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Need Help with Safari Lodges for 3 week SA trip in '15

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Background

We’ve had the good fortune to have gone on safari in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Botswana. Here are examples of experiences I liked and didn’t, so you get to know my tastes and quirks: *Enjoyed tented camp Tena Tena in Zambia, it overlooked a river, game rich drives, good guides, real bush atmosphere, convivial, repeat campers.
*back in 1984, when there was a lion kill in the Mara (Kenya) so many vans instantly materialized it was like the parking lot of Macy’s in LA the day after Christmas, a Disneylandesque atmosphere, not good.
*Mombo Lodge in the Okavango Delta of Botswana was a splurge beyond compare,what’s not to like?; the guides were superb, only four guests per vehicle, food and wine great, accommodations fabulous, gazing out from our veranda, an endless wonder.
*Our five day private mobile tented safari (with another couple) in the Serengeti (as part of a 3 week Tanzania safari) was superb. Every moment an adventure, formal dining under the stars was magnificent.
*I did not like our two night stay at Ngorogoro Crater Lodge in Tanzania. The lodge was just too precious for me. Again, as soon as we saw a nursery school pick up (6 lionesses were escorting about 3-6 cubs each across the road) 6-8 vans materialized and the quiet ambience of the crater flood disappeared.

The Question
DH and I are youthfully 69 and 76, and have more in common with travelers over 50. We want our safari experience to be filled with great (and up close) game viewing. We do not have a list to be checked off of either mammals or birds. We enjoy learning all we can about our fellow creatures and enjoy knowledgeable guides with a good senses of humor and fun. We like the idea of a private reserve/concession without fences and with unopposed traversing rights. We prefer 4 guests to a jeep rather than 6 but not a deal breaker. We like an area with a diversity of terrain, we especially like woodlands and river scenery. We want day and night off road game drives and walking opportunities.
We like a lodge to have a warm, welcoming atmosphere with a place to congregate and mingle with other guests or some group meals. We do not like stiff, ultra “professional”, servile service.

As to lodge accommodations, we like upscale digs: traditional African or colonial decor to blend with the environment, veranda with scenic view a real plus, spacious room and bathroom, no more than 10 units, sense of privacy between units. We can do without things like: plunge pools (unless heated, still very optional), spas, outdoor showers, in room jacuzzis, private butler, crystal touches that are over the top and out of character with environment. We enjoy fine food and wine but the chef need not be Paris trained or have other impressive credentials. This would be our big splurge lodge for 3 nights.

I am leaning toward Mala Mala Rattray’s Camp. Don’t know if not having a tracker in jeep is a significant drawback. Willing to consider Lion Sands River or Ivory. Londolosi seems to have lots of lodges and less terrain than Mala Mala. Royal Malawani and Exeter River Lodge somehow strike me as elitist or is that me being elitist??

As another 2 day experience I might like to try tenting it at dThambo Tree Camp. Any comments about the terrain, accommodations, etc.?

As a third camp in KZN I am considering Elephant Rock Pv. Safari Lodge, Nambiti Hills Pvt Game Lodge or Leopard Mtn Game Lodge - here we are looking for wonderful views from lodge units, can be rustic, romantic, good game viewing. We’d stay 3 nights and continue on to explore Durban. DH says all are fine with him

I am eager for all feedback. Many thanks.

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