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South Africa Safari advice? Thanda ?

South Africa Safari advice? Thanda ?

Old Mar 25, 23, 10:10 am
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South Africa Safari advice? Thanda ?

I am thinking of staying at Thanda safari or one of the Sabi Sands lodges. Has anyone been to Thanda? Is it better than Sabi Sands? Thanda seems easier to get to due to the scheduled flights.

Or any other lodges you can suggest for a family of 4.
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Old Mar 26, 23, 5:09 am
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I don't have experience in Thanda but I suspect you will get very good value for the upmarket accom and facilities. In Sabi Sand reserve you are paying for the lodge facilities, soft and hard product, but also the 'branding' that comes with Sabi Sand reserve. Thanda is a reasonably large reserve whereas Sabi Sand is unfenced from Kruger NP but each lodge will have a traversing area that they can drive on. So what you see is always some luck.

I am not sure what your comment about scheduled flights is trying to ask. For Thanda there are scheduled flights + a ground transfer (from Richards Bay about 1 hr on sealed highway). For Sabi Sand lodges you can take the scheduled flights to Skukuza or Hoedspruit plus a ground transfer, depending on the lodge it can be a short transit in an open game vehicle or an hour on gravel roads to your lodge. Or you can pay for a 'bush flight' to a lodge airstrip, which is convenient but expensive and limits your luggage capacity (if you are a photographer for instance sometimes a ground transfer is better). Don't discount other lodges / reserves. It really depends on where you are coming from / to, your budget and time, and how much you weight accommodation and facilities/food standards against the wildlife sightings side of things. Oh and the age of your children.
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Old Mar 26, 23, 5:38 am
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Where would you say the sightings of the big 5 would be better Thanda or Sabi Sands? I agree with you about Sabi as it seems to be double or triple the price due to the location. Is it worth that much more? I would have thought that an unfenced area would mean less sightings? Is Sabi Sands really that much better?

In regards to the flights I meant that Thanda seems to be easier to get to as its a 45 mins transfer from Richards Bay whereas the Sabi lodges are most flights to Hoedspruit and then either a 3hr transfer or a short hop on a flight. How much are these lodge connecting flights? I can't seem to find any information.
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Old Mar 26, 23, 7:27 am
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It's impossible to say you can definitely see the Big 5 anywhere as you really don't know what you will come across. "I would have thought that an unfenced area would mean less sightings" in the larger reserves the wildlife moves around enough that they aren't tracked every day, only in a really small reserve you might be able to do that but why pay to stay in safari park? It's on interesting debate as even greater Kruger is fenced but it is a huge area so feels more authentic.

But with 3-4 nights you would hope to come across plenty of great sightings in any of the bigger private reserves. Sabi Sand reserve is good for a chance to see leopard close up (they are very habituated) but it might be easier to see cheetah in Thanda, but again there is a lot of luck involved in what you happen to see on any day/drive.

Closer to Hoedspruit airport is the Balule reserve, for example Naledi Bush Lodge has a 2-bedroomed unit and has great drives. Lots and lots of options. A safari agent can help find a lodge good for your children and help with packages including the transfers etc that can be better than the rack rates. Fedair and Airlink do the lodge link flights, but I don't think you can see rates online as the lodges / agent will quote.
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Old Mar 26, 23, 7:39 am
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I think Thanda is based over 14,000 hectares and Sabi is 62,000. Leaning towards Thanda as its the only one in that reserve. We stayed at Madikwe and loved it, saw the big 4 daily and the 5th once on the 4th day. But what I disliked was there were always 3-4 jeeps at any sighting. The rangers tell each other and they try and keep it less crowded but 3-4 jeeps seems to be their cap.

You seem to know about this so just seeking some advice. My thoughts on this are that Madikwe had some 36 lodges in an area of 75,000 Sabi has 50+ in 62,000, Thanda has one in 14,000. Yeah its not "big enough" but will be more private?
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Old Mar 26, 23, 10:28 am
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Just my opinions. Yes Sabi Sand lodges restrict to 3 cars at a sighting. Thanda may be fewer I don't know. I did find the lodge we went to in Sabi Sand a bit commercialised and the drives very focused on cats. While very nice to spend time with leopards it didn't feel as 'authentic' and unknown as other drives in other private reserve lodges we've been to. e.g. in Klaserie reserve we've had trackers determine the movements of a lion pride over several days and we got a great sighting as a result, initially just us and then one other car was called in. But we did see 'less' cats and more 'interesting' chameleons and the like. Anyway I am not the most knowledgeable, as we mostly self drive now, hence a good safari agent can help with finding family friendly places that suit you.
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Old Mar 31, 23, 8:51 am
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My wife and I have been going to the Kruger area off and on since 2016. We've found the best game viewing are with lodges/maps the have the following characteristics:
  • Have an adequately sized private traversing area. We spent our first safari on a well regarded property in the Klaserie. Every decent sighting was immediately mobbed by vehicles form most of the Klaserie lodges and we spent time in lengthy queues and getting our 15 minutes (or whatever the viewing limit was) of time at the sighting itself.
  • Are allowed to drive off road (within reason) within their traversing area.
  • Are in a private reserve that has an extensive un-fenced border with the Kruger itself. Specifically the lodges/maps with decent traversing areas directly adjacent to the Kruger in the Timbavati, Manyeleti and Sabi Sands reserves (link). Annd the camp/lodge works at keeping the number of vehicles near the sightings to an absolute minimum.
  • Have fewer guests per vehicle (we prefer 4 per vehicle but most of the higher end camps limit at 6). We work with the lodge/camp so we get in with other guests who share what we want to see. It is no fun with a vehicle loaded with 9 or 10 guests where you are evenly split between cat people and bird people.
Unfortunately, this comes at a cost. Lodges/camps the meet the above criteria are typically in the upper 20 percentile of cost.
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Old Apr 2, 23, 2:08 am
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My one issue with Kruger and Sabi Sands is the number of lodges in the area. Any decent sighting will have a waiting period and time restriction like you state.
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Old Apr 11, 23, 10:56 am
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Can anyone comment on Sabi sands? How busy were the sightings?
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Old Apr 11, 23, 11:39 pm
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Originally Posted by onlysuites
Can anyone comment on Sabi sands? How busy were the sightings?
visited Londolozi in Sabi Sands roughly 10 years ago. One other vehicle at most was all we ever saw. Most sightings we were the only vehicle. Im returning in 6 weeks (Singita this time) happy to provide an updated answer then!
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Old Apr 12, 23, 3:53 am
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Originally Posted by smichelm
visited Londolozi in Sabi Sands roughly 10 years ago. One other vehicle at most was all we ever saw. Most sightings we were the only vehicle. Im returning in 6 weeks (Singita this time) happy to provide an updated answer then!
Yes please. Do update me.
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Old Apr 13, 23, 4:55 am
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Just back from 4 days at Nottens (Sabi Sabi) and cannot recommend them enough. They have a wide traversing area, sightings of all types were plentiful and never crowded - all sightings are limited to 3 vehicles but we saw plenty of sights with no other vehicle for miles around. Guides were superb and the lodge, food, pool etc were all first class.

Access from Skukuza is very easy (30m drive) and Airlink service from JNB both good value and reliable.

Would definitely do again.
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Old Apr 18, 23, 10:40 am
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Originally Posted by smichelm
visited Londolozi in Sabi Sands roughly 10 years ago. One other vehicle at most was all we ever saw. Most sightings we were the only vehicle. Im returning in 6 weeks (Singita this time) happy to provide an updated answer then!
We've been to Mala Mala a couple of times recently (2019 and 2021) and had similar experiences. And we will spend a week a Londolozi (in the newly renovated Founders Camp) at the end of July this year. Will report back as well. My wife has an online buddy who swears by Londolozi and who goes to South Africa for months at a time. Her friend (and her friend's husband) have tried several other camps in the Sabi Sands area and keep going back to Londolozi.
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Old Apr 18, 23, 10:46 am
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Queues, depends

Originally Posted by onlysuites
My one issue with Kruger and Sabi Sands is the number of lodges in the area. Any decent sighting will have a waiting period and time restriction like you state.
Hi there, not all epic sightings have waiting periods and time queues (at least in MM). It depends where you are in the reserve and who discovers something first. Our first trip to the Klasserie was one queue after another when it came to cats. In 4 days, we saw lions once on 2 different days and the same for leopards MM queues? sometimes yes and sometimes not .

For ALL lodges, one thing that happens is tourists come to spend 2 or 3 days hoping for the big 5 and perhaps multiple times. Guides achieve this with communication, obviously. Inevitably, most reserves try to keep a 3 vehicle limit. If an animal such as a cat, young cubs or pups,or rhino is scarce there will be a lot of people who want to see it.

​​​​​​ Something that is helpful for a fulfilling safari is choosing a reserve and lodge with good animal density to provide a plethora of sightings available. Unfortunately the way to find this is labor intensive, reading reviews from multiple sights, checking game reports, following social media sights if various lodges and guides or photographers who visit the lodges. More often than not, there will be some pricing correlation with sighting reputation.

I guess one thing you might want to think about and then communicate with your driver: do you value seeing a higher quantity of animals during the day? Specific animals? Or sightings with no one else around. Answers to these questions will be complicated for sure, and affected by time and budget considerations. (AND keeping your children interested 😊 )
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Last edited by vbnet; Apr 18, 23 at 11:04 am
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