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8 days 7 nights: Safari with Cape Town--Kruger vs Madekwe vs Shamwari

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hi all!

we are a couple in mid 30s and we finally pursued our plans to visit South Africa for the first time. this is also our first time in the African continent. my husband will be celebrating his bday and this i think would be the best gift he would like to receive as he loves watching Nat Geo Wild. due to work, our best bet is to travel from Sept 28 to Oct 5. Our flight arrives Joburg at 7AM and Depart from Joburg at ____.

here are a couple of questions:

Option 1: Kruger then Cape Town--- drive to Kruger, drive back to Joburg, take flight to Cape Town, then back again to Joburg to fly out

1.) initially, we were set on going to Kruger. But with the limited time we have, we are not so keen on wasting time driving or flying (i hate small planes). but if Kruger is really the best then we will go through the 5 hour drive

2.) if we do pursue Kruger, the drive itself is monotonous. we would prefer if we can have someone bring us to Kruger. can you pls refer a company that can pick us up from the airport and drive us to Kruger?

3.) we plan to stay for 5 days 4 nights in Kruger. Possible hotel options that i am considering:
( we love value for money, we are not so much into super luxurious 5 star all the way. we like moderate luxury)

Sabi Sands:
a.) Elephant Plains
b.) Arathusa

Timbavati:
a.) Simbavati River Lodge

Pls provide feedback and insights if we should stay in 2 (two) different reserves for the 4 nights

Option 2: Madekwe instead of Kruger---same itinerary as number 1

The only reason we are considering Madekwe is because its Malaria free zone and it is closer to Joburg. but then the drive time doesn't vary that much. also, we heard you get a chance to see more in Madekwe because it is smaller compared to Kruger. pls comment

Option 3: Fly to Cape Town, drive the Garden Route, Stop at Port Elizabeth for Shamwari

This will be i think the most viable option since we can fly straight from Joburg upon our arrival. then we can stay in CT for 3 nights. then do the Garden route for 1 night while driving to Port Elizabeth for 3 nights before flying back from PE to Joburg to catch return flight.

Hotel Options:
a.) Shamwari --- quite expensive but if it is really worth it, i don't mind paying
b.) Amakhala woodbury tent--- we want to try tent-style accommodation
c.) Addo Elephant--stay in Gorah

Pls comment on this itinerary. thanks!

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