Trip Report - Madikwe RSA

Jun 29th, 2005, 05:47 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,354
Trip Report - Madikwe RSA

2 weeks ago we spent 3 days in Madikwe. My wife & I, my sister from Johannesburg, her husband and their 3-year old.

We book separately – we booked our rooms from the USA and my sister booked from the RSA so I could see the difference in costs (and yes, they were quoted less!)

The drive took about 4 hours from near JHB airport. We stopped near Sun City for lunch. The last hour was on dirt road but it was in very good condition. Actually, they are improving this stretch and it may be a tar road when it’s all over!

We initially chose Jaci’s Tree Lodge as they are very child-friendly. But at the last moment my wife and I changed our night 2 to Etali Lodge after reading several positive articles in local magazines (Rooi Rose, etc). My sister and her family stayed at Jaci’s for 2 nights.

Upon arrival at the gate we were given a park entry invoice of R25.39 * 4 adults + R12.70 (child) = R114.26 which we had to pay at the lodge. Don’t lose this invoice!

After a call to the lodge, the warden directed us to Jaci’s Safari Lodge – despite our objections since we were all booked at Jaci’s Tree Lodge!

At the Safari Lodge, the staff was confused as they were not really expecting the two individual bookings (from the USA and RSA) to arrive in the same vehicle! And then they had us booked at the Safari Lodge even though my sister and I both booked the Tree Lodge – the whole reception was a bit awkward as my sister and I dug through our paperwork to find our confirmations (which were printed on Safari Lodge letterheads while our online booking printouts stated Tree Lodge!)

Eventually we were offered a choice. They drove us to the Tree Lodge which is just next door so we could compare the two properties. All 4 of us thought the Safari Lodge was a bit more inviting and “warmer” in terms of architecture so we decided to stay at the Safari Lodge. The Tree Lodge was not really elevated – only a foot or so above the ground and not really what we expected.

Tip: double-check your bookings at Jaci’s. We were never told what happened but I suspect they try to manage the occupancy between the two lodges especially during the low season.

The Safari Lodge has 8 “tents” with a compliment of pools and bomas. The bar is upstairs looking down on the small dining room. The dining room and lounge were separated by a round fire place that was very popular as it was cold at night.

The tented rooms were big and attractive with very nice bath tubs and showers. They all face a dry creek with limited views so there was little chance of seeing wildlife especially since the lodge is fenced in. The fireplace in the room was inviting but only a small fire could be lit to lessen the danger of a tent fire. The heated floor was more practical! The en-suite toilet had no door and offered no privacy – I hate this kind of design - resulting in several awkward moments for the wife and me despite our 9-year marriage!

The food was good, but the service was confusing. We never knew who does what! We were served by several people at once and then there was no-one around when we needed service! At the bar area we were completely ignored! A young man started serving us wine during dinner without introducing himself. Later in the evening we learned that he was to be our driver/guide!

The game drives were good but long stretches without sightings can get boring and cold. (I am horribly spoiled by Tanzania so please ignore my attitude!). We saw small groups and individuals of just about all popular game except wild dog! Jaci’s vehicles don’t use spotters while most other lodges do. During our visit the game was quite far away from Jaci’s who is located near the East edge of the reserve.

My little niece had a great time. Jaci’s staff really knows how to entertain the kids – they even have their own game drives with kids under 8! If you have small children, I highly recommend Jaci’s for your consideration.

Etali is 45 minutes away by car and closer to the center of the reserve. We were delighted to realize that most of our sightings of the previous day were actually very close to Etali!

The Etali arrival was perfectly scripted. The staff is very friendly and professional and we immediately felt right at home – quite different from Jaci’s. The rooms are very elegant and the huge glass doors open up onto a huge private deck with a heated plunge pool! Minibar, fireplace and bathtub are standard. And best of all, the rooms have views of a waterhole just 25meters away! We just wanted to stay on our deck and relax – but eventually we decided to go on the late afternoon game drive. Etali uses spotters and the extra pair of eyes made for a more satisfying viewing experience. We saw lots but no wild dogs – some were spotted a day before – they were nowhere to be found during our visit!

Dinner was buffet style in the boma where the Tswana staff gave a welcoming singing performance! It was very moving to see the long-time staff put on such a heartwarming show.

We really enjoyed Etali. It has a good location in the north-central part of Madikwe. It is very elegant. The staff is really friendly and welcoming. And the waterhole is tops! Spend at least 3 days at this lodge!

Overall, Madikwe surprised me. The lodges are top-notch and they have good guides and spotters. It is great not to worry about malaria. There is plenty of game including rhino although not in the numbers you find on the plains of the Serengeti. . The drivers even ask for permission long before joining another vehicle at a sighting!

Madikwe compares well with the private concessions near Kruger and I think you should consider it when planning your RSA safari.

Photos to follow...
climbhighsleeplow is offline  
Jun 30th, 2005, 01:15 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,220
Other than the mix up on reservations, sounds like a great stay.

Was it not possible/ permitted for your sister to book both rooms on the lower rate or do all parties of the booking have to reside in RSA?

Do you have any pics?
Kavey is offline  
Jun 30th, 2005, 10:50 AM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 34
Thanks! We're headed to Madikwe in August and very excited!
shanglan is offline  
Jun 30th, 2005, 10:55 AM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 4,222
Thanks for this and the other "from the road" reports.

Eagerly awaiting the photos...
Leely is offline  
Jun 30th, 2005, 01:52 PM
Posts: n/a
Eben -

Welcome home!

Seems you beat me to a trip report, even if just for Madikwe. Sounds like you enjoyed...
Jun 30th, 2005, 02:15 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,354
Hi Sandi

Actually, it is 4 trip reports vs. zero! You are falling behind!

You have a long weekend coming up so no more excuses after Monday!

You will beat me with the pictures though - I am horrible at sorting and uploading them.

climbhighsleeplow is offline  
Jun 30th, 2005, 02:35 PM
Posts: n/a
Hi to you to Eben -

You got me. Sure I saw the other threads, but for some reason I took the Madikwe as a "trip report."

Still waiting on some pics that will have to be scanned and then it's just the comment and the album should be ready... I hope. It's a big one, but this was quite a different trip in the places we visited, people we met, sights we saw.

Trip Report - only till Monday? Don't think so... I don't work on holidays. LOL! (I haven't figured out how to do smileys... and I really don't want to know - I'm in overload!)

Have a Happy 4th!
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