Camp Reviews: Exeter Leadwood Lodge – Sabi Sand Concession, SA

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Accomodations, Advice, Africa, Review, Safaris in SA, Story

The Sabi Sand Reserve is the birthplace of sustainable wildlife tourism in Southern Africa. It is the oldest of all the private reserves and is home to a vast wildlife population, including a number of endangered species.

Exeter Leadwood Lodge

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Exeter Leadwood Lodge is situated within the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. Located near the southwestern corner of the Kruger National Park; there are no restricting fences, enabling the animals to roam freely. Leadwood is a private safari lodge nestled against a well-wooded bank of the Sand River.

Leadwood Lodge is a good option for honeymooners looking for a more romantic and private safari experience. With only four suites, this is the more exclusive lodge within the Exeter concession.  When reserved exclusively you can enjoy a private ranger/host, tracker, butler, chef and sole use of an open 4×4 safari vehicle.

The four suites epitomize luxury. Each of the luxurious, air-conditioned, glass-fronted suites has a sun deck, plunge pool and fully-stocked mini bar. A fireplace, sitting room and en-suite bathroom are also included. The contemporary decor and use of raw materials perfectly complement the surrounding wilderness. There is a dedicated butler per villa who takes charge of coordinating all our requirements. It felt very prestigious.

The lodge offers game drives and you can also enjoy bush walks with experienced rangers and trackers to explore the finer details of your surroundings.

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A baby leopard using a branch as a swing! Adorable!

Coming from Safari in Botswana, you will really notice how much more civilized the bush surroundings are in SA. Just arriving at Ulusaba airstrip, there were more cars waiting to collect guests. The roads to camp were also more defined and I noticed electric posts and signs along the way. Interestingly, the camps could decompose on its own within ten years without leaving any human footprint in the area.

The Villa we stayed in reminded me of a house. Although the layout was open, there was a separate sala / library, a bedroom, spacious bathroom and lounge area by the pool. There were additional amenities such as an espresso machine, iPod-dock and direct dial telephones. All the villas are located by a sandy riverbed, which animals frequently pass through to drink.

The camp at that time had six guests. All of us joined Andrew and Christopher (ranger and tracker) for an afternoon and morning game drive. I appreciated that Andrew conducted a general briefing of the area and the wildlife and birdlife abundant. He made use of laminated visual aids to really show us what he was talking about and I found myself referring to those tools after our drives.

Although, he was a good teacher and speaker, Andrew wasn’t as effective in tracking animals. He knew what each species was and could tell stories about it, but when searching for a highlight during drives, he would rely on other guides to direct him where to go. It is important to note that this reserve is home to seven lodges. Expect to see other friendly game vehicles along the way and trucks, bulldozers, tractors and pick ups going about their usual camp maintenance work.

Overall, we liked the lodge for its civilized and modern accommodations; but it’s not for a safari “purist.” Also, this reserve is much smaller compared to others, shared with other lodges so the improvement in hotel experience is a consolation to the limited game experience potential.

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