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Lion Sands River Lodge, Sabi Sands, South Africa

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1) Name of property and country: (Please also include name of property and country as topic title and include as tags as well)
Lion Sands River Lodge, Sabi Sands, South Africa

2) Website address if known:
http://www.lionsands.com

3) Date of stay, including whether Green Season, Shoulder season or High season pricing (if known).
Sept 2015 - Peak season is approx Dec 18-Jan 3
We did get a special offer of 2 free nights in Capetown

4) Length of stay:
4 days, 3 nights

5) Why did you choose this camp or lodge to stay in? Based upon what?
The safari was only a part of what we did in SA. We chose here based on almost guaranteed sightings of cats/tripadvisor reviews, no kids, and we wanted to relax in a luxurious room after being on numerous flights and over 30 hours of driving to and from places.

6) How did you book the property, direct or agent? Were your enquiries dealt with quickly and efficiently?
Direct - yes

7) How many times have you been on Safari?
First time

8) To which countries?
NA

9) Which properties have you been to previously that you are comparing this one to?
NA

10) Was the camp/lodge fenced?
Yes

11) How many rooms/tents does it have?
20 rooms

12) What tent or room did you stay in? Did it have a good view? Was it overlooked or private?
I think #4. It was not connected to another room. There is a lodge layout on their website. Our room overlooked the Sabi River. Fantastic view!! Across the river we saw elephants, impala, and kudu. One afternoon I woke up for a nap and saw a lioness hunting!

13) How comfortably furnished was the room/tent?
Extremely comfortable. Well stocked bar with alcohol and chocolates.

14) Did you like the food? If yes, please state why. If no, please state why.
Yes! There was so much delicious food you won't be in danger of going hungry. The desserts were ok, everything else was superb.

15) Was there a varied menu offering multiple choice? If vegetarian was a suitable alternative offered? (Did you have to request this in advance?)
Breakfast menu was the same each morning, though it offered at least 7 options. Lunch and dinner were varied. I am not vegetarian and can't comment.

16) What is the default dining arrangement? Single tables or communal dining? Do the guides/managers host at meal times?
Depends on the meal. Breakfast and dinner were usually communal (no guide) and lunch was single table (no guide). One day out of 3 there was a traditional south african theme night with a bonfire. We sat with our guide and vehicle group while the staff sang and danced.

17) How good were the packed breakfasts/lunches if staying out on game drives?
NA

18) What are the game drive vehicles? Please include photo if possible.
open safari, 4WD. Pic to come

19) How many guests per row?
3 rows, stadium seating. 2 guests per row

20) How long were the game drives and were they varied in the routes taken?
I don't have the best sense of direction but yes there were varied routes taken. see 21

21) What are the standard game drive times? Are game drive times flexible: i.e., if agreed in advance, can you go out earlier than suggested and stay out later, i.e., not returning for lunch but taking supplies with you?
Set game drives: morning game drive 0530 to 0830, evening game drive 1630-1930. The morning and evening drives we stopped for a sundowner outside the vehicle.
Private vehicles available, not sure of the cost

22) Is this a private conservancy/concession, and what is the vehicle/lodge density like?
Private conservancy. Lion Sands limits the vehicles that traverse the property. The most we saw at a sighting is 4.

23) If in a National Park, what is the vehicle density in the immediate vicinity?

24) Are you able to off-road?
Yes. No off-road driving in Kruger

25) Are there rotation policies for sightings i.e., You face the risk of queuing or being bumped from a sighting.
I'm not sure if there is a specific policy. If we spotted something, we'd observe on our own, then use the radio to call others. When others radioed us, we'd get a decent position, then get a better position as others left. There were never more than 4 vehicles to a sighting.

26) What wildlife is this property known for? Did you get good sightings?
Big 5, including leopard. Did not see cheetah. Excellent sightings including leopard on 2 days out of 3, a lion with his tooth hanging out, and a lion and lioness with 2 cubs. Also saw baby giraffe, baby elephant and rhino.

27) How was the standard of guiding?
Very good. We had the head guide, Landon, and he was in constant radio contact with other guides. The only frustration was we didn't seem to have much say in what we pursued for the game drive. Our vehicle wanted to see cats but since we had seen so many already we were taken to buffalo and rhino. None of us spoke up so not sure if that would've made a difference.

28) If you had a bad experience with a guide, why? Did you report the issue to management, and if so, how did they deal with the issue?
NA

29) If you had a very good experience with your guide, please give reasons why:
He had thorough knowledge of the animals and their history.

30) Were staff attentive to your requests/needs?
Definitely! With a smile, nothing was too much trouble though we are not high maintenance guests

31) Does the property support a local community conservation initiative. If so, please provide brief details and website address if known.
Pack for a Purpose - guests bring suitcases packed with basic yet necessary supplies as listed on the Pack for a Purpose website
Save the Rhino Foundation - anti-poaching rhino
Bhubezi community projects - educate and provide car for children, create jobs for disadvantaged
http://www.lionsands.com/more/responsibility/

32) Safaritalk trip report link:

33) Any other pertinent details you wish to add:
no children under 10 allowed. Management has set the bar for this property. Service and friendliness were better than our honeymoon at the St. Regis in Bora Bora. I loved everything about it and would definitely go back.

34) Please add your photographs of the property below, with headings.
Pics to come

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