Private Luxury Lodge Safari in Madikwe and Kruger Park

A 10 day trip to South Africa 
4.88 out of 5 stars
66 reviews

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: Madikwe, Sabi Sands, and Timbavati in the Greater Kruger area.

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General Information

Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Madikwe Private Game Reserve, Sabi Sands Game Reserve, Greater Kruger, Elephant Whispers, Timbavati Private Nature Reserve

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

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: accommodation at Madikwe Private Game Reserve, transfer, domestic flight, dinner

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: accommodation at Madikwe Private Game Reserve, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

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: accommodation at Madikwe Private Game Reserve, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

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: accommodation at Leopard Hills Private Game Lodge, domestic flight, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

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: accommodation at Leopard Hills Private Game Lodge, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

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: accommodation at Leopard Hills Private Game Lodge, safari, tour, breakfast, lunch, dinner

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: accommodation at Kings Camp, tour, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Days 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: accommodation at Kings Camp, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

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: domestic flight, transfer, breakfast


Starting Price 

This trip is customizable for your private travel.

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.