Steeped In History

While the origins of Sabi Sand Game Reserve can be traced to the late 1800s, and President Paul Kruger’s proclamation of the famous Kruger National Park, history records the official creation of the Sabi Private Game Reserve in 1934. In 1948 it became the Sabi Sands Private Reserve, and today at least six of the original families – now in their third or fourth generations – still own large tracts of this spectacular land.

Human habitation predates the reserve by many years, with Stone Age artefacts, San rock art, and artefacts linked to Arab, Portuguese, and Dutch traders all pointing to a deep and rich history. The Voortrekkers passed through this part of the world during their journeys, while the Shangaan tribe developed here after King Shaka attempted to conquer the various regional tribes.

Today the reserve shares an unfenced eastern border with the Kruger National Park. That has not always been the case. Fences were erected in the east in 1961 due to the twin threats of hunters and foot-and-mouth disease. Sabi Sand Game Reserve then erected fences on its western perimeter to prevent the wildlife from moving out of the area. The eastern border fences were finally removed in 1993, and animals now roam freely between the two reserves.

Sabi Sand Game Reserve is widely considered to be the birthplace of the luxury African safari. This began in the 1970s and 1980s when the reserve’s marketing teams took aim at the historical hunting concept of the Big Five. Lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo were originally considered the five most dangerous animals to hunt; that has changed to a list of the five must-see animals while on a safari game drive.

The reserve’s 62 hectares of land are made up of 19 farms, whose rich history is written in the names of its various camps and lodges. Take Londolozi Varty Camp, named after former farm owner Charles Varty; or andBeyond Kirkman’s Camp, named after the reserve’s first full-time ranger Donald Kirkman. Mala Mala Rattray’s is named after the Rattray family, who saw the development of Malamala from a private family farm to the internationally acclaimed wildlife destination that it is today. Even the Kingston Treehouse in Lion Sands Game Reserve carries that sense of history, being named after one of the original farms.

During your visit, be sure to ask your hosts and safari field guides to point out other names, and to share their insights into the history of this remarkable reserve.

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