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Best Kruger camp/lodge for wildlife (not spas)

washington, dc
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182 posts
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Best Kruger camp/lodge for wildlife (not spas)

Planning an August trip to South Africa with husband and two young adult daughters.- where would you recommend for best viewing of animals in the private reserves around Kruger? Not as interested in super lux rooms - although would like very comfortable and good food. A lot of the ones one reads about as being "best" seem a little over the top - happy to pay for best guides and wildlife viewing, not as interested in personal plunge pools or spa treatments on this trip. I like the looks of Selati but can't find much on the quality of game drives for Sabi Sabi - seems like the reserve area is a little small. I would appreciate and suggestions or thoughts. Thank you!

Thanks so much!

Wayzata, Minnesota
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1. Re: Best Kruger camp/lodge for wildlife (not spas)

If you want a place where the focus is on animal viewing and no so much on the luxury trappings then my recommendation would be MalaMala. If you want to “step up the luxury” a notch go to Rattray’s on MalaMala. If not, use Main Camp. Rattray’s is $925 per person per night for 2011 and Main Camp is $625. The benefit, along with the bigger rooms, is that Rattray’s has four people per vehicle instead of six per vehicle at Main Camp. So, with a family of four, you will get a private vehicle for no additional charge at Rattray’s. At Main Camp, with four people, the charge for a private vehicle will be nominal.

MalaMala is the oldest and largest private game reserve in the Sabi Sands. I have been to many of the safari lodges in the Sabi Sands and I have been to MalaMala many times dating back to the 80s when I was a teenager. My favorite lodges in the Sabi Sands in the mid-price category are Lion Sands River Lodge and MalaMala. In the Sabi Sands, I have also been to Singita (both), Londolozi, Djuma, Kirkman’s, and Lion Sands in the past 24 months. I have been to more places in the Sabi Sands over the years as well.

MalaMala has no trackers and the rangers do a great job communicating with each other on a silent radio network using ear pieces. Being a large property and having many vehicles “out and about” you have a good chance of seeing the big five almost every day. I have sent hundreds of clients to MalaMala in the past few years. Pretty much the only complaint I get from a small number of people is the buffet and the fact you have to pay for soft drinks, & wine. A few people seem annoyed by this drink policy but the prices are very reasonable. The food does not vary much from day to day but it is tasty and plentiful and there is enough variety for all diets.

You may also want to consider Lion Sands River Lodge. Many consider it a bit more luxurious than MalaMala as they have a bit more focus is on that aspect. Alcohol is included in the rate. They serve plated food instead of buffet and there are four rotating dining venues (dining room, boma, bush, river bed). Some tour operators have stay3pay2 pricing at Lion Sands through next August. At today’s exchange rate, this makes the price around $450 per person per night all inclusive. Lion Sands has a cool tree house where your daughters may want to stay one night. It was on the cover of the August 2010 issue of Conde Nast. Although Lion Sands is smaller than MalaMala (4k hectares vs. 14k hectares) , they just signed a traversing agreement with Kirkman’s Camp so they can drive on their land. This effectively doubles the game viewing area of Lion Sands. Lion Sands also now had a lease on Tinga. Tinga is a private concession inside the Kruger that shares the entire Southern border of Lion Sands. If the traversing agreement is done by next August you can drive here too.

To personalize my opinion… I have been to Africa 28 times. When my kids were old enough to go on safari in 2008 (age 10 and 12 at the time) we went to Lion Sands and MalaMala then on to Botswana and Zambia.

The two parcels of land owned by Sabi Sabi are north and west of Lion Sands respectively. To get from the North parcel of Sabi Sabi to the West parcel you drive past the fence and the gate. But, each parcel of Sabi Sabi is approximately the size of Lion Sands main parcel (less Tinga and excluding Kirkman’s traversing). BUT – Lion Sands and MalaMala have no fences at all. They are interior to the ecosystem. Sabi Sabi has fence line on the West side of the North parcel and the North and West side of the Western parcel but the property is not small relative to any neighbors except MalaMala.

Good luck!

Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond

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2. Re: Best Kruger camp/lodge for wildlife (not spas)

To answer your question about Sabi Sabi Selati - this is a great lodge, and the game viewing at Sabi Sabi is excellent! I have visited the various Sabi Sabi lodges (Bush, Little Bush, Earth & Selati) more than 50 times, and have always had a great safari! Other excellent lodges that you can consider, who are all running a "pay for 3 nights, stay for 4" offer, are:

Sabi Sand: Exeter River & Dulini, Kirkmans Kamp

Timbavati: Ngala Tented & Ngala Safari Lodge

The fact that you get a night free of charge, really helps to make the safari more affordable, and all of these lodges are exceptional!

Another very affordable lodge that offers excellent game viewing, is Elephant Plains - they offer a choice between luxury and standard accommodation, and I have to say that their standard accommodation is great value for money!

Tanya * owner * Africa Direct

South Africa
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3. Re: Best Kruger camp/lodge for wildlife (not spas)

Among the less expensive lodges with good game viewing are Elephant Plains as Tanya mentioned, also Arathusa, Nkorho, Inyati and a few others. These are all in the Sabi Sand reserve, adjacent to Kruger (no fences between Sabi Sand and Kruger) Ngala is in the Timbavati reserve further north, which in my experience offers slightly less consistent game viewing than the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. Still a good option, though.

The game viewing at Mala Mala is great, I would say better than at Sabi Sabi Selati (or any of the other Sabi Sabi lodges). The main drawback about Sabi Sabi's traversing is the lack of any river frontage, but you will still see a lot of animals. Mala Mala, Sabi Sabi and Lion Sands are all higher end lodges, so while they don't all have plunge pools, the price and the level of luxury are quite high.

Another interesting option you can look at, but in a concession area of Kruger rather than a private reserve, is Camp Shawu overlooking the Mpanamana dam in the southeastern Kruger Park. This is a tented camp, and in August this may be a good option, as the dam attracts plenty of wildlife and the surrounding area is good for game viewing.

Onne from Wild Wings Safaris

4. Re: Best Kruger camp/lodge for wildlife (not spas)

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