Nick and Rob More, whose great-grandfather bought Lion Sands in the 1930s, gave the lodge a complete makeover, and it now numbers amongst South Africa's most delectable camps. The decked, open-fronted lodge looks out across sandy reed beds to the river, with 18 guest suites fanning out to either side. The décor is contemporary Afro-chic at its spectacular best, the food is as good as you'll get anywhere in the country, and the expertise of its rangers and trackers means that not only will you get to see masses of game, but you'll learn a whole lot about the bush too.
- An exquisitely beautiful lodge set in an ancient stand of high bushveld, with 2 drop-rim pools - it's the stuff of which safari dreams are made...
- You really do get to go gourmet in the bush; the food just couldn't be better
- You're in the heart of one of the Kruger's best areas for big game viewing, and will see masses of animals thanks to the expertise of River Lodge’s rangers and trackers
- Every corner is design magazine perfect, with a seamless mix of ethnic African elements and contemporary comforts. We simply gasped when we first set eyes on the lodge
- Possibly the world's most beautiful treehouses, a perfect setting for romance. Spend a night in one of them if you can during your stay
- A stay at River Lodge is an expensive treat, but you'll remember it for the rest of your life
- With 18 suites, it's slightly larger and less intimate than some of the other top end lodges in Sabi Sand
- Lots of insects
- Some suites don't have river views, and the design of some others, with bathrooms at the front rather than the rear, cuts out a part of the river view you do have
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Safari Lodge
- 18 rooms
- All meals included
- Over 10s welcome
- Open all year
- Outdoor Pool
- Spa Treatments
- Beach Nearby
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Car not necessary
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
Raised wooden platforms run out from the main lodge to the 18 semi-detached guest chalets which are wrapped in amongst an amazing stand of ancient bushveld: some of its towering trees are almost 1,000 years old.
The chalets are beamed and thatched, with patterned inlays of river pebbles in their shining screed floors. Each has a small deck, most of which face the river, with kraal fencing to guarantee maximum privacy and all have the same cool cream, white and brown colour scheme as the main lodge. The clean, sober lines feel just right for the bush, leaving the surrounding veld as chief protagonist.
Kingsize beds are banked up with pillows and cushions, linen is only the best and you get treated to piles of snowy-white towels as well as monogrammed bathrobes. The chalets all have masses of wardrobe space plus minibars, safes, phones, air-conditioning, Casablanca-style fans and a tray with a kettle and selection of teas and coffee.
Bathrooms are functional rather than remarkable and have little in the way of storage space for your toiletries. But you do get both a shower and a bath, as well as a second river-facing outside shower.
Adventurous spirits might like to spend a night in one of the lodge’s 3 treehouses: one in a high jackalberry, one overlooking the river, and the other in an ancient leadwood tree (named Chalkley Treehouse and Kingston Treehouse). You’ll be driven out from the lodge after dinner and left to commune with the extraordinary African night. You get a double bed with a mattress and linen, a mosquito net, bedside tables, a toilet, a bush vanity table, and a viewing deck with chairs and gowns and slippers. It's worth noting that a night in a treehouse needs to be booked on top of your stay at the lodge; think of it as a mini-break within your trip.
- Mosquito net
- Safe box
Food in the bush just doesn’t come better than that at the River Lodge, which has a whole team of chefs under the supervision of culinary maestro Janine Hobbs.
You couldn’t find a more spectacular place to eat than the deck, raised high above the sandy banks of the Sabie: there were buffalo foraging just yards from our table during one of our starlit suppers. Dinners are also occasionally served at the lodge’s riverside viewing platform or out in the Sabi plains. Whatever the location you’ll be treated to top bush cuisine. Amongst Janine’s flagship dishes are crocodile kebabs in lemon butter and apricot sauce, blesbok fillet stuffed with peanut butter and coriander, and beef fillet marinaded in pinotage. All meals are immaculately presented by ever-smiling staff and there’s a wine list to rival that of a top Johannesburg restaurant. There’s even a cigar menu, as well as a choice of several brandies and half a dozen single malts. Desserts are excellent too: crafted by the in-house pastry chef.
Breakfasts are laid up in the shade of the enormous jackalberry tree which towers above the lodge or, occasionally, prepared out in the bush. Breads and muffins are baked daily, there are stewed fruit compotes as well as a big fruit salad, cheese and cold meat platters, smoked salmon, and cereals and yoghurts. This can be followed by ‘the full works’, which will include some kind of game sausage, perhaps gemsbok or warthog. Lunches are often picnics in the bush and stick to a ‘keep it light’ formula after the huge spread at breakfast: imaginative salads, perhaps fish or quiche, and exquisite presentation.
- All meals included
- Vegetarian options
- A whole range of bush exploration is on offer by jeep, on foot or by moonlight
- Star gaze from a riverside platform or just laze on the loungers, watching out for hippos, crocodiles and buffalo
- Picnic lunches can be arranged at the water hole, next to the river, or even out in the Sabi Sands reserve
- Go on a birdwatching safari
- Spend a night in one of the treehouses - this is usually a summer time activity as it's weather dependent (additional cost on top of your general stay at the lodge; request on enquiry)
- Take a private helicopter trip to fly over the awe-inspiring Blyde River Canyon
- Leave an hour before sunrise for an awesome1-hour hot air balloon trip at dawn over the Sabie River Valley; or a longer "panorama" trip over Blyde River Canyon and Gods Window (weather permitting)
- Visit a local Shangana village to buy local crafts, learn about traditional medicine and share dinner with a family in the village
- Evening wildlife lectures are often held by the in-house ecologist
- Work off any weight gain at the lodge’s gym, then treat yourself to a massage in Lalamuka, the adjacent health spa
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Hot air ballooning
- Plantlife / flora
- Private guided tours
- Traditional cultures
The general vibe at River Lodge is pretty grown-up, with no obvious child-friendly focus. Even though children over 10 are welcome, this place somehow feels more suited to adults. Children between 10 and 15 years old are charged at 50% of the adult tariff if with 2 adults. If children under 16 are in their own room, without an adult, one child will be charged full adult rate and the other children 50%. Children over 15 years olds are charged at adult rates.
Teens (over 12)
Lion Sands River Lodge is in the southern Kruger, South Africa. It's 520km (or 5 hours) northeast of Johannesburg, and very near the Mozambique border. It's about 140km northeast of Nelspruit and 160km southeast of Hoedspruit. It's 45 minutes (32km) from the Paul Kruger Gate; Hazyview is an hour or 67 km away.
Skukuza Airfield (10km) is the closest airport to Lion Sands. There are 1-hour flights, 3 times a day, from Johannesburg International Airport and once daily flights from Cape Town to this small landing strip. Please note your baggage cannot exceed 20kg. Transfers from here are included in your tariff and will take 25 minutes. Malamala Airfield (40km) also has a daily scheduled 1-hour flight from Johannesburg. Lion Sands can collect you from here to drive you back to the Lodge. Kruger Mpumalanga Airport (110km) can be reached directly from Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town; from here it is a 1-hour and 45-minute (110km) road transfer; or you can get a 25-minute flight from Kruger Mpumalanga Airport to Skukuza Airfield(see above).
Phalaborwa Airport (243 km) is 3 hours (243km) away. Hoedspruit Airport (160 km)is 2 hours 15 minutes (160km) away.
Click on the links below for further information about getting to this region.
Driving from Johannesburg will take most of the day. You could combine your trip to the Kruger with a visit to the Blyde River Canyon, and the border with Mozambique is an easy drive from Lion Sands. If you want to hire a car see our car rental recommendations.
Detailed directions will be sent when you book through i-escape.
More on getting to South Africa and getting around
- Skukuza Airfield 10.0 km SZK
- Skukuza Airfield 310.0 km JNB
- Beach 999.0 km
- Shops 60.0 km
- Restaurant 60.0 km