Our exciting and wonderful past

What began in 1979 as a simple dream flourished into a South African icon.

Witness the sun's majesty on a private Sabi Sabi game drive, an unforgettable experience.

The meaning of
our name

Inspired by the Sabie River

Our piece of paradise lies close to the mighty Sabie River which was locally known as the ‘River of fear’. The word ‘save’ or ‘tsave’ translates into ‘fear’ or ‘danger’ in Portuguese and Tsonga respectively.

It is a highly fitting name for a settlement situated close to a river whose waters boiled with snapping crocodiles and hippo and whose banks were roamed by hungry leopards and angry buffalo.

Bgt Banner Tree

How our journey began

Sabi Sabi was established In 1979 and was bought by investment banker Hilton Loon together with his talented wife Jacqui shortly thereafter. The couple bought the Bush Lodge property in the Greater Kruger Area with the dream of creating a luxury home in the bush. Together with their young children, they became explorers of a vast, wild and untamed playground. 

The family quickly came to realise that their role was not one of ownership but rather that as custodians of a precious piece of Africa and her people. The extraordinary success of Sabi Sabi is in itself an ode to the vision and endurance of two exceptional South Africans – supported by a circle of superb friends, advisors, neighbours, staff and of course family.

Some of our key moments

Events that shaped our extensive history.
Embrace dawn's beauty with a sunrise at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve.

1979 Hilton Loon buys Sabi Sabi

Sabi Sabi started 40 years ago and was purchased by Hilton Loon shortly thereafter

Marvel at the unparalleled grandeur of the Milky Way, unhindered by any obstacles, at Sabi Sabi.

1993 A second property is acquired

In 1993, Sabi Sabi purchased a northern property section from Werner Ackerman. The Loons later converted the non-commercial homestead into the elegant and luxurious Selati Camp of today

Majestic cheetah sighting on a thrilling safari game drive.

1993 The fall of the National Kruger Park fence

In 1960 a fence was erected between the Kruger National Park and current-day Sabie Game Reserve in an attempt to prevent the spread of foot-and-mouth disease. However, it only interrupted the natural migration of game and was finally dismantled in 1993

Marvel at the breathtaking beauty of Earth Lodge at Sabi Sabi, an opulent architectural testament.

1999 The land for Earth Lodge is bought

Expanding its footprint, Sabi Sabi bought the property to the west of Bush Lodge from John Nichols and the northern portion of Lisbon from Albert Wessels, upon which Earth Lodge was later built

Witness the majestic African fish eagle triumphantly capturing its prey at Sabi Sabi.

2000 Surviving the notorious floods

Early in the millennium, the Sabie River came down in flood. One of the worst ever recorded, the waters washed away lodges and wreaked havoc on numerous villages. It was a dramatic show of nature that we will never forget

Interesting yet sophisticated decor at Sabi Sabi's Little Bush Camp bar.

2005 A new lodge is acquired

The Loons add another lodge to the collection by purchasing Little Bush Camp in 2005. It has been operating under Sabi Sabi ever since

Bgt N Full

Our approach to the land and her people

A philosophy embedded in a deep understanding, ethics and respect

Sabi Sabi is one of the first game lodges in South Africa to understand that investing in the success of local communities was the only way to ensure a sustainable future. To this end, we actively uplifted and supported local communities and will continue to do so.

Today, Sabi Sabi is a living example of how financially viable ecotourism supports both conservation and, in turn, allows for the development of people.

Heroes, memories and legends

Our past is alive with great people, animals and stories.
Male lion staring into the African bush at Sabi Sabi.

Nelson Mandela

We were honoured to host South Africa’s first democratically elected leader, Nelson Mandela, as one of our many treasured guests at our reserve

Behold the awe-inspiring beauty of the African bush elephant at Sabi Sabi, where its majestic presence commands admiration and respect.

A Legendary Elephant

Mandleve was a gentle giant with a prominent notch in his ear who became a metaphorical ambassador for biodiversity conservation

Two zebras at watering hole in Sabi Sabi.

Our First Game Drive Vehicles

Our early game drives took place in crudely converted army vehicles. The wooden benches and poor suspension gave rise to some incredibly bumpy, yet awe-inspiring game viewing

During a private game drive, Sabi Sabi guests encountered a rhino grazing in lush fields.

First Ranger of Colour

William Hlatswayo was among the first black rangers appointed in South Africa and hosted Nelson Mandela when he visited our reserve

Witness the beauty of Sabi Sabi's sunset, a tree silhouette adorned with a vulture's graceful presence.

A Manager and Mentor

Rob Lubisi started at Sabi Sabi as a barman and is now a senior manager. He is also the oldest member of our staff

Thrill at spotting a leopard in a tree during a Sabi Sabi night drive.

Wire of Woe

In 1960, veterinarians in the National Kruger Park erected a fence to stop foot-and-mouth disease from entering the Park. It was only removed in 1993

The majestic wings of a roller in the Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve.

The Sabi Sabi Foundation

The Foundation was formed to grow custodians of our natural heritage through education, employment and conservation for generations to come

Lion cub on a rock looking at guests on a Sabi Sabi game drive.

Tzendzuka ‘Remembrance’ Dam

A tribute to lost friends, Tzendzuka dam features Buffalo Thorn Trees with thorns that grow in pairs. The one points forwards and the other curves back, reminding us to look to the future but not forget our past

Moments in Time

Enjoy a glimpse of our lively past.

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