A BIT OF BACKGROUND
Although smaller than the Kruger, Madikwe Private Reserve is still one of South Africa's largest game reserves. It's a three-hour drive from Johannesburg and just 1.5 hours from Sun City, South Africa's got-it-all resort complete with championship golf courses, water parks and world-class hotels.
Madikwe has a rich diversity of vegetation types which allows for a wide variety of animals. Home to Africa's Big 5 as well as cheetah, wild dog and spotted hyena, it's also malaria-free which makes it a popular choice for family safaris and many of the lodges cater for children.
The private reserves of the Kruger border the south-western boundary of the Kruger National Park and include names such as Thornybush, Timbavati, Manyeleti and the legendary Sabi Sands - all known for their consistently good Big 5 sightings (particularly leopard) and home to some of Africa's most luxurious lodges.
HOW DID THE GAME VIEWING COMPARE?
The Go2Africa crew had great game viewing all round. During their two days in Madikwe they had two lion sightings - the first a couple of males and the second a whole pride relaxing on the road - as well as a host of other animals including elephant, giraffe and zebra.
Their luck continued in the Sabi Sands where they saw two spotted hyenas and a leopard with her cubs on their very first game drive; the following day they saw a rhino and her calf as well as elephant, giraffe, buffalo and a wide range of antelope.
So, which would they recommend? Carlien replied: "the game viewing in the Sabi Sands deserves its phenomenal reputation. However, I really enjoy game drives in Madikwe as you have the chance of seeing wild dog and black rhino as well as rare or unusual Kalahari species."
WHAT ABOUT THE LODGES?
"We stayed at some incredible lodges in the Sabi Sands” began Lisa. "Singita Boulders is extraordinary: the staff go out of their way to make your stay unforgettable and the suites have everything you could possible think of, right down to a well stocked iPod with surround sound!”
"And remember those suites at Lion Sands Ivory Lodge” continued Candice, "each was so spacious it felt like your own private safari house!" Ashley then turned the chat to the lodges in Madikwe: "Madikwe Safari Lodge was an amazing experience: it has a cosy ambiance and the staff are unbelievably friendly.
Then at Motswari Game Lodge we were hosted by the rangers and really made to feel like part of one big family. "And the food! I never realised how much good food we'd eat. Everywhere we went - in both Madikwe and the Sabi Sands - the food was better than expected. Amazing!"
SO WHICH WOULD YOU PICK?
Lion, leopard, rhino and elephant; sundowners on safari and dinner under the stars; the subtle colours of dawn and a massage in a safari spa - it seems the Go2Africa crew had an unforgettable week.
But the question still remains: if they had to choose one, which would they pick?
Lisa summed it up: "People are under the impression that Kruger is the best because that's the name they know. Don't get me wrong, the Kruger private reserves are fantastic! But each reserve - and even each lodge - offers a different experience. It all depends on what you want."
Read more about a South African safari.