Our second ever safari trip to Africa took us to South Africa, and the northern part of the country, to Madikwe Game Reserve. The trip was organized by the fantastic people at Get Africa Travel, run by Elin from Norway and Graham from South Africa. Their knowledge of Africa and where to go and what to see is second to none!
We went by plane to Johannesburg, and then by a small plane to Madikwe, situated against the Botswana border. You can go by car or bus from Johannesburg, but if you have little time, a small plane is the way to get there. The difference between The Mara and Madikwe was that this is bushland – not open plains – and a fenced park, a huge fence, so you don’t see or notice it too much. This used to be farmland, but it was not good farmland, so it was made into a game reserve and the humans were fenced out. We came here at the end of January, which is summer and in the rainy season, but when we came in over the small airstrip in the bush, the whole landscape was twinkling like silver from all the water flooding the roads and paths. Everything was supergreen, lush to the max.
We stayed at the Madikwe Safari Lodge – a place that is pure luxury and indulgence and really a romantic getaway. We were welcomed like royals upon our arrival.
Our first game drive was done in pouring rain and thunderstorms. Our guide asked if we really wanted to venture outside the lodge, and we answered, “WE ARE THE VIKINGS!” and a little rain does not scare us. Being alone in an open safari jeep, during a rainstorm, in the middle of nowhere, with water reaching halfway up the side of the car, was very exciting. Not something you think will be special, but it’s one of the things we remember best from the whole trip.
The day to day routines are the same as in most game reserves, up early, game drive, lunch, game drive, dinner and repeat. There will be impalas jumping over the track every day, lots of giraffes looming over the bush like ancient dinosaurs. The reserve is huge, but you will encounter the fence a few times, since many animals like to hang around those areas, relaxing with their backs to the fence.
Every time we drove across the airstrip it was a party there of various wildlife, a jackal was sleeping in the arrivals area, and the zebras partied in the tax-free shop. Just epic and fun all the way. The park has a thriving population of the highly endangered African Wild Dog, we found and observed the pack sleeping, but also tearing into a kudu they had caught just moments before we arrived.
We saw some magnificent herds of elephants; they are rust coloured due to the local mud they wallow in on a regular basis. We stopped for a while to look at them congregate at a crossroads, when a car came past a little too fast, they all promptly started trumpeting loudly to say, “SLOW DOWN!” very cool indeed. Unfortunately, the park did not seem to have too many cats, we only saw a few lions on our visit. Even though it is a fenced in park, of course animals are difficult to spot, so we were told they had cats, but the ones they had were playing hide and seek with the rangers at the time.
We had a wonderful experience with three elephant juveniles frolicking in a large pond, and we got up close and personal with a White Rhino. We had a cool and knowledgeable guide, and he knew how to go off-road, weaving through the bush like a champ.
Waking up and seeing wildlife grazing just outside the window is one benefit of having no fence around the lodges, we had a house kudu that kept waking us up every morning with loud grazing, the downside was that we had to have guards every time we left our hut in the evening, but that also made it exciting. The lodge itself was great, with outside shower, small plunge pool, fireplace in the bedroom and big bathtub to soak in after a long hard day in the jeep.
The lodge itself gave us culinary excess, the best G&T we have ever had, and the level of service from the staff and the guides was awesome. We had a great time in Madikwe, a very romantic place, full of unique experiences, we will be back some day for sure. Thank you South Africa!