African Safari Review by Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby
Set in a game-rich corner of the malaria-free Madikwe Game Reserve and now under new management, we find out what Madikwe Safari Lodge has to offer.
First impressions count. We arrive in the burning heat of the day, our vehicle is whisked away and we’re escorted straight to the lunch table, chilled drink in hand. So far so good. A hot breeze wafts through the shaded deck; I order a gourmet burger and settle back in my chair. It’s been a long journey to get here.
As you’ll know by now, eating occupies a large proportion of your time on safari, so what you eat, and where you eat it, are important. Madikwe Safari Lodge is tucked away in the bushveld on the lower slopes of a rocky hill, just high enough for a wonderful view out across the veld. And the bush comes right up to where we’re sitting with my gourmet burger. I hear a rustle not far away, and three elephants are plodding towards a nearby waterhole. Is that a giraffe’s head I see peaking at me through the trees? No, it’s two…
At the same time, there’s a plethora of birds flitting from bush to bush – with binocs in hand, we tick off a good 20 species in between bites of that gourmet burger (which is delicious by the way).
We’re shown to our luxury chalet, which is very private and situated well away from other chalets. One of our pet hates is chalets situated too close together – you want to hear the sounds of the bush, not your neighbours. The room is tastefully furnished – hints of African, but not kitsch, with muted accents of colour, an outdoor shower, and huge bath.
Best of all is the private plunge pool overlooking the bush – we cool down as three curious kudu come to investigate what the splashing is all about. Private pools are not always the norm and this is a huge bonus. There’s also a bag of gym equipment so you can work out on your own private deck, if the need for exercise arises. This is a great little touch, and one we haven’t seen before.
It’s afternoon tea and time to meet our guide, Andre, for the evening game drive. Madikwe is well-known for its wild dogs and Andre obliges with a great view of one of the main packs resting in the shade. And lions. Madikwe is all about lions, and you’re virtually guaranteed a sighting. Our pride was relaxing under a bush, as usual, but with so many around, you’ve got as good a chance as any of seeing them hunt. The day’s rounded off with G&T sundowners and a boma dinner under the stars back at the lodge.
It’s an eye-rubbing 5.30am start next morning but Madikwe is hot, and the deliciously cool morning quickly morphs into a blazing hot day. We’re treated to a beautiful white rhino, right on the road in front of us, and lots of ellies.
We linger over breakfast (a delicious buffet spread, and eggs to order), disappointed to be leaving so soon. But with binocs in hand, we’re once again treated to our own breakfast safari gazing out over the bush. Are those the giraffes again? I think so….
Good for: Big Five viewing in an awesome setting. Children – good child facilities and malaria free.
Not so good for: Exclusivity at sightings (although this is true for most Madikwe lodges)
Our Verdict – Under efficient new management, with chalet upgrades under way, this sound, good-value, top-end lodge should go from strength to strength.