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1st Time Safari to South Africa -Lodge Recommendations!

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Hi all, my husband and I are planning to do our honeymoon in South Africa.

We have decided to do Kruger for 5 nights, three 3 nights in Cape Town at the Cape Grace and 2 nights in the Winelands.

We are looking at breaking up the safari into 2 parts - 3 nights at one lodge (Kruger Southern, most likely) and 2 nights at another - either another much more expensive lodge in the same area, or moving to Central Kruger for a slight change of scenery.

Questions -

1) Do you recommend, if we are coming from NYC, to start with Capetown/Winelands, or end there and start with safari? I know this depends on flights, and while most travel agents have advised us to end with Capetown and relaxation before the trip home, one has advised us that flight connections are tight and if we are delayed coming into Joburg from the states, we might miss a night of safari (miss the connecting flight to the camp) but if we start with Capetown, there are many connecting flights there and we'll be able to get to Capetown at some point that day (and less disastrous to miss a night in Capetown at $400 a night than a night on safari at $2000 a night). Thoughts on this?

2) What lodges can you personally recommend? We are looking at Mala Mala Rattrays, Londolozi Tree Camp, Lion Sands Ivory Lodge, Singita Boulders (and other Singita camps), Royal Malewane, and now one travel agent has suggested Chitwa Chitwa or Dulini Lodge - any info about these two?
Can anyone speak to the food at Rattrays? I heard it is not great for the price. Any other personal recent experiences at the above, especially combining two camps?
My husband and I want somewhere with great accommodations, good food and wine (alcohol included is a plus!) , but also fabulous wildlife viewing and knowledgeable rangers/trackers, with the opportunity for walking safaris. We can't afford to spend all 5 nights at somewhere like Singita or Royal Malewane, but we could do 2-3 nights at somewhere of that caliber and 2-3 nights somewhere slightly more affordable like Rattrays. Budget is around $12,000 (for 2 people) for just the safari portion (lodging).

Please share your thoughts. Thank you!!!!!

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