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11 January 2021

Madikwe or Sabi Sands… which one is right for you?

Here we compare the renowned Sabi Sands with malaria-free Madikwe to give you advice as to which game reserve you should visit during your luxury South Africa safari.

South Africa is an amazing destination to visit, as it offers a real diversity of experiences. It also boasts one of the most advanced safari industries! You are spoilt for choice when it comes to a safari – accommodation standards are exceptionally high and are accompanied with good prices too. SA is also a destination that, in my opinion, has some of the finest Big Five game viewing.

As so many of the country’s private game reserves offer outstanding accommodation options and superb safari, deciding which reserve is the right one for you can be tricky. Below, we take a look at the main differences between our top two – the Sabi Sands and Madikwe Game Reserve. We believe it’s important to know about these differences in order to make the right decision.

If you’re more into talking than reading, don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our specialists who will be happy to talk you through your tailor-made South Africa safari. But for some initial game reserve research, discover the main differences between Madikwe and Sabi Sands below.

What should I consider when choosing between the Sabi Sands and Madikwe?

Ultimately, both Madikwe Game Reserve and the Sabi Sands will offer you a phenomenal safari experience. Your decision will come down to whether or not the reserve is malaria free, what type of traveller you are – e.g., solo, or part of a couple, family, or group –, and whether your main focus is the Big Five or a diverse wildlife experience. I think these are the main factors that need to be considered when choosing which reserve is right for you. Now let’s explore each reserve in turn.

Sabi Sands Game Reserve: best for Big Five animals, especially leopard

The world-renowned Sabi Sands is located on the south-western border of Kruger National Park and shares 50 kilometres of unfenced boundary with the latter. As the boundary is unfenced, wildlife is able to move freely between the two areas.

elephants Londolozi Varty Sabi Sands Yellow Zebra Safaris
chalkley treehouse lion river sabi sands yellow zebra safaris

Why is the Sabi Sands Game Reserve such an attraction?

  • It offers spectacular Big Five game viewing and is famous worldwide for leopard sightings.
  • It has some of the most luxurious lodges in Africa.
  • Out of all the Kruger private reserves, it’s the most exclusive.
  • Many of the accommodation options here are very well located. In fact, the key tip for choosing where to stay is the location of the lodge. The closer the lodge is to the border of Kruger National Park the better – and a river location will have a positive impact on your overall game viewing.
  • This is the second-largest private game reserve in South Africa, covering a total of 65,000 hectares.

Madikwe Game Reserve: best for young families

game drives tuningi madikwe yellow zebra safaris
Morukuru Owners House Madikwe South Africa Yellow Zebra Safaris

Is Madikwe Game Reserve malaria free?

Yes, Madikwe Game Reserve is completely malaria-free. This is often the biggest attraction for families looking to visit the reserve.

What are the additional plus points of visiting Madikwe Game Reserve?

  • It’s South Africa’s largest Big Five game reserve, consisting of 75,000 hectares.
  • Game viewing is excellent – in particular, Big Five, wild dogs, and an abundance of general wildlife such as brown and spotted hyenas, springbok, impala, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, and kudu, as well as atypical Kalahari or desert species like gemsbok (oryx).
  • For first-time safari-goers, Madikwe Game Reserve is perfect for experiencing some diverse game viewing.
  • The landscape is diverse too, with large grass plains, open woodlands, and incredible backdrops of the Dwarsberg Mountains that are ideal for scenic photography. It’s safe to say that Madikwe Game Reserve is far more scenic than the Sabi Sands.
  • The reserve is home to some of South Africa’s finest family-friendly lodges as well as exclusive lodges ideal for honeymooners.
  • Madikwe’s unique location bordering the Botswana border and the Kalahari Desert makes for an astonishing variety of fauna and flora.

Safari lodge accommodation - where to stay in the Sabi Sands and Madikwe:

Now that we’ve highlighted the differences between the game reserves, we hope this has helped anyone who was struggling to decide whether to visit the Sabi Sands or Madikwe Game Reserve. Finally, let’s think about where to stay. We’ve picked out a few of our favourites, sorted by safari type:

Families
Notten’s Bush Camp, Sabi Sands vs. Morukuru, Madikwe

Couples
Londolozi Varty, Sabi Sands vs. Madikwe Safari Lodge, Madikwe

Honeymooners
Lions Sands River Lodge, Sabi Sands vs. Tuningi Safari Lodge, Madikwe

Take a look at these top lodge choices for some inspiration, and if you’d like to discuss a South Africa safari, you can tell us about your ideal destination, budget, dates, and traveller type so we can help you design your dream safari. To start planning, get in touch with one of our Yellow Zebra expert safari guides! Alternatively, we’ve written another guide to the best safari lodges in Madikwe below.