February 14th, 2012, by African Travel, Inc.
Lion Sands Private Game Reserve – South Africa
I recently had a fantastic experience in the very pristine African bush on a trip that I took to the Lion Sands Private Game Reserve. The Game Reserve has been owned by the same family since 1933, and is in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. The Game Reserve is an exceptional experience not only for the savanna but also the many wooded glens that abound. The game-viewing is exceptional and we were lucky to see all the big-five, but what really impressed me about Lion Sands is that the family loves the land and takes good care it, and it is the only reserve in the Sabi Sand that has on staff an ecologist, who is responsible for ensuring the preservation of the land.
To experience the Lion Sands Private Game Reserve is a privilege, as you become immersed in the lodge activities and in the excitement of the game-viewing drives. Everyone is very friendly and is anxious that you have everything you need.
To arrive in the Kruger National Park area you fly into Kruger National Park International airport (MQP) in White River, South Africa, and this is where we met our guide Sami, who is a Swazi from Swaziland, but is married to a local Shangaan lady. Sami was waiting for us as we came through the doors into the arrival lounge in his Thompsons Africa blue shirt and bush shorts. Sami is all smiles and wanting to help us through to the van that he has positioned perfectly outside the terminal doors.
The road trip from White River to the Sabi Sand area is around a 45 minute drive on a paved four lane highway passing lemon groves, Pine Tree farms, the city of Hazeyview, the shopping mecca of the area, and breathtaking rolling hills, until you reach the Kruger National Park area. Once there you turn off the main road and travel on a graded dirt road to the gate that you need to pass through into the Park. We went through Wildtuin Gate.
Once Sami paid for the Park Entrance Fee, we traveled along a graded dirt road game viewing en route. About 10 minutes into the Park we saw Rhino on the right side of the road bathing in a little pool of water to cool down (be prepared to get a lot of pictures of game from the rear).
After stopping for our first pictures, we went on down the road another 10 minutes to the Gate Entrance to the Lion Sand River Lodge.
There is a small gate with two Shangaan attendants on duty who greet you with little drums and tin noise makers and with a huge grin of welcome.
After you pass through the gate, you drive along a short driveway to the entrance where the lodge staff is waiting to greet you. You say goodbye to Sami here as he arranges for the staff to collect your luggage from the van trailer.
Once you walk into the lodge you are greeted with a wonderful cool drink of orange juice and fruit punch. We were privileged to have one of the owners of Lion Sands, Mr. P.J. Scott, greet us, and we were also introduced to our Game Ranger Gowie, pronounced (Harvey), and they both provided us with a briefing on our stay.
After a few minutes we went out to the upper deck and then across a little ravine to the lower deck on the Sabie River, and yes I have to say it, this is where ABC’s The Bachelor had that scene with the roses. After a few photos, we went back up to the upper deck, where we were introduced to our butler, who would take care of us for every meal. His name was Errol, and of course I had to say “oh, just like Errol Flynn,” and Errol smiled elegantly and said yes. (I’m sure he’s been asked that a thousand times before, but I couldn’t resist.) Errol is a very elegant and courteous man and is very much a reflection of how all the Lion Sands staff presents themselves. If you want something not on the menu, Errol will provide it to you, and he will make very good suggestions and explain the different dishes that you will encounter while dining at Lion Sands.
After lunch you are escorted to your room which greets you with a cool breeze from the air conditioner and I jumped into the shower to cool down and freshen up (it was over a 100 degrees). Then you have time to rest before you receive the call to join the group for the game-viewing drive, which usually leaves by 4:00 pm.
There are twelve luxury rooms and eight superior luxury rooms. All twenty lodge rooms are five star plus with thatched roofs, a private bathroom, private wooden viewing decks, and the bedroom area is air conditioned and with an overhead fan. The bed has a beautiful luxurious white mosquito net that is drawn down for you each evening. There are two pools on the property, one on each side of the main lodge among the rooms. The rooms are linked to the main lodge area by raised wooden walkways, and you are always escorted to and from when it’s dark. As long as it’s light out you can walk up to or from the lodge area on your own.
I stayed in a Superior Luxury Room with a King size bed, en-suite bathroom, indoor & outdoor shower, and a bathtub in the open area of the bathroom. There is a mini bar, electronic safe and a vanity with lighted mirror and hairdryer.
On the frame of the mirror of the vanity there is a little wooden frog, that depending on how much wine you had at dinner just might move a little; this was a fascinating feature of a night at River Lodge.
Now the main feature- “The Evening Game Drive!” We left the lodge around 4:00 pm with Gowie, who drove, and a tracker who sits up on the left hand side of the engine. These trackers can locate almost anything from their high position, studying tracks, animal droppings, broken branches and so much more.
We found baboons first, which came quite close to us and then scurried away. After some photos we then drove on a little, until we came across some giraffes, one of my favorite African animals.
After some other choice photos, we stopped by two new giraffes that were acting odd, and looking into the bush with a pensive stance. Gowie stopped the land rover, and he and the tracker got out and walked through the bush a little, sort of like on tip toes, and then abruptly stopped, backed away for a few steps and then turned and hurried back to the land rover and jumped in. They had spotted a LEOPARD, and just to let you know, when game in Africa see a land rover it does not threaten them, however once you’re out of the vehicle you become a threat, so don’t do that. Gowie and our tracker where visibly shaken by their experience.
We tracked the female leopard for almost two hours; it was so fascinating as she actually used the land rover for covering her movement from the antelope that she was tracking.
Unfortunately it got too dark for us to continue tracking her and we moved on to an open area where we watched the sun set and had our Sundowners, which consist of Gin and Tonic, wine, beer, and soft drinks, and a little cooling rain drops.
After the sunset we noticed the moon was full and went to a better advantage place for one last photo for the night.
We then drove back to the Lodge, where we had a half hour to freshen up and then enjoyed a gourmet dinner and excellent South African Wines, and chattered about our day, until we all drifted off to our rooms.
The next day was even better!