South Africa: Lion Sands Private Game Reserve

One of the hardest part of making our itinerary with A2A Safaris was choosing where to stay in Sabi Sands which has at least 21 private game reserves that were all luxurious but some were dfinitely wallet-busting so we had to choose well. 

From Johannesburg we took a small plane to Skukuza. Thankfully it wasn’t one of those tiny planes that requires passengers to bring only soft duffle bags. We all brought the usual big luggage as well as one carry on. 

Flight to Skukuza

I was pleasantly surprised that the short 45 minute flight had a choice of snacks (strawberry or cheese pie) as well as fruit juice or water. 

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Flight to Skukuza-001

Skukuza Airport was small but very nice. It puts our domestic airports to shame. 

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I knew Lion Sands was picking us up at the airport but I didn’t expect the actual vehicle used for game drives was going to be our ride. 

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The seats were surprisingly thick and well cushioned. 

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Skukuza Airport1

Sabi Sands is a privately owned game reserve located within Kruger National Park, one of the largest game reserves in Africa. Kruger is about 2 million hectares while Sabi Sands occupies 65,000 hectares. To give you an idea how big that is Singapore is about 72,000 hectares. 

Initially we were advised to stay at Mala Mala which had a land area of 11,000 hectares and is one of the most popular reserves inside Sabi Sands. We declined because it was more expensive and the place looked very old. We chose Lion Sands Private Game Reserve which was had friendlier rates and the place looked much newer and more our style. They occupied a smaller area at 4,000 hectares but we would be able to see the big five there too.  

In Africa, the big five game animals are the African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and White/Black rhinoceros. source

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Lion Sands Private Game Reserve

On the way to Lion Sands elephants, giraffes and antelopes greeted us. Amazing to see all these animals since we weren’t even officially on a game drive yet. 

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We stayed in River Lodge, one of the properties of Lion Sands. This lodge had only 20 thatched rooms. 

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A family of warthogs.

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office

We left our keys at the entrance each time we left for a game drive. 

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Bar and Lounge

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Reception

Here’s our group. Some are family members while the rest are friends. We were given welcome drinks and briefed about our stay. 

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After the briefing we proceeded to our dining room. What a beautiful dining room under trees! The weather when we went in April averaged from 15-30 C. March to May is Autumn in South Africa. It was quite pleasant to dine outdoors specially in the morning and at night when it was chilly. Sometimes it got hot at noon. 

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Lion Sands is the only property in Sabi Sands right beside the Sabie River. Unfortunately the river in that part was dry. It would have been gorgeous to dine by the river. 

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This was our table for all the meals and our butler/waiter was named Advice, seriously. 

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His name is Advice.

All our meals and drinks save for the fancier brands of alcohol and wines were included in our room rate. I’ll show you a sampling of our meals. The food was basically hit or miss. Most of the dishes were on the healthy side. Each meal included bread, salad, entree and dessert. 

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Lion Sands Private Game Reserve- Lunch Menu

Their mojito wasn’t good so this was my first and last. 

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Mojitos

Some breads were good while others like this was not.

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Lion Sands Private Game Reserve- Bread

The salads were very good and most of us had the bacon sandwich which was ok except for the bread. 

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After lunch we finally went to our rooms. The rooms were in an open unfenced area that’s why at night someone with a powerful flashlight must accompany you to and from your room because there may be animals around. I was deathly scared I might encounter a snake that’s why I brought my own flashlight. Thank goodness I didn’t see any. 

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Each hut is a room. 

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Out of the 20 rooms 6 were superior luxury rooms and 4 were inter-leading rooms. We got one of those. This was the hallway that connected two suites. 

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Lion Sands Private Game Reserve- Interleading room

Amazingly there were two air conditioners in our room. One was near the beds and the other one was near the open bathroom. 

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Lion Sands Private Game Reserve- Superior Room-001

We didn’t even get to sit outside. 

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The bathroom  was open right behind the bed. 

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The toiletries were a local brand called Africology which was very, very nice. This was the brand used in the airport as well as in several wineries in Franschhoek. 

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There’s an outdoor shower too. 

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Only the toilet had a door. 

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In the closet was bug spray and insect repellant. I didn’t get bitten in the room and outside but Rochelle did. The insects liked blood from a skinny person than from me? Ha ha 

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Lion Sands Private Game Reserve- Superior Room

My favorite part of the room was the fully stocked bar with EVERYTHING in it for FREE!!! 

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We don’t drink soda so the cans weren’t touched. I did try a can of carbonated juice. See all those sweets, tea and alcohol? They all made their way into our luggages! They refilled everything daily. 😀 We brought some of the snacks on safari for the times we got hungry specially in the morning since we went on drives before breakfast. 

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We were given a stainless bottle each. 

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This reminded me of our own sungka. 

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At night the mosquito nets came down. 

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Lion Sands Private Game Reserve1

Every night our housekeeper would leave us a message on the blackboard. If we had requests we just write it down on the board and it gets done right away. Fantastic service from the entire staff!!! 

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Right after exploring our room it was time for our first game drive which I will feature in the next post. When we got back we had a special dinner to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Lion Sands. Happy birthday!!

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We had venison stew, nyala antelope (tough meat), boerewors (local beef sausage), fish, chicken, basmati rice, chutneys and many more. Dessert was yummy apple crumble with caramel sauce. 

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Lion Sands Private Game Reserve 15th Anniversary

Of all the meals I liked the food during breakfast the best. 

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Lion Sands Private Game Reserve Breakfast Menu

Donuts, smoked salmon, eggs, fruit and bacon. 

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Lion Sands Private Game Reserve Breakfast

The ambiance at night was fabulous except for all the bugs attracted to the lantern and it was hard to get good pictures without a flash. 

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My favorite drink which I discovered was Schweppes Dry Lemon. It was a cross between lemonade and tonic water. It was so good on ice or with gin which we had every night. 

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Schwepps Dry Lemon Gin Tonic
Schweppes Dry Lemon Gin Tonic

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For a change I decided to have the tortellini with basil sauce. Wrong decision. My friends said the seared Kingklip, a local fish, was delicious. I liked dessert though. It was melktert (milk tart), a South African dessert that tasted like panna cotta. 

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Lion Sands Private Game Reserve Dinner

Everyone’s favorite meal was our last meal in Lion Sands. On our last day we had an early morning game drive, breakfast then straight to the airport. 

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Lion Sands Private Game Reserve Breakfast Menu1

Everyone ordered the hearty Ranger’s Breakfast with beef sausage, lamb chop, bacon, tomatoes, mushrooms and potatoes. Everything was cooked well and I finished it all save for a few tomatoes and potatoes. Even before that heavy meal we all had mini croissants with cheese and arugula filling. I wish we had this exact meal everyday!!! It was also the last day when we discovered they had espresso which I added to their coffee. 

The green fruit is kiwano or African horned cucumber. 

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One afternoon I had an excellent massage at their spa which used Africology products. I had the Intonga Amastachi which was a deep tissue massaged which used different wood sticks to stretch my tight muscles. I had a good nap and woke up totally relaxed. 

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Lion Sands Private Game Reserve Spa

This was one of the pools in the hotel. It was right across the spa. There was a room next to the pool. Imagine if you stayed in that room you’d have a pool all to yourself. Our room was very near the entrance and the main hotel. This was almost at the end of the property. There’s another pool at the other end of the hotel. 

Lion Sands River Lodge Pool

Our bed at our last night. We had such a wonderful stay at Lion Sands. I highly recommend it to anyone planning a safari trip to Sabi Sands. Their food can be improved but other than that everything was perfect. 

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Lion Sand's bed

This is Walter and he mans the gate at the entrance to the lodge. The last time we left River Lodge we all shouted a loud, “Goodbye Walter!!!” 

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Lion Sands Private Game Reserve Walter

River Lodge
Lion Sands Private Game Reserve
www.lionsands.com
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