Help choosing a game reserve

We’re still in the super early stages of planning a 2 week South Africa trip in August of 2019. Right now the hardest part seems to be narrowing down the selection of game reserves. We’re thinking of spending some time in the area of Cape Town east to Oudtshoorn and some time in the area of Johannesburg west to the Kalahari. Whether we spend any time north and/or east of Johannesburg will most likely depend on what reserves we select.

The two really want to see animals are cheetahs and meerkats.

I’m leaning towards guided safari experiences. Partly because of the additional education we could get about the animals and partly because it seems logical that a guide would be better than us at knowing where and when to find the animals.

On one hand larger reserves seem like a good choice for animal variety and habitat quality, but on the other hand I assume it’s easier to find the animals at smaller ones. Similarly, I’ve seen many excellent reviews for Kruger, but I’m worried that the experience will be diluted by so many people and that we might be happier at a similar but less visited one.

Any suggestions of park selection criteria would be appreciated. Does size matter? Does private vs. public matter? Any certifications to check for? Etc.

Thanks!

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