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Is the Sabi Sand Game Reserve the very best for game viewing or just the most expensive???

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Mar 4th, 2003, 04:03 PM
  #1
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Is the Sabi Sand Game Reserve the very best for game viewing or just the most expensive???

I am planning a return to a couple different lodges in the Sabi Sand game reserve. Does the Sabi Sand deserve its reputation as the finest reserve around???

I am not interested in Kenya, but I am curious how the game viewing in Tanzania and Botswana measure up.

While at Singita last year, I couldn't ask for anything more and I wasn't even there at the best time for game viewing (I was there in early March).

The Ngorogomo Crater area of Tanzania really interests me as well as the Okavango Delta in Botswana but only if the game viewing is as spectacular as it was in the Sabi Sand reserve.
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Mar 5th, 2003, 06:41 AM
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Sabi Sands is probably the most over-hyped of the safari destinations . However, it does offer good guides, accommodation and some interesting game viewing primarily geared towards the 'Big 5'. If you want true wilderness areas then opt for Botswana (okavango, Linyati, kwando and Savuti areas)and Zambia (South Luangwa, Lower Zambezi National Park). The luxury or moderate camps in Botswana now seem better value for money than South Africa due to the strength of the rand. My particular favourites were Kwara and Lagoon camps owned by Kwando and Duba Plains, Little Vumburua and Xigera owned by Wilderness Safaris. The other advantage of Botswana is that you can do game-vewing in canoes and boats, which can be very exciting. In my last trip I was just 100 yards from a bull elephant while in a canoe and that is more thrilling than seeing a bull elephant on a walk or a game drive. The game viewing in Botswana is superb. In Kwando I saw over 400 elephant and 200 buffalo in 3 days.

Ngorongoro Crater is a fabulous place and the accommodation at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge is outstanding BUT Ngorongoro has not only the highest concentration of game per sq km in Africa but also the highest no. of game viewing vehicles. It has probably become the largest open zoo in the world. So if you do go to Tanzania then only spend one night at the crater and the rest in Serengeti where you can also view the wildebeest migration. Stay around Ndutu Lodge (comfortable 3* cottages)between January and March when the wildebeest give birth in the area. The rainy season is in April and May and after that the migration moves towards the western part of Serengeti and you could stay at Serena Lodge (4*) or Grumeti River Camp (5*). I loved the location of Grumeti River Camp and the hippos in the water nearby. The migration moves onto Masai Mara in Kenya from July to September and returns to Tanzania in October, passing through the northeastern/eastern Serengeti area (Kleins Camp or Migration Camp - both 5*), moving southwards towards the Ndutu area.

The other area in Tanzania which I rate highly is Selous, although the Tse Tse flies do appear after the rains and are a real nuisance so it is better to be there between August and September or Feb. The game here can be a bit elusive and shy but then what does one expect in the largest game reserve in Africa with probably the lowest concetration of visitors per sq. km. The place to stay here is definitely Sand Rivers Camp.

I don't think you will find anything comparable to Singita in East Africa. The closest is probably Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, however, the 5* camps in Tanzania are still of excellent an standard.

I am surprised you are so eager to dismiss Kenya. In fact it is my favourite safari destination, not only because of its wildlife but also because of its incredible vistas. If you are looking for some unusual places in Africa, then Kenya has them. The most impressive 'upcoming area' is Laikipia, where there are about six private ranches offering magnificent facilities, game viewing and activities. In my opinion, $ for $ Wilderness Trails in the Lewa wildlife Conservancy beats Singita. So does Loisaba Lodge in the Loisaba wildlife conservancy and Mukutan Retreat. Your hosts here are also the owners of the ranches and are intimately involved with wildlife conservation. They will be able to offer you first-hand experience of conservation projects in Kenya. When I last visted Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, there were over 30 black and 30 white rhinos and I managed to take a photo of many of them against the backdrop of Mt.Kenya. We managed to see lion, elephant and cheetah, but the best thing about Lewa were the vistas that remind you why Africa, and in particular Kenya, is so special.


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Mar 5th, 2003, 07:39 AM
  #3
LizFrazier
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Rocco-
Try this for a wonderful trip to Tanzania:
http://www.wildlifetravel.net/a_serengeti_diary.htm.

King-
Thanks for your post. You expressed so well the most exciting wildlife spectacle in the world, in my opinion. You cannot imagine seeing over a million Wildebeest and all the predators that feast on them. I have never seen anything so wonderful as the vistas on the Serengeti. Especially during the rains when you can see for hundreds of miles and see the individual storms going on. (Well, okay, but it seems like hundreds of miles.) The Crater is more like a zoo. I remember the first time I was there. We came upon a rhino, then after awhile a big elephant. When we approached the next lone animal standing there, I said "Well here is the 2 o'clock giraffe." More like a movie set than real life. The crater itself is a marvel from the rim though. The website I posted for Rocco is a wonderful 7 day safari in February at Ndutu. My dream! Liz
 
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Mar 5th, 2003, 05:47 PM
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King,
Thanks for the informative response.

The only reason why I dismissed Kenya is because I really need to have a mixture on my holidays of posh city hotels and high end game reserves. Otherwise, my wife would never agree to such a trip.

Also, I would be lying if I said that I wasn't concerned about my safety in Kenya given the current political climate in the U.S. and around the world right now. I do realize that Cape Town has an approximate Muslim population of over 25% by some accounts, but I still feel that I will be safer in South Africa than I will be in Kenya.

Unless Dubya (President Bush) spends every last American dollar on his war, thus killing my business that relies upon government funded public works construction projects (road improvements, traffic signals, street lights, etc.) then I plan to return to South Africa in 2004.

By my third trip to Africa in 2004, I hope to be a little more adventurous and after running the Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town in April, I hope to go on safari somewhere other than in South Africa, whether it be Zambia, Botswana or Tanzania.

For now, however, I am very well versed on South African game reserves, especially the ones in the Sabi Sand reserve. Plus I have already paid for four nights at the Michelangelo Hotel in Joburg and for four nights at the Twelve Apostles Hotel in Cape Town.

I will keep all your recommendations in mind for next year. Thanks.
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Mar 6th, 2003, 01:11 AM
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Perhaps on your next trip you could try the following routing:
Michelangelo 2 nights
River Club Zambia 3 nights
Fly to Tanzania from Livingstone (Nationwide Airlines flies once a week so if you time it well then you should be OK - the only downside is you will have to spend a week in Tanzania so I would advise you to do it during the migration period).
Arusha Coffee Lodge 1 night
Ngorongoro Crater Lodge 2 nights -simply because the lodge is so beautiful - stay in the Tree section which is right on the edge of the Rim.
4 nts at Ndutu Lodge (3* but delightful, very friendly and a great location) or Grumeti River Camp (5* and probably the best location of any camp in Tanzania, especially around June and July when the migration is in the area and crossing the treacherous Grumeti River). You could split the Serengeti Camps. It is possible to drive from Ndutu Lodge, which is very near Ngorongoro Crater, to Grumeti approx. 6 hours and this was the highlight of the trip. The drive passes through the Serengeti National Park, you get to see part of the parks rarely seen by other visitors and the scenery is awesome.
Then fly back to Arusha from Serengeti (the drive back is too long), then to Johannesburg via Livingstone and to Cape Town all on the same day and spend the rest of the holiday in Cape Town.
This way you will get your cities as well as a superior wildlife experience to Sabi Sands.

Of course the alternative to Tanzania is Botswana. In Botswana the quality of guiding is superior to Tanzania plus there are other advantages: night game drives, game walks, canoe and boat trips and picnics in the bush are included in your package,while in Tanzania night game drives and walks are not permitted inside the National Parks, the only places canoeing or boating are offered are Lake Manyara and Selous and you may have to pay extra for those bush picnics/game walks/night game drives wherever they are permitted. Despite these disadvantages, Tanzania has the wildebeest migration which is one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth, beautiful landmarks such as Mt. Kilimanjaro, Ngorongoro Crater and the Great Rift Valley (Botswana is as flat as a pancake and after a while the scenery becomes immaterial), glorious savannahs with more wildlife than all of Southern Africa and alkaline lakes which attract a huge variety of birdlife. I remember a guest from Europe visitng Botswana remarking to a Botswana guide that Tanzania was the place for wildlife. Well it is also the place of beauty and grandeur.

Kenya - To me Kenya is exciting because there is so much there in terms of variety of game parks, private reserves and ranches,landscapes,habitats and cultures. It is where the safari was born and it is still where you can have the best safari in the world. Sadly the security situation is a blight on its reputation, but I have visted Kenya over 10 times and I have to say that I feel much safer there than South Africa which is reputed to have the worst crime rate in Africa if not the world. Recently there were rapes and muggings on British visitors and that only served to reinforce my hesitance to continue visiting South Africa. In Kenya there are isolated incidents but it appears not on the scale of South Africa. Botswana on the surface appears innocent but my friends tell me of problems in Maun.

There are security problems everywhere in Africa as there are in other parts of the world, but I would not give up safaris even if those secutrity problems affected me somehow. I live in a village in England and that too has been touched by crime. In London the crime rate is horrendous and several people are mugged daily because of their mobile phones. At least I won't have that problem while on a safari!My life must be full of safaris and adventures.
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Mar 6th, 2003, 11:40 PM
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Is there good game viewing at the River Club in Zambia???

I stayed at Matetsi on the Zimbabwean side of the Zambezi River last year. I found that game viewing was not nearly as successful as it was in the Sabi Sand. However, the Zambezi River helped make up for it as we were able to see some spectacular sights including the African eagle, hippos, crocodiles and a peculiar bird nicknamed the "Jesus Bird" for its ability to walk upright on water!

We did see plenty of giraffes, elephants and baboons at Matetsi but had very little luck with predators such as leopards or lions. We also did not see many rhinos at Matetsi.

I am, admittedly, having my patience tried by the South African game reserves. I just cannot find anyplace that I care for other than Vuyatela that is under $750 USD per night. I may just decide to go to Zambia and see the Zambian side of Victoria Falls this year, as well as spend some precious time on the Zambezi River. The sundowner cruise and the canoeing that I did on the Zambezi River last year will definitely be a lifelong memory.

Another thing that is rubbing me the wrong way about the Sabi Sand lodges is the outrageous rates that they charge for transfers. In Zimbabwe last year, I failed to arrange a road transfer to Matetsi and ended up being charged by a tour company only $15 USD per person (the equivalent of 120 ZAR) for a 1 hour transfer from Victoria Falls Airport to Matetsi. I am finding that the transfers for the same distance in Sabi Sand are triple the price or more.

Please get back to me as soon as possible with more info about the River Club, especially regarding the game viewing. The River Club looks like it would be very convenient to get to, as I can fly into Livingstone directly from Cape Town or Joburg.

Thanks.
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Mar 7th, 2003, 07:19 PM
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If I may put my two cents in ... I have to agree with King's posting re: the Ngorongoro Crater and Selous. While I found the crater and the wildlife interesting, I was put off when we counted a total of 22 vehicles crowding around two lionesses that were stalking some zebra. Also, another point about the Crater is that there is off roading, vehicles must stay on the roads. A day at the Crater is more than enough. Some friends surprised with a stay at the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge for the evening and it was delightful and decadent at the same time. Personally, I think Tarangire National Park is better for game viewing than the crater, but we all have different taste. As for Selous, I think it is Tanzania's best kept secret. We had the fortune to stay at Sand Rivers for three nights and absolutely loved it. Fantastic guides, extremely comfortable accommodations and the wildlife is abundant. Alcoholic drinks and laundry service are included in the rate. We saw numerous giraffe, lion, lion cubs, buffalo, elephant, etc. The beauty of Selous is that you can get out and explore on foot. Sand Rivers conducts morning and late afternoon walks. You can also arrange to have a park ranger accompany you for walks. While we were out for the three days, we never came upon any other tourists. We didn't have to jockey for position to watch the lion cubs. A visit to Lake Tagalala is a must in Selous. So many crocodiles!!!! And a trip down the Rufiji River is wonderful. You just never knew where one of the hundreds of hippo in the river were going to pop up and we were charged by one - our guide said it was a mock charge, but it certainly got our adrenaline pumping. We were in Selous in late September, early October 2002 and did not have any problems with tse tse flies. I also agree with King about Kenya. The Mara still holds a special place in my heart. Good luck with your planning.
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