travel between sabi sand and rocktail bay

Jun 10th, 2004, 10:48 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 1
travel between sabi sand and rocktail bay

Hi all! I have searched the archives and haven't found the answers to some of my questions, so I thought I would try a post.

I am planning a trip to South Africa for August 10-21. We have already booked most of it, but are trying to tie up the rest and see if we can squeeze in a stay at Rocktail Bay.

Here is what we have so far:

Aug 10-13, Capetown, 12 Apostles Hotel for 3 nights (thank you!)
Aug 13-16, Victoria Falls, Stanley and Livingston hotel for 3 nights (LuxuryLink again)
Aug 16-18, Leopard Hills game lodge, Sabi Sands
Aug 18-21, --undecided, but thinking Rocktail Bay. We have to be back in Johannesburg on the 21st in time for a 7:40pm flight back to the states.

So, here are my questions:
We are trying to decide if we can drive between Johannesburg and Leopard Hills, and Leopard Hills and Rocktail Bay. To do charter flights from the small nearby airports to each of these lodges, it will be an extra $2000! So, I was thinking that I wouldn't mind driving around the country some, and that we could also save some money that way.

But, I don't know how long of a drive it is between these places, how safe or easy of a drive it is, if there are other, better routes to take (fly to Nelspruit and then rent a car to drive to and from Leopard Hills, then drive down to Rocktail Bay, or drive from Johannesburg to Leopard Hills and back, but fly to Richards Bay and then rent another car to drvie to Rocktail Bay). I don't know anything about getting around - except that it sounds like it is very difficult to get to.

Our international flights were already insanely expensive ($4K) because we waited too long to get them, so I am trying to find a way to save some money, without making our trip miserable.

Does anyone have a suggestion of the best/most cost efficient way to get around? If we drove from Leopard Hills to Rocktail Bay (is it really 10-11 hours?) is there a good B&B to stay at along the way?

Any advice is appreciated...
k_dogg is offline  
Jun 10th, 2004, 11:20 AM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 3,501
There are numerous other game lodges in the province of Mpumalanga that you could visit after Leopard Hills. Not only would one of these lodges be easily accessible from Leopard Hills, but it also would be an easier base from which to return to Johannesburg for your homeward flight.

True, Mpumalanga game lodges wouldn't be near the ocean as Rocktail Bay is. However, Rocktail Bay is in an out-of-the-way corner of KwaZulu-Natal.

Not only would you have to drive from Mpumalanga, through the separate country of Swaziland, and the northern part of KwaZulu-Natal in order to reach Rocktail Bay, but you then would have a long trip to get to your departure point of Johannesburg. Or, as you point out, you could cover some of these journeys by plane, but that would be expensive.

I don't know if you've been on safari before. If you haven't, you seem to have done your research well, as you seem to be familiar with names of local places. Nonetheless, some of your other statements make it sound as if this may be a first trip to South Africa for you.

If you haven't been on safari before, Rocktail Bay's website says it is not "Big Game" country. I'm not wedded to the "Big Five" by any means, and the ecosystem around Rocktail Bay is interesting in its own right. I'm somewhat familiar with the natural environment from having spent time in the far southern reaches of Mozambique. But I think perhaps it's better suited to a repeat visitor to Africa. A first time visitor probably would enjoy more exposure to "Big Game" than could be had from only 3 days at Leopard Hills (if indeed you're a first time visitor, which I don't know).

Anyway, my advice is to search for one of the many excellent game lodges in Mpumalanga.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Jun 10th, 2004, 11:57 AM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 3,501
Here's an afterthought.

I have no idea how works and how committed one is to reservations that one makes through it.

If you are able to change your reservations, I personally think you are spending too much time at Vic Falls. I think that, on as short a trip as you're doing, one full day (2 nights) at Vic Falls is enough.

If I were you, I would spend an extra day in Cape Town.

If you decide to re-allocate a day from Vic Falls to your safari time, that would be okay too.

Either way, your present itinerary does not give you a whole heck of a lot of time in Cape Town (which minimally deserves 3 full days plus a day for the winelands) or on safari (which deserves 2 or 3 days at each of two, different game lodges).
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Jun 10th, 2004, 01:13 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,657
I would suggest you consider flying from Kasane (Vic Falls) to Maun and booking some safari time in Botswana Aug 16-21. Maun to J'burg is an easy flight and may cost less than what you're finding in SA.
uhoh_busted is offline  
Jun 10th, 2004, 01:46 PM
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uhoh_busted -

>>I would suggest you consider flying from Kasane (Vic Falls) to Maun<<

Kasane isn't in Vic Falls, rather in Botswana and that is by road taking about 1-1/2 including border transfers. Once at Kasane one can arrange air transfers further into Botswana and the Delta.

But I don't believe k_dogg wants to visit Botswana on this trip.

k_dogg - I would suggest you consider that once you return to JNB from VFA, you arrange a scheduled* flight to Hoespruit (about 11am - 1/hr flight - r/t is probably less than $350/person) and arrange with Leopard Hills your transfer to/fr the camp (there will be a fee for the transfers, unless you're good at negotiating??).

*you don't have to take high-cost charters.

Then once you return to JNB (the 18th) you can decide to fly south (r/t) to your other destination and pick up the car there. Arrange the return flight on the 21st with sufficient time to make your flight home.
Jun 10th, 2004, 10:39 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 251

I usually agree with Judy's sage advice but not on this one. I say go to Rocktail Bay, it is stunning and you may be (as I am) tired of Mpumalanga type game reserves after 3 days. Rocktail is very different and worth the trip. In terms of getting around:
You can drive Johannesburg/Leopard Hills. They will give you precise directions but it should take about 5 hours. Leopard Hills/Rocktail Bay is also very driveable and you do not have to go through Swaziland. It is quite possible to skirt around Swaziland and this will not make much difference to the time for the drive as the roads in SA are in MUCH better condition than those in Swaziland - evn the regional ones. And on this routing, the N2 goes close by Rocktail - again the lodge will be able to give you precise directions. Note that the actual lodge at Rocktail is only accessible by 4x4, but this is not a problem as they will come out and fetch you. This leg will probably take about 5 hours as well. Then from Rocktail back to Johannesburg will be about 6 hours. Driving these routes are mostly on regional not national roads, which vary in condition but are tarred usually with a good shoulder. Just remember that in KZN it is very rural up north so look out for cows!

traci_local_in_sa is offline  
Jun 11th, 2004, 01:16 AM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 26
You've received alot of advise on this posting. Sandi suggested that if you fly into Leopard Hills you take a flight to Hoedspruit- I would disagree and suggest that you rather fly into Mpumalanga.

Leopard Hills is in the Southern Section of the Sabi Sands and is easier and quicker ( and cheaper ) to get to from Mpumalanga Airport

I would also suggest that the drive from Leopard Hills is a good 7 - 8 hours. You'll find that you don't want to leave Leopard Hills too early as you'll miss your morning activities. Arrive at Rocktail Bay too late and you'll miss your evening activities !
katycee is offline  
Jun 11th, 2004, 06:34 AM
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katycee - is the Mpumalanga the former Nelspruit airport? If so, I wasn't sure which was closer.

So if Mpumalanga is, then k_dogg that's where you should consider taking a scheduled flight and road transfer to the camp.
Jun 14th, 2004, 01:43 AM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 26
Mpumalanga Airport is not the former Nelspruit Airport ! Although it is often referred to as the Nelspruit Airport. Mpumalanga Airport sits between White River and Nelspruit, certainly the airport to use if you are thinking of visiting any lodge in the Southern Section of the Sabi Sands eg Londolozi, Singita, Mala Mala, Sabi Sabi, Ulusaba, Inyati, Savanna, Lions Sands ( eg Newington and Shaws Gate ) . Hoedspruit is the best airport to use if you are visiting the Northern Section - Eg Djuma, Nkorho, Simbabilili, Chitwa Chitwa, etc ..

Hope this helps !
katycee is offline  
Jun 15th, 2004, 07:29 AM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 18
Flying to Leopard Hills
The best way to get to leopard hills by plane is the direct Federal Air flight. This departs from Johannesburg International and lands in the Sabi Sands Reserve at the tarred UluSaba Airstrip. You will then be met by someone from Leopard Hills and driven a short distance to the lodge.
ILoveAfrica is offline  

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