I have been putting off writing this post for months now as I just did not have the words to describe the amazing 4 days I spend in the Madikwe Game Reserve. I have often heard friends say that their heart are in Africa and I hadn’t really understood what that meant until I experienced the wild bush of Africa myself. This trip was the trip of a life time.
We left cold and windy Cape Town and arrived in cold and wet Johannesburg. From there we boarded a tiny 9 seater plane and flew to the Madikwe Game Reserve, which lies close to the border of Botswana. It is quite something flying in such a small plane. One poor passenger, not in our party, was not so happy with the turbulence and caused the other passengers to have an uneasy feeling. I kept my eyes on the pilots and they seemed so relaxed, so I knew this was normal. Landing on a dirt runway is also interesting as we have to circle the runway to check that there were no wild animals crossing or taking a break where we were about to land. The safari 4×4 trucks were waiting to pick us up and take us to the lodge we were staying in. We stayed at Motswiri, a beautiful lodge that we took over completely as it only has 10 rooms.
We arrived at 2:30 in the afternoon and told that high tea, actually lunch, would be served at 3. So we were shown to our rooms. The rooms were beautiful – four-poster beds, fire places, large bath tub, out-door shower and balcony all facing a water hole. There were so many animals that came daily to drink that I could lie in bed and watch the zebra or elephant close up. Showering outside with a nosy Kudu, coming to see what the noise was, was also an interesting experience but there were electric fences every where so that the animals don’t get too friendly.
Lunch was great and they were so accommodating with all the family allergies. After lunch the game ranger who was with us our whole stay, took us on our first safari – three hours in the bush, spotting animals and have sundowners. We got to choose what we wanted to drink and it was all packed up with delicious snacks for us to enjoy at sunset. Well the animal spotting was fantastic. I think we saw 4 of the Big 5 that first evening. We even got to see wild dogs with their kill, right up close. Wild dogs are apparently quite rare to see in parts of Africa. After about 2 hours of great excitement and numerous photo taking, we stopped for sundowners. It was getting quite dark and the game ranger told us to keep quiet and not make any sudden movements as coming down the track to greet us were a pair of eyes. Thank goodness it was a hyena and not a lion. He was just being nosy and pushed off quiet quickly. Back into the 4×4 we climbed for some night game viewing. We had a spot light, which we shone and all had to look out for any eyes reflecting back. It is rather funny to see tons of glowing eyes in front of you and then as you get closer you see lots of wildebeest.
Then it was back for dinner and as we drove into the lodge the friendly staff were waiting for us with hot towels to clean our dusty faces and hands. Dinner was served and we were told it was a 5am wake up to leave on another game drive at 5:30. So we all headed for an early night. My room was ready and waiting for me, with the curtains closed, the lights on, the bed turned down and a little chocolate was left on my pillow along with a short story about how the cheetah got its spots. 5am came all too quickly. Some had asked for a wake up call, but there were no phones in the rooms so they were woken up to the calling, ‘wake up, wake up!’ coming from outside their door. In the cold and dark we all made our way to the lodge lounge ready to leave. On the morning game drive we had sun-uppers not sundowners, and coffee, tea, rusks and muffins were all pack up for us to enjoy in a few hours time. Thank goodness there were warm blankets in the 4×4 for us, as it can be quiet cold. Once again the wild did not disappoint and we saw so many animals and their cubs too.
I think the highlight was being right next to the lion when he roared to call his brother and then his brother popped out the bush. They walked up to each other, nuzzled and then collapsed in a heap to sleep. We were so close we could see their scars and wounds from hunting and fighting. Elephants too are amazing and you can see a real family dynamic in their troops. All the females arrived at a waterhole with their babies and then a male came from the opposite direction and came up to each one and said hello with lots of trunk touching and nuzzling.
We would stop for coffee and muffins and then continue animal spotting. By the time we got back to the lodge it was almost 9am and time for breakfast. After breakfast everyone would disappear either to catch up on sleep, or read by the pool or water hole. Then it was lunch or high tea at 3pm and another game drive at 4pm and so the process repeated itself each day.
I loved seeing the lionesses with their cubs. One poor cub had and injured foot and we didn’t think he would make it. We didn’t see him the next day and thought he was gone but on the last day he we spotted him and he was still following the herd. The sad thing is that he was a male lion and they get pushed out of the herd and have to hunt for themselves, something he wont be able to do. If he were a female, the females hunt together and he/she would have been fine. But that’s nature for you, the law of the wild, only the fittest survive.
We spotted cheetahs, rhinos, buffalos, wildebeest, giraffe, elephant, leopard, wild dogs, jackals, lions, birds and most of the animals hand cubs with them. Such a special sight. On our last evening game drive we had an interesting experience. We were on our way home in the dark when we got a flat tire. No worries, our guide was going to change it. We asked if we should all get out. We were told to stay in the truck and shine the light around looking for eyes while our guide quickly changed the tire. There was no quick to it. The truck kept slipping off the jack. So we all had to get out except for one, who stayed in and shone the light around looking for eyes. But still the truck was slipping, as the road was soft. I started getting nervous laughter and hoping there were no hungry lions about. About 6 attempts later we finally had successes and were safely on our way back. We all lived to tell the tale. Funnily, or no so funnily, enough it happened again to us the next morning. But this time we could all see if there were any hungry animals approaching us without the need of a spot light. This time the wheel was changed in 5 minutes.
Seeing so many animals so close and in the wild like that really did something to my heart. I would not say I was big into animals in any way, but I sure loved those animals and wished I could have stayed longer. I could easily have cried when it was time to climb into the plane again but I knew my next adventure was waiting for me across the Indian Ocean and that was where I needed to be. It will always be a holiday I look back on with the fondest memories.
If you have a bucket list, I highly recommend you add a safari to it and Madikwe does not disappoint. If you want to see Hippo then go somewhere else but for everything else it was amazing and it is a Malaria-free area which is a big plus!