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safarinut Feb 27th, 2004 04:52 PM


The devastating drought has ended in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve.On the 23,24,25,26 of Feb more than 180mm of rain recorded.

This brings the total for January and february close to 425mm,more than two thirds of the annual rainfall in only two months!!!!!

The rivers are flowing and dams are 80% full. This means they have enough water to carry them through the dry season!


Roccco Feb 27th, 2004 05:26 PM


That is great news.

Question...what other lodges besides Mala Mala have primetime river frontage and top game experiences? I have this map of the Sabi Sands, but it may not list every lodge or be up to date.

I still value the Sabi Sand if I were to take my in-laws, parents or anyone else that I think may not handle flying into Mfuwe, Jeki or any of the other Zambian destinations very well. Trust me, to a first timer the Sabi Sands feels like it is the remotest part of Africa, and what they don't know won't hurt them.

Safarinut, are you familiar with Hamilton's Tented Camp in Kruger National Park? I ask because they have a five night package on Luxury Link that can be had for $2,300 USD ($230 USD per person per night sharing). It looks like a great place but I don't know just how bad traffic is within actual Kruger compared to the Sabi Sand. I'm already booked for my June visit but its nice to know in case I need to give anybody a second hand reference.


safarinut Feb 27th, 2004 06:32 PM


The following properties have primetime river frontage:

1]Mala Mala 33 kilometers of river frontage[sand river]

2]Lion Sands +- 7 kilometers of river frontage[the sabi river]

3]Singita 6 kilometers[sand river]

4]Londolozi +- 7 kilometers[sand river]

5]Kirkmans Camp[sand river]

6]Inyati [sand river]+-3 kilometers

7]Exeter lodges:
a]Leadwood lodge
b]River lodge

8]Ulusaba seasonal

9]Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge-they have access to the Sabi River on their southern boundary.The Lodge overlooks a waterhole though and not the river.

Hamiltons is a new lodge inside the Kruger Park just south of Orpen gate.
You don't have to worry about traffic as they have a private concession inside Kruger ie. only guests staying at one of their three lodges can traverse +- 15 000 hectares.

The other two lodges are Imbali and Hoya Hoya.This is supposed to be 5 star lodges only thing they are brand new and unknown.

They also have a very productive traversing area.I have driven every road in their taversing area before privatization and always had good sightings in this general area.

I think at these rates this is a good option as they will not remain this low for long!

I am not aware of the most recent map showing new lodges but here's a few: on the [game reserve] and then go to [lie of land].

safarinut Feb 27th, 2004 07:04 PM


Sorry forgot to include top game viewing experiences:

The best without a doubt is Mala Mala.

The Wetern section can be awesome but isn't as consistent as Mala Mala.Remember Ulusaba,Inyati,Exeter,Leopard Hills,Idube,Dulini,Leadwood and Savanna all share 15 000 hectares.

I did not have great game viewing at Sabi Sabi and would never return.
Bush lodge has 25 rooms,Earth Lodge 12 rooms and Selati 8 or nine.I felt that this is too many beds for a concession that's only 6000 hectares-crowded!It's not that they dont have the game just too many people to show it to.My game ranger spoke shangaan over the radio and thought I coulnd't understand him! Do you know how frustrating it is knowing there's a great leopard sighting but you can't join because there is still 4 vehicles that hasn't seen leopards yet!

I must add that Earth Lodge's accommodations,food,service really everything else was great except game viewing.Gillian Anderson was at this lodge during my visit so at least we got inside info on the X Files!

Similar experience at Bush Lodge.

You know Londoz and Singita well so I will skip them.

Notten's share traversing with Sabi Sabi ,nice lodge, nothing special.

Lion Sands great at the right time of the year meaning dry season,maybe to big as well.River lodge can accommodate 40 people[only 3 700 hectares]I had great sightings here and they offer other activities which are nice like tiger fishing,sleep outs in hides etc.

The Northern section is less known for their sightings but I really enjoyed Chitwa Chitwa and Simbambili[beatiful rooms and lodge]

You know Djuma's traversing rights so I will skip this.

Elephant Plains,Chitwa and Simbambili share traversing rights and Djuma on invite.

Then there is all the new lodges in Kruger we can discuss next time.

I have also been to Manyeleti,Klasserie,Timbavati and Thornybush for future discussions

Roccco Feb 28th, 2004 01:41 AM


Thanks for the tutorial. Yours is the most useful post that I have seen on the Kruger / Sabi Sand game lodges in recent memory.

I am sorry that I don't have more time, as I would love to enjoy Hamilton's Tented Camp for $230 USD per person per night for five nights. While it is a long time in one camp, I wouldn't feel the need to go on every single game drive and would sleep in a day or two.

I did check about five different websites and I never did find Hamilton's Tented Camp for less than 4400 ZAR per person per night sharing ($660 USD pppns), so getting it on Luxury Link for $230 USD per person per night sharing is about a 65% savings.

Also, you mentioned Hoyo Hoyo. That place is similarly expensive but there is a package on that includes air from New York or Atlanta, four nights in Cape Town at a 3* hotel, two nights at Hoyo Hoyo, one night at the Rosebank Hotel in Johannesburg, all ground transfers and about three tours in Cape Town/Joburg. The auctions have been going for about $2,000 USD per person. $2,000 USD would possibly only cover Hoyo Hoyo, the Rosebank Hotel and the flight from JNB-Hoedspruit, but instead this includes the entire package.

If I only had more time I would certainly take advantage of all these offers. There is just not enough time at this stage of my life to really take my time to enjoy all these wonderful offers.

Safarinut, here's another any of the Kruger NP game lodges that you are aware of enjoy good riverfront exclusive traversing rights (or at least exclusive enough so that you won't be around 10 other vehicles on game drives)???


katycee Feb 28th, 2004 02:41 AM

The drought has been broken which is genuinely good news.

I thought I should point out that Sabi Sabi had to cancel bookings and new arrival at their lodge on Thursday and Friday, quite a few people have been stranded at various lodges in the Sabi Sands as the rivers are impassable ! (.. hum... stranded at a Game Lodge - many Fodorites idea of heaven I guess !! ?? ) This affected people who were self driving themselves in as well as those who were utilising the fly in options from Mpumalanga Airport and Hoedspruit.

Louise Feb 28th, 2004 07:58 AM

Just received an e-mail from friends who are in Pretoria. According to them it is really raining there and many people have drowned in the rivers. They are to meet up with a motorcycle group and travel for a month to Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Capetown and then back to Pretoria. Sounds pretty scary to me traveling by motorcycle as they are a couple in their 50's.

safarinut Feb 28th, 2004 08:22 AM


Tinga Private Game Reserve is a new Game Reserve on the banks of the Sabi River inside KNP.This lodge is owned by African Pride Hotels[same owners of Lion Sands].

Two lodges here,Narina and Legends, share 5 000 hectares[9 suites each].

Primetime river frontage +- 35 kilometers of Sabi River frontage.This is supposedly the area where you find the highest concentration of leopard in the world[confluence of the Sand and Sabi rivers]

Both these lodges located opposite Lion Sands ie. on the other side of the river.

Let's start in Southern Kruger and work up from there:

Lukimbi is located between Berg en Dal and Lower Sabi.They have a private concession of 15 000 hectares and was recently featured in Conde Nast's Hot properties.Fantastic traversing area!

All these new Lodges inside Kruger had fights with management to extend their road networks ie make more roads in their traversing area.Lukimbi has been successful and has a great traversing area.There is only a small river in front of the lodge but they have access to the Crocodile River in the south.

Jock Safari lodge is in the southern section and also featured in Conde Nast.The only thing I don't like of this lodge is that it is fenced!They also have 10 000 hectares + for their private use.Located between Berg en Dal in the south and Skukuza in the north.

They are busy building a new tented camp and will soon offer walking safaris.

Arround Skukuza you find Tinga who I have discussed earlier and another concession consisting of two lodges Plains Camp and Rhino post Camp.

They have a smaller concession but in a great location,they border Mala Mala to the west.

You know the Imbali concession consisting of Imbali,Hoya Hoya and Hamiltons.

You know the Singita lebombo concession[Their new Camp ?Sweni Camp I think will be opening in August 2004]

Wilderness Safaris acquired a concession in northern Kruger Pafuri section but they are still busy with constuction

The Outpost is another lodge in northern Kruger, Makulike region,but I don't know this lodge well.

So these are the private concessions in KNP.

safarinut Feb 28th, 2004 08:42 AM


Remember KNP is 5 times the size of the Lower Zambezi NP, twice the size of South Luangwa NP and five times bigger than North Luangwa

safarinut Feb 28th, 2004 09:04 AM

Sorry this means nothing to people who's not been to Zambia.


Roccco Feb 28th, 2004 09:32 AM


Yes, I realize how huge Kruger National Park is compared to some of the other parks.

One thing, also, not to be forgotten is that Kruger gets 1 million visitors per year...that is 3,000 per day on average, and of course probably triple that in high season, which is why I would probably never want to visit anywhere in the park without its own private concession.

One of the drawing attractions of South Luangwa for me is its isolation. Plus as a non-native South African, I just find the prices in South African lodges and hotels alike, unbearable right now. Hopefully if the dollar doesn't improve and tourism takes a dip, an adjustment in tariffs will be made for future years.

Anyway, glad to hear that the Sabi Sands has gotten its much needed rain and thanks again for the excellent feedback on the Kruger and Sabi Sand lodges.

safarinut Feb 28th, 2004 09:35 AM

I forgot our friends in Europe!!

The KNP is 1/2 the size of the Netherlands!

safarinut Feb 28th, 2004 09:50 AM


Your statistics on KNP is correct but remember of the 1 million visitors per year 80% of this number is made up in Southern Kruger ie. Skukuza and south of there.You right I will never visit KNP in high season it does become very congested.

But...if you go to the Northern section,Shingwedzi and north of there you will feel isolated !

I think this is one of the unknown facts of KNP.

safarinut Feb 28th, 2004 05:04 PM


Ranger/writer charmingly unravels secret life of leopards

?Living With Leopards? by Nils Kure

Review: Diane de Beer - Pretoria News

When your first book is launched in one of the most beautiful spots in one of South Africa's finest game lodges - a koppie with a spectacular view at sunrise - you have done something right.

Author/photographer/game ranger/zoologist Nils Kure (now in charge of ranger training) has joined hands with publisher Dick Wilkins of Sunbird and together they have come up with something special.

It took the experienced publisher, for example, to persuade novice writer Kure that he should cut down on the technical detail and keep the text more informal so that both specialists and novices could learn from the information. He was also persuaded to shorten the text which is already much weightier than these coffee table-type books usually are. But that's the thing; Living with Leopards hopes to do just that - inform both the novice and the scientist about these amazing animals.

Kure knew from his early days as game ranger at the luxurious Mala Mala that he would be gathering information on his daily drives with guests. This would be mainly for the logbooks, but perhaps also for something more detailed in the future, he thought.

It was when he started taking pictures that he developed quite an interest and started going in a particular direction. "Life throws opportunities at you and you must be ready to grab them," is his explanation.

Just a few minutes in Kure's company shows that he is a methodical and innovative man. His eye is always on the bigger picture and the gains are not necessarily for himself. He is quick to point out, for example, that it would be a crime not to publish data on the leopards.

"It doesn't help if you're the local expert on something but it hasn't been recorded for others to use," he says. "We have an obligation," he stresses. How can others act on something that has been discovered about these secretive animals if it hasn't been put out there for public consumption?

Initially, Kure, who is also a trained zoologist, was a keen birdwatcher but even here, he started collecting parasites, putting them in jars to collect information. These were all passed on to the designated scientists. At Mala Mala, they keep notes on the different animals, where they were seen, what they were eating, when they were mating - and all the data will eventually be analysed.

In an attempt to expand and illuminate all this data, Nils takes the reader through the sequence of a leopard's life. he notes that leopards are shy, secretive animals. But because they have made Mala

Mala their habitat, it is one of the best areas for leopard spotting. "We have about 27 leopards that we know of that are seen on regular basis," says Kure. This also has to do with the fact that the property is a large one - more so than the surrounding game farms. Naturally, it helps that they border the Kruger National Park which in a sense even expands their property further. Another advantage is the accessibility of the Mala Mala terrain to vehicles. "If we're not the best, we're close," says Kure.

And after witnessing a kill by a leopard mom and her cub, and the pulling of the carcass into a tree a day later, something I have never seen before, I have to agree.

Kure believes that the foresight of Mala Mala's owner, Michael Rattray, is why they have such a successful reserve. It was one of the first game farms - even before they became fashionable - and, while the accommodation is attractive, it's not one of those designer lodges. "Here it is all about watching game," says Kure. He thinks the fact that smaller farms need to offer customers more has fuelled the designer war.

But this is not Mala Mala's priority. If, however, you want to talk comfort, each cottage, sleeping two, has two bathrooms. Luxury and detail has not been spared. "The camps have to work, and that is the important thing," explains Kure.

But back to the book: it traces the course of a leopard's life from its mating habits to the way it stakes out its territory, its diet, spot patterns, which is how the rangers identify the individual leopard, leopard kills and the way its young are raised.

The pictures are exquisite, which is probably what one would expect from someone who had the time to shoot the best. The surprise is the quality of the writing. Kure explains that he had the choice as a youngster of going either the writing or wild life route. One of his teachers had early on pointed out that he would probably use his language skills in some way in the future. He was right.

It is this ability, as well as Kure's insight, that adds to the charm of the book and distinguishes it from so many others on the market.

While many of those sell purely because of the pictures, Kure has tried to add value with his text - and for many South Africans this is what will make the book a welcome addition to their enjoyment of game viewing.

safarinut Mar 3rd, 2004 06:15 AM


Since our last newsletter we have had even more rain with more than 200 mm during the third week of February. This means that the season's total rainfall now stands at 440 mm - almost an average year's rainfall! It is incredible what a difference it has made; all the dams are full and the grasses look very healthy. We did suffer some damage with some roads washed away and the loss of the dam at Djuma Bush Lodge, as described by Liane below. The four images above show Vuyatela dam; the first image is from the beginning of January and I used it in my article on drought at Djuma in last month's Drumbeat newsletter, click here to read it. The second image is from 23 January, as the rains started to fill Vuyatela dam. The third image is from 2 February showing the extent of the water in the dam; I used all three images in last month's newsletter. The final image is Vuyatela dam today, overflowing.
I have to confess that I am surprised at the amount of rain and reminded that savannahs are by definition subject to very unpredictable and erratic rainfall. In January's newsletter I predicted that, given historical trends, we would experience severe drought conditions during this coming dry season. I was wrong! The drought has been broken and my dire predictions are nought. This does not mean that the drought has been broken in the rest of South Africa, just that the natural ecosystem of Djuma Game Reserve is so resilient that relatively little rainfall can make for enormous differences, even if very late in the season. For farmers it is different story since it is too late in the growing season to help much with crops. Furthermore, not all enjoyed the rain bounty we did and places not even 100 km away from Djuma, received half or less of what we received.

Greetings from a wet Djuma Game Reserve.

Kavey Mar 3rd, 2004 06:35 AM

Does anyone have a link to a map for where these reserves sit which also shows Kruger too?


(And that book sounds really good, I'm tempted)

safarinut Mar 3rd, 2004 06:54 AM


Try,they have a nice map of the Sabi Sands lodges.

As to the private lodges inside Kruger their maps aren't great.If you have a question regarding the exact location of one of the Kruger lodges post it and I will explain.

Kavey Mar 3rd, 2004 07:19 AM

Thanks Safarinut, no that's plenty thanks. I just wanted to get an idea of how close these camps are to Olifants in Kruger, and whether this report on rain in Sabi Sands also applies to the area I'm visiting.

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