Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve

Now, for an interesting change of pace, we decided to do a safari drive outside of Kruger Park. There are plenty of private game reserves (once again, just make sure it’s not one that allows for game hunting…) and you can do a different kind of safari if you choose the private options.

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Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve
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While they do tend to be slightly more expensive, one of the added benefits is that, since they own the land, they’re not subjected to national park restrictions and they can go off road. This is a very interesting change of pace since as you can imagine, most animals don’t really use roads.

White rhino. Finally!

White rhino. Finally!

The tour we booked was a morning drive from 5am to 10am and we were so damn tired from the day before that we overslept. They were about to leave when we showed up running in the hotel lobby, and after some South African scolding about adult responsibilities and respectfulness on being on time (I guess they get that from the Brits), we were told we’d have to skip breakfast and proceeded to drive at 50mph on dirt roads.

Baby elephant

Baby elephant

Zebra

Zebra

These private game reserves are usually dedicated to big money spenders staying at these 5-million-star luxury lodges, but when they do have vacancies, they do sell those out to outside companies, which is how we ended up there. It was just Jon and myself plus the driver taking us to the meeting point inside the reserve, where we would meet the rest of the group to get started with the drive. As we’re approaching their lodge building, we spotted 2 white rhinos no more than 50 feet away from our car and that’s all I needed to wake up.

What you looking at?

What you looking at?

The driver was still going on about being late so he did not stop for the rhinos, but we arrived to the lodge to find out the larger group of 12 had already departed and we would once again be in a tour with two guides, a British couple and us. Luck was on our side again. We mentioned we had seen the rhinos not too far from the lodge so that’s where they drove us to. I was determined to see them from up close and I wasn’t going to let anyone stop me. We drove no more than 15 minutes and run into them, once again, and since these vehicles are allowed to off road, we got really close. REALLY CLOSE.

White rhino

White rhino

They are so freaking ugly and majestic it makes my stomach turn when I think they’re going extinct. We must have taken a couple hundred pictures of them until we were quite satisfied and then drove off to see other animals. Once again, the off-roading proved marvelous as we could get really close to anything we spotted and it meant a fantastic photo opportunity every 20 minutes.

More white rhinos!

More white rhinos!

The drive does stop mid-morning for you to get some coffee and biscuits in the middle of the bush, and yes, you can get off your vehicle and walk around a bit. It sounds scarier than it is really, but if you’re scared about that, wait until we tell you all about our experience hiking with rhinos in Zambia!

Zebra play time

Zebra play time

The drive goes on for a couple more hours, but by that point we had already seen a whole host of animals from zebras, kudus, snakes, birds, warthogs, giraffes, etc. The drive ends at the same lodge we started from, we’re you’re sat at the restaurant for you to have a full on breakfast buffet, which is included in the price. The cost for this was 1600 rand each, which came up to be about 100 dollars each, so obviously a bit steeper a price, but considering that you can get much, much closer to the animals, it’s definitely something you might want to consider if you weren’t lucky enough to see some of the big 5 from up close inside the park.

Oxpecker on zebra

Oxpecker on zebra

Author: Ben Nickel-D'Andrea

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