I looked long and hard at multiple luxury lodges in the Sabi Sands area before choosing the Lion Sands Ivory Lodge. I selected this lodge in part for the offer it had with the Cape Cadogan in Capetown (two nights free at Cape Cadogan). Were a discount offer still available with the Singita Lodges at the time of booking, I probably would have chosen Singita instead. Lion Sands was apparently selected as the third best hotel in the world in 2006 by Tatlers. The service, food, and the price all reflected that. There are only six villas, and each villa has a great view of the Sabie River. The bedroom and bathroom are split from the living room by a heated plunge pool, which is great for cooling off between the morning and afternoon game-drives. The bathroom was heavenly, with the egg-shell tub and outdoor shower (I never used the indoor shower). The bedroom area has an excellent view of the bushveld. We barely used the living room, although we ate there one evening (food was served by our butler via a pass-through door). I never touched the liquor bounty inside the living room either, because there simply was not enough time to consume that much alcohol in between the drives (the same alcohol is served in the game drives and at mealtime). Two or three villas share one butler, who attends to your gastronomic needs. While our butler was very nice, we did not have a butler at Phinda, and could have obviously gotten by without one at Lion Sands Ivory Lodge. In fact, aside from memorized drink preferences and bringing them to the dining table, I was not entirely sure what the butler did, because the regular staff could have easily performed his duties instead of standing around. The game drives and rangers/trackers were great. Game drives, I figured soon enough, are a hit or miss. Depending on your luck, as well, as the time and day, drives can be excellent or boring. Despite the Sabi Sands Reserve's reputation for leopard sightings, we only saw one during our three days there. We did, however, see a ton of elephants (including newborns), white rhino, and cape buffalo.
We celebrated my birthday there, and the lodge prepared a birthday cake at dinner time and gifted me a pair of binoculars.
We did have an issue during our stay: there are two aircon units in the bedroom/bathroom area. While the bedroom aircon unit was fully functional, the bathroom one was not in our villa. I reported this to multiple staff and manager on the morning of our second day. The problem was that the room became quite hot during the day (one aircon unit was not enough to cool off the large area). Also, I preferred to lie under blanket cover at night to prevent mosquitoes from biting (despite the presence of the mosquito netting), but it just got too hot with only one aircon unit. End result was that I got bitten by mosquitoes in a malaria endemic area. Despite my complaints, the aircon unit was never repaired during our three days stay. For the money we paid, I expected almost instant service regarding this issue (we could have moved to a different, unoccupied, villa at the lodge). All I received was an apology on a card.
In the end, I think Lion Sands (or ultra-lux lodges of that ilk) are nice to try once if you have the money, but more bang for the buck can be had for half the price (and still be deemed luxury)
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Family owned since 1933, this international award winning private game reserve spans across the world famous Sabi Sand Game Reserve and Kruger National Park. Lion Sands has four lodges; Lion Sands Ivory Lodge & Lion Sands River Lodge (Sabi Sand) and Lion Sands Tinga Lodge & Lion Sands Narina Lodge (Kruger Park). Each has a unique style, but is a reflection of Lion Sands' five-star signature of sophisticated interiors, unique experiences and service excellence. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Lion Sands Ivory Hotel Sabi Sand Game Reserve
- Lion Sands Ivory Lodge South Africa/Sabi Sand Game Reserve