Sabi Sand Game Reserve(Greater Kruger) Safari Guide
Sabi Sands shares a 50km/30mi unfenced border with Kruger National Park and offers the best wildlife viewing in South Africa. The area is divided into individual private game reserves, all offering the ultimate Big Five experience, luxury accommodation, great service and excellent food.
Pros & Cons
Superb wildlife viewing with good sightings of the Big Five
Good guides and trackers take you out on two drives a day
Off-road driving allows close viewing of animals
Excellent high-end luxury safari lodges
Mostly expensive, fully-inclusive safari packages available
Emphasis on Big Five animals and ticking off flagship species
Wildlife & Animals
Sabi Sand Game Reserve offers excellent wildlife viewing. This is especially true of the big cats. All of the Big Five are usually seen in a two to three-day visit. Off-road driving assures quality sightings, particularly of the habituated resident predators. Sabi Sand is part of the vast Greater Kruger ecosystem, which makes for a very authentic wildlife experience.
Sabi Sands is possibly the best place in Africa to see leopard. Both the quantity and quality of sightings is superb. This is a place where you can see leopard behavior such as males marking and patrolling their territory or females interacting with their cubs. Wild dog sightings are less common, but if they are denning in the area, it is often possible to spend time with these social pack animals.
With more than 300 bird species on its list, Sabi Sands is a great birding destination. Guides tend to be very knowledgeable about birds and everything else. The combination of walking and driving safaris in the private reserves is also very suitable to birding. The emphasis in Sabi Sands is, however, on mammals and the Big Five. It would be advisable to book private game drives if you are a birder. Migratory birds are present from November to April.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Sabi Sands is during winter, which is also considered the ‘low season’. This is the Dry season which lasts from May to September. Animals are easy to spot during the dry months as foliage becomes less abundant and they gather around rivers and waterholes. September is a lovely month to visit. It is also the least cold of the winter months.
May to September – Dry Season
Animals are easier to spot as they concentrate around water sources
It is low season
Virtually no rain and lots of sunshine
Mild daytime temperatures and low humidity
Very little risk of malaria
The air is dusty and dry
It is necessary to wear warm clothing for morning and evening game drives
October to April – Wet Season
The scenery is lush and green
There are many newborn animals around
Birding is excellent, and migratory birds are present
The Dry season is the best time for wildlife viewing
It can be crowded since it is high season
Days are hot and humid
Antimalarial drugs are necessary
Weather & Climate
Sabi Sands experiences winter and summer at opposite times to those seasons in Europe and North America. October to April are the hot, wet summer months while the mild, dry winter occurs from May to September. Although winter days are pleasant, it is cold in the mornings, so warm clothes are advisable for game drives.
Dry Season – May to September – Winter
For the most part, it doesn’t rain during the winter and humidity is low. Permanent water sources become a place for animals to gather, making them easier to spot.
May – May marks the end of the summer season. Typical temperatures are around 12°C/54°F in the morning and 26°C/79°F in the afternoon as the weather cools.
June, July & August – Due to the cold mornings (9°C/48°F), it is wise to bring along warm clothing for morning game drives. There will be cloudless skies in the afternoon and temperatures will be pleasant – around 25°C/77°F.
September – The first rains bring relief and alleviate the dry conditions as the heat rises to an average afternoon temperature of 28°C/82°F. Mornings are mild with average temperatures around 14°C/57°F.
Wet Season – October to April – Summer
Summer can be hot and humid and at times to an uncomfortable level. Temperatures often reach 40°C/104°F, while average daytime temperatures range up to 32°C/90°F with high humidity. Afternoon storms are normal, yet all-day rainfall is rare.
October & November – Temperatures increase and afternoon rains become more frequent. Typical temperatures run from 18°C/64°F in the morning to a 30°C/86°F high in the afternoon.
December, January & February – These are the months of the most precipitation and highest temperatures, coupled with intense humidity. The average afternoon temperature is 31°C/88°F, but it is not unusual for it to reach an insufferable 40°C/104°F.
March & April – The rain decreases and it gradually cools. This trend continues into April, which is the most pleasant month with little rain, less humidity and sunny skies. Night temperatures fall to 18°C/64°F and daytime temperatures of 29°C/84°F are typical.
Coming from abroad, you’ll arrive at O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) in Johannesburg. After that, you can take the twice-daily scheduled flight to Sabi Sand, run by Federal Air.
Alternatively, you can take a connecting flight to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (MQP) near Mbombela or to Skukuza Airport (SZK) in Kruger National Park. A transfer from Nelspruit or Skukuza to your Sabi Sands accommodation can be arranged and takes about two hours.
It is also possible to hire a car in Johannesburg and drive to the park via the N4 to Nelspruit. The park has three entrance gates for access to different lodges within the reserve. The distance is about 500km/310mi, and the drive takes about 5½ hours.