Lower Sabie is a very old camp originally built in the 1930's. It has a special place in many people's hearts. The infrastructure is however old and desperately needs upgrading. This development is vital to ensure that the Kruger National Park (KNP) gives its guests value for money but does not destroy the ambiance of the camp.
In 2001 a major development project was launched to bring Lower Sabie closer to accepted KNP hospitality standards. This was a complete redevelopment of the main complex including the reception shop and restaurant. The project was expanded to include the development of a tented camp and a swimming pool. A new filling station followed.
This project had a big impact on the guests, and they were unhappy with the disturbance during the construction phase. In fact, there were many letters of complaint and we understood that the construction of the upgraded facilities would have severely hampered the "sense of place" of Lower Sabie, which brings guests back to this camp.
However, when the development was finally completed it was a big success and very popular with the guests. The situation regarding the accommodation units has now been identified as a priority and as a result a new project was launched to redevelop the river view bungalows at Lower Sabie.
After much planning and development and redevelopment, the ideal pilot unit has finally been built. The reaction of the public to this unit was very positive and we are going ahead with the upgrade of all the units to this standard. This is, however, a slow process and unfortunately impacts on the guests in terms of noise and construction disturbance.
The new contractors will be moving into Lower Sabie on 15 February 2007 as this is relatively quieter than other months. Lower Sabie is unique compared with other camps in the Park (and indeed in South Africa with other accommodation facilities) in that it is busy throughout the year so a "quieter season" does not really exist. The complexity of this upgrade and the amount of renovation means that the construction will probably go on for most of 2007.
To reduce the impact on our guests that this major construction is sure to have, we have made the decision to close a large portion of the camp so that the development can progress as fast as possible. The work not only includes the upgrading of accommodation units, but also other services like water, sewerage and electricity.
Naturally, it is always difficult to give the exact date when the work will finish (as weather, supplies, logistics and other factors can often hold up the process) but we expect this project in Lower Sabie to be completed by the middle of 2008.
On completion, Lower Sabie will have a new row of river view bungalows that will be bigger than the existing ones as well as providing a kitchen facility in the unit. The tented camp will also be upgraded to improve the product based on feedback we have received from the guests. We are also planning to redevelop the camping area to provide an even better campground for our campers. We are also planning to upgrade the family cottages to improve their standards.
We will however not be losing our budget accommodation as we try to make the camp accessible to as wide a range of income groups as possible. The budget units will only be getting renovation work done to them.
This is a very exciting time for us as we want to give our valued guests an experience to remember and once all this development is finally completed I believe that we will have the best camp in the Park.
On behalf of the Lower Sabie team, we would like to thank everybody for their patience and understanding during this difficult time and we trust that we will be able to finally produce a beautifully upgraded Lower Sabie that everyone can be proud of.
Raymond Travers, Kruger's media liaison, explains ongoing developments at Lower Sabie