The oldest private reserve in South Africa, on the border of the Kruger Park, the Sabi Sand Reserve was created in 1934, and became a formal association in 1948. It is a 65,000 hectare (251 square mile) reserve, made up of a patchwork of private estates, many of them now run as safari lodges. Together they make up one of the largest and most important conservation centers on the African continent. Fences between the properties and between the Kruger National Park came down years ago, bringing the Reserve into the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park and allowing animals to wander freely across an area larger than many modern countries.
Most first-time visitors are in search of the Big Five, but the game-viewing and the flora here is immensely rich, with over 145 species of mammal, 500 species of bird, 110 species of reptile, 30 types of amphibian, 45 species of fish and over 330 different types of tree. That's before you start on the flowers, grasses and insects!
When to go: As with all game-viewing in South Africa, the best time is during the winter months of June-early October when it is dry, the grass is short and the animals cluster around the available water.
Where to stay: There are many superb lodges within the Sabi Sand Reserve. Sadly none of them offer a cheap option - this is the 5-star deluxe, gold-plated safari option. For a roundup of some of the best lodges, see -- Five Top Lodges in the Sabi Sand.
Getting to Sabi Sand: It is 500 km by road from Johannesburg on good roads (allow 5-6 hours). Roads within Sabi Sand are mainly unpaved and there is an upper speed limit of 20 kmph within the reserve.
There are regular flights from Johannesburg to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport, from where the lodges will organise transfers; transfer times are generally 2-3 hours, but become a game drive as much of the distance is within the reserve.
Federal Air runs daily flights from Johannesburg to the Londolozi airstrip. South African Airways' Airlink runs daily flights to Mala Mala airstrip.
Self-drive: There is a ZAR80 entrance fee per vehicle if you wish to do a game-drive within the reserve. The gates are open from 0500/0600-2200/2300.