Sabi Sand FAQs
Most frequently Asked Questions
Travelling to Sabi? Read Safari Online’s most frequently asked questions about Sabi Sand for great tips & advice.
The Sabi Sand Reserve is about 500 kilometres (300 miles) east of Johannesburg. It is possible to self-drive or take a road transfer to Sabi from Johannesburg but it’s a six-hour plus journey; a flight from Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport will get you to one of the Sabi’s two airports in under an hour.
Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport lies outside the town of Nelspruit and is the area’s major travel hub; Hoedspruit Airport is the Sabi’s second airport. After arrival, you then make the short hop to your lodge by light plane or vehicle transfer.
If you want the most direct way to the Sabi Sand, then you can fly from Johannesburg to an airstrip in the reserve itself – a journey of little more than an hour – and then it’s just a short drive to your accommodation.
We don’t book international flights but our services begin at your point of entry and departure in Africa. Safari Online will book all your domestic flights, accommodation and local transfers plus we’ll deal with any special requests you have in mind such as a honeymoon suite or private guide and vehicle.
There is no self-driving allowed in Sabi Sand. It is a private reserve, divided into exclusively-run concessions with lodges located within them. Visitors either fly to their lodge or are transferred by vehicle from one of the local airports. All game drives in Sabi are conducted by professional guides.
Yes, the Sabi Sand Reserve lies on the unfenced western boundary of the Kruger National Park and combining the two is a matter of a short drive, either as a self-drive or with a transfer operator.
The Sabi Sands Reserve 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
If you are self-driving into the Sabi Sand, then as of 1st January 2018, the reserve’s entry fees are ZAR 280 per vehicle and ZAR 120 per person. Credit cards are accepted at all Sabi Sands entry gates.
If we have booked a road or air transfer into the Sabi Sands for you, then these costs are automatically included in the price and you don’t have to worry about them.
The conservation levy varies slightly between accommodations but most lodges charge R114 per person per night – we will advise you on the exact amount when booking. You can pay the conservation fee at the lodge directly or in advance to us and we’ll pay it to the lodge along with the accommodation costs.
Note that entry fees and levies may change.
Yes, there is at least one flight a day to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport from Cape Town, a flight time of around two and a half hours.
It’s generally agreed that the dry winter season is the best time to visit the Sabi Sand. From May to October, you’ll enjoy the driest weather, the lowest malaria risk and the best game viewing.
With an average of just one day of rain each month, mid-winter June, July and August have the mildest daytime temperatures and night time temperatures not too far away from freezing. As winter warms up in September and October, wildlife viewing is increasingly rewarding. Animals concentrate in ever greater numbers at water, making the chances of seeing a predator-prey interaction relatively high.
December, January and February are the wettest months in Sabi but note that each of these months averages only seven rainy days. Much rain falls in the form of afternoon thundershowers.
There are certainly benefits to a Sabi safari between December and April. The landscape is lush and green with flowers in bloom. The bird watching is at its best thanks to the arrival of migrant species and many antelope – especially impala – have given birth. This fills the landscape with young animals, wonderful for photography but also for predators like big cats and wild dogs, thus increasing your chances of seeing predator-prey interaction.
The Sabi Sand Reserve falls within Southern Africa’s malarial zone but the local incidence is very low, especially during the long dry season (May through October). Moreover, Sabi lodges take great care to ensure your comfort: accommodation has netted windows; your bed has a mosquito net; and there will be an overhead fan or air-conditioning. Insect repellent is available in your room. You are advised to pack trousers and long-sleeved tops to wear in the evenings and on early morning game drives when mosquitoes are at their most active.
Although the risk of contracting malaria in the Sabi is minimal, anti-malaria medication is generally recommended for visitors. You are advised to consult a medical practitioner before travelling to the Sabi Sand Reserve, especially if you plan to visit from December through April.
There are both fenced and unfenced accommodations in the Sabi Sand Reserve. Recommended for families with children, the fenced lodges are able to keep out the larger animals; unfenced lodges may have anything from antelope and warthog to elephants, hippos and lions occasionally wandering through camp. Your hosts will brief you about safety on arrival and you will be escorted to your accommodation at night.
Note that the Sabi Sand lies in an area of rich bio-diversity and there will be all manner of smaller creatures, birds and insects at every camp, especially in the December through April summer months.
It depends on the time of year but essentials include a sunhat, binoculars, camera, small flashlight, insect repellent, lip salve, sunscreen, polarized sunglasses, medications, spare batteries and adapters for electronic devices, and preferred personal grooming items. Sabi lodges supply bathroom toiletries and towels.
Green, brown and khaki-coloured clothing is recommended; avoid white clothes if possible (white attracts insects and startles animals) and bring a pair of trousers and long-sleeved tops for protection against mosquitoes.
Travellers to Sabi from May through August should pack warm clothing and a woollen hat or ‘beanie’ for cold winter nights and early mornings. Lodges supply blankets for early morning drives. Summer visitors (November through April) should pack light cotton clothes for comfort in hot and sunny weather as well as something warm and waterproof for rainy days (rain ponchos are usually supplied on game drives).
Yes, the only accommodations in the Sabi Sand Reserve are the private camps and lodges – each located on an exclusive-use or shared concession within the larger reserve. There are no hotels or camping sites in Sabi and although there is plenty of accommodation in the adjacent area, there are no opportunities for visitors to self-drive into the reserve.
Yes – in fact, the Sabi Sand Reserve is home to excellent family-friendly lodges, in some cases run by families themselves. Often fenced from the surrounding wilderness, these lodges feature larger accommodations or inter-connecting suites that sleep up to four family members; there are kids’ menus, dedicated rangers to lead fun and informative activities and baby sitters available for the evenings.
Some Sabi lodges accept children from the age of 12; other lodges are happy to take children of all ages though we advise against bringing very young children (under four) on safari.
The Sabi is one of Africa’s classic honeymoon destinations, often in combination with Cape Town and Victoria Falls. Private and exclusive, the Sabi Sand is home to many romantic hideaways where you can look forward to a sumptuous suite, private outdoor showers, petal-strewn bathtubs and a candlelit table for two. There is usually a spa on site – or at least a masseuse – and opportunities to book a private guide and vehicle to enjoy the day to your preferred schedule.
Sabi Sand has a reputation for high-end lodges but there are plenty of affordable accommodation options too. You may not get your own plunge pool and private chef but you won’t lack comfort or experience. Depending on your choice, you can still look forward to an air-conditioned suite with private bathroom and a camp with a swimming pool, internet access and spa. Your Big 5 game viewing is as good from an affordable lodge as it is from any lodge in the reserve.
All Sabi lodges are centred round their communal lounge and dining areas – both indoor and outdoor – where you’ll also find the bar and reception; most lodges have a small shop where you can buy curios, clothes, books and travel essentials such as batteries. There will be a swimming pool of varying size, an outdoor seating area overlooking a waterhole or river, and a roaring log fire every night. A health and wellness spa is usually on site and many Sabi lodges have a gym and yoga studio.
Accommodation at the higher-end Sabi lodges often includes a private plunge pool and outdoor day bed as well as complimentary laundry and butler service.
You’ll sit down to three meals a day – all part of the price – and can also expect tea, coffee, biscuits and cake at camp plus hot and cold drinks and snacks while on game drives. The more you pay for accommodation, the more drinks will be included. Affordable and entry-level lodges exclude drinks from the price but the luxury and premier lodges include soft drinks, house wines, local brand spirits and beers but exclude champagne, cognacs, cellar wines and premium brand spirits.
As for activities, the price includes a morning and afternoon game drive as well as a guided nature walk in the late morning if available. Access to swimming pools, waterhole hides and gyms is free but massages and beauty treatments at the lodge spa are additional costs. Sabi lodges that offer dedicated children’s activity clubs don’t charge for them but there may be an additional cost for baby sitters in the evening.
Most Sabi accommodation will accept all major credit cards but some may not accept American Express or Diner’s Club cards – check with us and we’ll make sure for you.
If you need to pay for something, the best option is South African Rand (ZAR) but Sabi lodges do accept Dollars, Pounds and Euros for extras such as spa treatments, shop purchases and bar bills. You will however get your change in Rand.
And although staff and guides may be tipped in these foreign currencies, most lodges make it easier for you by accepting credit card payments for any gratuity you wish to give.
Most lodges have cellular reception and offer complimentary internet access, usually in the communal areas but often in your suite at the higher-end lodges. Note however that coverage is sometimes unreliable due to local circumstances and internet speed is often slow – don’t depend on it!
It’s typically a dawn start but you’ll enjoy biscuits with your tea and coffee before your morning activity. You begin your day with a game drive in a modified 4X4. The vehicle’s open sides and high ground clearance mean great photographic opportunities.
Returning to camp mid-morning you’ll sit down to a hearty brunch before retiring to the comfort of your suite or poolside lounger. Photographic hides and lounges with libraries make alternative diversions. Lodges are permitted to conduct walking safaris with armed guides and these usually take place after brunch.
A traditional High Tea is served mid-afternoon before the second afternoon game drive. The afternoon game drive ends with sunset drinks and snacks.
Back at camp you’ll enjoy fireside conversation with fellow guests and guides before dinner, usually a grand candle-lit affair and often served under the stars.
Led by an experienced guide and with an accompanying tracker, your morning and afternoon game drives are the main focus at Sabi lodges. You’ll leave around dawn after a light breakfast and return to camp mid-morning for a hearty brunch; then, it’s a mid-afternoon departure for the second drive, returning in the early evening with a spotlight to catch nocturnal creatures on the move.
Sabi lodges also offer – dependent on season and weather – guided walks in the area around camp. Setting off after brunch, these highly informative walks are a great way to view the smaller details and for bird watchers to tick off a couple of extras.
Then, depending on the lodge, there are other activities and experiences. Astronomy lectures open up the night sky; visits to local communities add a human touch; mountain biking delivers a twist of adventure.
Almost certainly yes! If there’s anywhere in Africa that this question can be answered with confidence, it’s the Sabi Sand Reserve. The Sabi is home to healthy populations of lion, elephant, buffalo and rhino – and its leopards are among the easiest to see and photograph on the continent.
Skilled guides and trackers work hard to ensure you enjoy superb Big 5 sightings. Anyone staying in Sabi for two or three nights is more or less guaranteed to see each of them; it’s not uncommon to encounter all of them during the course of a single game drive.
Besides some of the best Big 5 game viewing in Africa, the Sabi Sand offers the full range of Southern Africa’s most familiar and sought-after animals. Cheetah, spotted hyena and African wild dog are among the other predators here and the Sabi’s rivers are home to hippos and crocodiles.
The general game viewing is excellent – giraffe, warthog, many antelope species, monkeys and baboons plus magnificent birdlife. Spot-lit night drives give you the chance to see Africa’s more elusive creatures such as bush babies and porcupines as well as smaller predators such as wild cats and eagle-owls.
A Sabi Sand game drive vehicle is open-sided – perfect for watching wildlife – and has a canopy to keep off the sun. There is a seat next to the driver and then three bench seats behind, each seating three passengers and set slightly higher than the one in front.
If you are staying at one of the more affordable Sabi lodges then – depending on season – all the seats may be occupied and not everyone will get a window seat; at Sabi’s luxury and premier lodges, there will be a maximum of seven guests per vehicle, ensuring a window seat for each.
The Sabi Sand Reserve falls into the greater Kruger region which has a bird count of well over 500 species; it’s a year-round birding paradise, one of the best in Africa and especially rewarding between November and April when migrant species are present.
There’s great bird watching from the comfort of your tent and simply by walking around the lodge grounds – ask us for lodges with hides set over waterholes – but keen birders are advised to pay extra for a private vehicle and specialist birding guide as shared game drives are predominantly focussed on large animals.
Many safari travellers use the time between game drives to catch up on some sleep but Sabi lodges have swimming pools with sun loungers as well as comfy couches or a photographic hide overlooking a waterhole. There is normally a reference library, a number of board games and Wi-Fi in the communal areas, if not in your suite itself.
The more high-end the lodge, the more facilities and activities there will be; gyms and wellness spas, art galleries, archery lessons and boutique shops are among the offerings.
We can book all your internal flights and transfers within our range of African destinations – including the Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius and Seychelles – but we don’t book international flights and associated overseas travel arrangements.
We don’t book international flights but once you’re in Africa, Safari Online will take care of everything: your domestic flights, accommodation, tour itineraries, car hire and local transfers plus any restaurant or activity bookings you’d like to make.
No we don’t: the relationships we’ve developed with our featured operators and lodges means that we can negotiate discounted rates from them, often at a cheaper rate than going direct. We make our profit from commission.
Yes it will. Because we have negotiated discounted rates with suppliers, we are able to discount itineraries by between 3 to 15%, depending on the specific lodge and the size of the group making the booking.
Safari Online operates in the regions of East Africa, Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean.
East Africa includes Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda – key safari destinations in East Africa are the Serengeti, Masai Mara, the Ngorongoro Crater, and the gorilla-trekking rainforests of the Virunga Volcanoes.
Southern African takes in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Some of the region’s most famous safari destinations include the Kruger Park and Sabi Sand in South Africa, the Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta in Botswana, and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe/Zambia.
Our Indian Ocean destinations include Mauritius, the Seychelles, Zanzibar, and Mozambique’s Bazaruto and Quirimbas archipelagos.