South Africa Safari | Origins of Sabi Sands

Elephants in Sabi Sabi Game Resere.
The Sabi Sands, bordering the Kruger National Park in South Africa, is the iconic luxury African safari destination and is the forerunner of African safari comfort and style East Africa, and in particular Kenya, is considered the birthplace of the African safari where the original safari was an elaborate affair with numerous staff of butlers, cooks and waiters. This was the age of African romance, the age of the great white hunters, and the original safaris revolved around hunting, as depicted in the great Hollywood movies.

The First Photographic Safaris in Brief

Game drive at Elephant Plains

Although Kenya is considered the birthplace of the safari what is not well known is that photographic safaris were happening in the Kruger National Park in South Africa from as early as 1927. The idea of utilizing the park for safaris was first mooted as early as 1923 when the reserve was still known as the Sabie Game Reserve.

The idea was to provide patrons of the train running from Johannesburg to Lourenco Marques an overnight stop to experience the park. Rangers would act as guides when accompanying guests in the park. Almost 100 years later the concept of rangers accompanying guests around the park is the new ideal of an African safari.

Sabi Sands History

When the Kruger National Park was established in 1926 it incorporated the Shingwedzi Game Reserve - the present day northern part of the park - and parts of the Sabie Game Reserve. Some of the Sabie Game Reserve was returned to private ownership and it is here that the idea of the Luxury African Safari was born.

As the area that was privatized was not suited to farming due to the prevalence of malaria and other animal diseases it was used by the owners as weekend and holiday retreats - with a bias towards hunting. Landowners in the region later formed the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve.

In the 1970's some of the owners began to look at the region as a tourist attraction with its big game and untamed Africa feel. Tentative marketing soon turned into the new direction for African safaris. Coining the hunting term, the Big 5, the private reserves of the Sabi Sands became the flag-bearers of the safari renaissance - an idea that has been taken on by even the most ardent critics of the original idea.

Sabi Sands Into the Future

With the new ideal of African Luxury Safari Travel taking root across the continent the lodges in the Sabi Sands have had to keep one step ahead of the competition and are doing so with constant upgrades in service and accommodation.
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