Every once in a while, I am fortunate enough to experience something that is undeniably beyond what I had expected.
When I was offered the opportunity to travel to a luxury South African safari lodge in the Madikwe Game Reserve, I knew that it would be an amazing experience. However, every single expectation I had was exceeded by miles, and my time in Madikwe was nothing short of complete and utter magic.
The journey started in Johannesburg. We had arrived back into South Africa bleary eyed and zombie-like thanks to a 3am wake up call and a 6am flight departure from Windhoek. As soon as we had landed in Jozi we were quickly whisked away from the chaos of OR Tambo International Airport to the Federal Airlines private hangar and lounge.
Normally, a five hour layover would sound like torture, but it ended up being far from it. The lounge was pretty to look at, comfy and most importantly it supplied bottomless coffee and a huge array of food that was actually pretty decent – a bit of a rarity in airport lounges!
In the end, five hours flew by quickly, comfortably and productively. This little travel blogger got an entire post written and edited – not a bad effort for a sleep deprived gal during an airport layover.
At one o’clock on the dot we were warmly welcomed onto our adorable little twelve seater aircraft, and just like that, the Jozi landscape seemed to be falling away.
After only an hour, the cityscape had long since disappeared and in its place arrived a seemingly endless expanse of burnt orange earth and deep green bushland.
We touched down on the East Madikwe airstrip and said a big thanks to our wonderful Federal Airlines pilots for getting us there safely. The flight itself hadn’t exactly been smooth, there had been a lot of turbulence on the way, and you feel every little bit of that on a teeny tiny plane – making you all the more grateful for a safe landing!
As soon as we stepped off the aircraft we were greeted by the hilarious Jenna, who would be our safari guide for the duration of our stay in Madikwe.
There are numerous safari lodges in Madikwe, but we were lucky enough to be staying in one of the oldest, most distinguished and in my honest opinion, the most special lodge in the entire reserve.
We were picked up from the airstrip by one of game viewing vehicles, which was a good thing, seeing as how we got some pretty incredible sightings in the ten minute transfer to the lodge…
Check out the ellies!
This beautiful mama was escorting a cheeky ellie calf, who seemed more interested in flashing us her trunk than grazing away on the abundant grasses and plants.
These two sisters may look like they are just hanging out together, but in actual fact, they were playfully pushing each other back and forth – just like human siblings!
The elephants may look gorgeous (because they absolutely are) but they certainly know how to cause trouble for the staff at Jaci’s. Because of where they had decided to park themselves, we were unable to access the front entrance and instead, had to go through the staff entrance.
Gotta love those mischievous elephants!
All check in formalities were done in the main dining and lounge area. Looking like the most wonderful kind of tree house, this area is an eclectic mishmash of textiles, colours and furnishings that really shouldn’t work together, but somehow mesh into seamless harmony.
After checking in we had a little bit of time to freshen up before heading out on our first game drive. We were shown to what would be our home for the next few nights, and honestly, it pretty much took my breath away.
Our suite was designed in a unique fusion between traditional and modern, with half of the room looking like something that stepped out of an early 1900’s safari camp and the other half giving off a kind of luxuriously minimalist yet bright and colourful vibe.
Much like in the main dining area, all of these pieces and colours just shouldn’t have gone together, but they came together so beautifully in a way that felt like pure, natural progression.
I haven’t even shown you the two best parts of the room yet!
Firstly, the room is actually spread across two floors. If you go outside and pass the (fricking fantastic) outdoor shower you will find a set of stairs, if you follow those stairs you will find…
If sleeping inside just doesn’t cut the mustard for you, you can choose to sleep outside, under the African stars.
There are two of these Starbed suites at Jaci’s Safari Lodge and they are truly remarkable. We got to go to sleep listening to the sound of trumpeting elephants and wake up to the symphony of roaring lions.
How special is that?
You might be thinking, what could possibly be more magnificent that a Starbed?
Well, this was the view from the deck of our room – hello again ellies!
Tearing myself away from the room and the elephants was no easy task, but the promise of seeing much more wildlife out further in the reserve provided some pretty compelling motivation.
Within seconds of getting in the vehicle, we had come across some more of these majestic beauties.
In the middle of this next frame is a very small baby. Our safari guide Jenna hadn’t seen it before and was fairly sure that it was brand spankin’ new! It may even have been born on this day.
As much as I love the elephants, we had come in search of a wide variety of African wildlife, so we bid them goodbye and continued onwards. Pretty much immediately, we came upon this wonderful white Rhino who was rather well endowed in the ol’ horn department!
It is extremely hot in the Madikwe area, with temperatures regularly ranging from 37-40 degrees Celsius, which means that game drives are done twice daily – once in the morning and once in the afternoon. The larger animals are much more active during these cooler periods, and as an added bonus, it means that guests are always out in the bush during sunset.
We spotted one lonely kudu, which is a type of antelope that I had never heard of before this trip. We slowly approached and found several more hiding in the bushes. The engine turned off and we settled in to wait and see what they would get up to.
As it turned out, our waiting was more than worthwhile.
Capturing this beautiful moment of the animals drinking with the rich sunset colours in the background was so indescribably satisfying.
Once the kudus bounded away, we moved away from the water and stopped to enjoy a few sundowners gin and tonics.
The wildlife doesn’t go to bed when the sun goes down, and as a matter of fact, there is often even more wildlife out and about during the night. We soon spotted the areas dominant male lion, but unfortunately, he had been left weak and injured by a pack of three adolescent brother lions, affectionately dubbed ‘the troublemakers’ by rangers in the park. Initially we thought he may have been dying, but we eventually saw him get up and moving, which was a relief.
After far too soon it was time to head back to the lodge and indulge in an extraordinarily satisfying three course meal before retreating back to our incredible room and falling into a perfectly blissful slumber in our lamplit starbed.
Getting to Johannesburg: OR Tambo is extremely well connected internationally
Federal Airlines: Fed Air provide safe and comfortable transfers to regional areas of South Africa – click here for more information
Jaci’s Lodges: One night in a Starbed suite starts at 10,600 rand – which includes all meals, game drives and basic spirits. Click here for more information about Jaci’s Lodges.
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 andM.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 lenses
Remember: Bring sunscreen and lip balm! Your skin and lips will take a beating due to the sun and heat