After an incredible viewing of elephants at Jaci’s terrapin hide, I thought that my excitement about elephants had kinda hit it’s maximum level, but I was very wrong.
The ellie’s had visited the waterhole in front of our room before, but only a few at a time. When we got back to our room from the terrapin hide, there were so many! Sometimes there were as many as eleven in the waterhole at a time, and there were always more waiting in the bushes for their turn.
This is what we could see from the patio of our room – views just don’t get any better than this!
Just look at this happy face!
You could honestly just sit and watch the play, the interactions and the clumsiness all day. For me, a particular highlight was watching the ellie’s try to get out of the waterhole on the slipperiest side and sliding back down – it was like we had arrived at an elephants only waterpark!
By this point in the day I had gotten rather hot, sweaty and sticky – a shower was in order!
In our room we had three separate shower options. The standard indoor shower, an enclosed outdoor shower and another completely open outdoor shower.
I chose the latter for one reason and one reason only… I wanted to bathe with the ellies!
Being completely butt naked, outside and showering whilst elephants roll around in the waterhole just a stones throw away from you has gotta be one of the most freeing experiences of my life; and by far the most unique bathing experience of my life.
Before too long, it was time to head out on our second to last game drive, and like pretty much every other game drive, we didn’t have to wait long before spotting something amazing.
This time, it was a female cheetah feasting on a freshly hunted impala!
There are three female cheetahs in Madikwe who wear tracking collars. They are the only animals in the reserve who can be tracked this way, and this is because they were bred in captivity and only introduced to the reserve in recent times. The goal for the reserve is to have these cheetahs be completely self sufficient and able to hunt successfully. Over time these baser instincts have come back and despite never learning how to hunt the way they would have if they were born in the wild, they are becoming more and more successful.
The point of these devices is to make sure that the three females don’t go too long without eating. The longest the park would leave them is seven days before they would intervene and provide them with food, but apparently that hasn’t needed to be done in a very long time, and these cheetahs are now pretty much completely independent.
This is a massive success for Madikwe, and they are hoping that these females will start breeding in the near future.
I hadn’t expected to see a cheetah as it was my understanding that they were very rare and very hard to spot, so it was such a special surprise.
As an added bonus, she was so close to Jaci’s that we could literally see the terrapin hide from the spot that she was eating. Talk about close encounters!
In addition to the cheetah, on our afternoon game drive we spotted (more) elephants – including this cheeky teenager who pretended to charge at us…
…a mama rhino and her baby…
…another lion basking in the flattering golden hour lighting…
…a pair of hungry giraffes…
…a group of wildebeest who were photogenically allowing their manes to blow in the wind…
…and during the absolute best lighting of the day we found a herd of zebras, including one adorable little baby!
As we were driving we spotted a truly phenomenal sundowners setup and I remember thinking “whoever that is for is in for a treat” but no sooner had the thought popped into my mind one of the managers (the hilarious Sarika) and one of the rangers popped out of a nearby bush and completely surprised us!
The sundowners was for us, and it was bloody brilliant. We all had so much fun drinking champagne, chewing on biltong and just generally gasbagging (for anyone who doesn’t speak Aussie slang – this means talking a lot) until all of a sudden the sun had completely set!
The sundowners went far too quickly and I didn’t want it to end, but I also am not keen about wandering around on foot in the African bush at night, so off we went back into the game viewing vehicle. I had thought that the day couldn’t get any better, but then by some absolute miracle, our guide Jenna spotted some movement in the dark and I honestly don’t know how it was possible – but she spotted a leopard!
She even found us some spotted hyena!
We finished the night with a five course tasting menu and even more champagne before heading to bed in a rather drunk but cheerful state.
The next morning started with the familiar groaning of two slightly hungover humans, but after chewing down some anti-nausea meds and coffee, we were revived enough to go out on one last game drive, and oh what a drive it was.
The morning started with another episode of lion soap opera (I propose the name “Pretty Little Lions”) as we quickly ran into The Troublemakers once again.
They chased off the female cheetah from her impala kill and then she watched from the distance as they devoured the impala she had worked so hard to hunt – I felt bad for her!
A short while later we ran into the Kwena’s once again, but this time they had reunited and were all together again. They looked much stronger and more at ease this way, the young cubs even took time to wrestle and play!
After we left the Kwena’s we came across a rhino, but Jenna then got word of another sighting in another part of the park, so we left it quite quickly in search of something else…
Two leopard cubs!
Seeing these cubs was the most magical ending to a truly unbelievable few days on safari. My time at Jaci’s will not just go down as the greatest press visit I’ve ever been on, it will also go down as one of the most incredible travel experiences of my entire life.
I should have been sad to say goodbye to Jaci’s, but I wasn’t, because Dan and I had already decided to return in 2019 for another magical Madikwe experience.
We weren’t really saying ‘goodbye’ to Jaci’s – we were merely saying ‘see you again soon’.
I can’t wait.
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 and M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 lenses
Remember: A luxury safari may not be cheap, but it is worth every single penny (and then some)