a few items we always grab before we go:
- Binoculars (to view animals from your private deck at any time and anywhere else);
- Camera (of course!) and a telephoto lens, if you have one;
- An inexpensive, waterproof watch (leave expensive jewelry at home);
- Sunblock and lipsalve;
- A small pocket torch;
- Insect repellent;
- Adaptor plug.
What should I wear on safari?
You don’t have to prepare for a shopping expedition when you go on a safari. Just leave your brightly coloured outfits at home and pack light. Here are some tips shared by seasoned Africa-travelers.
- Bring some light fabrics and loose-fit clothing that dries quickly, in tranquil colours (please avoid blue);
- Bring a warm sweater (or jacket) and scarf. Temperatures plummet in mornings and evenings; warm clothes during a game drive are a necessity;
- Shorts for men and women are fine in the bush, but longer trousers are socially acceptable in rural villages;
- You may dress casually in safari camps;
- A squashable hat and sunglasses with good UV protection are essential;
- Swimming costume;
- Leave all your camouflage or military themed clothes at home;
- Wear lightweight footwear with ankle support if possible. Make sure the shoes feel comfortable and that you can walk in them for an extended period;
- Bring a few pair of thin socks, rather than one pair of thick socks in your shoes. A few layers of thin socks is often more comfortable.