Best bargain in the Sabi Sand?

Sep 6th, 2004, 01:37 AM
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Best bargain in the Sabi Sand?

For full rack rates, whether in low season or high season, what would be the pick for the best bargain in the Sabi Sand.

After doing some research, my choice would have to be, without a shadow of a doubt, Inyati. Although I do not like the fact that there are a lot of other lodges nearby (see this map, it does have a nice sized area compared to the other nearby lodges and the only lodges with more of the Sand River running through their properties are Londolozi, Mala Mala and Singita.

Inyati has a very generous low season, extending from May 01st all the way until September 30th, a full five months. The low season pricing is a mere 1,900 ZAR per person sharing per night, a combined total of only $575 USD per night.

While I would love to stay at Londolozi, Royal Malewane, or Exeter, I am having a hard time justifying prices of over $1,600 USD per night, nearly triple the rate of Inyati.

There are nice looking camps that offer "happy mediums", such as Simbambili for about $1,100 USD per night ($550 pppns) and Lion Sands which is about $860 USD per night in low season ($430 pppns).

Lion Sands actually looks pretty interesting as it is in the more isolated far southern part of the Sabi Sand, and appears to be the only Sabi Sand game reserve with SABI River frontage (rather than Sand River frontage). If you click on that link just above, you will see how beautiful breakfasts/lunches could potentially be with the Sabi River is right in front. My only concern is that it may dry out. While I was at Singita in early March, 2002, there was nothing more than the Sand RiverBED, unless Singita Boulders does not back right up to the Sand River. There was some riverbed or other.

Another thing I like about potentially booking Lion Sands is that I may just hit the jackpot and be able to upgrade to Lion Sands Ivory Lodge if there is space, for hopefully only a little extra. Currently, Lion Sands Ivory Lodge is the most expensive lodge in the entire Sabi Sand, yet I know they are having trouble filling it at their desired rates since it is often on at like 1/3 the rack rate.

If there are any lodges out there for under $1,000 USD per room per night in the Sabi Sand in low season that are better and better placed than Inyati and Lion Sands, I would sure like to hear about them.

I will spoil myself with Madikwe Hills, but I do think that I am looking at a 3 night Simbambili and 3 night Lion Sands or Inyati package for my time in the Sabi Sand...unless, of course, the Royal Malewane pops up on Luxury Link with a 4 night package for $2,500 USD, as it did last year!
Roccco is offline  
Sep 6th, 2004, 01:48 AM
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I forgot to mention that there is the problem with low priced lodges in that they attract children and first time visitors to Southern Africa. Djuma Vuyatela featured the least sophisticated travelers I have yet experienced at any game lodge, and it was a real annoyance.

I will enquire with Inyati to see how much a private vehicle would cost, as with the very low rates, it would completely be in my budget to possibly hire my own vehicle.
Roccco is offline  
Sep 6th, 2004, 04:02 AM
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Inyati does appear to be the better lodge between it and Lion Sands River Lodge. Lion Sands has something like 20 chalets, while Inyati only has 10 chalets. Plus, Lion Sands looks pretty dated and really needs a facelift.

Inyati informed me that it would be 1,500 ZAR per day for a private vehicle with guide and tracker and this includes both game drives, so it works out to about $112.50 extra per game drive. So, even with a private vehicle, Inyati is only $400 USD pppns...not too bad.

Unfortunately, I was told that the Sand River will be very low in late August, as they usually get their rains in September after which the river starts getting higher. Then again, maybe the little water that is there will be vital to the surrounding game, since if the river is low, it would stand to reason that other places with water are also low.
Roccco is offline  
Oct 26th, 2004, 03:32 PM
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By booking through Eyes on Africa my rate at Mala Mala in July next is 465pp per night, less than the rack rate.

You say you are worried about the river drying up - lack of water means good concentration of game. At Mala Mala there are usually a few pools and the elephants dig water holes in the river bed.

Ask questions about number of vehicles, size of area (calculate a ratio).
Mala Mala is 14 vehicles when all camps open with 40000 acres, Sabi Sabi is more vehicles on 5000 acres. You do the math.

On another point try and avoid lodges with boundaries to the real world. I know someone who was taking pictures of Lions at Ulusaba with the sound of cow bells from the other side of the fence.

I also agree with Rocco that you want to be somewhere we everyone gets it - otherwise your trip can soon be ruined.
winomatt is offline  
Oct 27th, 2004, 01:06 AM
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Yes, Sabi Sabi seems incredibly crowded. However, Mala Mala, compared to its Botswanan counterparts is just as crowded, with 50 beds on 40,000 acres. In comparison, for example, Kwando has less beds on 1 million acres, 25 times more space than Mala Mala.

So, bottom line, while the Sabi Sand offers a wonderful wildlife viewing experience, it is not the place to go to enjoy solitude, by any means.

Although on a much smaller property, I have decided on 3 nights at Simbambili. While this is a "border" lodge, I have seen enough incredible pictures at Taga Safaris website in their "Leopards of Simbambili" series to convince me. I do like the fact that there are a maximum of 12 guests and no pre-teen children allowed. My party will make up at least 1/3 of the camp, and as a result, I would not be surprised if we were provided with our own vehicle.

I realize that per visitor, Mala Mala may still offer more space than Simbambili, but, again, for space and exclusivity, I would look far beyond the Sabi Sand to Botswana, and places in Zambia and Zimbabwe, as well.

I have heard that things are a bit regimented at Mala Mala, and I don't think I would care for that. Smaller camps seem to be more laid back.

But, to its credit, Mala Mala is said to occupy the most scenic part of the Sabi Sand (along with Singita and Londolozi).

Winomatt, in case you are not already familiar with this, Mala Mala will soon debut its newly constructed (refurbished) Sable Camp. Prices start at $575 per person sharing, so through the right agent, you may be able to get it for about $525 per person sharing. It will probably be a lot nicer than the regular rooms. In the event that I have more time in the Sabi Sand, if I could add any single place, it might be here at Mala Mala's new Sable Camp.

Here is the link:
Roccco is offline  
Oct 27th, 2004, 03:21 AM
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Roccco, I think you mis-read the prices at Sable Camp. The Sable Camp will officially open on the 5th January 2005. However, it is currently operational at the rate of US$ 575.00 per person. Beginning 5th January the rates will be US$ 750.00 pppd

I was a MalaMala earlier this month and wouldn't trade that experience for anything. Trip report here

I'm not sure what you mean by regimented. The game drives and meals were for obvious reasons (but you could get room service 24 hours a day). Our ranger was determined to get the best sights for us so we left early for drives and arrived back late.
sundowner is online now  
Oct 28th, 2004, 04:33 AM
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My wife and I stayed at Inyati from Sept. 6th thru Sept. 9, 2004. I chose Inyati simply because on paper it seemed like the best bargain in the SSGR. And, we were not disappointed. The base cost was less than $600 p/couple p/night vs. $1,000 p/couple p/night for Mala Mala (and even more for Singita). When the trip was completed, the final cost for our Inyati stay was $3,400 ($850 p/couple p/night), which included R/T air transportation from Jo'burg to the private airstrip at Leopard Hills (5 - 10 min. from Inyati's camp - thus by-passing a 2 hr. each way drive from the airport at Mpumalanga to the SSGR).

Everyone on this website who has visited Mala Mala highly praises their experience. Moreover, the descriptions and details provided by "SafariNut" have led me to conclude that Mala Mala is indeed a special safari camp. Nevertheless, IMO, Inyati is still a better "bargain". IMO, the best solution for me would have been to compromise and spend 2 nights at Mala Mala and 2 nights at Inyati. I tried to make those arrangements for my Sept. trip, but Mala Mala was fully booked for Sept. 8th and 9th. I didn't want to visit Mala Mala prior to going to Inyati because I was afraid that Inyati might compare unfavorably and consequently spoil our time at Inyati. After my Inyati experience, I firmly believe that my fears were unfounded, and I now would not hesitate to take that itinerary.

Other Factors For Roccco -- (1) Inyati's website says that it does not accept pre-teenagers. (2) We visited Inyati in Sept. - their low water season. IMO, that's a good thing. The game drive vehicles could freely cross the Sand River to explore all sections of the property. There was water flowing in the river. Even during low water season, the vehicles cross at specially constructed crossing points. (3) As to the number of other camps w/in the Western Sector (Inyati's traversing area of the SSGR), IMO, that's a good thing. The rangers from each of the camps use each other for game sighting info. I was told that at Mala Mala, while the guests are still sleeping, trackers are sent out to scout the locations of the big animals on their property. So, when the game drive vehicles depart in the A.M., they already know where to go for which animal. As for Inyati and its Western Sector sister camps, they don't have the same infrastructure. Rather, they depend upon their vehicles, the vehicles from neighboring camps, and their radios to locate the large animals. As to the smaller animals, like genets, honey badgers and pangolins, their sightings usually are ancillary to the search for the larger animals. (4) The size of Inyati's property seemed to be sufficient so that we did not feel either confined or deprived during the 1st hr. of each game drive when each camp is restricted to its own property. And, the size of Inyati's property, when combined with the properties over which it has traversing rights, is comparable to that of Singita.

At Inyati, we sometimes did come up to and along its perimeter fences (northern and western sides). On occasions, we could see outside world structures and people. Once, we even encountered a group of children walking along the outside portion of a perimeter fence. IMO, this did not detract in any substantial way from our overall game viewing experiences. Most of our sightings were at a generous distance from any perimeter fence. And, from the map I note that even the costly Singita has a perimeter fence along its northern boundary with the outside world.
jrruff is offline  
Oct 30th, 2004, 06:16 PM
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Thanks for the feedback. More than likely, however, I will just leave open 3 nights for the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. Despite the great gameviewing, I just really feel like I am in AFRICA moreso when I am beyond South African game reserves.

I am 100% committed to Simbambili for my three nights, but with a prohibitive budget, I just may hold out until the last second and book at the last second for my mom and sister, who will be joining my wife on our 17 night holiday. Hopefully, Simbambili will have an availability that I can grab at 65% off rates (last second rates are incredibly cheap), but if not, I will not hesitate to book them at just about anyplace in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve.

Taga Safaris ( has set me up so that I will enjoy my game drives aboard their filming vehicle, and this should guarantee a lot more action. While this is not included in the stay at Simbambili, it seems like a very good investment on my part.

In mid September, the lodges should not be near capacity, so I am sure that if I wait on booking my mom and sister, that I will find a great place for them, just the same.

I am looking at the following itinerary (but it changes hourly)

Nights 1, 2 & 3 - Chikwenya (Wilderness Safaris), Mana Pools National Park.

Nights 4, 5 & 6 - Makalolo Plains (Wilderness Safaris), Hwange National Park.

Nights 7, 8 & 9 - Matetsi Water Lodge, Matetsi Game Reserve (40 kms. away from Victoria Falls, allowing day visits between morning and night game drives).

Night 10 - Michelangelo Hotel, Sandton, Johannesburg.

Nights 11, 12 & 13 - Simbambili, Sabi Sand Game Reserve.

Nights 14, 15, 16 & 17 - Cape Town in Luxury 2 Bedroom Apartment, located right across from the Cape Grace Hotel, and only about $375 per night. This will be a lot more comfortable/spacious than a hotel, and will be about 65% less than two rooms at a 5* hotel would cost.

Award Planner has come through for me again, securing two business class seats from London - Joburg, although a few days later than I would have liked. This has caused me to reshuffle my schedule, as I do not want to be on safari anytime near the September 18th full moon, as the full moon will severely handicap the predators while hunting, making the night game drives pretty uneventful. Otherwise, I would not have spent a night in Joburg, and would have saved the Sabi Sand Game Reserve until the very end.

I am very excited about this trip because it will truly be my first time going during prime viewing season. While the landscapes have been incredibly beautiful on my first three safaris, I have previously gone when the bush is still green and lush, preventing unobstructed viewing of the wildlife. This year, I will sacrifice some of the overall beauty of the flora but this should be more than compensated by the plentitude of game viewing. Still looking for that elusive wild dog, and I just may find a pack of them in Zimbabwe.

Roccco is offline  
Oct 30th, 2004, 06:25 PM
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>>>Nights 14, 15, 16 & 17 - Cape Town in Luxury 2 Bedroom Apartment, located right across from the Cape Grace Hotel, and only about $375 per night. This will be a lot more comfortable/spacious than a hotel, and will be about 65% less than two rooms at a 5* hotel would cost.

I have never been very good at math. In fact, it would be a lot more than a 65% savings, but rather more than a 100% savings. By mid-September, there is no way that I could get the Cape Grace, the Twelve Apostles or even the Table Bay Hotel for less than about $450 USD per night. The way that the USD is spiraling downward, it is getting more expensive everyday.

The USD is threatening to be valued at less than 6 ZAR per 1 USD at the current time. Last time I checked, it was at 6.10, a mere 1.5% away from dipping into the 5's for possibly the first time ever. As recently as 2002, the Rand had actually reached 12 ZAR to 1 USD, but then the dollar just did a complete nosedive.

All the more reason to book places out of South Africa such as Zambia and Zimbabwe, where the rates are priced out in U.S. Dollars rather than in South African Rands.
Roccco is offline  
Oct 30th, 2004, 06:39 PM
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Actually the Rand was very strong during the dark days of Apartheid, but it has rarely been under 6 to 1 USD in recent times, although I see that it was just under 6 in late July, 2004.

The USD actually hit 13.439 on December 21, 2001, so the dollar is worth less than half as much now as it was less than three years ago.

I don't know how anybody can even afford 5* accomodations in South Africa right now. This year I had to spend all my time in Zambia (11 nights out of 11 nights) and for next year, I am looking at spending more than half my time outside of South Africa with only a luxury apartment rental making Cape Town affordable and some last minute rates in the SSGR for half my party.
Roccco is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2004, 12:49 PM
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As a frequent visitor to Mala Mala I was a Sable guinea pig in September. It is very nice with its own lounge, bar and mini boma, but the big selling point for me would be only four per vehicle and remember those vehicles have a guest capacity of eight, as opposed to six at Main camp. In addition we were upgraded to a suite this year and did not find it to be either much bigger or more luxurious with the exception of a shower in both bathrooms. Besides how much time do you spend in your room on safari. If not on a vehicle, eating, walking, cruising camp for birds, or napping I dont have much time for anything else.

Your point on beds to land is well made, but we are talking Sabi Sands not Botswana, and lets face it, if something interesting is seen, then there will often be other vehicles. My worst experience being five at Kwando this year!

winomatt is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2004, 09:57 AM
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Roccco, in one of your posts above you mention that you will be achieving a more than 100% savings -- are they paying you to stay at the hotel?
thit_cho is offline  
Nov 4th, 2004, 10:41 PM
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thit cho,

Okay, so math has never been one of my better subjects!

I guess I'll stick with that 65% savings number.

I can stay in a great looking 2 bedroom luxury apartment, directly across from the Cape Grace for only 2,000 ZAR per night (about $325 per night for all four of us). We are talking about a 1,200 sq. ft. apartment here.

Meanwhile, for two rooms at the Cape Grace, it would cost 4,000 ZAR for the cheapest room at the Cape Grace, and therefore 8,000 ZAR per night for two rooms.

Basically, I can get 4 nights of the self-catering luxury 2 bedroom apartment for the same price as a single night for two rooms at the Cape Grace.

Okay, let's put my wits (or lack of) to the test again...

I would be saving 75% by staying in the luxury 2 bedroom apartment, rather than staying at the Cape Grace. This would be a great deal even if it were just my wife and I and we wanted to spread out for a few nights.

The following link does not reflect my exact quoted rates but they are close. While the link shows 2,500 ZAR per night (1,500 ZAR for a double + 500 ZAR for each of the two extra persons), I was quoted 2,000 ZAR per night for a 5 night stay.

Roccco is offline  

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