Need suggestions for Sabie Sand lodge, please

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Oct 16th, 2005, 06:56 AM
  #1
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Need suggestions for Sabie Sand lodge, please

My husband and I are hoping to take our daughter (24) and son (14) on a safari in the Sabie Sand region. We will be visiting our daughter who will be in the Cape Town area for a med school rotation next April. We already have airfare booked into Hoedspruit using award travel (thanks to your help!) for 3 nights starting April 18th. This happens to be the Tuesday after Easter, which I'm told is a busy travel time.

My dilemma is whether to book accomodations now, or wait until a few weeks before in hopes of getting discounted rates. At this point we have been looking at Elephant Plains, Chitwa Chitwa's Safari Lodge, Djuma Bush Lodge and Inyati, all because they aren't too far from Hoesdspruit and are the least expensive. The best rates I can get have been R1750 - R2200 per person for these four lodges - which when multiplied by 4 is still pushing our budget.

I would really like to hold off and try to get similar accomodations at a discounted rate, or even much nicer accomodations for the same price. But with it being Easter week, I am concerned we may have difficulty finding anything a few weeks out for the 4 of us.

This is our first trip to Africa and we will be easily satisfied with most game viewing. We are looking for nice, clean accomodations with a friendly staff. Don't need luxurious rooms or gourmet dining, although it would be nice.

So for those of you who are familiar with Sabie Sands and last minute reservations thru Mtbeds, should I book now and put down a non-refundable deposit of at least 25%, with the balance due 60 days prior to arrival -or wait it out?

I'd also appreciate your suggestions regarding these lodges, or any others with similar rates.

Thanks so much!
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Oct 17th, 2005, 04:17 AM
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Hello,

Just a note -- if you are up in the Hoedspruit area, you're actually quite far from the Sabi Sands, which is down in the southern area of the Kruger region (near Nelspruit). It's about 2-3 hours' drive between Hoedspruit and Nelspruit, and another 2-2.5 hours to the Sabi Sands from Nelspruit.

I assume you have award miles with SAA -- is there any chance you can switch to Nelspruit (MQP)? The game-viewing is much better in the Sabi Sand than it is in the region up near Hoedspruit.

If you can't switch the flights, the best of the reserves up near Hoedspruit is probably Timbavati. I've had good game-viewing at Ngala Tented Camp, though not on par with my experiences in the Sabi Sands.

Cheers,
Julian
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Oct 17th, 2005, 06:55 AM
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Julian,

Thanks for the reply. I'm afraid I'm very confused now. I have received info from several SA travel agents and also from the lodges themselves with transfer details. I was told that from Hoedspruit airport to Elephant Plains and also Chitwa Chitwa's Safari Lodge the travel time was 1 1/2 hours. I believe these are both in northern Sabie Sand. Perhaps going to lodges in the southern region are much farther, and what you are referring to? If this is the case, I guess we need to target lodges in northern Sabi Sand, which will limit the likelihood of much availability later while waiting for rates to drop. Or look into flying into Nelspruit, which was not available when I booked our flights a few months ago.

Anyone else who knows transfer times to various parts of Sabie Sand? Any other thoughts on the probability of rates dropping for Easter week? Thanks!

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Oct 17th, 2005, 07:10 AM
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Hello,

Those transfer times are probably by light aircraft, not by car. I've flown from Timbavati to Sabi Sands, and it's about 1-1.5 hours.

I doubt rates will drop for Easter week -- and I definitely would not wait until the last minute to book for that week, which is likely to be very popular with locals taking a holiday. Better to book now than to risk having no where to stay.

Cheers,
Julian
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Oct 17th, 2005, 08:13 AM
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Hello again, Julian,

I received an email directly from Elephant Plains that stated journey distances by car take approximately 1 1/2 hours from Hoedspruit/Eastgate airport to their lodge (100km). For 4 people the cost is R197 per person each way. The air transfers cost R690 each. So these lodges must be much closer than the ones you have been to.

I will give serious thought to booking soon given the busy holiday period we will be traveling.

Any other thoughts out there?

Thanks!

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Oct 17th, 2005, 08:32 AM
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Hi Erin,

It's hard to tell from their map, but it looks like Elephant Plains is in the far north of the Sabi Sand, where it borders the Manyeleti reserve. Inyati is also on the border, but a bit further south.

I've actually driven that road, and I would be very surprised if it only takes an hour (at least if one keeps within the speed limits). On the other hand, most South Africans view speed limits as suggestions rather than laws, so it may be possible. If you drive yourself, beware of the tourist-targeting speed traps in the region of Acornhoek.

Several people on this board have reported unpleasant experiences at Djuma Vuyatela because the owners are not very welcoming, so you may want to steer clear of that particular camp.

Cheers,
Julian
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Oct 17th, 2005, 09:43 AM
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Erin 44.
The drive time from Hoedspruit to the sabi Sands Kingston/Shaws gate it just over 2 hours. There is no need to go via Nelspruit, you head east from Hazyview.

The northern lodges that you have mentioned are closer and about an hour and a half from HDS.

You might consider some of the lodges up in the hoedspruit regio as suitable alternates: Look for Garonga, Thanda thula & Thornybush, the latter has a selection of smaller camps, Chapungu I recall is the less expensive and is tented.

I agree with others that the game viewing in this region is not as prolific as the Sabie Sands, however it is still good.

I would urge you to make your reservations now, particularly if you are looking for the less expensive camps, South Africans love their bush breaks and tend to take the easter off and due to currency issues cannot afford the more expensive lodges, consequently they will be the folk keeping you from a lower priced lodge.
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Oct 17th, 2005, 11:13 PM
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Hi Erin 44

Some first hand advice and knowledge - my wife and I recently went to Ulusaba (western section) and on another occasion went to Lion Sands (southern section)-(both from Hoedspruit Airport) - both self-drive. Both drives took us just over 2 hours to get to the lodges. Hoedspruit airport is not very far from the Northern entrance to the Sabi Sands but aside from Simbambili, you would be well advised to go to one of the lodges in the southern or western section of the reserve - they are much nicer and for a first time safari they would be far better. Re MTBeds, I have used them a number of times and have never been disappointed in terms of getting what i wanted at reduced rates - well worth the wait, although being Easter weekend it may be a problem. My suggestions would be one of the following: Lion Sands, Dulini, Leadwood, Ulusaba Rock Lodge, Londolozi Tree. Hope this helps.
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Oct 19th, 2005, 07:09 AM
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Julian, mkhonzo and bushmad,

Thank you for the info regarding transfer times. Sounds like northern and western Sabie Sand is definitely driveable. Since it is a holiday week and we need accomodations for 4, we have decided to book something soon, rather than wait until a few weeks before our arrival.

Mkhonzo, I looked at some of the lodges you recommended. They would definitely be closer to Hoedspruit. However, since the game viewing isn't as good as Sabie Sand and the rates aren't much lower, if at all, I think we'll still target the Sabie area.

Bushmad, I would love to stay at any of the lodges you suggested (i.e. Lion Sands, Londolozi, etc), but at $2450 - $3975 a night for the 4 of us, it is WAY out of our budget. With a daughter in med school and a son in college, we are willing, but still struggling with spending half that a night for a safari.

So, unfortunately this brings us back to Elephant Plains, Chitwa Chitwa's Safari Lodge and Inyati Game Lodge. Can anyone tell me just how "budget" these accomodations will be? As I mentioned earlier, gourmet food and luxurious furnishings aren't a priority. Clean accomodations, decent food and friendly staff are. This is obviously a very subjective interpretation, but can anyone compare these lodges to popular US hotels? Are they like Ramada, Comfort, Fairfield Inns? Or Worse? Or more like Hilton, Marriott, Westin hotels?

We don't want to be disappointed with our choice, but also don't want to break the bank either. Once again, thanks for your input! I really do appreciate all of the time and experience you seasoned safari goers share with us.
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Oct 19th, 2005, 09:34 AM
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They are boutique properties in the bush. They cannot be compared with Ramada's and the like.

They have unique decor, reasonably small capacities and are very personal experiences. I don't know of the American equal.
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Oct 20th, 2005, 12:03 AM
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Hi Erin44

My wife and I stayed at Chitwa Safari Lodge for our honeymoon and loved it, although I have to admit after subsequently having been to some of the more upmarket lodges in the Sands, it is not in the same class as the likes of Dulini, Ulusaba etc. Have not stayed at Elephant Plains but have heard some good things about it, but it is not in the best game viewing area. My choice would definately be Inyati - great game-viewing area and although I have not stayed there, have seen it whilst on game drive - looks lovely - a good bet I would say
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Oct 20th, 2005, 03:06 AM
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Hi Erin
Maybe consider lodges in the Thornybush area ... easy & quick drive from Hoedspruit, and game viewing comparative to Sabi. Tangala (www.tangala.co.za) is worth a look. Prices similar to Ele Plains, but I think a much nicer lodge. No electricity, so very authentic African experience.
Helen
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Oct 21st, 2005, 03:43 AM
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Hi there

You have to try savanna lodge in sabi sands - absolutely brilliant!! great game, great food, overall fabulous and i am sure you can get a good rate. www.savannalodge.com is where you can have a look!
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Oct 26th, 2005, 08:26 AM
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Thank you to everyone for your replies.

Bushmad, I appreciate your recommendation for Inyati. I also have read good things about it elsewhere, but after adding on transfer fees to get there, it is becoming more costly than some other lodges we are now considering.

I am interested in your comment comparing its game viewing to Elephant Plains. On other threads, I have read what sounded like favorable trip reports of game viewing for Elephant Plains, Chitwa Chitwa and Simbambili, which are all in the same vicinity. Do you feel that strongly that we would be disappointed here? Please keep in mind that this is our first safari, hopefully not our last, and we will most likely be thrilled to see most types of game. My only fear would be to drive around for hours only viewing the vegetation.

Helen, thanks for pointing me towards Thornybush. Tangala does look charming, although I have mixed views on no electricity at night. Romantic or terrifying?

A travel agent also suggested Monwana in Thornybush. Has anyone stayed here? When I search on Fodor's, I can't bring up any related info, which makes it kind of scary to consider.

Nhala, I did look into Savanna Lodge - very nice, but rates are currently about $450 each per night. Unfortunately way out of our budget.

At this point, it looks like Elephant Plains is the most economical option for us that is available in Sabie Sand. We are now considering a few lodges in Thornybush and also Hamilton's Tent Camp in Kruger. I did post another question regarding this, since I was seeking info on a specific travel company and lodge not in Sabie Sand. I hope this isn't a faux pas to cross reference. Anyways, still deciding and very open to your suggestions and comparisons. Thanks!

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Oct 26th, 2005, 11:41 PM
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Hi Erin44

If Inyati's pricing is a little out of budget, then I would say your best bet would be either Elephant Plains or Chitwa Chitwa Game Lodge - when I say the game-viewing isn't as good, I am just comparing it to the more prolific southern and western parts of the Sands - believe me the Sabi Sands game viewing will not disappoint, and you certainly will not be just driving around looking at the bush without seeing any animals. We absolutely loved Chitwa Chitwa Safari lodge when on honeymoon, it was also our first experience of a private reserve - the game viewing was absolutely wonderful and the service terrific, although I reckon the accomm could have been better, that is why I would recommend Game Lodge instead of Safari Lodge. IMHO, it should be a straight shootout between Elephant Plains and Chitwa Chitwa Game Lodge. I would not recommend for a first time safari-goer that you venture outside of the Sabi Sands, the game-viewing simply cannot compare. Hope this helps - I look forward to hearing your decision. Believe me, the Sands will not disappoint wherever you stay!!
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