Sable Valley Lodge: Our full report
Set on Dete Vlei, just outside Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, Sable Valley Lodge was extensively refurbished in 2022.The lodge was originally built in the late 1980s and was called Sable Sands from 2012 to 2022. It falls within an extensive private reserve that combines pristine teak forest with open savannah, liberally dotted with anthills.
From its location on the 12km Dete Vlei, a dried-up riverbed that runs in front of the lodge, Sable Valley shares a newly extended 63km² concession with its sister camps, Khulu Bush Camp and Ivory Lodge.
Sable Valley’s 11 rooms, with their circular shape and steep thatched roofs, are classic thatched rondavels. Set in a mature teak forest, they are arranged in a circle around the lodge’s swimming pool.
Inside, the rooms offer no-fuss comfort. King, queen or twin beds topped with cosy duvets and blankets to keep out the cold of Zimbabwe’s winter nights are curtained by mosquito nets to keep biting insects at bay. A second, free-standing fan complements a ceiling fan to help cool the room in the head of the day. Clean white walls are brightened by carefully selected photos of Hwange’s wildlife, while wicker chairs, carved wooden bedside tables and a luggage rack complete the uncluttered look.
To the back of the bedroom is a compact bathroom with a shower, single basin and flush toilet. When we stayed in July 2023, the original 1980s’ avocado bathroom suite was still in situ. We understand that replacing these with something more modern is next on the list for the new owners. In the meantime, while the avocado porcelain may feel a little dated, everything was clean and functional and, for some, it may provide a touch of nostalgia.
Room 1, known as the Queen’s Room, is where the royal couple stayed on their visit. As the only room with a bathtub, it’s ideal for honeymoon couples or those celebrating a special occasion. Room 8, which has a second bedroom, is ideal for families travelling with younger children.
To the front of each room is a small seating area with a table and a couple of folding directors’ chairs. All the rooms look out over a circular pool which is surrounded by individual “salas” or daybeds.
Back at the open-sided main area the traditional safari-lodge feel continues. The bar, main dining area and squashy sofas are shaded under deep thatch that almost touches the ground. To the front, a veranda with directors’ chairs and oversized bean bags is shaded by suspended netting. With its views of Sable Valley’s waterhole and the savannah beyond, this was the most popular place to enjoy a meal or relax with a book during our stay.
Down a gentle slope, and sharing the veranda’s view, is a sunken firepit, the perfect place to enjoy a warming tea or coffee in the cool early mornings, and a natural focal point for guests before and after dinner.
Since taking over the lodge, the new owners have added a sunken hide overlooking the lodge’s waterhole, and above it a tree-top viewing platform. The hide is a cool and inviting spot in which to relax during the heat of the day, and comes complete with international electrical points for charging phones and camera equipment, Wi-Fi and a mini-fridge bar which is run on an honesty system. We also thoroughly enjoyed a quiet hour in the tree-top hide one evening before dinner; it isn’t often you have the opportunity to gain a bird’s eye view of a herd of elephants. On our second evening, we were treated to dinner in the trees, although our presence on that occasion may have kept the wildlife away.
It is worth noting that, to keep the larger, most dangerous wildlife at bay, the lodge is surrounded by an electric fence, which runs over the top of the sunken hide to provide an unimpeded view of the waterhole. Fences are fairly unusual in Hwange National Park but here it enables guests to walk around the lodge at night unescorted, making Sable Valley one of the more family-friendly options in the area.
Activities include morning and afternoon guided game drives, both within the private reserve and in Hwange National Park, and guided walking safaris into the national park. Being in a private reserve, Sable Valley can also offer night drives, although these are weather-dependent and are usually just in the warmer months (September– March). In addition to the hide at the lodge, there is a log-pile hide on the vlei where guests can arrange “hide sits” for further wildlife watching and photographic opportunities. With 470 species of bird recorded in the surrounding area, Sable Valley is in an excellent location for birding as well as for predators and plains game.
We understand that there are plans to build a sleep-out platform on the reserve, which will be shared with Ivory Lodge and Khulu Bush Camp. There are also plans to offer massages and other wellness treatments in the future. Once we know more, we will add more information here.
Away from the area’s wildlife, the team behind Sable Valley are proud of their conservation and community outreach activities such as funding anti-poaching teams, an elementary school and helping at a care home for the elderly. For guests who are interested in this work, the lodge can arrange visits to their projects in the area.
Finally, for those with time, we highly recommend visiting the Painted Dog Conservation’s headquarters, which are in easy reach of the lodge. Here guests can learn more about painted or wild dogs, the challenges they face and what is being done to protect them. As with many conservation stories the message is not always positive, but it is clear that this NGO is making a real difference and there is hope for Hwange’s painted dogs in the future.
Sable Valley Lodge has been operating for over 40 years and we can see why. The lodge is conveniently located close to Hwange yet within a private reserve that allows additional flexibility on activities. The recent upgrades have refreshed this traditional safari lodge bringing additional creature comforts to the rooms, although the most notable addition is the excellent new hide. Even with the upgrades, we consider that Sable Valley Lodge remains one of Hwange’s best-value safari lodges.
Country manager: Zimbabwe
- Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
- Ideal length of stay
- 2–3 nights
- Sable Valley Lodge is located about a 30-minute drive from Hwange Main Camp. Sable Valley can also be reached by flying into Hwange National Park Airport, just 10 mins away by road. Alternatively, it is possible to organise road transfers from Victoria Falls, Matobo Hills, or elsewhere in Hwange.
- Accessible by
- Self-drive or Fly-and-Transfer
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- We enjoyed a variety of excellent home-cooked-style meals during our stay at Sable Valley in July 2023. We understand that with advanced notice the lodge team should be able to assist with most dietary requests.
During our stay we opted for an early start so our breakfast was split between early morning tea and coffee with cereal and fresh muffins at the lodge, and a packed breakfast in the park. Our breakfast pack featured a toasted bacon-and-egg sandwich, yoghurt, fresh fruit and another muffin. Back at the lodge a more extensive breakfast buffet of cereals, muffins, cold meats and cheeses and fruit is complemented by hot items including bacon, sausage, eggs and tomatoes cooked to order.
Lunch is usually served on the veranda overlooking the waterhole in the distance. We enjoyed spaghetti bolognese with a fresh bread roll and Greek-style salad followed by a gooey chocolate brownie and ice cream.
Dinner is usually a three-course meal. We enjoyed butternut soup with a fresh bread roll to start. Our main course was chicken served with gravy, rice, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower. The meal was rounded off with a lemon meringue pie. Traditional nights are also a weekly feature. These are taken in a boma and replace the main course with a traditional braai (BBQ). During our visit we were treated to steak, chicken, boerewors, sadza (also known as pap or maize meal) and boiled vegetables. There was also a musical interlude courtesy of the lodge’s staff.
- Dining style
- Mixture of group dining and individual tables
- Dining locations
- Indoor and Outdoor Dining
- Further dining info, including room service
- Private meals can be arranged with advanced notice including on the treetop look-out platform and by the pool. Bush dinners are also available on request.
- Drinks included
- Local and regional beers and wines, soft drinks and house spirits are included.
- Attitude towards children
- Families with children are welcome at Sable Valley.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Special activities & services
- Sable Valley has one family room. There is a pizza oven close to the pool where families can indulge in creating their own pizzas.
- A cot is available for infants on request.
- Generally recommended for children
- The lodge is fenced, enhancing security, and its pool is an attraction for children when they are not out on activities; we think Sable Valley is one of the most family-friendly lodges in the Hwange area.
- The pool is unfenced and unguarded, and although the lodge is fenced, the fence cannot keep out all dangerous wildlife, so children still need constant supervision by a responsible adult.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Sable Valley Lodge
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Sable Valley Lodge have kindly recorded their wildlife sightings and shared them with us. The results are below. Click an animal to see more, and here to see more on our methodology.
- Power supply notes
- There is a back-up generator in case the solar system fails
- There is WiFi in the main areas, including the hide. Although we didn’t test it, we are told there is good cellphone reception throughout the lodge.
- TV & radio
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- Hot running water is supplied by gas water heaters in each of the rooms.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- There is a clinic at Hwange Main Camp and the management staff and guides at Sable Valley are first-aid trained. A medical air-rescue service (MARS) covering Hwange is available in the event of an emergency.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- There is a roaming nightwatchman on duty after dark.
- Fire safety
- There are fire extinguishers around the lodge, including outside each room.
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- A laundry service is included here. Clothing is air-dried and will be returned the same day, weather-dependent.
- There is a digital safe in each room for valuables.
- Accepted payment on location
- There is little to pay for during your stay here. However, for any incidentals or extras, card payments are accepted on Vias or Mastercard. Cash payments may be made in US dollars.
Other lodges in Hwange National Park
Alternative places to stay in this same area.