Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve, Kirkman

I spent the prior two nights at Kirkman’s Kamp located in the best game viewing spot in the Kruger Park, the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. Another CC Africa lodge, Kirkman’s is named for Harry Kirkman who lived on this same piece of property in the early part of the last century. He was the manager of one of the early cattle farms in this part of what was then called, the Transvaal. The private game reserve was created using the original farmhouse as the nucleus. Today, there are 20 rooms accommodating both adults and children. What is unique about Kirkman’s is the long, open grass verandas on the property overlooking the Sand River below a large infinity pool. Large open spaces such as this are harder to find in the lowvelt area of the Kruger Park. Not only is there expanse but the expanse rests on a hill; thus offering views of the valley and river below.

The drawback to Kirkman’s can also be its strength. It caters to children so there can be plenty of chaos in the media/TV room prior to and between meals. The children can also get a little rowdy on a game drive. These points are but considerations when choosing at safari lodge as there is something for everyone in the CC Africa network. The visual benefits outweighed the children’s attendance. I like history and the colonial style of Kirkman’s was something that appealed to me. There are pictures of Kirkman’s as it existed in the 20’s and ample photographs of game that was taken during this period as the farm also served as a hunting base. Conservation has come a long way in the last 100 years. One need only look at the fact that there were no photo safari only lodges in and around Kruger Park until the 60’s (and the number was miniscule even then) and no real growth in the industry until the 80’s to appreciate Paul Kruger’s foresight in creating the national park which would eventually bear his name.

My ranger, Paul Steyn, and his tracker, Culin, picked me up from the Skukuza Airport and shuttled me back to Kirkman’s. I find that the white ranger and black tracker combination works well for guests and serves as an interesting dynamic to witness operating in the bush. The ranger often comes from a university education in South Africa, often schooled in subjects that I am my friends majored in, as well. Paul was no exception, having graduated from Cape Town University with a major in English, I believe. Paul, like most rangers, grew up visiting the bush and decided to spend a few years leading visitors unto these wilds before possibly deciding on another career path. He took an intensive course for all would be rangers at CC Africa’s ranger school in Phinda Private Game Reserve on the east coast of South Africa about 3 hours north of Durban. He also augmented his on the job training with required book work to give him a accreditation in being a ranger.

Culin, the local tracker, was born and raised in the area. He knows the intricacies of the bush and can track animals based on growing up doing the same work for which he is now paid by CC Africa.

I checked into my room via the quick meeting with the camp manager, Jared. The rooms appealed to me, as well for the view I enjoyed from Room #1. Once again, I appreciated the open, flat space outside my room. The rooms are not luxurious but they are quite comfortable but, then again, the plush rooms are not high on my list of priorities.

We wasted little time in getting into the vehicle and I was quick to meet and greet the two couples in the vehicle with me. Ian and Louise were from Sydney and Mike and Rose hailed from Johannesburg. The Aussies once again proved to be worthy of the reputation and were the extroverted, friendly folks that I have come to know time after time. Ian, about 50 years old, was in the business of exporting cattle and kangaroo hides. Mike and Rose, as we were to find out later that evening during dinner, were married for 4 months and were both consultants (one with Accenture). Rose was working with a bank trying to start a new operation in Namibia.

Before we got 100 yards from the camp, Culin asked us to quiet down as he heard something. The rest of us heard nothing as these trackers seem to have the hearing of a species other than humans. He said he heard the alarm call of a Kudu (large antelope species weighing as much as 600 lbs.) .