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The Magic of the Sabi Sands – Simbambili

11 Dec 2023 | By Author Thornybush | Guest Review

In our latest blog, Megan The Travelling Writer shares her experience about the famous Sabi Sands and what it’s like staying at Simbambili Game Lodge.

An Introduction to Simbambili 

The Sabi Sands Nature Reserve is famous for its magical leopard sightings, and Simbambili does just that – delivers, wild, wild magic.

Simbambili, meaning “the two lions,” sits on part of Sabi Sands’ 65,000 hectares, sharing an unfenced border with Kruger National Park. As soon as you turn onto the long stretch of dirt road leading to Simbambili, it’s easy to tell this is a special place.

Hornbills hop on the path leading to our suite, which is one of only seven, adding to the intimate feeling at Simbambili.

These suites are made for relaxation, for lazy dips in a private plunge pool overlooking the dry riverbed to falling asleep in the utter luxury of a downy duvet and listening to the calls of birdsong from your Sala while you blink back sleep.

From the Sala on our private deck above the dry riverbed, we can already make out tracks in the sand below—a promise of what’s to come on our first drive.

Heading into the Wild 

It’s early summer, and even on overcast days, the verdant green of the bush is remarkable. The ruddy, russet tones of giraffe and the contrast of zebra stand out brilliantly against the thick lushness of the bush.

It feels like minutes after we embark on our first game drive when we hear impala barking and Egyptian geese alarm calling. Our guide, Colbert, says “There must be a leopard nearby.”

Then we see it. A leopard walks towards us, pawing silently through the grey-green underbrush towards a steenbok. The steenbok stands upwind from the leopard, who’s crouched just a few meters away. Weather like this is perfect for predators; the wind disguises the leopard’s scent.

It must be less than fifteen minutes that we watch the leopard, but it feels longer that we’re locked into this hunt. Whether it finally glimpses the leopard through the bush or catches its scent, is unclear, but the steenbok dashes through the bush. The leopard isn’t quick enough.

The lushness of the Sabi Sands in summer is unmistakable. Orange, purple, and cream buds line the ground, still wet with dew. Even with cloudy skies, pale sunbeams cast shadows into thick riverine forests where a pride of lions hunt giraffe. After a couple of days of light, summery rain, the lions shake droplets from their coats.

The lions cast their hunt onto a wide field, one of Sabi Sands’ airstrips, to drive a young giraffe towards them. Standing at the edge of the field, peering into the surrounding forest, the giraffe spot the approaching lions and retreat deeper into the bush.

The lions are left standing alone in the wet field, nudging each other, grooming, and regrouping before another hunt.

Back at the lodge, we’re welcomed with hot towels and cool glasses of liqueur – giving us moment to reflect on the exciting sightings we’ve just witnessed.

Lodge Life is a good life 

In between game drives, our days are passed resting on one of Simbambili’s many sprawling daybeds, cushioned with cool, earthy tones, looking out onto a grassy hill with a watering hole.

As we arm-chair safari watching visitors from the lodge lapa: from the gentle giant elephants wetting theirs trunks, the odd antelope passing by and the many birds spotted through our binoculars we are reminded of the excitement that awaits on each and every one of our drives.

Simbambili really is a place to feel nature, and we can honestly say, if you’re looking to come to the Sabi Sands – this is where African magic begins.

Words & Photography by Megan Gieske