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South Africa Honeymoon: Sabi Sands Reserve Lodge Recommendation

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Help, I need to make a decision this weekend! My fiance and I will be traveling to South Africa for our honeymoon in October/November of this year. As of now, our lodge options are:

- Elephant room at Ulusaba Safari lodge for 4 nights mid-October (max capacity 22 guests);

- Suite at Leadwood lodge for 4 nights mid-November (max capacity 6 guests).

Due to the proximity of these two lodges, I have no doubt that the game viewing will be excellent at both lodges. Seeing as how this is our honeymoon, we highly value the overall ambiance of the lodge and would prefer a luxurious experience. Of importance are the views and game viewing from the room/lodge, great food/drinks, and amazing game drives. Essentially we are looking for an unforgettable and once in a lifetime experience!

Leadwood is a smaller lodge but we would have a larger villa with a sizable plunge pool. Ulusaba is a larger lodge but we would have a smaller room that does not have a plunge pool. My concern with Leadwood is maybe that it's too small of a lodge? We will be on our honeymoon and don't want to feel like we must socialize with the four other guests at all times. Who knows, maybe only having four other people at the lodge is a huge plus because of individual attention. I honestly have no idea if this is a legitimate concern or not. Also, I don't know if a plunge pool is important enough to sway the decision.

Also, weather-wise is there a significant difference between visiting in mid-October versus mid-November? If there is drastically better weather in one of the months then that would help with the decision making process.

I'm pretty much having indecision paralysis and would appreciate any and all feedback regarding these lodges or just suggestions in general.

Thanks in advance!

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    Should I muddy the waters? I would suggest Arathusa and ask for the Waterbuck Room. We were there in September 2015 and love the room, the lodge, the food, the tracker, the staff.

    Our room was a Luxury, water facing room. We only paid for standard room, not sure how we got the Waterbuck room. Loved it. Outdoor shower, deep soaking tub, huge sliding doors overlooking water hole.

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    I stayed at Leadwood in 2012 and thought it was very nice. Rooms lovely, elephants drank from the plunge pool, and we saw lions, hippos and others in the river. Very good food and lovely staff. Perfect for a honeymoon. They'll set up your meals at private tables typically, which you may prefer. Only downside was that if lodge is full, there is the possibility of 8 in the vehicle.

    No experience with the other lodge.

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    Dear KatieLM2287

    First of all, congratulations on your upcoming wedding – South Africa is the perfect honeymoon destination! That being said, you shouldn’t feel pressured into making a decision about where you will be spending your time, so I’m hoping your comment regarding making a decision by this weekend is personal pressure and not industry driven.

    My first comment regarding the lodge combination would be that you are staying in the Western Sector of the Sabi Sands region, which is generally the busiest in terms of vehicle traffic and you are in fact doing 2 lodges located very close to each other in terms of proximity. My suggestion would therefore be to focus on two lodges that will offer a varied experience. Just to give you one example; Ngala tented combined with Phinda Forest will give you a luxurious experience as well as a varied game viewing experience. The Ngala sector is on a large parcel of land adjacent to the Sabi Sands with only 2 lodges in a land size comparable to the western sector of the Sabi Sands which contains 12+ lodges who traverse on each other’s land. You can fly directly between Ngala and Phinda, so transfer times are minimal – you would game drive at Ngala in the morning and Phinda in the afternoon. The Phinda region is phenomenal for Cheetah while the Sabi Sands is known for exceptional Leopard sightings (as well the general Big 5 – just giving you the difference in varied game). The combination of lodges in one portfolio will also offer reduced long stay rates – an added bonus as I’m sure getting married comes with a price tag  This is just one example in terms of lodge combinations in SA.

    Your question regarding property size – generally speaking, smaller lodges offer a more unique, personalized experience with fever vehicles and higher exclusivity. It really boils down to what your expectations are for this trip and in which direction you want to go. The honeymoon suite at Kings Camp is also a great option and is located in the Timbavati, the honeymoon suite is very spacious and has a great plunge pool. This property is easily combined with Leopard Hills in the same sector of the Sabi Sands as the combination you are looking at – however the distance between these two will offer a more varied experience. The rooms at Leopard Hills also offer plunge pools and you could even throw in a third property in this portfolio – one of my personal favorites in terms of a romantic getaway The Outpost There are so many options you could look at for this I’m just throwing out some ideas. Although October is the start of the weather change in this region, you would probably use the plunge pool as temperate vary from low 70’s to high 90’s . I have personally generally found that rain only comes after the 2nd week in Nov and more likely in December (thunder storms are common as the Kruger regions gets summer rain), so the days are hot and sunny. As we are dealing with nature it is very difficult to predict the weather but Oct/Nov are both much of the same in terms of weather options for your trip.

    I hope this information helps in your decision making process, I think the best advice I can give you is to look at 2 lodges in different parts of the country for a more varied experience.

    Marguerite Smit, Travel consultant at Travel Beyond.

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    I was in your position a couple of Christmas' ago when I needed help choosing between two luxury lodges in Botswana where I would be celebrating Christmas with my family and wanted people to weigh in on two options available to me. Post this in Trip Advisor South Africa forum too as there are generally more people who might weigh in on your specific question. Without knowing details of your entire trip or the agent you are using, I know you might want to find people with experience with the lodges that you specified.

    I wish I could help! What I can say is that while I have not stayed in Leadwood, I have stayed at And Beyond camps in South Africa, Botswana and Kenya and Tanzania. I am a huge fan of their properties, service and staff. You honestly, IMO, cannot go wrong if you choose to stay in Leadwood, which is on my radar! And while I have never stayed in Ulusaba, I have stayed at Kasbah Tamadot, the phenomenal Branson lodge in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. It was simply amazing. The service and decor was just outstanding -- taking everything to another level. I do not think you can go wrong with the Richard Branson brand.

    But back to game viewing, that is also why you are choosing to go to Sabi Sand. Consider the comment above about the game viewing vehicle. Is there only one car at Leadwood? Is there a possibility of 8 people being in one car? Personally, I would care about this anytime, but really would on my honeymoon.

    Other than that, this area has prolific viewings. I have always been very happy and have had exciting and once in a life-time viewings.

    Good luck and congratulations!

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    Hi there!

    If you are set on these 2 lodges, then I would choose Leadwood.

    When Leadwood isn't being used exclusively by one party then only 3 suites are available to book and 6 is max capacity as you have stated. Therefore there would only be a max of 6 in the jeep. With only 3 suites then, this tends to be a more intimate camp and makes for a better honeymoon destination if you prefer more privacy. Additionally, AndBeyond does an impeccable job on service, food, accommodations and their game rangers have very good knowledge. Lastly, If you are traveling within 6 months of your marriage date, then you qualify for the bride discount of 50% off the adult rate (groom pays full adult rate). This is a great savings for your 4 night stay. Even if you are outside the 6 month restriction, AndBeyond will make your honeymoon stay very special - so please let them know!

    If you are open to consider some other Sabi Sand or Timbavati Lodge options at the same price point then I'd recommend Dulini which is in the same part of Sabi. Beautiful lodge. They cater very well to honeymooners! Another option would be Londolozi's Founders Camp. Their Private Granite Suites are to-die-for but pricey. However, their other camp called Founders offers exceptional service in a beautiful surround with a very warm staff. Londolozi game viewing is much more private because they are on their own reserve so the only other jeeps you will see are those staying at Londolozi's lodges (plus a few Singita jeeps since they offer them some traversing rights). Londolozi also has Sabi river for some bonus game viewing. Lastly, Ngala Tented Camp is a beautiful tented camp in the Timbavati. Incredibly luxurious. Hard to believe it's even a tent! Private area for game viewing. No children under 12. Bride discount also available since it's AndBeyond. These are consistently my honeymoon clients' favorites in this area.

    Please ask further questions in your quest to find the ultimate place to start your union! Congratulations!

    Happy to help!
    Africa Direct USA

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    I cannot speak highly enough of Londolozi. We stayed at Pioneer Camp, which is at the end and has only 3 very large guest suites, so number of guests is very limited in comparison with other camps. (There are 5 total at Londolozi)

    Game sighting are fabulous. Granite Suites would be another great choice within Londolozi.

    I've been to camps with plunge pools in October (Lion Sands Ivory, etc) and the water was always far too cold to actually use them but sometimes there are good animal sightings.

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    Thank you everyone for the advice and input. Each of the responses has helped in it's own way in guiding us to a decision. Right now we are leaning towards Leadwood (I can 100% envision myself in the plunge pool with a drink) but my main concern is still the size of the lodge. I feel like Ulusaba is the 'safer' option because it is a Virgin brand. Our options on both lodges expire on Monday so it's decision time. Thanks again for the help!

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    A Virgin brand means next to nothing in South Africa. And as I mentioned, I doubt very much if you will be able to stick a toe into that plunge pool even in October. The ones I've had have been frezzing cold; none of them are heated as far as I know.

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    I have stayed at Londolozi multiple times. Love it. Fantastic lodge and superb game viewing. You cannot go wrong. Disagree with the comment about the Virgin Brands. There are certain international brands where service, decor, food, etc. are fantastic throughout all properties, i.e., Four Seasons and Amans. If you check trip advisior, there are many people who swear by Branson's properties and have been to all of them, including your choice. As mentioned, I have only been to one of them in Morocco. Superb. I have been to South Africa 28 times, having just returned last week. For safari, my number one priority though is game viewing. I have been on safari throughout the country and stayed at many level of lodges, and some of my best game viewing has not been at the most luxurious lodges. With that said, you are on your honeymoon. As long as you are not in a cramped vehicle, Leadwood seems a perfect choice. Without a doubt, the And Beyond brand never ceases to amaze or let you down. They do it really, really well.

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