Explore the rich wildlife of the signature perennial rivers of the central and southern Kruger, the Olifants and the Sabie. Enjoy family hospitality on the riverbanks of Balule, a night at a plains waterhole, and a full day’s transfer through the public Kruger, including the iconic river panorama from a favourite restcamp. Then relax into full-on luxury in the vast suites of a private concession lodge with private decks and plunge pools with riverbank views. Fly home from the lodge’s private airport.
THREE NIGHTS, OLIFANTS RIVER
The mighty Olifants is the largest, most reliable perennial river, coursing down from the escarpment and swallowing up the Blyde river on its way through the Kruger to the Mozambique coast at Xai Xai. It bisects Balule, 450 square kilometres of private Greater Kruger. Its geology brings the defining features of mica rich caves, hillocks, and boulders strewn around the countryside.
ELEPHANTS, CROCS, HIPPO
This Big Five area is notable for the herds of elephants which give the river its name. You spend two nights at Enkoveni in one of its river bank chalets arranged around a manor-styled central building. Your balcony looks onto prime territory for leopard and aardvark, and enjoys views of omnipresent crocodile and hippo.
THIRD NIGHT AT WATERHOLE
Your third night will be spent at sister lodge Naledi, a traditional thatched bush retreat at a waterhole away from the river, where the food, wine and swimming pool make for a special night. As the combined operation is owner-run, handover will be smooth and your excellent interpretative sundowner drive will continue in different areas to those you have seen.
Depart early after your third night in Balule for a game-viewing transfer through public Kruger to the Sabie river. For a very full day, enter via Phalaborwa gate and take in extraordinary river views at Olifants restcamp over breakfast. Or you can start later after an activity and enter at Orpen gate. Enjoy lunch at Satara on the lion-rich plains before heading to Lion Sands Kruger concession.
TWO NIGHTS ON THE SABIE RIVER
Your next destination ups the star rating and exclusivity. Lion Sands consists of two nine-suite luxury lodges on their own private concession inside the Kruger Park boundary. Your massive room has an outside deck with a plunge pool overlooking the river which, narrower and slower flowing than the Olifants, is a tranquil haven for game.
CREATURES & COMFORTS
Game drives (with a maximum of six people on each) and post-breakfast walks are superlative in this exclusive southern enclave; vehicle density is extremely low and consists only of fellow lodge guests. Cuisine, wine and service are all excellent, and the lodge is a peaceful and highly relaxing destination in itself.
TINYELETI TREEHOUSE SLEEPOUT
Lion Sand pioneered the luxury treehouse sleep-out, and Tinyeleti is its latest refinement to the experience. Overlooking the Sabie river, you will be escorted to the private deck, served dinner and drinks, and left overnight to enjoy the spectacular starry skies and nocturnal rummagings on the riverbank below. Watch the sun rise over the river before being served coffee and rusks and joining the morning drive.
SABI SAND SOUTH
An attractive option is to continue across the river to experience Sabi Sand at sister Lion Sands River lodge. This becomes a compelling proposition when Lion Sands is offering 4 nights for 3, when you can apply this offer here. Drives and walks are excellent. Your range extends along the Sabie river and up to the Sand river through a reciprocal arrangement with Kirkman’s Camp.
FINE FOOD, WINE, SERVICE
The lodge is fantastically appointed and offers outstanding food, drink and service. There are two swimming pools to choose from. Slightly larger than its sister over the river, it benefits from a good gym and excellent spa with a wide range of treatments and massage. Golf can be arranged at nearby Leopard Creek.
With or without extensions, you will enjoy a final morning activity and a hearty breakfast on the deck at your lodge before hopping on to an open vehicle for a short game drive through the park to Skukuza Aiport, directly accessible from (and partly owned by) Lion Sands. From here you can fly directly to Johannesburg, Cape Town or, using Airlink’s lodge link service, head north to Timbavati or northern or western Sabi Sand.