Ndali Lodge, Uganda

Mention Ndali to anyone in the safari-know or living in Uganda, and the accolades will follow immediately. Jonathan and Sophie visit what is often described as Uganda’s top lodge to see what all the fuss is about. What did they find? A gorgeous, tranquil, home-away-from-home!

Review by Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby

Perched on the rim of an extinct volcano, Ndali Lodge overlooks the magnificent crater lake of Nyinambuga. With 8 luxury suites all facing west (for that killer sunset over the magnificent Rwenzori Mountains), this lodge delivers on high standards – from comfort to decor to food – to atmosphere.  Owner Aubrey, who manages the lodge with his wife Clare, is charismatic and warm and its this effusiveness that gives the lodge it’s homely feel.

Ndali Lodge

Ndali Lodge

Joining the guests for all meals (which are all communal), he does an outstanding job in making sure all guests are happy at all times. And most importantly his enthusiasm for the estate, the area and the community projects that Ndali is involved in shines through in every conversation. Communal meals are always a favorite of ours and at Ndali they highlight just how well that concept works for a small, intimate lodge – already at our first meal (a delicious lunch of quiche, salads and vanilla cake) the atmosphere is spot-on and we immediately make a few new friends from around the world, some of whom we’ll be staying in touch with. It’s not just about the beautiful surroundings, or the top-rate chimp trekking nearby – safaris are also about people.

Dining with a view, Ndali Lodge

Dining with a view, Ndali Lodge

That night we enter the lounge and dining room and find both bathed in candlelight – the perfect venue for a cosy, homely and delicious dinner prepared from locally sourced, fresh ingredients.

At Ndali you’re under no pressure to embark on activities all day long. Soak up the views, have a cocktail, go to the spa, the sauna or simply snooze. Most guests visiting the Crater Lakes will spend one day doing chimpanzee trekking in Kibale Forest (which, by the way, also boasts other primates such as L’Hoest’s Monkey, Black&White Colobus and Grey-cheeked Mangabey); otherwise there are endless hiking opportunities in and around the many crater lakes. Also, birding is phenomenal – on a short walk around the lodge we spotted 20 species in no time – including the stunning Green-headed Sunbird!

Relax with a view...Ndali Lodge

Relax with a view…Ndali Lodge

In the Crater Lakes / Kibale region of Western Uganda, Ndali Lodge is without a doubt our choice – and a great stopover as part of a larger Uganda tour, between Murchisson Falls and Queen Elizabeth National Park. Here you arrive as strangers and leave as family. And so, let the accolades continue!

Chitwa Chitwa, Sabi Sand Reserve

Review by Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby.

If safari lodges are about location, location, location, then Chitwa Chitwa is our favourite yet. After a long dusty drive, we step onto the expansive boardwalks and immediately the peace and tranquility starts to ooze into our bones.

Speaking of bones, around Chitwa Chitwa there are lots of them. Elephant skulls form sculptured statues, a chandelier of bones adorns the lodge area, our suite has what looks like a giraffe tibia decorating the coffee table. The outdoor showers of some of the suites have towel rails comprising skeletal remains of some large mammal. Original, and impressive.

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The main pool overlooks the magnificent dam with several resident hippos, Chitwa Chitwa

Art meets the bush

And continuing with the décor theme, the lodge and suites are adorned with abstract art that is the work of the owner. Each piece is unique, and ties in with the theme of each room. Every suite is themed in a completely different way, showing off the owners’ interior design talent covering a wide, wide spectrum. This is where art meets the bush.

But back to location, and what the main lodge and the suites do all share in common is their incredible position on the edge of a small dam, an oasis in the surrounding bush. While most lodges may boast a modest waterhole, or partially dry river, this dam beats them all hands down. As we unwind with a cold drink, two pods of hippo honk 50 metres away, while the cries of a fish eagle echo over the still water. It’s a fantastic magnet for birds and game, and you don’t need to stray from the deck of your suite to see it all close-up.

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Each suite has a private pool overlooking the dam, Chitwa Chitwa

Leopards, leopards, leopards

But located deep in the Sabi Sand reserve, our favourite game viewing area anywhere, there’s no way we’re missing a game drive, and soon we’re cruising the area with our guide, Surprise, and tracker, Ralph. It’s not long before Ralph spots a leopard in a Marula tree, with a recent impala kill draped over a branch. We have the sighting to ourselves and watch spellbound as the leopard tucks in, at one point accidentally dropping the entrails to the ground. In a single fluid movement, it slides down the tree to recover it, before slinking off into the sunset. Not bad for the first drive.

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Leopard on impala kill, Chitwa Chitwa

The food at Chitwa matches all the other superlatives, with superb plated meals and friendly staff. Our waiter (improbably named Coconut) was genuine and endearing. Meals are refreshingly unpretentious, and you don’t feel as if you’re being plied with food constantly. Sophie tried out the small gym anyway, watching a herd of waterbuck come down to the dam to drink while hammering the treadmill. And hosts Claudia, Leon and Gaby do a brilliant job in making guests feel not just relaxed, but also at home. The owners’ great emphasis on attention to detail comes through in every aspect of the lodge, and leaves a lasting impression.

Surprise

We can’t wait for the morning drive with Surprise. Surprise is an old-hand Shangaan guide, who worked his way up the ranks from bush clearing, tracking and finally guiding. Mostly self-taught, he’s one of the best guides we’ve had in years of safaris. This morning he lives up to his name with a stunning sighting of a male leopard stalking a steenbok, just metres from our open-top vehicle. We watched with our hearts in our mouths as he crept closer and closer…but the steenbok was too quick and darted away in the nick of time.

If resting in your suite after breakfast sounds too lazy, you can take a game walk. I’ll take any opportunity to learn from a good Shangaan guide and as we stroll in the heat of the morning following tracks and identifying trees, Surprise tells me stories of his most radical sightings – lions eating lions, leopards eating leopards. You can see anything in Sabi Sand; you just need time and luck.

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Main deck area, Chitwa Chitwa

Our incredible luck continues next day with more leopard sightings on every drive – hunting impala at night, and two leopards mating. Oh, and lions on two buffalo kills, elephant, rhino and lots more. We’re stunned. Our only disappointment? When the time came to leave.

In a climate where more and more safari lodges are becoming corporate owned and correspondingly bland and much less personal, Chitwa still retains the air of a private lodge. Touches of magic are everywhere. And did we mention that location?

Good for: Art and bush lovers alike, honeymoon couples, leopards (no guarantees!).

Not so good for: Still trying to work this one out.

Our verdict: Eclectic décor style and astonishing attention to detail, combined with a superb setting in the best game viewing area in South Africa, make Chitwa Chitwa one of our favourite choices.

Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge, Sabi Sand Reserve

Review by Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby.

Earth Lodge is like no other place. If you’re thinking warm colonial touches, kudu leather couches and zebra skin carpets as your idea of a safari lodge, forget it. Earth lodge is an assault on the senses, a monstrous statement, a wild experiment.

And we love it. Cast out of cement, river sand and straw, the lodge has a cave-like quality, while the furnishings are even more outlandish than the architecture. Driftwood from floods has been sculpted and polished and made into furniture and individual pieces of art, with mesmerising results. The bar, for example, comprises a large chunk of a dead tree, so extensive it’s integrated into the actual structure of the building, its contortions so convoluted it would have been impossible to design.

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Exquisite interior of our suite, Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge

We were so busy marveling at this that we almost missed the a la carte lunch so it blended into afternoon tea with an array of delicious cakes, before being introduced to our guide Marcus and tracker Louis for our afternoon game drive.

As the name suggests, Sabi Sabi is situated in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, bordering Kruger National park, the uncontested jewel of safari areas in South Africa. After an assortment of plains game and a sunset G&T it was starting to look like a quiet afternoon, until tracker Louis made a miraculous spot – the ears of a leopard crouched in the long grass some way from the road.

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Leopard, Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge

Driving off-road, we followed him for 15 minutes as the dusk turned to night, stalking into a dry river-bed, while a troop of monkeys in the tree above screeched their fury at the deadly intruder. There are many places you see the Big 5, but if you want more than a fleeting chance of seeing this majestic animal, Sabi Sand is about the only place to come.

Dinner at Earth Lodge is a lavish affair. Each night’s venue can be somewhere different – under the stars in the boma, the intimacy of the library, or even the elaborate wine cellar. Our 5-course extravaganza of Prawns, Pear & Gorgonzola soup, Spring Rolls, Lamb Rack, Pork Belly and Chocolate Fondant was under the stars, attended to by our jovial and excellent waiter George.

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Dining is a lavish, decadent experience at Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge

The staff at Earth Lodge are worthy of extra mention. At many top lodges, even in the very highest price bracket, staff will be competent but wooden, where you’ll feel comfortable but not at home. At Earth lodge, the hospitality comes naturally, and the barmen and waiters don’t need to ask your name: they know it already, and they don’t forget.

From afar, the well-spaced suites resemble termite mounds, little earth domes protruding from sunken caves, and inside too, with the earth-like, straw-textured walls and small skylights sending shafts of sunlight into the dark interior. The suites actually blend in so well that it is not unheard of to spot lions perched on the rooftops. Keep an eye out…

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Solitude, peace and out-there architecture, Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge

The furnishings are minimalist but very comfortable, with the same driftwood theme that characterizes the main lodge. Outside you can perch on a huge sculpted Leadwood bench next to the plunge pool, or relax on comfy loungers set in the bushveld itself. All with absolute privacy.

At 6am next morning sleep is interrupted (I was dreaming of giant termites invading our suite) by our wake-up call for the morning drive, and after a pre-breakfast we’re off into the cold, winter sunrise. Hornbills sit motionless in the trees until the weak sun warms their feathers and starts to warm us too, on our way to find rhino and wild dog.

Sabi Earth lodge, Sabi Sabi’s flagship lodge, is more than a statement, it’s a declaration. In their own philosophy, its futuristic lines represent ‘Tomorrow’. The nearby Bush Lodge and Little Bush Lodge represent ‘Today’ and it’s here that you’ll find your traditional contemporary, quintessential African safari themes. Bush Lodge is big, with outstanding child facilities, while Little Bush Lodge is small and intimate, with just six chalets.

Finally, Selati lodge is themed on the historic Selati railway line that ran close by, full of colonial charm and memorabilia from this golden age, and represents ‘Yesterday’. (It also overlooks a cracker of a waterhole, with great game close to the lodge).

But if it’s your thing, the prize is for Tomorrow.

Good for: Big splash out, something you can’t experience anywhere else.

Not so good for: Intimate, cosy feel (although if this is your thing, Little Bush Lodge offers plenty of it).

Our verdict: Out-of-this age architecture, something genuinely astonishing in South Africa’s premier game viewing reserve.

Nottens Bush Camp, Sabi Sand Reserve

Review by Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby

When most people think of Sabi Sand Reserve, they think big, 5-star safari lodges with a price tag to match. Think again. Tucked away in a little corner is this family-run gem, where rustic charm replaces extravagant luxury.

At Nottens, things are done the way they’ve been done for years – yet nothing about this lodge feels dated, including the wonderful staff, some of whom have been at Nottens for decades. Dale, the assistant general manager and a member of the Notten family, has been coming here all his life and from talking to him you sense the pride that he and his family takes in the place.

Despite being the most affordable lodges in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve Nottens provides a top-notch safari experience with the most low-key, heart-warming and incredibly hospitable atmosphere we’ve experienced for a long time. On our first day at the delectable buffet lunch, all our fellow guests swing by our table to introduce themselves – informality is the order of the day at Nottens. And that’s wonderfully refreshing!

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View from main lounge area, Nottens Bush Camp.

Although Nottens is on a small concession within Sabi Sand, traversing rights are shared with neighbouring Sabi Sabi so guests have access to a large game viewing area, and guides all share information on sightings. On our first game-drive with our excellent guide, Thomas, we are lucky to see a large pride of 11 lions all sharpening their claws on the same tree, perhaps in preparation for their next meal…

Back home (and at Nottens, it quickly feels like it), we freshen up for dinner in our tastefully decorated, candlelit room. All suites do have electricity, but no lights are fitted, which means lighting sources are from paraffin lamps and candles. This is as it’s always been – no fuss, no frills, just you and the African bush. The suites are nicely spaced and overlook the waterhole in front of the lodge; and for those visiting in the heat of summer there is a beautiful lap and plunge pool to cool off in.

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Deck overlooking waterhole, Nottens Bush Camp.

For dinner we’re treated to a feast beyond expectation – Dale takes on the role of braai master while the rest of the kitchen cooks up a storm of a 4-course meal. The intimate feel of Nottens becomes particularly evident in the evenings, where guests dine together by candlelight at one long table in a cosy dining room with a roaring fire in the background. The African bush tends to draw together like-minded people and we quickly find ourselves indulged in fascinating conversations. One of our fellow guests is a 93-year old ex-WW2 glider pilot, bolt upright and sharp as nails, it all made for a lively evening.

The following morning a flask of hot water is delivered to our room along with that (very early) wake-up call. The essential pre-game-drive coffee or tea is also available in the lounge should you not wish to make your own. We set off in the cold on our last game drive and are rewarded with very close-up sightings of white rhino along with antelope and giraffe – and as we drive back into camp, a large herd of zebras come gallivanting down to have a drink at the lodge’s waterhole.

After a scrumptious breakfast we go for a very entertaining and rewarding bush walk with Joseph, the oldest (and wisest!) guide at Nottens. Walking in the wild African bush is always a highlight for us, learning about the smaller things. And we were deeply impressed not only by the level of Joseph’s knowledge but also by his legendary incredible animal sound impersonations!

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White rhino on morning game drive, Nottens Bush Camp.

All in all, it became evident to us (after only one night’s stay!) that the bush heart beats loud and clear at Nottens. The lodge, and many of its staff, have been around for decades and guests come back year after year. Before long you’ll also feel part of the Nottens family. And when that magical experience comes at a very affordable price, you have a winner on your hands. We were deeply impressed by the low-key atmosphere and intimacy of the lodge – and its sense of timelessness and familiarity will stay with us for long time.

Good for: Families, bush lovers, value-for-money

Not so good for: Luxury extravaganza

Our verdict: Quaint, old-school feel and great value in South Africa’s top safari area.

Kichaka Private Game Lodge

It would take more than rain and hail to dampen our enthusiasm for this gem of a lodge, situated on a private reserve close to Grahamstown in Eastern Cape.

“I have to admit”, says our guide Jason, “that I’ve never been in a situation like this before”.  Just fifteen minutes ago we were admiring a beautiful white rhino and her calf, right out in the open, just a few metres away. OK so she was a bit skittish, charging up and down a bit. “Odd behavior”, remarked Jason, “But she’s probably sensing the storm”. The thunder, at this point, seemed far away.

Main pool at Kichaka, right next to Harry the Hippo's pool

Main pool at Kichaka, right next to Harry the Hippo’s pool

And only five minutes ago we were watching magnificent Duma, undisputed king of the reserve’s lion pride while his associate female showed more than a passing interest in a nearby Blesbok, stalking low against the ground as the sky darkened. Fast.

Just two minutes ago we were still debating whether to stop soon for sundowner drinks, or head back to the lodge. Then it came. The wind whipped up, lightening flashed overhead, squalls of hail stones scattered the bush and thunder crashed across the green hills. Jason put his foot down. “An open top vehicle is the last place you want to be in a storm”, he says as we dash for the nearest shelter. We arrive just as the full force of the storm hits, huddling in our ponchos with other guests and guides, everyone caught out by the fast-changing weather. Tonight our G&Ts will be chilled by hailstones. Now that’s something to remember!

Only four hours ago we arrived in the blazing hot sun, greeted by Molutu and Koleka with a cocktail, sipping chilled wine over a delicious smoked salmon lunch, and relaxing in our private plunge pool. Which brings us onto Kichaka itself. What makes this place so special?

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One of Kichaka’s great lounging areas

It’s hard to know where to begin, but when in doubt, start with the people. Charming Koleka is our ‘butler’ – the one who shows us our room, takes our orders and remembers what we like to drink. Matt, the chef, makes an appearance at the end of each meal to check everything is well with his guests, and receives unanimous applause each time. The food at Chitaka is very impressive – from the choice of six hot breakfasts (as well as the buffet) to three-course gourmet dinners each night and delicious lunches, just small enough to leave room for afternoon tea and freshly-baked cakes.

Our thatched chalet, one of ten, is huge, beautifully decorated and opens onto a large private wooden deck and private heated plunge pool. Best of all, our chalet (and the main lodge) look out onto a small dam inhabited by a hippo called Harry, who you’ll hear honking if you’re lucky.

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Not bad! (and it wasn’t even our honeymoon…)

The attention to detail is superb, from a personalised welcome note and free wi-fi to an IPod docking station attached to speakers, so you can listen to your own music if Harry is away from home. The main lodge is no less luxurious, with a main lounge, including a grand piano that guests are encouraged to play, and a diverse library. Huge log fires provide warmth and intimacy on cold winter days and the main swimming pool is stunningly situated right next to the dam, so you can pretend you’re swimming with Harry.

As well as regular game drives, guests are free to request night drives, with decent chances of spotting caracal and aardwolf (and, recently, even the ultra-elusive aardvark). Bush walks can also be arranged, there’s a great spa, and for something different, ‘cosmic safaris’ can acquaint you with the southern night skies. Even fishing can be arranged.

It’s still drizzling for our game drive next morning but it doesn’t matter – we find the lions again and more interestingly (for us) see two crows mobbing a long-crested eagle. Jason adapts well to his guests’ interests, is as passionate talking about termites as he is about the Big Five, and the quality of guiding is well above many similar lodges. As guides ourselves, this is important and makes a big difference to our enjoyment.

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Great rhino sighting with guide Jason, as the storm approaches

It’s our last night (sadly), we’re walking back to our suite after another sumptuous dinner from Matt and spot an animal flash across the board walk. It’s gone to fast to be sure, but could it have been the elusive caracal, that cat we’re so desperate to see? There’s one that’s often spotted close by. We soon forget our disappointment – we open the door and the light from 80 candles spelling ‘We Love U’ cast flickering shadows across the room, enticing us to a bath filled with hot water and bubbles, a complimentary bottle of chilled sparkling wine within easy reach. It’s been a year since our honeymoon but it feels like that all over again.

To us, a lodge ‘has it’ when enough of the small things come together to create a great experience, and it’s amazing how clear it is, and how quickly it becomes obvious. (When, that is, you’ve had the good fortune to visit as many safari lodges as we have). Whether you get sunshine or storms (or both), take it from us – Kichaka has it and if you’re looking for an Eastern Cape safari, you won’t go wrong here.

Good for: Honeymooners and families alike looking to combine a convenient safari with great hospitality

Not so good for: ‘True’ wilderness, although it’s up there with the best Eastern Cape has to offer

Our verdict: Elegant luxury and attention to detail make this one of our top picks of Eastern Cape lodges

Morukuru

African Safari Review by Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby

Set on its own private concession within the malaria-free Madikwe Game Reserve, Morkuru’s three ‘mini-lodges’ promise a different formula and a different experience. We find out how it compares with other Madikwe offerings.

Sometimes we can tell straightaway when a place ‘has it’. Well, Morukuru has it. It’s a combination of a great many things all coming together, but first, a bit about how Morukuru is different.

Instead of one lodge, Morukuru consists of three ‘mini-lodges’ – the Owners House, The Lodge, and The Farmhouse, which each sleep 2-10 guests, and are booked exclusively. Each comes with its own team of dedicated staff – guide, tracker and hostess, chef, butler and back-up staff so whether you’re a honeymoon couple, a family, or group of friends, this team is at your very own disposal throughout your stay, including your own private safari vehicle.

Our whole team is waiting to meet us when we arrive, with a cold cocktail and traditional African song before our hosts, Anthony and Amy, accompany us to our villa. We’re staying at the Owners House – the house originally built by Ed and Anka Zeeman, who fell in love with Madikwe after their first visit here in 2003, and built this incredible bush house on the site of giant Tamboti tree (Morukuru means Tamboti in Tswana).

Owners House Suite

Owners House Suite

Imagine your idea of a luxury safari suite overlooking a wooded river bed (or if you can’t, read some of our other blogs). Then quadruple it in size, add several outdoor decks and wooden walkways among the trees, add a dining room as well as a lounge, kitchen, library and study, and finally a private heated rim-flow pool (larger than many a 5-star lodge’s communal pool) that appears to hover among the trees, and you have an idea of what this place is like.

There’s even an integrated sound system, where you can play different music in different parts of the house (including speakers in the outdoor shower).

And this is just for the two of us. But it gets better.

“At Morukuru, we don’t work on any schedule”, Anthony explains. “We can go for game drives whenever you like. Joyce [our chef] can cook for you whatever you like, whenever you like. We’re all at your disposal”.

Breakfast with our hosts, Morukuru

Breakfast with our hosts, Morukuru

This is not normal. Most top-end lodges have a strict schedule – from a wakeup call to meal times and game drive times, and although you can skip whatever you like, you can’t tailor every day to your personal wishes. At Morukuru, you can.

Of course having infinite choices can be stressful. Do you go to check out those lions you heard roaring earlier, or relax instead in the pool while Evanz [our butler] plies you with cocktails? Should you choose a vintage wine from the owner’s private collection instead of a house wine, and if so, what? Luckily, everyone from your chef to your guide is on hand to make recommendations and we’re happy to follow them for our stay.

It’s time for our afternoon game drive and Anthony takes us on a tour of the 1,000 hectare private concession that forms part of Madikwe Game Reserve. Madikwe has a lot of lodges and it can get quite crowded at sightings, but here you’ll only see other Morukuru vehicles, although they also have access to the rest of the reserve. So we had a beautiful lion sighting to ourselves, and stared down a rare African Wild Cat before a private dinner on one of our decks, and a moonlight swim (the pool is heated to 30C today).

Dinner with a view, Morukuru

Dinner with a view, Morukuru

Next morning we combine a game drive with a stop at the Farmhouse – a bigger mini-lodge sleeping up to ten, different, but just as luxurious. Here you virtually have your own private reserve as well as a private lodge, as the huge grounds, complete with many antelope, are fenced, so completely safe for children.

Morukuru is generally fantastic for children, who can accompany adults on game drives, or be whisked away for their own drives or other activities, such as tracking, setting up camera traps and a host of other exciting activities. And all in a malaria-free part of the country. For kids, it doesn’t get better than this.

In our experience, individually owned (as opposed to corporate) lodges are often more intimate, and Morukuru is no exception; the owners’ touches are present everywhere, right down to the specially customised safari vehicle. And the owners must be doing something right, as Anthony and Amy have been with them for two years, perfecting the art of guiding and hospitality.

Sundowners, Morukuru

Sundowners, Morukuru

With all your own dedicated staff, you might think there’d be people fussing over you the whole time. But this is not ‘yes, sir, no, sir’ service – that is not what hospitality is about. When it’s done properly, you don’t notice – everything just happens the way you want it, effortlessly. It’s easy to say, but requires great skill and experience to achieve. Morukuru manages it where many others fail.

If all this sounds a bit mediocre to you, don’t despair. There are a few things we’re not mentioning – call them Morukuru family secrets if you like – that might just blow your mind. Don’t ask because we’re not telling, but if you’re curious there’s only one way to find out…

Good for: Exclusive, tailored, Big Five game viewing and other activities, with the best hospitality around, including for children.

Not so good for: We’re struggling with this one.

Our verdict: State-of-the-art quality across the board

Tau Game Lodge, Madikwe Game Reserve

 African Safari Review by Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby

“It takes a pride to serve a king”. So reads Tau’s motto, and at Tau Game Lodge you are the king. The pride of Tau, from the receptionist to the waiter to the general manager never failed to impress. We joined the Tau lion-hearted spirit and found it hard to leave…

Nestled in the northeastern corner of Madikwe Game Reserve, Tau Game Lodge was one of the very first lodges in Madikwe to open its doors. And today, 17 years later, although a little dated, Tau still oozes that original charm. Still clinging to its original values, including local community development, Tau is a true gem in Madikwe – a place with a heart and soul and where the roar of the lions stays with you forever.

Tau means lion in the local Setswana language, and lions are what this lodge is all about. Ernest, our excellent guide, worked his way up from a waiter to acting head guide. “It’s a matter of pride for me to find lions on every drive”, he says. And he usually does. If it’s lions you want to see, look no further than Tau. We saw 11 on our first drive.

But game drives are so much more than the Big Five and as a top guide, Ernest understands this and reads his guests’ needs – we stopped for everything big and small and most importantly we stopped to listen. To just listen and soak up the sounds of the African bush is one of the greatest privileges to us.

On our first day at Tau, we were joined by Giles, the general manager, for lunch. A new addition to the management team, Giles has a great deal of experience in the industry and we expect Madikwe’s largest lodge to go from strength to strength.

One of Tau’s greatest assets is its location overlooking a huge waterhole. Most of the lodge, and most suites, look directly onto the water and all have views of animals coming down to drink. The place was positively teeming with game when we arrived. It’s not unusual to see lions and wild dog kill right in front of the lodge, so don’t feel guilty about skipping the odd drive. Either way, you’ll still enjoy the majestic scenery characteristic of the northern part of Madikwe, including the wild, rugged Inselberg hills, the domain of leopards that wish to gaze down on tourists, rather than the other way round.

Next morning we headed out on an early morning drive with Ernest and Moses, a new young tracking star from the lowveld, and the newest addition to Tau’s guiding team. We track some lion on foot and we’re taken with Moses’ skills and enthusiasm. He embodies the culture at Tau.

The accommodation at Tau is in the form of standard, luxury or family suites. In each the attention to detail is exquisite – from the intricate woven bed decoration to the lion-paw shaped soap. And the food was superb – we enjoyed the best bush smoked salmon salad of all time for lunch, and the four-course dinner overlooking the waterhole was memorable. And as if that wasn’t enough, there’s also a great spa and conference facilities, a pool and plenty to keep kids occupied in this malaria-free area.

We left Tau with the feeling that it’s run by a team working together, that they wanted to be there, and where hospitality came naturally. We got smiles everywhere we went and despite its size, we felt part of the Tau family. It works.

Great for: Corporate groups looking for conference facilities; family and friends getaways.

Not so good for: Being quite a big lodge, it is not ideal as a romantic honeymoon destination.

For enquiries, please contact us on +27 21 813 6961 or info@kleincollection.com. Alternatively, please complete the short enquiry form below.