Encompass Africa visits Madikwe Game Reserve

posted 8th October 2009 by Danica Wilson in Travel Styles

A glimpse into a

Madikwe Safari

It’s not every day I get to go to one of Africa’s areas of outstanding natural beauty with abundant wildlife and stunning bush retreats. So when the opportunity came up to visit Madikwe Game Reserve in the North West of South Africa and take my mother-in-law with me, I jumped at the chance.

There are five reasons Madikwe Game Reserve impressed me even before I inspected the accommodation.

  1. I didn’t need to take malaria tablets because it’s one of Africa’s largest malaria free areas
  2. There is a broad mix of habitats and diverse geology which allows abundant wild life
  3. There are some 28 different animal species from black and white rhino, leopard, lion, cheetah to elephant, wild dog, spotted and brown hyena and a rich diversity of  mammals such as gemsbok, eland, zebra and sable
  4. Over 350 bird species exist in Madikwe Game Reserve from the rare crimson-breasted shrike to raptors, finches and lilac crested rollers
  5. You can self drive, fly in or be transferred from Johannesburg making access easy!

Most importantly is the calibre of safari lodges and camps. Each of the places we visited offered real character, genuine hospitality and an intimate knowledge of the bush.

Within two days we were fortunate enough to encounter the Big 5 and by the third day, our list included endangered species such as wild dog not to mention 25 giraffe in one day and two enormous breeding herds of elephants.

Here is a rundown of the various lodges and camps we visited and stayed at. I hope you find it useful when considering Madikwe as your next safari destination.

Giraffe at sunset, Madikwe South Africa
Waterhole, Madikwe South Africa
Zebra at Madikwe South Africa

Madikwe Bush House:

This is a lovely old homestead with one of the best, most frequented water holes right in front of the house that allows for all day and night game viewing. We were lucky enough to see a breeding herd exceeding 25 elephants within minutes of arriving. This charming home has a proud history and many stories to tell. It accommodates just 10 people in five double rooms ensuring an intimate stay and genuine personal service. It is ideal for families because it’s akin to staying at a close friend’s home.

Keep in mind it is the closest lodge to the Wonderboom gate and access road, so there is some peripheral noise. However its stunning boma for evening fires, plunge pool and onsite spa treatment room will soon wash away any road noise!

Tuningi Safari Lodge:

Described as colonial African chic, this is a stunningly appointed lodge with well designed open central area, featuring infinity pool within the sun deck overlooking the bush, boardwalk down to a massive ancient fig tree, bar, dining and lounge area all opening onto the deck.  

The thatched rooms are beautiful with large beds, mosquito nets, fireplace, ensuite, al fresco shower and large wooden deck.  We stayed here and received friendly hospitality, lovely food and good safari guiding and game viewing.

Buffalo Ridge Safari Lodge:

This was my mother-in-law’s favourite because it’s rustic, wholly owned by a local rural community and boasts the most outstanding views over the plains and volcanic outcrops of the western section of Madikwe. The main lodge is located on two tiers of the ridge featuring comfortable lounge area, fire places, small curio shop and a simple yet welcoming dining area. It is accessed by a wooden bridge that crosses a ravine surrounded by rock fig trees. The swimming pool is on the top deck with the ultimate views.  

The 8 individual suites each have their own deck and glass sliding doors maximising the sensational views from bed and bathroom.  I recommend this place for honeymoons or romantic retreats. I don’t recommend it for people who have trouble with stairs.

Motswiri Safari Lodge:

The last lodge on this stretch of road, Motswiri is the perfect place for a family getaway. It is tucked under a canopy of Leadwood trees overlooking a waterhole with an exquisitely appointed main lodge with separate lounge, dining and bar each with roaring fireplace.  The individual rooms are beautifully decorated offering privacy, seclusion and romance. This lodge can be booked out for exclusive use making it ideal for corporates, celebrations and family groups.

 Thakadu River Camp:

This lovely eco-tourism and community lodge features a welcoming open plan lounge, dining and reception area with a pool and bar deck boasting views of the gully and Marico River to the north.  A traditional lapa falls within a glade of natural riverine forest. This was my favourite camp in terms of decor with use of natural stone, timbers, fibres, cloth and carpets.

We stayed in the end tent, number 12 which was quite a walk from the main lodge, but it made the experience real. The further we walked away from the main lodge, the more immersed we became in this area of outstanding beauty.  Each tent has its own viewing deck overlooking the Marico River, however it’s inside the tent I enjoyed most.

Within canvas walls I found a lovely bathroom featuring large white bathtub, double basin, shower and toilet, a simple bedroom area complete with large bed, mosquito net and olive green throws and a lounge and desk just before the glass doors that led onto our private front deck. Our best safari experience was here and it’s all because of our guide  Lucky.

Lucky by name and lucky with nature because he showed us everything from dung beetle and millipedes (called shongololo) to elephants, wild dog, lion, leopard and buffalo. Thank you Lucky, you made our Madikwe stay so special.

 Jaci’s Safari & Tree Lodges:

Jaci van Heteren and her husband, Jan have lived in Madikwe Game Reserve for years and pride themselves on creating magical experiences for their guests. They have built two lodges over time, situated in close proximity to each other and yet completely different in feel. The Safari Lodge where we stayed is exciting from the moment you get out of your vehicle and enter its gates. A swing bridge awaits you not to mention a stunning open plan main area with sunken lounge, library, open hearth or fire, curio shop, dining room wide open to the kitchen and a winding staircase leading up to the bar.

The guest rooms were a pure delight featuring vibrant colours, canvas tents with stone walls and shaggy thatch. This place really immerses you into the bush perhaps a little too much for Pam’s liking! There are open windows and gaps under the canvas doors that allow critters to enter  at their own peril if Pam was in the room. My personal highlight was meeting Jan and talking about his life in the bush and passion for sharing Africa with others.

The Tree Lodge was some 10 minutes walk away via a winding path along the river and riverine forest. I loved the raised timber walkways not to mention its hidden tree houses. The extra wide rooms feature large folding doors, king sized beds, oversized marble baths all with views out to the tamboti forest. Pam preferred this lodge because its glass doors sealed top and bottom ensuring no bug could gain entry uninvited!The main lodge area features a dining room, lounge, reading room and outdoor boma. Its decor is quite Moroccan in feel which brought back fond memories of my time just last year in North Africa.

The highlight had to be Jaci’s Safari Lodge suites.There are two Safari and Nare. These self contained cottages boast private plunge pools, well appointed kitchens, lounge, multiple bed rooms simply ideal for a family or group of friends getaway.The Nare Suite comes with its own guide and chef too for that extra special holiday.

Jamala Madikwe Royal Safari Lodge:

New to the African landscape is Jamala, a Swahili word for natural elegance and it certainly lives up to its name. Tradition and eccentricity are tastefully united here reflecting a classic sense of African style that is sufficiently robust to match the wild beauty that lies beyond.  It is my ideal honeymoon paradise. From the moment you arrive at the electronic gates of this luxury lodge, you know your time is going to be special.

Owners Rodney and Shaun welcome you with a ceremonial hand wash and warm hand towel before escorting you through the stunning foyer out to the deck that overlooks a well frequented waterhole.

The main lodge is beautifully fashioned with hand cut slate stone feature walls and decorated with exquisite furniture and paintings from Shaun and Rodney’s personal collection.

Each guest room features a stunning private deck with rim-flow pool, sala and outdoor shower. Inside your private sanctuary you can expect nothing but spatial elegance with separate bedroom, lounge and bathroom.

Sadly we didn’t have time to stay here, however our inspection stretched to three hours as we enjoyed lively conversation, laughter and shared a high-tea style spread of royal proportions!

So that concludes my Madikwe Game Reserve stay. I can highly recommend it for honeymooners, special occasions, family holidays or simply a weekend getaway. It is a wild part of Africa with camps run by true characters of the safari industry.

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