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Private game reserves, how to choose among "the best"

Burlington, Vermont
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Private game reserves, how to choose among "the best"

We are planning a three-day safari excursion for January, 2013. We are interesting in a luxury offering in the Saba Sands area.

Specifically, we are looking at Leopard Hills, Lion Sands, Londolozi, Malamala, and Sabi Sabi (Singita is fully booked for our dates.

Obviously, all read excellent, and I suspect they in fact are. I have no doubts of the luxury; but the safari experience is of prime importance as well.

Any observation of differences would be appreciated—especially observations that relate to available wildlife, scenery differences, game drives and guides, etc. Observations related to accommodation and service would be welcome also.

Thanks!

Tempe, Arizona
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for South Africa, Sabi Sand Game Reserve
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1. Re: Private game reserves, how to choose among "the best"

Of those, Mala Mala has the largest reserve, though it is so big that not all guests will see all of it during their stay. No need to. Londolozi, also large, sharing its land with next door Singita in what thus becomes an even larger area than Mala Mala. Lion Sands shares with Kirkman's. Leopard Hills shares with several lodges in that northwest area of Sabi Sand. Plenty of land, plenty of wildlife in all of them.

No reason to choose any one of these over another on the quality of Guides (Rangers, they are called). They will be highly trained and experienced at all lodges. Scenery differences? There's probably more open land at Mala Mala and Kirkman's but essentially the whole of Sabi Sand is bush country. Real forests are not as common as is the overall mixed vegetation of trees and bush. Some areas have a reputation for more leopards - but I have been on game drives in all of the areas where we saw two distinct leopards on one game drive.

I have said before - and will again - that seeking the 'best' is asking a lot. Sabi Sand, the reserve, gets my vote as the best place for wildlife and the investors and naturalists who combined forces to build these luxury lodges did it for just that reason. Important - this is not a sarcastic comment, just my belief: Picking out the 'best' of the ones you mentioned could be done with a dart board.

Edited: 4:46 pm, August 10, 2012
Washington DC...
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2. Re: Private game reserves, how to choose among "the best"

Totally agree with Dave. I'd been thinking you could write the names on pieces of paper, put them in a hat and pull out a winner, but Dave's dart board works too.

Burlington, Vermont
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3. Re: Private game reserves, how to choose among "the best"

Thanks to both of you!

In one way, it's not "helpful", in that we must throw the dart or pull the name from the hat; and there's still that nervous moment of wondering. But, more importantly, your conclusions are reassuring.

Appreciate the responses.

Washington DC...
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4. Re: Private game reserves, how to choose among "the best"

Well, if you've got 5 choices, think of it as a win-win-win-win or win situation. Have fun!

Seattle, Washington
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5. Re: Private game reserves, how to choose among "the best"

For what it is worth, my husband, 3 adult kids and I stayed at Londolozi tree camp in 2010 and absolutely loved it!! It felt very intimate & we were so spoiled. The game viewing was amazing! We hope to return in 2014. Diane

Mytmoss
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6. Re: Private game reserves, how to choose among "the best"

Of those you mentioned, I have stayed at both Lion Sands and Londolozi many times. While Lions Sands is my favorite, you would love either one of those choices.

Bradenton fl
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7. Re: Private game reserves, how to choose among "the best"

I too have visited Londolozi-Varty and I am returning this year to Londolozi Founders-great accommodations, food, wildlife and hospitality. Upon returning I wanted to visit another camp-I had trouble deciding- sometimes it comes down to what it looks like and reading all the reviews -sometimes something just clicks. I really liked the way Lions Sands and Ulsaba looked. Ulsaba was also highly recommended by a personal friend who has been back there 6 times and grew up in South Africa visiting Kruger regularly. Ulasaba also offers a special-i am not sure the dates but it is stay four pay for three. It is tough- sometimes the more you learn the more confusing it gets.

While at londolozi for 6 nights I did see 7 leopards the Tsala pride of 9 at the time and one large male lion. You can go on the londolozi Blog and the rangers post weekly articles and pictures of the ongoings at camp and on drives...

SOUTH AFRICA
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8. Re: Private game reserves, how to choose among "the best"

I have stayed at all of the lodges you have mentioned. I agree with the above posters that all are excellent - as you rightly said, they are all rates among the best! All offer excellent service, great rangers, beautiful accommodation and excellent game viewing.

Tanya * owner * Africa Direct

Earth
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9. Re: Private game reserves, how to choose among "the best"

We have just spent six weeks on a sampling safari staying at 10 different camps in Sabi Sands and Madikwe. It is impossible to plan for the best experience as there are so many variables involved in a safari experience including luck.

Assuming that the physical plant / rooms / food are more or less equivalent and a matter of personal taste, there are a number of variables that are uncontrollable. For example, not all rangers are equal. Some are passionate and love their job and others maybe not so much. Add to that the number of people in your vehicle and their personalities and wants and you can have a good or bad experience on any given day. For example, in one instance, folks in the truck were interested in finding lions which did not coincide with the rangers interest in wild dogs. We spent two sessions looking for wild dogs which did not appear, saw nothing else other than impala in the distance and came back to camp only to be regaled with marvelous lion sightings from every other vehicle which was out at the same time. Another example is the truck with the woman who wanted to stop every 15 minutes to pee...the real winner was when we were racing to a leopard sighting and she insisted we stop. The leopard was gone by the time we arrived making other people in the truck crazy. And then, of course, there are the crazed camera nuts traveling with lenses as long as their arms blocking your view from every angle. Add to that the truck filled with families who monopolize the day"s activities and you can see how the lodge and it's traversing rights are only part of the experience. On the other hand, if your trip is only for a few days you probably will be thrilled with whatever you see.

10. Re: Private game reserves, how to choose among "the best"

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