Lion Sands Game Reserve

by Francis X. Gallagher

Nov 1, 2017
Hotels

Arrival/Check-In: Lion Sands was the final destination of our trip to Africa, and based on our itinerary, Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport proved the best arrival airport. Unfortunately, this airport is almost a three-hour transfer to the lodge as opposed to Skukuza Airport (from which we departed), only a few minutes away. But as they say, you can’t get there from here. We arrived at the lodge complex as the sun was setting, and once through the lodge gates, it took another 20 minutes to reach the entrance of the River Lodge — one of four including Ivory, Narina and Tinga. We were greeted by candlelit lanterns and led into the main communal area for our introductions and check-in. We had just enough time to get to our rooms and settle in while elephants ate the leaves off the trees just outside. We turned off the lights and watched this show for a few minutes. Afterward, we headed to dinner outside on the dining deck overlooking the river and then played a game of Scrabble in the bar/ lounge area before retiring for the evening. We had a big next day with an early safari and a transfer to the Ivory Lodge.

Guest Quarters: The River Lodge uses a great deal of natural stone and wood for a warm feel, while the Ivory Lodge is open with large windows, thatched roofing and light colors for a natural look. Unfortunately, the River Lodge experienced a significant fire that virtually destroyed the communal area just a week after our return home. I am pleased to report no one was injured, and construction and repairs are well underway. The River Lodge is set to reopen May 1, 2018. All the cottages were unaffected by the fire. The Ivory Lodge consists of eight villas, each taking the name of a bird; we were housed in the Tawny and Sandpiper villas. Sandpiper opened with a huge wooden door into a breathtaking living space. We were amazed by the herd of elephants drinking in the river just 150 yards away from the villa’s back porch. Upon entering the villa, we encountered a kitchen/bar area immediately to the right with everything we could desire, including a chilled bottle of South African sparkling wine. Beyond and toward the sliding doors, a comfortable sitting area offered the choice of watching the animals from inside or outside. A large deck included chaise longues and a plunge pool. To the left a massive bedroom featured a king-sized bed, and a few stairs led to a magnificent bathroom with double sinks, a large vanity and a soaking tub with a separate shower. Outside the bathroom was a wood-walled outdoor shower surrounded by a stone wall. It was like showering in your own private garden.

Services/Amenities: Our meals were exquisite at both the River and the Ivory lodges, offering just about anything you could imagine in a luxurious camp setting. The staff is there to please. Of course, we were there to see the animals in their natural environment, and that is what we did. We witnessed the aftermath of a zebra kill by a pride of lions. After getting their fill, the pride rested and laid around for two days digesting their meal. Giraffes, lions, rhinos and a host of elephants are all here for viewing and picture taking. The team of skilled trackers takes you out in an open-air Range Rover for your safari. Afternoon safaris end with a sundowner cocktail session where you can stretch your legs and enjoy an adult beverage while watching the sun set over the South African landscape. A must experience for any trip to Africa.

TOP TAKEAWAYS:
◆ Following a pair of leopards as they returned home from their day of hunting
◆ Enjoying company and a cocktail as the moon rose over the African bush
◆ Laughing at the lion cubs as they slept in the afternoon shade
◆ Lion Sands is incredibly luxurious but at the same time natural and part of the environment.

Lion Sands Game Reserve

Sabi Sand Reserve
Kruger National Park
1260, South Africa
tel 27 11 880 9992
lionsands.com

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