Camping at Lower Sabie

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One of the best things, for me, about camping at Lower Sabie was how pleasantly surprised I was by this camp. Not to say that I wasn’t expecting it to be good – I just wasn’t expecting it to be as absolutely brilliant as it was. Lower Sabie lies on the banks of the mighty Sabie River, and thanks to the large supply of water, much wildlife is attracted to the area – which in turn attracts plenty of tourists to this camp. In fact, during peak seasons, Lower Sabie is often fully booked nearly a year in advance.

Situated only 11km from the border of Mozambique, Lower Sabie is popular for, amongst many things, its massive trees and well-shaded lawns. There’s not much better than relaxing in the shade on one of these lawns, or sitting on the large deck that overlooks the Sabie River, gazing out at this awesome creation, watching elephant, buffalo and hippo grazing alongside the river.

Because I only had 2 nights at Lower Sabie, I didn’t have too much time to sit around and relax – there was too much else to do! Too many other things to see! The couple that I camped next to at Lower Sabie had been there for 18 days, and I can completely understand this. In fact, I’m sure I could spend more time than that in this lovely rest camp. I actually read a blog about a couple who spent an entire month at Lower Sabie in 2011, if I’m not mistaken. That sounds like a proper holiday!

Back to my experience. I’d driven to Lower Sabie from Berg en Dal, which is a good 70km away. I’d left Berg en Dal fairly early that morning and taken a slow drive up the S25, along the Crocodile River. Although it had been a thoroughly enjoyable drive, by the time I got to Lower Sabie, I was ready to stretch my legs and get my camp set up.

The lady at reception was very friendly and professional. Lower Sabie handled my check-in much better than Berg en Dal had, and I was driving around the campsites in no time at all, searching for the perfect spot. I read an entertaining post by Rachel Lang (bushboundgirl.com) about finding the right spot to camp in, and I can totally relate. There are so many factors to consider: shade, view, the type of ground, your potential neighbours, proximity to ablutions, etc. Each spot has its own advantages and disadvantages, and this can turn your setup into a tricky exercise!

Fortunately I had my work cut out for me at Lower Sabie, as there were only 4 campsites available. The spot I originally wanted had no braai and the next spot I came across was right on the perimeter of the camping area, and offered very little privacy. Spots 3 and 4 were opposite each other, and as I arrived, someone pulled into one of them, so I took the other one. The nice thing about camping at Lower Sabie is that the campsites are demarcated, and there’s a bit of space in between all of the sites. I was very happy with my little piece of Lower Sabie, and thanks to relatively soft ground, I had my entire campsite set up in about 20 minutes. Here’s a typical Lower Sabie campsite:

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All of the campsites have power, and as far as I could tell, you’d never really need a particularly long extension lead to reach the nearest power outlet. You will, however, need the blue “caravan” adaptor. You can buy them at the shops in the Park, but I’d recommend trying to get one outside of the park where they’ll certainly be cheaper! Also, there’s a tap between every few campsites, as well as rubbish and recycling bins, and you’ll never have to walk more than a few metres to reach them. There are kitchen facilities with the usual cooking and cleaning facilities traditionally found in the Park, as well as boiling water on tap, which is an addition to the kitchen facilities that I’m grateful for.

It was now lunch time and I’d been busy all day, so I decided to go and sit on the deck that overlooks the Sabie River and order a toasted sandwich. Although it was fairly pricey, it was a good, well-prepared meal.

After lunch I decided to go past reception to see if there was space for me on the night drive for that evening, and once again, Lower Sabie did not disappoint. The cost of the night drive at Lower Sabie was R262.20, and while this is not necessarily cheap for a South African, it was worth every single Cent!

I spent most of the afternoon driving around the general Lower Sabie area in the Park, and was back in time to have a quick dinner and a shower before the night drive. I’d read about the “old” and “new” ablutions at Lower Sabie on the SANParks forums, and decided I’d give the new ones a go this evening. While the new ablutions are a great facility, they’re also very popular because of this, and there was no hot water for me that evening. From then on, I only made use of the older ablution block, and it was perfectly adequate. Although not as nice as the newer ones, or even the ablutions at camps like Skukuza and Pretoriuskop, the older ablutions were always clean and quiet, and I never had to have a cold shower.

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On the left are the “old” ablutions, and the “new” ones are on the right.

The night drive that evening was nothing short of spectacular. We met our guide, Dingaan, in the parking lot at 18:15, and once he’d ensured that all of our indemnity forms were in order, we set off into a dark and mysterious Kruger National Park. There’s not much quite as exciting as spotting a glowing pair of eyes staring back at you in the darkness, and then investigating to see what you’d found. To cut a very long story short, we saw Lion, Hyena, Buffalo, Crocodile, Hippo, Porcupine, Elephant, a Side-Striped Jackal, African Civet, a Martial Eagle, a Honey Badger, Giraffe and a lot of the more common game as well. One of the highlights of the night drive was when we stopped in an area in the middle of nowhere, about as far from camp as we ever got that evening. We were watching an African Civet enjoying its dinner, but after it scampered off into the darkness, Dingaan cut all of the power in the game viewing vehicle, and we were swallowed by the darkness. There was only the tiniest sliver of the moon visible, and our guide told us to just sit in silence, enjoying the darkness. It was the most unbelievable thing. I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced darkness quite as dark as that, or silence quite as silent as that. I think I could easily have sat there for hours. But we only had 3 hours available to us, and we had a long drive back to camp.

Although it became very cold on the last hour of the drive, there were blankets in the game drive vehicle, and combined with the adrenaline of being out in the park in the darkness, we were all warm enough. All said and done, it was R262.20 well spent, and when I got back to my tent, I just sat outside for a while, trying to process it all. It’s probably better to read “Day 3 of my Kruger Adventure” (http://wp.me/p3AsCq-5F), for a full account of this, but I was overwhelmed by the vastness and magnificence of this bit of creation.

I was up early the next morning to take a long drive up North, via some of my favourite spots in the park, but I also got to spend a good bit of time inside Lower Sabie that afternoon. I walked around most of the camp just to see what it’s like, and I’d say that no matter what kind of accommodation you choose, you’ll have a thoroughly great time.

Some family of mine had been at Lower Sabie a few months before me and had said that there was quite a bit of construction happening in camp, which was a bit of a negative factor. While this is true to an extent, I was pretty-well completely unaffected by any construction noise at my campsite, and I’m sure the construction will be finished soon – so I wouldn’t let that put you off. Also, it obviously stops in the evening, and I can guarantee that while you’re lying in bed, you’ll hear nothing other than the sounds of the bush and the roaring Sabie River off in the distance. Unless you have a neighbour like I did, whose snoring would give any construction site a run for its money! But that can happen wherever you camp, and is likely to affect you worse at a camp where the sites aren’t demarcated, and your neighbour parks his caravan right on top of your tent!

At Lower Sabie, I also had the friendliest neighbours I’ve ever had in a campsite! For the most part, campers were either young families or retired couples. But all of them strolled past and had a quick chat with me to see how things were going, and what I’d spotted in the Park that day. On my last evening in Lower Sabie, two of my neighbours even put in a consolidated effort to ensure that I had a big enough bonfire for my last evening in the Kruger Park! You can read about that in my Day 4 account of this year’s Kruger Adventure (http://wp.me/p3AsCq-66).

Lower Sabie Rest Camp offers just about every sort of facility or amenity you could want from a rest camp in the Kruger National Park – from a swimming pool to a well stocked shop, a good restaurant, first aid, a petrol station, a laundromat and even DSTV in the guest houses, if that’s your cup of tea. I even caught a bit of the cricket on TV while I was having lunch on the deck that overlooks the river. Accommodation available includes campsites, huts, bungalows, safari tents (which come highly recommended) and guest houses, and most of the accommodation is wheelchair-accessible too.

Pros of Camping at Lower Sabie:

-Lower Sabie Rest Camp is ideally located for prime game-viewing;

-Campsites are clean, well maintained and demarcated;

-Any amenity you might need is available;

-The staff are friendly, courteous and professional;

-The ablutions are clean and well maintained, and sufficient to cater to the camp, even if it’s at full capacity;

-My experience was that all of the other campers were friendly and talkative, without being invasive – and they looked to help out wherever they could.

Cons of Camping at Lower Sabie:

-There are no campsites available along the fence;

-Getting a booking at Lower Sabie can be very tricky, due to the high demand on this camp;

-There was a bit of construction going on in the camp, but I’m sure this will be finished soon. Construction is good, in any case – it means that facilities are being maintained and upgraded, which is important.

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Above: A few different views of the campsites at Lower Sabie.

Overall, I give Lower Sabie a 9 out of 10. If they offered campsites at the fence, I wouldn’t hesitate in giving them the full 10 out of 10! My experience was that Lower Sabie is trying hard, and there’s not really much that it could improve on! It’s a stunning camp, full of character. It has an atmosphere about it that you’ll experience as soon as you drive through the entrance gates. It’s hard to explain, but it’s there and you’ll know what I’m talking about once you arrive.

As I’ve said, Lower Sabie is ideally situated for some of the best game viewing that the Park has to offer, and is within driving distance for day-trips down to Skukuza, or up to Tshokwane Picnic Site, via Mlondozi Dam & Picnic Site, as well as the magnificent Nkumbe lookout point. If you’re not into landmarks, there’s also a huge amount of ground that you can cover between the H4-1, H4-2, H3 and the Crocodile River, which would be relatively quiet and make for a brilliant game drive.

There’s not much else that I can say for Lower Sabie. I give it two thumbs up, and will return there without hesitation in future. I loved staying in this character-filled, old camp and will certainly vouch for it. Make your reservation now – space is hard to come by in this camp, and now I know why! You’ll go there, you’ll fall in love with it, and you won’t want to leave. On my last evening there, I caught my mind calculating how much it would cost to live there permanently! We can only dream!

Thanks for taking the time to read this, and please feel free to either leave your comment below, or drop me an email sometime. I’d love to hear about your experience at Lower Sabie.

Kind Regards,

ExploreKNP

Twitter: @ExploreKNP

E-mail: exploreknp@gmail.com

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