Big Five, Secret Seven

With no boundary fence between the reserve and the Kruger National Park, Sabi Sand Game Reserve benefits from the great natural diversity of one of Africa’s richest wildlife areas. The reserve is famous for its leopard sightings, and for being home to a wealth of animals – including the continent’s famous Big Five, and the reserve’s own Secret Seven.

The Big Five

Lions, being the proverbial Kings of the Jungle, sit at the top of the food chain, and they are a magnificent sight to see in the wild. They usually live in prides that comprise a few females, their cubs and a couple of young males. You are most likely to see lion when they’re asleep, as they rest up to twenty hours per day. They are most active early morning and at sunset.

The African Elephant is the largest living terrestrial animal, and it’s one that you may not even need to leave your safari lodge to see. Herds are known to visit lodge watering holes to bathe and drink. Elephants are among the most social animals living in groups up to a hundred individuals.

Two species of rhino are found in South Africa: the square-lipped (white) rhino and hooked-lipped (black) rhino. The white rhino’s name comes from the Dutch word “wijd”, meaning wide, and refers to its wide muzzle. Black rhinos are notoriously bad-tempered and are harder to spot, but are known to roam the Sabi Sand Game Reserve.

While buffalo are sometimes known as “bush cows”, there is little pastoral about these animals. The African buffalo can run faster than 55 kilometres per hour, and males can weigh up to 700 kilograms. Two other things to know about buffalos: they can be aggressive if they feel threatened; and they’re quite susceptible to disease… so don’t get too close.

Finally – and please forgive the pun – leopards are usually very hard to spot. The most elusive of the Big Five, they are masters of disguise. However, Sabi Sand Game Reserve is an excellent place to see these magnificent big cats, with leopards seen here on a very regular basis.

The Secret Seven

The Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve is home to seven very secretive and mysterious nocturnal creatures, which are known to be the most difficult game animals to find while on a safari game drive.


The serval hunts mostly at night, hiding away in deep bush during the day. A medium-sized tawny-coloured cat with black spots and stripes, it is identified by its relatively short tail and strong slender body.

Looking very similar to a domestic cat in appearance, an African Wild Cat is a shy nocturnal animal that hunts at night and feeds mostly on small rodents, hares, lizards and insects. It punches above its weight, though: the African Wild Cat is even known to occasionally kill a small antelope.

Capable of walking long distances at night in search of food, the aardvark (literally, “earth pig”) is usually found in open savannah landscapes near termite mounds, where it uses its long 30-centimetre tongue to capture its prey.

The fascinating pangolin is easily identified by its tough, scaly body. Seldom seen during the day, these skittish animals are easily spooked and will roll up into a ball if they feel threatened.

The large-spotted genet, or Cape genet, is a small cat-like creature that belongs to the Mongoose family. Small and agile, it hunts at night for birds, lizards, rodents, snakes and insects.

The civet is a small, agile mammal found mostly in forested woodland areas. It is known as the animal from which the musky smell used in perfumes is obtained.

Finally, Africa’s largest rodent is the porcupine. Known for its beautiful black and white quills, it spends most of the day hidden away, sleeping in communal burrows, porcupines are herbivores and eat the bulbs and roots of plants as well as berries, fruit and tree bark.

Game Drives

All Sabi Sand Game Reserve safari lodges offer guided safari game drives as part of their guest experience. These are led by expert field guides, who will always do their best to help you get your “bucket list” sightings.

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