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bushmad Apr 29th, 2004 01:07 AM

Simbambili or Lion Sands??
Hi All
My wife and I were planning our 1 year anniversary the other day and have been looking at going to the Sabi Sands? We were there last year for our honeymoon and spent three great nights at Chitwa Chitwa Safari Lodge. I would like to know what your thoughts are of Simbambili. I have heard a great deal about this lodge and the price is within our range (we are fortunately South African and therefore get better rates). How does it compare with Lion Sands? Are there any others that you might suggest? Please all info is welcome....

safarinut Apr 29th, 2004 06:16 AM


You can't go wrong with Simbambili as they have luxury accommodations,great game viewing and in my opinion the best ranger in the SSGR.

Lion Sands is also nice but River Lodge has 40 beds,maybe smaller would be better for an anniversary?

If you qualify for special rates be sure to look at Dulini,Mala Mala Kirkmans Camp,Londolozi Safari and Bateleur,Savanna Tented,Exeter River Lodge.

I will gladly answer specific questions about the above lodges to make sure you choose a lodge that meets all your expectations and make your anniversary one to remember.

safarinut Apr 29th, 2004 06:39 AM


Although not a big Sabi Sabi fan,you might also have a look at Sabi Sabi Selati Lodge.

bushmad Apr 29th, 2004 07:24 AM

Hi SafariNut

Thanks for your info. What are your thoughts of Savanna Tented? Also, how do you rate Lion Sands rooms - they don't look as great as others!! I also see that Elephant Plains has done some revamping of there accomodation - what do you think of their new look - have you been there? I suppose the game viewing in the Sabi Sands is equally as good wherever you are based, is it safe to say that....

safarinut Apr 29th, 2004 11:16 AM


I've been to both Savanna tented and Lion Sands as well as most other lodges in the SSGR.Although I now live in Canada I grew up in Nelspruit and lived there for 28 years.

Anyway back to your questions:

1]Savanna has really nice luxury tents and the game rangers here do great game drives,traversing the western sector of the SSGR,so you share sightings wit Ulusaba,Dulini,Leopard Hills,Inyati,Idube and Exeter.The only thing I have against Savanna is that they are located close to Newington Gate and the fence,so some nights you could actually hear the nearby communities having a party and also from some tents see the lights of these communities,spoiled the ''bush'' experience a wee bit!

Sorry I don't have time right now to respond to Lion Sands but will tonight.

In the meantime look at for all the lodges on specials for RSA residents and I will give you good review on most of them so that you pick the perfect lodge for your anniversary.

Greetings from a fellow bushmad South African that is many thousand miles away from my beautiful country!

bushmad Apr 30th, 2004 03:10 AM

Hi Safari Nut

Thanks for your thoughts on the lodges. I await your thoughts on Lion Sands. Had a look at Kirkmans - looks quite nice but a little different - what are your thoughts on this one? I look forward to all your info on the following: Elephant Plains, Lion Sands, Kirkmans, Inyati, Idube and Nkorho - please rate these in order of your preference. From the hallowed ground of KZN, South Africa.

safarinut Apr 30th, 2004 10:01 AM


I think to make your choice easier I must give you a summary of SSGR and the different traversing areas:

Let's start in the NORTHERN SABI SANDS
ie. north of the Sand River.

Two main areas here:

1]Chitwa Chitwa,Simbambili,Elephant Plains.
These lodges share the same traversing area.From a previous post you've mentioned you have been to CC safari lodge.I think if you want to return to this same area Simbambili would be your best choice,as this is the most luxurious lodge in the northern Sabi Sands and after multiple visits I rate the game ranger Jaco Buys at Simbambili as the best in the SSGR.
I see no reason for visiting Elephant Plains as you could get Simbambili for 1350 randpp/night on,a real bargain!

2]East of the Simbambili concession you get Djuma and Nkhoro.I find this area to be the worst for game viewing in the SSGR.Again,I would not opt for Nkhoro as you could get much more luxurious accommodations for the same price on mtbeds.


This area totals 15 000 hectares and include Idube,Inyati,Savanna,Ulusaba,Exeter River Lodge,Exeter Leadwood,Dulini and Leopard Hills.

I have had magical sightings in this traversing area on previous visits to Ulusaba,Exeter,Inyati and Savanna.

For what's on offer now I would choose between Exeter River Lodge or Dulini.
They are the most luxurious options and you could get them for 1500-1750pp/night,usual price is 4750-5200pp/night,again look at mtbeds.

You've mentioned Inyati,Idube and Savanna in previous posts.Inyati and Idube both are nice lodges I just feel for an anniversary you maybe want the most luxurious option and therefore I would go with either Exeter River Lodge or Dulini.The game drives are going to overlap on Idube,Inyati and Savanna's property anyway you will just have more luxurious accommodations for an amazing price!

Here you get Londolozi and Singita.

This is a great area but very EXPENSIVE.
Londolozi Tree and Singita never have specials,but until end of May you could stay at Londolzi Bateleur,Pioneer
or Founders camps in a chalet for 1500 pp/night,usually 5000pp/night.
If it were me I would choose Londolozi Bateleur as all the chalets have plunge pools.If you stay here you will share sightings with Tree Camp and Singita lodges.


The following traversing areas:
1)Sabi Sabi and Nottens
At the moment you could stay at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge or Selati for 1500pp/night.I would choose Selati as it is small and intimate.The rooms at Selati is nothing special but they have very nice public areas and a great boma and bar.I am not a great Sabi Sabi fan but Earth Lodge had amazing suites!,this lodge however never has specials.

2)Londolozi Safari Lodge,they share traversing rights with the main Londolozi property,you could stay here for 1250pp/night.I was here in Dec 2003
and had a great time,great lodge!

3)lion Sands
They have +- 3700 hectares ad is located on the Sabi River.
River Lodge is the only operational lodge at present and yes,they don't have great rooms and they are too big with 40 beds at the main lodge.I enjoyed my visit here as they offer multiple activities,fishing,moonlight walks,sleep-outs in the bush[great],special photography drives etc.
This lodge won't be on top of my list but I can't say anything bad about it as they have good game viewing,great food and superb service,maybe just the rooms aren't great.

Kikmans Camp
This camp was sold to Exeter Lodges last year and therefore they don't have access to the whole Mala Mala Game Reserve anymore.They are located in the South and has a great location on the Sand River.Decorated 1920's style and unique in that sense.Traversing area +-5000 hectares.
You could stay here for 1500pp/night,usual price 2700pp/night.
This is a lovely corner of the SSGR and I am sure you would enjoy your stay here.

Well here we have the best of the best! the LEGENDARY MALA MALA!

This is my favourite lodge and undoubtedly the best game viewing experience in the SSGR.They never have any specials though.

Anyway there's a summary of the SSGR,narrow down your choices and then for the final pick!

All pricing done on current specials from mtbeds.

If you don't want to travel to Mpumalanga there is a great special running I think until at the end of May at Phinda,Vlei Lodge for 1500pp/night!

How's the Sharks super 12 season going?

safarinut Apr 30th, 2004 10:52 AM


I would rate your current options as follow:

3)Exeter River or Dulini
4)Sabi Sabi Selati
5)Kirkmans Camp

Don't forget about Phinda Vlei Lodge!

Also look at a map for the SSGR at when reading the above post

You will be suprised to find that 70% of the game rangers in the SSGR are from Natal!

jrruff Apr 30th, 2004 05:57 PM

To: SafariNut
What you have written about the traversing rights in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve is "must reading" for anyone (I am from the USA) who is trying to decide which SSGR lodge to visit. It's now clear to me why Mala Mala shoud be the prime game viewing destination (unless a different experience is uppermost in your mind). I urge you to refer anyone (especially non-S.A. residents) to your explanation of traversing areas. It may take some of the emotion out of the decision.

safarinut Apr 30th, 2004 07:17 PM


There are a number of factors for Mala Mala's superior game viewing:

1)15 ooo hectares of pristine game viewing land,the largest privately owned game reserve in the SSGR

2)13 kilometers(20 miles) of sand river frontage,the most of any game reserve in the SSGR.

3) It shares a common border of 19km / 12 miles with the Kruger National Park and is part of a conservation gene pool that covers 5.5 million acres of land in the heart of the South African Lowveld.

4)Location, on the western bank of the Sand River: which allows for herds of animals to migrate unhindered from eastern KNP to the perennial Sand River which flows north to south through the MalaMala Game Reserve

5)One of the first photographic safari camps in Africa,ie you find that animals are habituated to game drive vehicles which in turn makes for great photo opportunities!

People wrongly interpret this, believing that the animals are domesticated or tame.
It's just that they don't see you as a threat.

6)Only guests accommodated at one of the MalaMala Game Reserve camps may traverse this immense tract of privately owned game land.

In this regard Michael Rattray, the Managing Director of the MalaMala Game Reserve, has twice been the recipient of the coveted Ossie Doyer Trophy for 'The Conservationist of the Year'.

He has also been the only person in South Africa to have received the State President's Award for eco-tourism.
Finally, he is the longest serving curator of the National Parks Board of South Africa. MalaMala is a conservation success story, proof that man and nature can co-exist in perfect harmony.


bushmad May 7th, 2004 05:45 AM

Hi safarinut

Thanks for all your thoughts on the Sabi Sands - looks like you are quite a fundi, how often do you come out to South Africa? Just for interests sakes, the Sharks were kicking ass in the Super 12 with 4 weeks to go but the self-destructed and are now left having to play the Stormers this weekend to get into the playoffs. Back to the bush, we tried desperately to get into Simbambili but unfortunately it was fully booked so we have decided to go for Lion Sands as it is still in the right price range - unfortunately the others you mentioned were just a little too expensive at this present time but I am sure I will get to see them someday - I am a bush addict and am sure that there will be many more opportunities in the future. Back to Lion Sands, I know that they have just had a tragic incident and was wondering if the lodge has any sort of fencing or protective measures to keep the animals out? What is the food like there and how have your past animal sightings been whilst at Lion Sands, do you think we have a good chance of seeing Leopard? Cheers for now, enjoy your weekend!!

safarinut May 7th, 2004 07:50 AM


Yes that was a tragic accident

They have an electrical fence around the lodge +- 1 meter high,primarily to keep elephants out.Singita has a similar fence not easy to spot if you don't know where to look.

I've had great sightings there including leopard.The experts say that at the confluence of the Sand and Sabi Rivers you find the highest density of leopard in the world! This isn't far from Lion Sands.You won't be disappointed in your game viewing there.

I would rate their food in the top three of lodges I have visited.

I am thinking of visiting their new Ivory Lodge in December.

Ask for Isak,Allan or Landon as rangers.

Sorry to hear about the Sharks!

Have a great trip!

bushmad May 26th, 2004 12:20 AM

Hi Safarinut

I just wanted to give you some feedback on our recent trip to Lion Sands - let me just say that it was the BEST holiday I have ever been on, we loved every single moment there. The service, accommodation and food were simply out of this world - they really made our anniversary special for us - floating candles, roses, chocolates etc.. in the room at night. The game viewing exceeded all our expectations - saw Leopards with cubs, Leopards mating, Lions with cubs and the rest of the Big 5 all within 5 metres of the vehicle, absolutely amazing, and don't forget the cheetah that we saw too. All in all, as I said, the best experience that we could have wished for - I would highly recommend Lion Sands River Lodge!!

Just out of curiousity, what do you do for a living? Would you be at all interested in setting up a Tour operator specialising in Private Game Lodges in South Africa and particularly the Sabi Sands? I have always wanted to do this and would envisage that it is obviously very lucrative - please advise if interested. Was thinking that you could possibly be an agent over there in Canada and the States!!

Cheers for now, I look forward to your prompt reply.


Steveboy May 26th, 2004 09:12 AM


Thanks for the report. We'll be staying at Lion Sands at the end of July, so your comments have put me in a great mood of anticipation. One question: Some have commented that River Lodge is on the large size in terms of the number of guests accommodated. I, for one, don't mind having others around to share the experience, but I would like to get your observations. Thanks.

bushmad May 26th, 2004 11:43 PM

Hi Bushmad

You are correct in saying that there is the possibility of there being many guests at River Lodge at once, but having said this the lodge was full when we were there and I can in all honesty say that we never felt that we were ever being encroached upon by other guests. In fact it felt very private. In addition to this you only really socialise with perhaps eight other guests most of the time. How it works is that there are eight guests assigned to one ranger at a time who looks after you most of the time. I am a South African and have been to the Kruger Park on numerous occasions but nothing, in my opinion compares to Lion Sands. I have only alternatively been to Chitwa Chitwa Safari Lodge so my opinion may be a bit biased but DAMN we had a good time!! Cheers for now!!

safarinut May 27th, 2004 09:24 PM

Hi bushmad

I am glad you had such a memorable trip to Lion Sands,are you also now addicted to the Sabi Sands Game Reserve?

My day job as an ICU physician keeps me busy enough thank you!

Looking forward to my upcoming trip to Ivory Lodge in December

Thanks for your great trip report!

bushmad May 27th, 2004 11:28 PM

Hi Safarinut

Now I can see why it is you can afford all these trips to the Sabi Sands!!
Don't worry, it would never have taken a helluva lot to turn me into a SS addict!!

Re Ivory Lodge - had a look at it whilst we were there. It is UNBELIEVABLE - the rooms are massive and have fabulous views. YOu are so damn lucky....

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