Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Sabi Sand Game Reserve Overview

Best time to go

May – September (Dry season)

High Season

October – March (Reserve gets more crowded)

Low Season

April – September (Excellent time for wildlife viewing)

Size

650km² / 251mi²

Altitude

272-479m / 892-1,572ft

Location

South Africa

Best Weather

April – May | September – October (Mild weather & little rain)

Dry Season

May – September (Winter)

Wet Season

November – May (Summer)

Worst Weather

June – August (Chilly mornings & nights) | December – February (Hot & humid)

Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Regarded as one of the best safari destinations and premier private game reserve in South Africa, Sabi Sand Game Reserve should be on every wildlife and nature enthusiast’s African safari bucket-list. Boasting 65,000 hectares of vast untamed wilderness, the notorious Sabi Sand Game Reserve shares a 50km/30mi unfenced border with the world-renowned Kruger National Park (South Africa’s flagship national park), allowing animals to roam freely between the reserves. This ensures an unforgettable and unmatched African safari and wildlife experience.

The Sabi Sand Game Reserve is praised for its remarkable and longstanding conservation efforts. In fact, Sabi Sand Game Reserve’s conservation initiatives has led to the successful conservation of the highest density of big game in South Africa. The re-purposing of boreholes, previously used for private farms, into countless waterholes for animals means that the Sabi Sands is able to offer a year-round water source for wildlife and birdlife which is not affected by seasonal changes. This means you’re never far away from spotting the Big Five and the hundreds of other species that make up the greater Kruger population at any time of the year.

Even though the reserve shares an unfenced boundary with the Kruger National Park, wildlife in the Sabi Sands Reserve is well habituated, resulting in extraordinary up-close wildlife encounters and prolific sightings.

The Sabi and the Sand Rivers run through the reserve, which adds further dimension to the bio-diversity of this area.

Sabi Sand Game Reserve Wildlife

Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Boasting one of the richest game populations in the country, Sabi Sand Game Reserve is home to some of the most diverse and unique wildlife species in Africa. While Sabi Sands is most famous for its spectacular leopard sightings, the most elusive member of the Big 5, the entire African Big 5, lion, rhino, buffalo, leopard, and elephant can be spotted at the reserve.

Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Deemed one of the best, if not THE best, place in the world to see the Big Five, it is not at all uncommon for visitors to the Sabi Sands to spot all of the members of the Big 5 in one day. This undoubtedly makes the Sabi Sand Game Reserve one of the top must-visit safari destinations and game reserves to visit for local and global wildlife enthusiasts alike.

Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Besides enjoying glorious up-close sightings of the iconic African Big 5, visitors can look forward to seeing a vast diversity of other game when exploring the varied landscapes of the Sabi Sands. Other popular wildlife species that freely roam the Sabi Sands’ terrain include, giraffe, hippos, zebras, wildebeest, cheetah, and a wide array of antelope and plains game, to mention merely a few.

Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Several endangered species have slowly been reintroduced into the area over the last few decades, one of the most notable being the beloved African wild dog. The MalaMala, a game reserve located within the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, is especially noted and celebrated for its remarkable African wild dog population and the various conservation initiatives and efforts geared at keeping these extraordinary endangered species from going extinct.

Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Other rarely seen / less frequently spotted mammals you can expect to see when visiting the Sabi Sand Game Reserve include the aardvark, African wild cat, hyenas, jackals, Cape porcupines, pangolins, and many more incredible land-dwelling wildlife species.

The varied and vibrant vegetation of the Sabi Sands Reserve provides a pristine wilderness haven for an abundance of magnificent wildlife species, especially white rhino, reedbuck, cheetah, eland, sable antelope, nyala and hyena.

Sabi Sand Game Reserve Birdlife

Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Photo credit: flickr

Boasting over 300 bird species, the Sabi Sand Game Reserve has become a sought-after birding destination for passionate bird watchers. This premium birding hotspot is home to several curiously named species like widow finches, buntings, cisticolas, mannikins, wydahs and eremomelas. Other notable bird species avid birders should look out for when in the Sabi Sands include the Red-billed oxpecker, the Comb duck, and the purple heron.

Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Photo credit: flickr | Southern Ground Hornbill

The Southern Ground Hornbill Project has also been doing some very successful conservation work here – Which is definitely something every bird lover can look forward to!

The best way to experience the vast and vibrant birdlife of the Sabi Sands Reserve is by going on an excitement-filled guided bushwalk or a walking or driving safari through the private reserve.

Notable birds in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve include:

  • Bateleur (common)
  • Black-bellied bustard (common)
  • Burchell’s coucal (common)
  • Comb duck (common)
  • Red-billed oxpecker (common)

Birding specials & real treats for avid birders in Sabi Sand Game Reserve:

  • African black duck
  • African crake
  • African emerald cuckoo
  • African finfoot
  • African hawk eagle
  • Black-crowned night heron
  • Coqui francolin
  • Croaking cisticola
  • Dwarf bittern
  • Eastern black-headed oriole
  • Gabar goshawk
  • Grey cuckoo-shrike
  • Half-collared kingfisher
  • Mosque swallow
  • Purple heron
  • Senegal lapwing
  • Shelley’s francolin
  • Shikra
  • Thick-billed cuckoo
  • Verreaux’s eagle owl
  • White-backed night heron

Best time for bird watching in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Sabi Sand Game Reserve

While the Sabi Sands is known for its pristine year-round birdwatching, it is at its best from November to April (wet summer season) when the migratory birds from the northern hemisphere are present.

Sabi Sand Game Reserve Scenery & Vegetation

Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Photo credit: flickr

As the Sabi Sand Game Reserve shares an unfenced border with the Kruger National Park, it is essentially an extension of the Kruger Park itself, and as such, shares the same thick vegetation of the Kruger, which primarily consists of woodland savannah.

While the vegetation / woodland savannah of the Sabi Sands can be incredibly thick, it by no means hinders the superb game viewing and wilderness experience visitors, wildlife and nature enthusiasts will get to enjoy.

Sabi Sand Game Reserve

One of the major drawing points and advantages of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve is the fact that the qualified, profoundly experienced, and highly skilled wilderness and wildlife guides have the permission and ability to drive / venture off-road in order to track animals and get closer to wildlife. These remarkable guides and trackers are some of the best in the safari business, affording guests the rare opportunity to witness up-close sightings you wouldn’t normally get to see anywhere else in the world.

Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Photo credit: flickr

In addition, the vegetation of the Sabi Sands Reserve provides a haven for white rhino, reedbuck, cheetah, eland, sable antelope, nyala and hyena in particular.

Plants

Sabi Sand Game Reserve

From grasses to trees and shrubs, the Sabi Sands Game reserve boasts thousands of plant varieties. These plant varieties are extremely valuable food sources for both herbivores and omnivores who reside in the Sabi Sands Reserve.

The tall wild grasses that are favoured by several of the reserve’s grazers include Blue Buffalo Grass and Vlei Bristle Grass. Guinea Grass grows up to 2.4m high in shady, damp areas such as close to rivers. This is a particular favorite of the white rhino, as well as several other wildlife species. Roan and Sable Antelope also feed off taller grasses.

Sabi Sand Game Reserve

On the other hand, wildebeest prefer very short grass, and therefore often follow Zebra that graze medium-height grasses.

A few animals, like Impala and elephants tend to graze and browse. Their choice will largely depend on which plants offer the best quality food in the area, and as a result, adjust and graze accordingly. Wooded bush areas generally cannot feed as many animals as the same size grassland. Browsers therefore tend to be solitary or in small groups.

Beyond the vast and varied grasslands and woodland savannah, two rivers, namely the Sabi and Sand River, run through the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, providing water to an abundant and diverse variety of wildlife as well as creates the ultimate riverine vegetation which makes an excellent habitat for leopard and other wildlife to thrive and flourish.

Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Photo credit: flickr

Some of the most notable tress you can find in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve are Fever Trees, Umbrella Thorn and Brack Thorn trees, to mention a few.

Best Time To Go To Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Best Time To Go

May – September (Dry season)

High Season

October – March (Reserve gets more crowded)

Low Season

April – September (Excellent time for wildlife viewing)

Best Weather

April – May | September – October (Mild weather & little rain)

Worst Weather

June – August (Chilly mornings & nights) | December – February (Hot & humid)

A veritable ‘Garden of Eden’, Sabi Sands Game Reserve is one of the brightest jewels in the Kruger crown and promises an unforgettable year-round wildlife and safari experience.

The Sabi Sand Game Reserve boasts two distinct seasons, with each season offering travelers, adventurers, and nature and wildlife enthusiasts something unique and exciting to look forward to.

  • The Dry Season: May – September (Winter)
  • The Wet Season: October – April (Summer)

While the Sabi Sands Game Reserve is widely regarded as one of the top safari destinations and premier private game reserve in South Africa, the best time to go to this unspoilt corner of Africa is during its dry season (May – September), which is also considered its ‘low season’.

Dry season in the Sabi Sands is characterised by pristine game viewing opportunities, including amazing up-close sightings of the iconic African Big 5, and several endangered wildlife species. Along with its abundant game viewing and high concentration of wild animals clustered around waterholes, wildlife are far easier to spot during the dry season as foliage becomes less abundant, resulting in optimal visibility and sensational sightings.

Here are some of the seasonal highlights you can expect to experience during the Sabi Sand Game Reserve’s dry season and wet season.

Dry winter season in Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Dry season highlights

Prime time for wildlife sightings

Optimal visibility due to sparse vegetation

Increased wildlife sightings and encounters as animals are concentrated around water sources

Mild day-time temperatures, low humidity & minimal rain

The reserve is largely mosquito-free | Very little risk of malaria

Sabi Sands’ dry season coincides with its low season which means the reserve is less crowded

Wet summer season in Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Wet season highlights

Lush green landscapes & scenery

The Sabi Sand Game Reserve is filled with newborn wildlife

Excellent time to see predators

Birding is exceptional & migratory birds are present

Incredible photography opportunities

Sabi Sand Game Reserve Weather & Climate

Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Photo credit: flickr

Dry Season: May – September

  • Average day-time temperatures: 25°C/77°F – 28°C/82°F
  • Average morning temperatures: 9°C/48°F – 14°C/57°F
  • Little to no rainfall | Due to the low rainfall permanent water sources become a place for animals to gather, making them easier to spot.
  • Low humidity
  • Mild – moderate day-time temperatures
  • Mornings & evenings are cooler
  • September marks the first rainfall, bringing much needed relief & alleviating the dry conditions as the heat rises to an average afternoon temperature of 28°C/82°F

Wet Season: October – April

  • Average day-time temperatures: 30°C/86°F – 40°C/104°F
  • Average night-time temperatures: +/- 18°C/64°F
  • High rainfall & frequent afternoon storms (all-day rainfall is rare)
  • Hot & humid conditions with peak day-time temperatures often reaching up to 40°C/104°F
  • Mild – moderate morning & evening temperatures
  • December, January & February are the months with the most precipitation & highest temperatures, coupled with intense humidity
  • March & April are regarded as the most pleasant months in the Sabi Sands characterized by little rain, less humidity & sunny skies

How To Get To Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Photo credit: flickr

As the Sabi Sand Game Reserve is located close to the Kruger National Park, visitors will need to travel towards the Kruger Park to reach the Sabi Sands. Depending on your individual travel needs and preferences, there are various routes and modes of transportation you can take to reach your ultimate destination, including international flights, domestic flights, private flights, shuttle/chartered flights, and self-drives.

Getting to Sabi Sand Game Reserve by air

Whether you’re traveling from abroad or locally, flying is the easiest way to get to the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. From Johannesburg (via O.R. Tambo International Airport) and Cape Town (Cape Town International Airport) travelers can make use of scheduled flights to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA) near Nelspruit. From the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport visitors can travel to their preferred Sabi Sands Lodge via a road transfer or a lodge link flight on a small aircraft (depending on the lodge they are staying at).

South African Airways also serves Hoedspruit Eastgate Airport, which is conveniently located for those traveling to the northern section of the Sabi Sands. From Hoedspruit, travelers can make their way to their selected lodge by means of a road transfer.

Skukuza Airport (located in the Kruger National Park) was recently reopened and is perfect for travelers and wildlife enthusiasts staying in the southern section of the Sabi Sands.

In short, here are the three major airports serving the Sabi Sands:

  • Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (for lodges in the western sector)
  • Skukuza Airport (for lodges in the southern sector)
  • Hoedspruit Eastgate Airport (for lodges in the northern sector)

**Important note: Despite the above information, it is always important that you do proper and thorough research when traveling to any destination, the Sabi Sand Game Reserve included.

Sabi Sand Game Reserve lodge link flights

When arriving at Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport or Skukuza Airport upon traveling to the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, visitors may want to make use of a short onward transfer flight on a small aircraft to their preferred / selected lodge. Many of the Sabi Sands’ lodges have their own airstrips, making it extremely accessible and easy to reach your destination.

These short lodge link flights are not only incredibly convenient but are an experience in itself. As the aircraft stays at a low altitude, you will have the opportunity to admire the magnificent scenery and unobstructed picturesque views over the vast and wonderful South African bushveld – If that’s not the perfect way to start a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Sabi Sands Game Reserve, we’re not sure what is.

In short, here are the three main airstrips to which you may arrive via Sabi Sands’ lodge link flights:

  • Ulusaba airstrip (for lodges in the western sector)
  • Arathusa airstrip (for lodges in the northern sector)
  • Londolozi Airstrip (for Londolozi lodges only)

Sabi Sands shuttle flights / Chartered flights

The fastest and most hassle-free way / option to get to the Sabi Sand Game Reserve is via a scheduled charter flight from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. Federal Air serves almost all lodges in the reserve daily.

Getting to Sabi Sand Game Reserve by road

The Sabi Sand Game Reserve is very accessible and easy to reach when traveling by road. From Johannesburg, the driving distance to the Sabi Sands is approximately 450 – 500 kilometers, which will take you anywhere between 5½ and 6½ hours.

Most of the route from Johannesburg to the Sabi Sands Game Reserve takes you along the N4 national road to Nelspruit, making it an easy and comfortable drive.

The Sabi Sands has three entrance / access gates:

  • Shaw’s Gate
  • Newington Gate
  • Gowrie Gate

**Important Note: Each gate serves different lodges within the Sabi Sands Reserve. It is important to make sure you access through the correct gate when travelling to the lodge of your choice. Upon entering the Sabi Sands Game Reserve through one of the aforementioned gates, you will be required to pay both a vehicle and per-person fee.