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Single Photographer in Sabi Sands

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Montreal, Canada
posts: 14
Single Photographer in Sabi Sands

Hi all

Looking for some insights. I have safari'ed in 6 countries (20 lodges) and have been to SS before (Rattrays). Likely the best game experience overall. I am planning another trip for photography but am traveling solo this time. I have previously stayed at 11 and beyond properties and while I know Kirkmans is not considered one of the best (large and a "traditional" ambiance) it does seem to have a good location (bordering Mala Mala) and the rates are very good, including no single supplement. I was considering staying here and at Exeter to take advantage of 4 for 6 deal, but i know Exeter can have 8 in a truck. Rattray's 4. My thinking is this...with the money I save at and beyond camps (literally 50% less than most places given the no single supp and the 4 for 6) am I not better staying there and renting a SUV for half my stay? If I do this...should I stay all 6 days at Kirkman or split it between 2 parts of the park?

I was planning on also going to Ngala and Phinda to mix things up...

thanks for any thoughts.

Cheers,

NJ

23 replies to this topic
Johannesburg, South...
posts: 667
1. Re: Single Photographer in Sabi Sands

Hi NJ,

Your idea sounds like a good one ie getting a private vehicle for half your stay and going for the &Beyond Pay 4 Stay 6 offer. I would also split between the 2 lodges, perhaps 3/3 or 4/2 in favour of Exeter River. Just remember that if the lodge is not full they won't put max guests on the vehicles. You can perhaps mention that you are a photographer and would prefer to be on a vehicle with fewer guest if possible. The lodges will normally assist with requests if they can. The no single supplement policy for the first 2 singles is definitely a big thing to consider, and the cost saving is significant!

Game viewing is generally fantastic throughout the Sabi Sands, but you are correct about Kirkmans being a bigger lodge. FYI in case you didn't know, Kirkmans historically was part of Mala Mala. By the way, Mala Mala do not use trackers anymore for the past couple of years already, if this is a factor for you.

If you can go to Ngala and Phinda as well, you'll have a very well rounded photo safari, with the opportunity to photograph pretty much everything.

I hope my thoughts and opinions help you.

Regards.

Brett | Owner | Safaris For Me | South Africa

Edited: 10:42 am, July 09, 2013
Gold Coast
Destination Expert
for Kruger National Park
posts: 2,377
reviews: 22
2. Re: Single Photographer in Sabi Sands

Hello

Just a couple of points to remember.

I presume when you say rent an SUV you mean a private game vehicle. If you decide to go down this track do check with the lodge first that they can accommodate your request. Some lodges cannot guarantee it when you book because they are only allowed a certain number of vehicles out at any one time, and it will depend on how heavily booked they become during your stay.

Also consider that if you stay at a lodge that has six rooms and therefore only six people per vehicle, that is one couple per seat, you should end up with a seat all to yourself anyway. While not having a vehicle all to yourself, you could save $ and still have the advantage of getting great viewing for photography without paying the extra for a personal vehicle. Yes it is fine to say you might get lucky if the lodge is not full so you don't have to share a seat, but it will never be guaranteed, and we have seen plenty of vehicles with nine and even ten guests and no way would that be good for photography.

We have also stayed at Rattrays and have some truly amazing memories of some of the sightings we had there. As you say only four to a vehicle and for half our stay we had the vehicle all to ourselves, certainly an advantage when we spent over an hour with a pack of hyenas on a rhino carcass while a leopard watched from a tree branch above! Very special but unfortunately out of most budgets.

.

Montreal, Canada
posts: 14
3. Re: Single Photographer in Sabi Sands

Thanks both of you. Yes, I am well aware that you can luck out with truck configurations. In over 80+ game drives in 6 countries I have actually only had 6 in the truck a handful of times...the rest were less. Very lucky. Sometimes just two of us :-) But my photography was also not as important on the first trips as it is now, so I feel a little more pressure. Sometimes it isn't even the number of people-it's how fidgety they are! And indeed, I have thought that as a single I could luck out as well...I am secretly hoping for that. I have flexibility when I travel so am requesting a review to see if there looks like a period where it is a little quieter at my choices. I will certainly make sure SUV's are available. I have generally had fabulous andbeyond experiences and they really do try to accommodate needs.

The game viewing at Rattray's was excellent when I was there as well, but truthfully, I found the camp quite stuffy and had a few issues with how they managed things. Sorry to hear about the trackers-ours was my favorite person on the staff. I can st at Exeter or Kirkmans with a SUV for less than Rattrays-huge single supplement.

Brett-interesting you suggest more time on the Exeter concession. I have heard the game is generally best (of the and beyond props) at Kirkmans. Are you basing that on the size of the lodge? I am actually also looking at Leadwood instead of Exeter-as a treat. Have you been to either or both? Leadwood has 4 so it would seem they only use one truck. That's a drawback if not using an SUV.

Also, I am now thinking of an either-or with Ngala and Phinda. I have been to Forest (lovely camp) and Mountain (too hotel for me) I have had my best two cheetah sightings there, but weather was lousy for the most part. I would likely try Vlei this time. I did find the varied ecosystems at Phinda quite wonderful.

Ngala I have not been to. Any thoughts on this decision welcome...

Thanks to both of you..

N

Bournemouth, Dorset
posts: 222
reviews: 2
4. Re: Single Photographer in Sabi Sands

Have been to both Phinda and Ngala.

Loved Phinda both times and agree about the varied Eco systems.

Ngala have several rangers who are keen photographers. They usually have 6 guests per vehicle maximum. We are going there n October but found the sole use of vehicle cost a little too much.

The pay 4 stay 6 is terrific value. As we will move on to Kruger we are taking the opportunity to be pampered for the 6 days but otherwise would have considered splitting our time between two camps in the greater Kruger area.

Johannesburg, South...
posts: 667
5. Re: Single Photographer in Sabi Sands

Hi NJ,

Having flexibility will certainly help with finding a time when the lodges are emptier.

The reason I prefer Exeter to Kirkmans I suppose is personal experience. First of all is the size of the lodge, and secondly I have spent a lot more time in the western sector and have had phenomenal sightings overall, especially leopard sighting and wild dog. Leadwood is also a very nice option but it is considerably more expensive than Exeter River at about ZAR 1700 more per night on 2013 rates. I've been to Kirkamans twice and Exeter River Lodge once, unfortunately not Leadwood due to time constraints when I went Exeter River and I think it was full over the time that I was there last year, but I have no doubt its worth treating yourself.

With regards to Ngala, I've spent time in the Timbavati and the game viewing is also fantastic. And its a bit different to the Sands. Ngala Tented Camp has also just been completely redone after being badly damaged because of the floods earlier in the year. Phinda as you know with cheetah sighting is like leopard sightings in the Sands. I think from a logistics point of view Ngala will be easier to get to, being about 90kms or so north of the Sands.

The game viewing across the Sands and generally in the entire Greater Kruger area is always good and there is no doubt in my mind that you will have awesome photographic opportunities throughout your trip.

Regards.

Brett | Owner | Safaris For Me | South Africa

Western Cape, South...
Destination Expert
for South Africa, Sabi Sand Game Reserve
posts: 6,195
reviews: 37
6. Re: Single Photographer in Sabi Sands

Unmentioned so far is Dulini, which isn't an AndBeyond camp anymore.. but still one of the best of its kind. It will be charing a single supplement now. 6 guests to a vehicle is their limit.

The old 6-for-4 at AndBeyond has been revamped a little for 2014 and isn't quite that big a discount anymore, but still a good one. I like your thought about using the savings (because of no single supplement) at AndBeyond lodges to have a private vehicle some of the time.

Gold Coast
Destination Expert
for Kruger National Park
posts: 2,377
reviews: 22
7. Re: Single Photographer in Sabi Sands

As usual will agree with dave and suggest have a look at Dulini.

Traverses in the same western sector as other mentioned lodges but absolutely guaranteed you would not share a seat.

Reason is there are 2 vehicles and only six rooms [well more like apartments]. So one seat per room and not only that, they are just upgrading their vehicles further to take camera equipment in the middle of the seat.

Really looking after the keen photographers, and just to add we are soon heading back there for the fourth time.

Johannesburg, South...
posts: 667
8. Re: Single Photographer in Sabi Sands

I think Dulini is also a great option, but didn't suggest it because of the single supplement, which makes the rate rather pricy to say the least. If not for that, it would definitely be a front runner for consideration, especially with the Pay 3 Stay 4 offer!

Brett | Owner | Safaris For Me | South Africa

Montreal, Canada
posts: 14
9. Re: Single Photographer in Sabi Sands

Thanks-I love hearing these varied opinions. Brett-thanks for clarifying your preference. I have only been to Rattray's so I certainly want to try to areas this time. Staying at Dulini means I lose the maximum benefit of cost saving with &Beyond - no single supplement and stay 6 pay 4. In total I could be staying 12 and paying 8...with no single supplement. This means there will likely be some coins left for a few days of SUV. Also, having traveled with them three times before, and having stayed in 11 of their lodges, I am pretty blunt when i speak to them. :-) One piece of information I have just been given about Leadwood, where I am hoping to stay, is they are only booking 3 of the 4 cottages, unless someone takes the entire camp. This is to ensure there are no longer 8 in a truck. This has been confirmed twice and based one of those cottages having me as a single, max in truck would be 5 if they are full. Not sure how recent this is...

Vipa-thanks for that bit about the rangers at Ngala-interesting to know.

I was thinking I would spend my time (likely 12 nights) between Ngala, SS and Phinda Vlei. (3, 6(3 & 3), 3) The transfers to Phinda are killers $$ though. I enjoyed Phinda when I was there but had lousy weather...wanted to try again. Now I am thinking maybe less moving around, (lugging all my gear alone this time!) So, Ngala 4, SS 8 (4 & 4) But am concerned that might be a little long in Sabi...I like variety in scenery-a reson I wanted to go back to Phinda. If I can get the transfer cost to Phinda down, I may stay with that. Again, welcome any thoughts on all this and thanks again.

Cheers!

Johannesburg, South...
posts: 667
10. Re: Single Photographer in Sabi Sands

Hi again wiggit,

I guess it all comes down to cost at the end of the day.

I think 8 nights in SS will be fine as long as you split it between 2 lodges in different parts of the reserve, and cost wise and logistically will probably be easier to stay in that part of the country for the duration. If you can get the cost of the transfer to Phinda to a reasonable level, I think the variety of different lodges in different areas with different eco systems and bush will be great.

Regards.

Brett | Owner | Safaris For Me | South Africa

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