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“fantastic wildlife”
4 of 5 bubbles Review of Sable Sands

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Sable Sands
Certificate of Excellence
Oregon City, Oregon
Level Contributor
3 reviews
“fantastic wildlife”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed November 25, 2013

Within five minutes of leaving the lodge on game drives, we saw a cheetah, two gorgeous male lions, and two painted dogs! Though there wasn't much water in the waterhole in front of the lodge at this time of year -- end of the dry season -- we still saw elephants, wart hogs, baboons, impala, and Cape buffalo visiting it throughout the days.

The lodge is a work in progress, but Marleen and Brian have done a great job with it. They are superb hosts, and the staff is excellent. The food was wonderful and even more impressive because it was prepared over a campfire. We had a group of 13, and there was another group of 14 that overlapped two of the days.

  • Stayed November 2013, traveled with friends
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Helpful?
Thank Rene P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
sikumi, Owner at Sable Sands, responded to this review, May 21, 2014
Dear Rene!

Thank you so much for your wonderful review! We are very happy that you saw a cheetah, two gorgeous male lions, and two painted dogs within five minutes of leaving the lodge on game drives! We can never guarantee this but are overjoyed when guests have that privilege!

We wish you well and please feel welcome to come back to our little paradise,

warmest regards,

Brian, Marleen & team
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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141 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
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English first
Portland, Oregon
Level Contributor
40 reviews
15 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 17 helpful votes
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed November 3, 2013

I stayed a few nights with a group [12 people]. The food was amazing, the hosts are great and wonderfully welcoming, the common areas are wonderful.
The place has huge potential. However, when I was there, unfortunately, the pool was not usable [dirty and lots of wasps], the water hole for the animals had hardly any water in it and therefore not many animals came. The supporting beams in the cabins [1-8] had woodworms in them so that every morning most of us had a thin layer of sawdust on everything including the beds.

  • Stayed October 2013, traveled with friends
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Helpful?
2 Thank Petra_In_Oregon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
sikumi, Owner at Sable Sands, responded to this review, May 21, 2014
Dear Petra,

Thank you so much for the time taken to write your review!
We are happy with your compliments: food was amazing, the hosts are great and wonderfully welcoming, the common areas are wonderful.
We are also happy that you see potential improvement and please allow us to update you:
We have improved on the pool treatment, although we hate to use too many chemicals and Zimbabwe doesn't offer many alternatives yet.
About the waterhole in front of the lodge we like to reply the following: at the time of your stay (November) it had not rained for 10 months and we only have 1 borehole, which we always direct to guests first and the overflow is pumped into that waterhole ( this was the very first season that that waterhole was pumped as it is historically a natural pan which dries up from August onwards). We are currently considering to drill a second borehole for the waterhole and are happy to inform you that we had a great rainy season and managed to also harvest lots of it, so the waterhole is looking healthy and wildlife is getting used to this new pan.
Wood borers: after we had completely re thatched all the lodges and main buildings, we found ourselves in a nightmare situation: there are wood borers present in the beams and we can start all over again... We will and we can, promise, but it takes a lot of capital and time, so please allow us to have this work in progress. Please also note that we haven't had the borer problem as bad as it was in november- december the start of the rainy season in which all insects come to live and multiply.

We hope that you will return and find all in order!

wishing you a wonderful day,

warmest regards,

Brian, Marleen & team
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London, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
4 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 27, 2013

Having lived in the Zimbabwean bush for the majority of the first 20 years of my life, it was absolutely fantastic revisiting the Dete Flei and seeing how much work Brian & Marleen have done in relaunching Sable Sands. There are more "luxurious" and subsequently more expensive camps in the Hwange area but none of them match the value for money you get at SS (yes I have abbreviated this). There are really only three things that are important in a camp: the animals in the area, the people that manage the camp and the food & facilities. SS and Marleen & Brian absolutely hit the nail on the head for all three.

The people:
Brian and Marleen are an amazing couple and the whole camp feels like a family rather than a safari camp. Everyone from Million to John is warm and unbelievably friendly and everyone jumps in to help run the camp and look after the two new additions to the family (two adopted babies, who are adorable).

The wildlife in the area:
I wasn't expecting to see too much game, but within the first hour we had a herd of approximately 300 buffalo come drink at the pan, which you can overlook from the bar. You see all the usual suspects in terms of antelope and smaller game but what really sets this place apart are the elephants. There are hundreds of them and you can easily spend most of your game drive sitting watching them at the various pans in the Vlei. Dont! There is so much more to see.We were very lucky to see the territorial male cheetah on our evening game drive, the other group saw a pack of wild dogs and you can see lion and leopard. You can pretty much see everything in one amazing area.No rhino sadly due to poaching, but we saw a honey badger which almost made up for this (poaching? Or did the honey badger eat the rhinos, being pound for pound the most ferocious animal in Africa?**).

The facilities:
The camp has been rebuilt as an eco lodge and looks fantastic- the bedrooms and bathrooms are fitted to a high standard, extremely comfortable beds with mosquito nets and natural soaps and luxury towels etc. in the bathrooms. We were nervous about not having fans or air-conditioning, but even in the hottest part of the year, it was remarkably cool in the rooms. The meals are set up under the stars in front of the main welcome area, literally 300 meters from the pan, so it's stunning. There are no electric fences, and they do have elephants come up and drink at the pool,so you have to be cautious walking back to the rooms at night.Top tip, bring a torch. The food is incredible, we had amazing mushroom soups and steaks for dinner, cooked to top restaurant standard. It's not a buffet like a lot of other lodges, so I felt the quality was so much better.

All in all it was a fantastic trip, so glad we stopped by and we will definitely be back when we are in the country again

** No rhinos were harmed by badgers while writing this review, or have ever been harmed by badgers. If you want to save rhinos from the potential scourge of badgers visit the Matobo Rhino Protection Initiative. Please do!

  • Stayed September 2013, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
Thank Dave L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
sikumi, Owner at Sable Sands, responded to this review, May 21, 2014
Dear Dave,

It has taken us too long to get back to your review but please feel assured that we have read it and we only have one word for it.... wow.. or perhaps also...you make us feel so honoured that you, as Zimbabwean born author, have gone into so much detail and seem to have loved you stay!

Welcome back home anytime Dave!

warm regards,

Brian, Marleen & team
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Washington, DC
Level Contributor
43 reviews
16 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 21 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 14, 2013

We visited Sable Sands as a family of 4 and had a wonderful experience. The common area is amazing with a balcony overlooking the grasslands. In the afternoon we hung out in hammocks and watched a large troop of baboons come to the water hole. Our visit included a trip to hanger and also the wild dog conservancy which was a highlight of our time in Zimbabwe and gave us an opportunity to see the elusive wild dogs up close. Meals were very good and served in front of a roaring fire. Guest rooms are also well done and gave us a sense of being in the wild. We were so glad we added time here too our Victoria falls itinerary. It was well worth it!

  • Stayed July 2013, traveled with family
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Helpful?
Thank Michael S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
sikumi, Owner at Sable Sands, responded to this review, May 21, 2014
Dear Michael,

Thank you so much for your wonderful review! You have already written so many reviews around the world, we feel privileged to be amongst them!

It seems like you made the best of it by combining wildlife, education and Vic Falls,
a great recommendation.

We hope to welcome you for more..

warm regards,

Brian, Marleen & team
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
152 reviews
67 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 87 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed September 22, 2013

We were so glad that we chose to stay in Sable Sands with Marleen and Brian when we visited the Hwange National Park! This is one of our first safari experience, and it was very nice! It's rustic as it should be out in the wild. But it also has just enough of the modern comfort to enjoy the wilderness! We stayed for a total of three nights in this lovely hotel inside the bush! There are 11 cottages, but they are far enough apart that we felt we had our own space. We loved the various sitting areas around the lodge. We could always find a spot to read or take a nap and forget about the business of life. One day we enjoyed lunch overlooking the vlei with elephants taking mud baths. The food was simple but tasty. They served the right portion for us, not too big and not too small. We had a unique experience of a "shovel" dinner one night while hearing the lions roaring in the bush out there. Since we haven't seen any cats during our game drives, Brian was nice enough to organize an impromptu night drive to see if we could spot the lions... Unfortunately, no luck... We saw the foot prints the next morning during our estate game drive. We did game drives around the estate as well as game drives inside the national park. One of the cool things we really liked was coming back from a game drive to the candle-lite lodge after dark, it's magical.

As for the cottage itself, it's simple and clean with a comfortable bed. There is a mosquito net around the bed though being there in the dry season we didn't have much problem with mosquitoes. The hot shower was fantastic! Best we have had out in the wild!

We really felt relax and at home at Sable Sands. Marleen and Brian and the staff work very hard to make the place better to share the beauty of the land and wildlife with their guests. Keep up the good work! We hope to visit again someday.

P.S. We learned that it is better to arrange the transfer to be dropped off and picked up at the Painted Dog Conservation Center than at the Hwange Safari Lodge. The conservation center is closer to Sable Sands as well as being a very well done and educational place to learn about the Painted Dogs or African Hunting Dogs. Glad we stopped by there.

  • Stayed August 2013, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
Thank Becky0222
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
sikumi, Owner at Sable Sands, responded to this review, May 21, 2014
Thank you Becky for your review!

You are a senior reviewer we have noticed, and you make a huge effort to describe so many details of your stay, it is very informative and great for other travellers to read! Our apologies for not responding earlier, we've had a struggle with network before but now we have wifi as well so this makes things easier.
Some words and sentences picked up in your review are the various sitting areas around the lodge, the wildlife experience, the Shovel brai with roaring lions and impromptu safari to try and find the lions and the Painted Dog Conservation Center which hosts great informative tours, and we are delighted that you enjoyed that all!

As you write, you would like to come back some day and so we hope that your wish will come true:-)

Until then, have a great time anywhere else in the world!

Brian, Marleen & team
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Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Level Contributor
12 reviews
10 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed September 13, 2013

As overlanders we spent 10 nights at Sable Sands and it was too short.
this eco-friendly lodge is in the middle of nature, though only a 10 minutes drive away from the main road to Hwange National Park. It is 5 minutes away from the airstrip.
you have an amazing view on the vlei where you can see sable-antilopes , elephants, buffalo etc.
from your comfy hammock. Queen Elizabeth stayed in one of the rooms so you can imagine how comfortable they are.
Marleen has been a cook working in a 2 (Michelin)star restaurant in Europe, and i do not know a better cook in Africa. Brian is the engine and manages in a wonderful way.

  • Stayed July 2013, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
Thank gertru2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
sikumi, Owner at Sable Sands, responded to this review, May 21, 2014
Dear Gertru!

Thank you so much for your wonderful review! We are happy that you stayed so long with us as 'overlander' although driving around in your own beautiful camper from country to country could also be seen as adventurous independent traveller :-). And that is just it: spending a few days or more to also be spoiled with some luxury and being cooked and served for is then one of those things.
Mind you, I am not a 2 michelin star cook, nor will I ever be, but our passion for food will always be noticeable and we are glad that you enjoyed it! We welcome you back to see improvements and to share more thoughts about possible improvements with Brian & the team & myself!
Up until your return home, we wish you a lovely time!

warmest regards,

Brian & Marleen
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Växjö, Sweden
1 review
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed September 2, 2013

This is a place second to non! The experience of dining out in "the wild" is something I will remember forever. The host couple has a great passion for there lodge and it´s guests which results in great service quality.

  • Stayed August 2013, traveled with friends
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Helpful?
Thank johan86w
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
sikumi, Owner at Sable Sands, responded to this review, May 21, 2014
Thank you Johan!

Straight to the point: you felt the excitement about dining in the wild and felt our passion, so that has created good memories for you.
Now let's hope you will return to add some more thrilling memories with that:
When are you coming? We will try calling the lions for you :-))

warm regards,

Brian, Marleen & team
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Additional Information about Sable Sands

Property: Sable Sands
Address: | Dete Vlei, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
Location: Zimbabwe > Matabeleland North Province > Hwange National Park
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beverage Selection Restaurant Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #11 of 22 Specialty Lodging in Hwange National Park
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$
Number of rooms: 11
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The eco friendly Sable Sands has 16 traditionally thatched 'rondavels' with en suite bathroom, making your lodge the perfect blend of ancient culture, nature and modern convenience. The lodge is owner managed and has built up a great reputation for the enthusiastic team and hospitality. Sable Sands is situated on a forestry concession and the lodge harvests dead wood for cooking and heating up the hot water through wood boilers. A generator is ran in the early morning hours and evening for guests to charge their cameras and batteries, and lighting is provided through solar lights after the generator has made place for the sounds of nature at night. Laundry service is provided and limited wifi is available in the evening before and after dinner. This African forest home also has a tree house and a refreshing solar powered swimming pool. The main building composes of a dining area, lounge, library and bar and just in front there is a large outdoor fire pit where guests can have dinner under the stars instead of inside. From here you overlook the Dete Vlei, which frequently hosts wildlife visitors at the solar pumped water hole. Here you have a chance of seeing sable antelope, zebra and thirsty herds of elephant, buffalo, and if you are lucky you might spot lion, cheetah, painted dog, jackal and more. The Vlei is also renowned for its incredible bird population: no less than 350 different species in all. Safaris are conducted on the private and neighboring concessions or through pre booking inside the Hwange National Park (18 kms - 40 mins game drive to the entrance of the park). During the safari, coffee/tea/water or water and soft drink/beers are provided and included. Sable Sands does not offer any credit card facilities yet, and guests are asked to settle their extra's (eg. laundry, bar bill, extra safari) in cash upon departure. ... more   less 
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