Private Luxury Lodge Safari in Madikwe and Kruger Park

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Total Trip:

10 Days
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Countries Visited:

South Africa
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Places Visited:

Madikwe Private Game Reserve, Sabi Sands Game Reserve, Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, Kruger National Park
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Departure Dates:

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
This private safari is handcrafted for first-time visitors to Africa who seek an authentic experience while also enjoying Western-style lodge luxury. Watch elephants through windows spanning from the floor to the ceiling, spot lion prides basking in the sun, and relax in a private pool with the wildlife roaming in the background. Relaxed and charming, this safari experience offers exceptional accommodation with sublime animal encounters. You spend three nights each in three iconic private reserves:

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Day 1

Madikwe Private Game Reserve – Luxurious Safari Welcomes

As the plane descends, the raw beauty of Africa comes into focus. From high in the air, you can sense the enormity of it all, but as the plane comes into land, you can't capture all the immaculate details with your eyes. Perhaps a giraffe wandering along, her colors blurring into the scorched yellow of the landscape. Maybe a buffalo herd grazing close to the airstrip, or a cluster of zebra gracing the drive to the lodge. It's just like how many people imagine, a rich bounty of animals finding their way into almost every panorama. The exquisite details are also clearly visible from your luxurious glass-fronted suite; just gaze out from the bed, and there's likely to be an array of animals down below.

After you've landed, safari doesn't really have a start or an end. Even when sipping a cocktail in the private plunge pool, it's difficult to escape the wild mammal sightings. You could spend hours on the private verandah, getting away from the world yet also continually spotting different mammals. Perhaps a herd of kudu grazing below, maybe springbok skipping past, or even the melancholic plodding of an old elephant bull. With private reserves and lodges like this, the idea is to ensure you're completely comfortable, while still being able to enjoy the authenticity of Africa. So relax in your suite, watch the landscape majestically change colors at sunset, and enjoy the first animal encounters without leaving the privacy of your verandah.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Flight

included

Dinner

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Day 2

Madikwe Private Game Reserve – Big Five Safari in a Remote Desert Landscape

The Madikwe landscape is rustic in color, muted yellows and soft reds flowing beneath the iconic baobab trees. Little rain falls here, so life on the arid savannah is dictated by the permanent waterholes. Grazers must stay close to the water for their daily drink; this attracts predators, who know exactly where to set an ambush. Game drives also follow the water trail, exploring the game-rich areas of the reserve. After a light breakfast, you enjoy one game drive in the morning hours, the time when the savannah is most active. Return for a second breakfast and three to four hours of quiet time at the lodge. Then head out again in the middle of the afternoon, with another game drive revealing the Big Five and much more.

Lion prides are easy to spot, the fabled kings often lounging in the open, perhaps a family of a dozen draping themselves across the short grass. They rest with bellies full, slumbering the day away. On another drive, you see a different and more active pride; dust swirls as the lionesses jump from the grass and harass the zebra at the water. Elephants and buffalo are also regularly found, dominating the open landscape and spotted from afar. Leopards are more elusive, yet the guides' exceptional knowledge brings you to trees where they like to hide. Rhinos may also be spotted here, but don't worry if you don't see them here, as the Greater Kruger is the best place in the world for encountering rhinos.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 3

Madikwe Private Game Reserve – Seeking Out Rare and Endangered Wild Dogs

After bumping across the savannah, you stop and wait. Reverberating calls come from the trees, and they're getting closer, although you need to stay patient to spot the pack. Yesterday's game drives focused on the famous mammals, but today you seek out some of Africa's most exclusive sightings. One scampers along, his coat dappled with a dozen contrasting shades. Two more come along the other side of the vehicle. Now the rest, the full pack of wild dogs crossing straight past you then dividing into two groups. Using a remarkable sixth sense, the pack tracks a herd of springbok, working together to chase a morning meal. There aren't many places left in Africa where such an exhilarating scene is found. Serenity returns when you arrive back at the lodge, the thrill of the game drive blending into an elegant afternoon watching the savannah roll by. Finish the day with a second game drive.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 4

Sabi Sands Game Reserve (Kruger) – Immersing Yourself in the Kruger Savannah

From Madikwe, you fly back to O. R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, then connect onto a flight to the Sabi Sands Game Reserve. Traveling on these micro flights provides an effortless connection between remote and wild parts of Africa, as well as evoking the inspiring scale of the savannah. It's sometimes difficult to fathom how big and unending the safari landscape can be. This isn't a place with a few wild animals. There are hundreds of thousands, and the diversity is staggering: baboons shout out as you pass them at dusk, cheetahs give you goosebumps as they emerge from the grass, and impala skip straight past your suite. Or if you are especially fortunate, see a baby giraffe yet to develop her colors, or a newborn vervet monkey yet to grow any hair.

Leopard Hills Private Game Lodge stands over a natural waterhole, so both the diversity and quantity of Kruger life can be experienced from your verandah or plunge pool. It's located in the Sabi Sands, the most famous of the unfenced private reserves in the Greater Kruger area. Two flowing rivers bring a huge migration of animals from Kruger National Park to the Sabi Sands, making this the most densely populated part of the ecosystem. Perspectives are quickly redefined on your short afternoon game drive. Rather than a handful of elephants, it's a herd of 30 marching together; you don't see a rhino, you see six of them in an hour; and when it comes to spotting leopards and lions, there are few better places in Africa.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Flight

included

Transfer

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 5

Sabi Sands Game Reserve (Kruger) – Relaxed Private Kruger Safari

In a landscape of such bounty, the game drives are always relaxed. Rather than driving large distances to seek out wildlife, you move slowly and effortlessly, constantly finding another highlight. Cacophonous shouts guide you to a swathe of acacia trees, where a baboon troop is voicing their disapproval. Look a little closer, and you see a leopard bounding off with a baboon hanging from its jaws. At the water, you discover an elephant herd, with two youngsters playfully submerging each other, with just their trunks poking above the surface. Turn a corner and a boisterous herd of buffalo cover the trail. You're close enough to hear them, the hiss of their breath and the beating drum of their hooves on the savannah.

Game drives bring both drama and charm, combining moments like a big cat kill with the adorable sight of a loving pair of zebras or mothers caring for their calves. Like always on this itinerary, the lodge provides a tranquil space to rest, relax, and settle into the rhythm of the African plains. An attentive butler brings drinks and snacks to your verandah; meals are served with views over the waterhole, and pampering spa treatments add to the salubrious atmosphere. Gastronomy is another highlight, one that few anticipate when traveling to Africa. Upmarket lodges like this one place a huge focus on the quality of the meals, blending local flavors with international influence; think barbecued game meats, an extensive wine cellar, and the subtleties of South African traditional food.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 6

Sabi Sands Game Reserve (Kruger) – Hot Air Balloon Safari Across the Kruger

Rising at dawn, the hot air balloon provides a fresh safari angle. For the last few days, you've been fully immersed in all the details, from a tropical bird resting on a buffalo's back to a lion cub pawing at his sleeping mother. Like a game drive, the hot air balloon makes a slow and effortless journey, although now you're exploring the exquisite scale. Nothing artificial breaks the landscape as the colors of the savannah stretch beyond the horizon. You see large herds on the move, admire the rivers that snake beneath the trees, and appreciate the distinctive habitats that softly blur into each other. Touch down and enjoy a champagne picnic breakfast before the drive back to the lodge, then complete the day with an afternoon game drive.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Tour

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 7

Elephant Whispers to Timbavati Private Nature Reserve (Kruger) – Elephant Experience and the Unspoiled African Savannah

At Elephant Whispers, the elephants have been carefully habituated to human contact. These are gentle giants, relaxed and comfortable with having people around. On a two-hour experience, you enjoy a champagne picnic with a whole herd roaming amongst the trees just a few meters away. Such exceptional proximity can be frightening at first, but guides gently introduce you to the different elephants and ensure you always feel comfortable. There's also a rare opportunity to interact with these magnificent creatures, some of which are rehabilitated elephants saved from poachers or other dangers on the savannah.

From Elephant Whispers, it's a short game drive north to Timbavati, the third private game reserve explored on this safari. Your air-conditioned thatched suite provides expansive views of the savannah and retains a certain colonial opulence; it almost feels like you're on an adventure from the early 20th century, with a four-poster bed, spacious lounge, and decadent seats for watching the big game. It's all enhanced by contemporary fittings that make Kings Camp one of the Greater Kruger's premium places to stay. After lunch, you take an afternoon game drive and explore a new landscape, one that's alive with a new cast of animals and a fresh array of safari scenes.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 8 - 9

Timbavati Private Nature Reserve (Kruger) – Private Safari Program Including Game Walks

First-time visitors to Africa often debate how long to spend on safari. There are obvious dilemmas: How long is required to see all the famous animals? Will a safari be the same in each place? Are a few days enough? Would a 10-day safari be too much? It's important to remember that every safari destination is distinctive and that every game drive will bring new sights and experiences. It's also good to appreciate the fluidity of a safari itinerary. Come for a few days, and the itinerary feel rushed, hoping to complete a tick list. Come for a week or more, and the safari is defined by charm and tranquility. There's enough time to explore at leisure, knowing that you will encounter each of the different mammals at some point or another. The savannah becomes your home, and you settle into the escapist rhythm of nature. It's indelibly relaxed, waking each day to the sweeping vistas and listening to the wild soundtrack that perforates the night.

These two days follow the regular program, with morning and afternoon activities and lots of time to savor the luxury of the lodge and the surroundings. Many people go to a warm beach for a getaway, but the Kruger savannah is just as scenic and pleasing to the eye. The option for a walking safari adds to the enchantment, and you'll be stepping across the plains with an armed ranger and local tracker. Surround yourself with springbok, stand beside a zebra herd and return their gaze, encounter giraffes by the river, and appreciate the size of each of the animals in the Kruger.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 10

Timbavati Private Nature Reserve to Johannesburg – Departure

The short transfer from the lodge to airstrip is a chance to wave farewell to the African safari landscape, passing an array of animals that have graced the last ten days with their beauty and charm. It's a late-morning start, so you can rest and relax at the lodge before the flight back to Johannesburg and O. R. Tambo International Airport. Your homebound flight departs from here.

What's Included:

included

Flight

included

Transfer

included

Breakfast

expand/close
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Trip Highlights

  • Relax in the luxury of South Africa's finest lodges, with floor-to-ceiling windows providing endless views and contemporary fittings evoking a five-star hotel quality in the wilderness
  • Immerse yourself in the savannah and quickly discover that the famous Big Five are as commonplace as the baobab and acacia trees
  • Charming game drives bring a wonderful proximity to the iconic safari scenes, such as big cats on the prowl or adorable interactions amongst the herds
  • Ease yourself into beautiful big game safari with three nights in Madikwe Private Game Reserve, where a compact savannah effortlessly introduces you to the African experience
  • Discover a baffling abundance of big mammals in Sabi Sands Game Reserve, where it seems like there's never a moment without a fresh safari scene
  • Complete the safari with three nights in the private Timbavati reserve, where the unspoiled savannah offers a full range of encounters and experiences
  • Get close to some of Africa's elusive and endangered animals, like packs of wild dogs in Madikwe and a huge number of white rhinos in Sabi Sands and Timbavati
  • Take the elephant experience to a new level with a champagne bush picnic surrounded by the great pachyderms
  • Soar across the Kruger savannah in a hot air balloon, savoring the ultimate vista of an ancient landscape filled with wild mammals
  • Fly to the different game reserves via light aircraft, minimizing travel time and experiencing the thrills of touching down on an airstrip surrounded by animals
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Detailed Description

Open the curtains and watch a giraffe through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Spend an hour in a private plunge pool, sipping on champagne as a herd of elephants drinks from the river below. Spot the Big Five on a game drive, then relax in the opulence of South Africa's finest lodges. This handcrafted safari provides a blend of exceptional lodge accommodations and intimate animal encounters, using three private reserves to showcase the premium side of an African safari. It's designed for first-time visitors to Africa, for those who want to enjoy all the five-star Western comforts while savoring the raw authenticity of the savannah. Taking a relaxed pace, it allows you to escape into the beauty of the wilderness and experience just how luxurious an African safari can be.

Private game reserves offer an exclusive safari experience as they restrict access to just a handful of guests. That means there won't be other vehicles ruining the photos and you can come exceptionally close to the animals. Yet, while they are private, they're also part of a wider ecosystem, so mammals continue to roam free, and the rhythm of nature isn't interrupted. As a general guide, private game reserves and concessions are also where the most luxurious safari accommodations are found. This safari handpicks three opulent lodges, accommodations that have the comfort of a five-star Western hotel, yet still ensure an authentic experience in the bush.

Evocative and effortless, a safari in Madikwe provides an iconic introduction to the style of safari. Wild animals are spotted from the pool and your air-conditioned suite, while elegant evenings are spent sipping champagne with elephants down below. Relaxed game drives bring encounters with the Big Five, and there's the added treat of spotting wild dogs, one of Africa's rarest hunters. Then, you fly to the Greater Kruger area and the Sabi Sands, where Leopard Hills Private Game Lodge provides stunning accommodation in an unspoiled part of the reserve. Again, the safari is relaxed, with morning and afternoon activities punctuated by the escapism of the lodge and the wonderful views across the savannah. The abundance of leopards and rhinos are among the many highlights here.

Spend a day on a hot air balloon safari before embarking on a two-hour experience at Elephant Whispers the following day. As the elephants roam around, you enjoy a champagne picnic deep in the bush, safely enjoying a thrilling proximity to Africa's giants. Timbavati is another of the private reserves in the west of the Greater Kruger area. You're free to explore both the private reserve and the adjacent national park, along with trying out activities like game walks. This flexibility makes it a favored place to end a safari, with the guides customizing each day dependent on your interests. As always, expect the authenticity of the savannah to mix with the opulence of the lodge accommodation.

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Starting Price

$7995 per person (excluding international flights)

This trip is customizable for your private travel.
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What's Included

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.

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