Sabi Sands camps

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Apr 17th, 2014, 12:50 PM
  #1
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Sabi Sands camps

We've been on a couple of safaris, but not yet to the Kruger area. We're going back to Botswana and South Africa in the spring of 2015. We're planning on spending about 10 days in Botswana at a variety of locales, and then about 6 days in South Africa -- three nights at a camp in a private reserve in the north Kruger area (Timbavati or Klaserie) and then to Sabi Sands. Mala Mala clearly has phenomenal game viewing, but is pretty pricey. I've read about Notten's Camp, and it also gets very good reviews and is about half the price of Mala Mala Main Camp. Do any of you have experience at both of these, or other Sabi Sands camps, to be able to provide some comparison? Thanks.
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Apr 17th, 2014, 04:29 PM
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How nice you will be going on safari again.

Discussion of Sabi Sands camps:

http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...i-417947-2.cfm

http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...here-to-go.cfm

Trip Report
"Four nights at Gomo Gomo Game Lodge in the Klaserie Reserve, four nights at Kambaku Safari Lodge in the Timbavati Reserve and four nights at Arathusa Safari Lodge in Sabi Sands Reserve, all in the Greater Kruger National Park and chosen for their location by a waterhole and within the limitations of a retired educator’s budget." In the month of Oct.


http://safaritalk.net/topic/12164-th...nd-sabi-sands/

Good luck!
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Apr 19th, 2014, 08:42 PM
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Was at Elephant Plains recently, you can check my trip report.
Enjoyed it thoroughly. Saw big 5 in 2 days as well as wild dogs and much else. Chose it due to it's more modest cost compared to some others including Singita and Sabi Sabi where I also stayed on a previous trip. It compares very favorably IMHO but much cheaper, food and massage not as good but big deal ! We had the deluxe room - very nice, beautiful view to meadow filled with game from our deck. Our guide Stephen was excellent, the jeeps all very good.

The thing is these camps are in private concessions which co-operate with each other and allow traversing so you benefit from being able to see game on different properties. The guides communicate with each other and also manage the number of jeeps so there are never too many at a sighting. Very well done , I was impressed.

Your agenda has a lot of safari days, I love to safari but that would be too much for me ! Hope you have time for other things in SA.
Bon Voyage
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Apr 22nd, 2014, 12:32 PM
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Game viewing involves some luck. Check to see if the camps you are interested in have game viewing reports, monthly. If a particular animal is high on your list for seeing, investigate if the camp has those sightings often.

I have been to MalaMala three times, Leopard Hills once, Kirkmans Kamp once. All things considered, but with emphasis on seeing the big 5 often, up close, and personal, MalaMala is my choice.

regards - tom
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Apr 27th, 2014, 10:25 AM
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Thanks for the replies. I’ve spent the last 10 days (along with many days before then) trying to absorb waaaaay too much information, and I’m not very much closer to decisions. Actually, I make decisions every day, but then I change them the next day.

Atravelynn -- I always enjoy and learn from your comments.

Christo – You say “Your agenda has a lot of safari days, I love to safari but that would be too much for me!” That may be sacrilege on this forum. I know what you mean, but we may not get back, so I’m trying to squeeze in as much as possible. Are you also serious that the quality of the massage is not a big deal??? 

Cary999 – As you undoubtedly are aware, here’s just one horn of my many dilemmas:
-- One night at Mala Mala ($740 pppn) vs. three nights at Elephant Plains ($256 pppn). Then there’s nThambo ($300), Arathusa ($340), Motswari ($400), Notten's ($405), Tanda Tula ($450), Kirkman’s ($600), . . . I know this is apples and oranges, or at least different varieties of apples, or maybe apples and horseshoes, but it nonetheless makes for hard choices – but nobody said it was going to be easy.
-- And don’t get me started on Botswana – Mashatu Tented Camp (loved it in 2004, now at $375 pppn) vs. Mombo (loved it as a one-night splurge in 2004, at ~$550 – now at $1,835 !!!!)

I do have one question raised by a Sabi Sand map reference in another SA thread. Is Sabi Sand just a specific area/reserves, or is there also a formal association known as the Sabi Sand Reserve comprised of some but not all of the landowners/camps in a certain area? This won't help with my dilemmas, but will just clear up some confusion.

I may soon be back seeking more help with specific dilemmas, although my experience leads me to believe that for every question there will be a few ""yes" opinions, a few "no" opinions, and lots of "maybe" opinions. Even the safari companies I have communicated with have wildly different ideas. Then again, this is what is called a "first class problem."
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Apr 27th, 2014, 10:35 AM
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What a luxury to have first class problems!

Interesting question you pose on the association so I went to see what wiki had to say about it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabi_Sand_Game_Reserve

According to the above, it appears Mala Mala is in its own world.

Much as I enjoyed my time at Mala Mala, I think I would opt for one of the less expensive locations in a future visit to Sabi Sands.

Christo, Christo your priorities have become confused, you poor thing!
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May 5th, 2014, 09:27 PM
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Hi Atravelynn and hguy.

Just popped in and saw the comments.
What priorities are confused ? Quality of massage not a big deal - yeah of course, $70 vs $K000's for overall trip- hello !
Can't hear intonation here so not sure if tongue in cheek.
Re. a lot of safari days, that's personal choice. Recently returned from Africa and did about 18 safari days but that's over 2 months. To round out our time in Sabi Sands we drove back to JNB along the Panorama route and very much enjoyed it, very scenic.
I hear you on lodge sky high prices so again I say Elephant Plains top quality at modest price.
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May 6th, 2014, 07:06 AM
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I'm a veteran of a few trips to the Sabi Sands, including to some of the most high end places (Singita and Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge in the Presidential Suite) but this next time I'm just happy to be going to South Africa and will bypass the Sabi Sand entirely to explore the KwaZulu Natal region.

I am utterly amazed at the cost difference between the 4 and 5 star lodges I am staying at in the KZN compared to the cost of most Sabi Sand lodges. I mean it is like 25% of the price or less and I have 8 safari nights and 4 beach nights (at the highly regarded Thonga Beach Lodge) for the same price as what just 3 nights would cost me at the higher end Sabi Sand lodges.

Plus, while in the past I was a sucker and paid big bucks to FedAir for the transfers, this time, I'm just self driving most the way.

But, if I was returning to the Sabi Sand, I'd likely also choose Elephant Plains or Nkhoro or someplace else in the price range. I mean I've seen their vehicles in the same traversing areas of some of the higher end places I've stayed and their accommodations seem very nice even if not as over the top as a Singita or Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge.

That said, once my now 13 month old daughter is a couple years older, our next trip will likely be to my favorite country, Zambia, and then on the next trip, where I find the game viewing second to none, to the Serengeti (Tanzania) and Ngorongoro Crater.

The Sabi Sand is awesome for leopard viewing and for combining with Cape Town, especially for those not having much interest in exploring outside of South Africa, but I'd encourage everyone to not miss also seeing Zambia on a return trip, particularly Lower Zambezi National Park and South Luangwa National Park. There are camps/lodges in each that are on par with the finest in the Sabi Sand but the feel is just so much different and there are no traversing areas to worry about and once you're there you just know you're someplace very special.
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May 6th, 2014, 07:08 AM
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(Also, rhino viewing in the Sabi Sand is great, but, rhinos in my opinion, are not the most exciting animals to watch).
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May 6th, 2014, 02:48 PM
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Roccco on May 6, 14 at 10:08am

(Also, rhino viewing in the Sabi Sand is great, but, rhinos in my opinion, are not the most exciting animals to watch).

On foot the excitement factor increases. But not a wise move with a 13-month old. Yikes!
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May 6th, 2014, 06:43 PM
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About the Rhinos, yes not usually exciting but just fascinating to view due to their massive size and prehistoric look. We did have some excitement with 2 white rhinos at Elephant Plains as the male was quite agitated and threatened us(in the jeep)doing a couple of half way charges. Too much excitement !

Interesting too as I was not expecting to see rhinos there as no posted viewing accounts mentioned them. The guide told me that they do not report rhino sightings because the poachers may read them and voila. Very sad about the rhino decimation.

Roccco, agree with you on Tanzania - outstanding overall safari experiences.
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May 6th, 2014, 09:22 PM
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On our last trip, we watched two male rhinos fighting over a girl for at least an hour!! It was very exciting - and very fun trying to stay out of their way, keeping them in sight, staying on the road (no off road when self driving in National Parks - it was in Hluhluwe, the park that kept the rhinos from going extinct the last time we tried to wipe them off the planet). We had the whole fight to ourselves until the last ten minutes or so!! One of our very favorite days.....

I am in the final planning stages of our least expensive S Africa trip yet. Kruger, Kwazulu Natal and a little activism. We love safari, so it will likely be all safari except for transfer days - 10 out of 14 nights:
1 - Land, rent SUV, shop for supplies, stay outside Kruger at a lodge with a kitchen so we can prep food, etc.
2-6 - Kruger for 5 nights
7 - Mbabane, Swaziland. Casino and golf, plus a restaurant!!
8 - St Lucia for horseback safari and hippo/croc cruise, plus spend some time at the coast (maybe spend another night, dependent on dates for next location)
9-13 - Rhino River Lodge in the Zululand Rhino Reserve for safari and a rhino conservation outing - dart, tag, take DNA and embed chip in horn. This is the reason we are going. Can't wait!!
14 - Drive to Cradle of Humankind (stay at hotel)
15 - Visit Cradle of Humankind, fly home late

Pretty amazing trip for less than $5000 for two, including everything (including the rhino thing, gas, food, golf and tips!!), even flights we got using FF miles!! Due to some food issues, all accommodation except Swaziland and last night have kitchen facilities, even if we choose to eat at lodge or restaurant. With the exchange rate at over $10/Rand, it makes it even more affordable. In my view, I would rather spend less and keep going back. To make this work we had to forego the private game reserves around Kruger and spend the money on the rhino. (If anyone remembers, we spent a lot of money to play golf at Entabeni last time - the rhino thing is so much more meaningful, and about the same price. I'm ashamed!)

Sorry about the long post, and it really has little to do with the OPs questions, but I had to add my two cents about the rhino. I'm a fan!
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May 8th, 2014, 06:36 AM
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Ok, maybe I was too dismissive of the amazing Rhino...my intent was to be dismissive of the overpriced Sabi Sand!

Christabir, that sounds like an amazing itinerary and you are doing it for the price of about 3 low season nights at a high end Sabi Sand place! What month is your trip scheduled?

I, too, will be in the Zululand Rhino Reserve for part of my trip, just about 3 miles away at Leopard Mountain Lodge. I'm sure you did your homework on your itinerary, as I did on my own, and the (Trip Advisor) reviews on all my chosen places were just fantastic.

My own itinerary and my apology for the threadjack but I am just so excited over my trip that departs in 20 days!!

1-3 - Land (after 31+ hours of flying with our 14 month old), transfer to our beachside private furnished (AirBNB) apartment in Durban. On day 3, I will run the Comrades Marathon (56 Mile ultra marathon) along with 18,000 other crazy runners. Our apartment is nice, twice the size of a room at the host hotel for Comrades, the Durban Hilton, and half the price!
4-5 - Pick up rental car at 8AM'ish, I think I'd like to have breakfast at the beautiful Oyster Box Hotel in Umhlanga, before we make our way to Isibindi Zulu Lodge for 2 nights. I really wanted my daughter to see the Zulu dancers and it is a non-predator game lodge meaning that my daughter won't be excluded from anything. Plus, we have a homestead tour one day that should be very interesting (we're bypassing the Zulu Battlefields tour as we only have one full day during our stay).
6-8 - Leopard Mountain Lodge, Zululand Rhino Reserve. Probably the same experience, minus the rhino darting--although that sounds AWESOME--, that you'll have at Rhino River Lodge. Chances are my daughter would be too young to come along for the rhino darting but if she's not, let me know and I'll take out a loan and switch to Rhino River Lodge! ;-)
9-12 - 4 nights on the Indian Ocean at Thonga Beach Lodge, near the Mozambique border (but still in South Africa).
13-15 - 3 nights at the 5 star Mkuze Falls Private Game Reserve that I picked up for $300/night on Luxury Link...I LOVE Luxury Link and have used it many times for stays in South Africa and Europe.
16 - 5 hour drive back to Johannesburg, hopefully stopping for lunch at Bukhara (Indian Restaurant) in Sandton in Nelson Mandela Square and hanging out for a couple hours before having to make our way to JNB for our 8pm flight home. The only other option was a 2.5 hour drive to Richard's Bay but that added a few hundred dollars cost and we'd have to be in Richard's Bay by 10AM for an 11:30AM flight to JNB and then be stuck at JNB with a 7 hour layover?! No thanks.

Self driving will save us a ton of money (it'll be about $500 for 12 days of a rental car plus our fuel costs) but I'm looking forward to it. This entire trip will cost about the same as 4 nights at a high end Sabi Sand lodge yet offer so many more memories and give us so much more. I don't expect leopards to sit there and pose for us as they would at the Sabi Sand and I don't expect that we'll come across herds of hundreds of buffalo or even as many lions as we would in the Sabi Sand, but I do expect over 15 nights at a variety of places that I won't reflect back and say, "Man, I should've just spent 4 nights in the Sabi Sand!"
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May 8th, 2014, 08:18 PM
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Christabir,

9-13 - Rhino River Lodge in the Zululand Rhino Reserve for safari and a rhino conservation outing - dart, tag, take DNA and embed chip in horn. This is the reason we are going. Can't wait!!

How is this arranged? Thanks.
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May 9th, 2014, 08:47 AM
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Hi lynn -

Thanks for asking!! The Zululand Rhino Reserve was started by a few private land owners, the Zulu chief and WWF as an expansion of the black rhino range. You can arrange the rhino thing through any of the camps at ZRR, but I think it's the owner of Leopard Mtn who is the brawn behind the efforts. I tried to go through the ZRR website (they have all the lodges available there for one to choose which is best for them) but when I didn't hear back, I asked Rhino River Lodge, and they are working on it. We have a veterinarian lined up, now waiting for a helicopter/pilot. Then it will come down to finding a rhino who will cooperate.

We will be doing this mid June (hopefully!). If you are in the area, join us!! We are trying to include some local people - conservation can't work if the people who live there don't support it - as the fee is for ten people. We are just two, so I think we could fit you in!!
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May 9th, 2014, 04:45 PM
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Thanks for the info, Christabir. If I were going to be in the area, I'd love to join you! And thanks for the invitation.
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May 9th, 2014, 06:00 PM
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Hey Roccco -

Sounds like a perfect trip to me!! Great luck with the marathon. I looked into a mountain bike adventure in ZRR but I am not prepared, nor can I afford a bike that can do it.

We are going in June, too. Leopard Mtn can arrange the rhino thing - as I said in the post to atravelynn, Leopard Mtn's owner is a gem. (Maybe we could arrange for two rhinos if we are there in the same days. It is still being arranged for the third week in June). I wish they advertised the rhino conservation better - it's only on a random ZRR website page that I came across last year. I'm sure a lot of us would do it if we knew. The owner of Leopard Mtn was trying to get drones to help with rhino protection in Kruger - he even got google to donate - but understandably South Africans are leery about American drones flying in their country. Anyway, he sounds like a good guy.

They can arrange for daughter sitting if you want to do that.

We have not yet made all our reservations, and with the holiday on June 16, it's making it tough. But we got availability in Kruger and we can't make our rez at RRL until we know when we do the rhino thing. So it's just a month away and I only have 5 nights booked!! It's nuts!!
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May 9th, 2014, 06:37 PM
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Another thing - be careful with drive times. Give yourself extra time. Some of the roads are really bad, very little livestock fencing and children walk to/from school on the secondary highways. I think we drove much slower than the locals. I don't know if you've considered a high clearance vehicle, but maybe something to think about. Yes, a bit more expensive, especially for an automatic, but could come in handy.

I hear you on cost - my mother took us to Botswana in 2006 (changed my life!) and it was so expensive. Then a lower cost lodge, Arathusa, in Sabi Sand, Pafuri in northern Kruger and Mashatu Tented in 2008 for a more affordable trip, and then in 2011 we started the self drive, stay in national parks and community game parks safari. Maybe someday we'll return to a high end camp (after we get residency and cheap rates when we retire!!), but right now we like to go back often rather than spend a lot.

Have a blast!! And I want a great trip report. Go for the rhino thing - it won't break the bank (maybe just injure your credit card). Try crowd funding it - you may be surprised how many people would be interested in helping a rhino. I'm going to name ours Bob.
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