There are a number of private game reserves that border the western edge of Kruger National Park. Originally separated from Kruger by a fence, many of the fences between the private game reserves and Kruger have been torn down so that the wildlife now roams freely. Most of the private reserves feature upmarket lodges, but in addition to the luxury accommodation they offer a more exclusive game viewing experience as entrance into many of the private reserves is limited to overnight guests only and game drives are conducted by well-trained rangers in lodge safari vehicles. The majority of the lodges operate on an all-inclusive basis and offer a morning and afternoon game drive, occasionally interspersed with a guided bushwalk and frequently including sunset cocktails in the bush, followed by a gourmet evening meal.
Sabi Sand (www.sabisand.co.za, R20/person, R110/vehicle) is a collection of a number of smaller adjacent unfenced private game reserves that together share a 50 kilometer unfenced border with Kruger. Sabi Sand has a reputation as one of the top upmarket safari destinations in the country with superb game viewing and exclusive luxury lodges. Unlike in Kruger or most of the surrounding private game reserves, the lodge safari vehicles within Sabi Sand are allowed to drive off-road into the bush. Well-trained guides in a limited number of vehicles are easily able to track animals and provide for some incredible up-close sightings of otherwise elusive animals.
The Sand River splits the reserve roughly into a northern and southern section. There are three entrance gates into the reserve, the Gowrie Gate (S 24 41.681 E 031 30.912) in the northern section, and the Newington Gate (S 24 52.149 E 031 24.272) and Shaws Gate (S 24 55.698 E 031 28.764) in the southern section. Guests with their own vehicles will be directed to enter through one of the above gates depending on which lodge they are staying with.
Nkorho Bush Lodge is one of the best-priced private lodges in the Sabi Sand Reserve and an excellent value. There are seven individual thatched roof chalets with bedrooms that open up onto a deck. The central lodge has a comfortable lounge with an infinity pool and viewing deck overlooking a small watering hole where animals gather. After a full day of game viewing, evening gourmet cuisine is served in a boma under the stars beside a crackling campfire.
Djuma Bush Lodge is a luxury lodge that tastefully incorporates high design in the middle of the bush. Set beside a large watering hole that is popular with herds of elephants, guests can watch the incoming animals from the deck or climb the bird watching tower for a view from above. Accommodation is in eight private suites fully decked out in modern décor, and featuring king size beds, a lounge, deck and outdoor spa. In addition to game drives and bush walks, Djuma offers visits to neighboring villages where you can meet with village elders and learn about the traditional rural lifestyle.
Nottens Bush Camp is an established family run lodge located in the middle of the bush, a short distance from the Sand River and surrounded by plains and the shade of trees. There are eight sizeable private suites, each with an indoor and outdoor shower and a private deck. To accentuate the bush experience, the suites do not have electricity and are lit with paraffin lamps. There is a central candlelit boma where excellent evening meals are served next to an evening campfire.
Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge brings luxury living to the middle of the bush with personalized service and attention to detail. The well-appointed lodge has a large viewing deck overlooking a watering hole. There are 25 independent and spacious thatched roof suites with ethnic décor, air conditioning, large bathrooms and an outdoor shower. The lodge also has a spa and is family friendly - it offers separate games, crafts and interactive wildlife-related activities for children up to 12 years old.
Mala Mala is located on the banks of the Sand River surrounded by wildlife. The sprawling lodge features an air conditioned dining room, bar, library, fitness room, boutique shop and massage spa. There are 10 rooms and 8 suites, each with a his and hers bathroom, a minibar and a private deck. Well-qualified rangers and a maximum of six guests per vehicle help to ensure a great game viewing experience.