More invited 8 Agents to come and view Madikwe Safari Lodge and Marataba, and I was the lucky one from the Ilanga Team. As I was going to be in the area, Ilanga also organized a viewing of Ant’s Nest and Mhondoro for me.
Madikwe Safari Lodge
I flew from Cape Town and arrived at OR Tambo Domestic and walked to the Federal Air Kiosk, which took about 10 min and once there, I was greeted warmly and offered a bottle of water. My name was checked against the Pickup List and my bags marked with a destination sticker – Madikwe Safari Lodge.
Here I met up with the rest of the More Educational Ladies, and we were transported in a little mini-van to the Federal Air Lounge, approximately 10 minutes outside the main airport area. The Federal Air Lounge is spacious with inside and outside sitting areas for passengers to relax with food and drinks. After bags get checked in, you board the plane right outside the lounge.
The flight from OR Tambo to Madikwe Safari Lodge takes about 40 Minutes and there are water and snacks offered during the flight. Landing in Madikwe is on the East Landing Strip for Madikwe Safari Lodge. Here a Ranger with an open game vehicle, marked with the Game Lodge name, picked us up and took us through to the lodge. The drive takes about 15 min, depending on animals spotted on the way.
The lodge itself is situated against a small hill. Lelapa first, right next to Kopano and a little further away and higher up is Dithaba.
The lodges are of stone, reed, earth and wood, giving it an earthy African feel, carefully decorated with beautiful, inventive, African items that do not clutter or overwhelm, but highlight what is already there.
The rooms are spacious, with inside and outside showers, separate toilet and his and her sinks, outside patio looking into the bush, with a plunge pool. Inside is a small comfortable sitting area with a wood fireplace by the bed. A gym bag is also included, containing all kinds of do-it-yourself exercises with an instruction book – a really nice touch.
Lelapa has its own pool, overlooking a waterhole.
Bomas are found in all three lodges
There is also the Eco House, in-between Lalapa and Kopano, where large and small can come and see spiders, lizards, animal skulls and so much more close up and learn about the animals, environment and the stars.
Game viewing is fantastic. Only 3 vehicles are allowed at an animal sighting at any one time and the rangers from all the lodges are in radio contact with each other and are respectful and courteous to all participants at all time.
Marataba Safari Lodge and Trails Lodge
We then flew from Madikwe to Marakele National Park, which was a short flight of about 30 Minutes and again light refeshments are served during the flight.
We were collected by our Ranger and taken to the Marataba Safari Lodg. The drive takes about 30 minutes, depending again on the wildlife you see along the way.
Marataba Safari Lodge is modern and the lounge extremely spacious with high ceilings, separate dining room and lounge with a coffee corner, as well as inside and outside areas with beautiful views of the mountains on the horizon. There is a beautiful pool with loungers and bean bags for young and old, and features some very old trees, which allow the monkeys to come and climb right where you are sitting.
The luxury tent accommodations are situated left and right of the main area and far enough from the main area to ensure privacy and instill the feeling of peace and quiet. Bath and shower are open to the bedroom, but privacy can be obtained with tent canvas that can be easily unrolled from the ceiling. His and her sinks are situated at the back of the tent, against the rock walls that form the backbone of the tents themselves. Beautiful little patios overlook the bush and also feature an outside shower.
We were treated to a sundowner boat cruise on the dam on a small boat named The Miss Mara. What a beautiful experience, watching a spectacular sunset with the mountains as a backdrop, and birds and animals coming down to the river to drink.
Marataba Trails Lodge is a 45 minute transfer from Safari lodge and is beautifully situated against a small mountain, blending in perfectly with its surroundings. This lodge is small and intimate, focusing on combining luxury and creature comforts with an environmental focus. They are solar powered and have, for example, encouraged grass growth on the roofs for better insulation. There is a short walk to the main lodge, and from here the suites are situated further up the hill and accessed by stairs.
Marataba Trails focuses on walking safaris, and the length of the walking safaris themselves are tailor made to suite each guest, depending on their level of fitness.
Here, I then had to say goodbye to the wonderful group I had this fantastic experience with, and journey on, on my own, to Ant’s Nest and Mhondoro.
Ant’s Nest and Hill
I took a road transfer to Ant's Nest and the turn of from the main road onto the gravel road to Ant’s itself is well marked and so are the 2 separate entrances to Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill. The 2 lodges have separate entrances, as they are 2 completely different products. The two properties are situated about 45 min from each other within the reserve and require a transfer between each other.
The Nest is the old farmhouse of the reserve, built in the 1800's and then expanded, to make a little more space for guests. It is built in such a way that the pool becomes the main feature, surrounded by the accommodations. Each room is decorated with heavy wooden furniture that goes well with the rocks used to build the buildings themselves. Bright colours are used everywhere to lighten the dark colours of the wood and stone, giving the lodge a very African feel – more Kenyan than South African. The lodge caters to the wants and needs of each of their guests, from the food and drinks of each meal to every activity – no wish is ignored and they try their utmost to fulfil your wishes. You become part of the family and community – from the gentle wakeup knock on your door, with a welcome morning tea/coffee tray which you can enjoy at your leisure on your veranda before going down to breakfast, to Guests vs Staff soccer matches in the evenings!
The Hill is built on the top of one of the larger hill formations of the property, overlooking the valleys all the way to the horizon. Each house is similar in style, same as The Nest, yet each features different highlights. For example – a bathtub on the balcony – a plunge pool on the deck – a children's loft reached via a small ladder. Each room comes with a view of the stunning valley and when there is water, there is a waterfall right under the main lodge’s patio!
Ant’s is well known for their horse safaris, and as the horses are free roaming on the farm, the wild animals are used to them and known them. This allows you, as a rider, to get closer to the wild animals than any vehicle can, as no engine sound disturbs the herds and the animals are completely at ease with you being there.
I am a complete beginner when it comes to horses and I felt safe at all times – guided and protected by 2 staff, who were both excellent riders. It is a truly magnificent experience, not to be missed.
Mhondoro Game Lodge
From Ant’s I was again road transferred – this time to the gates of Welgevonden in order to get to Mhondoro. The drive to Mhondoro is a 45 minute drive into the reserve and the lodge itself highlights in simple luxuries.
One of the absolute wonders of inventiveness that I found was the hide in the watering hole in front of the lodge. In order to get to it, you walk down a long tunnel, accessible from the main lodge itself. Once you reach the end, you find yourself, all of the sudden, at the feet of the animal drinking from the water hole. No glass separates you and convenient chairs and a table allows you to sit in silence watching a most wonderful display of a variety of animals and birds coming together at the watering hole!
A sky pool is also featured on the main deck (overlooking the watering hole) of the lodge and as the lodge is not fenced, you may catch an elephant, coming to drink out of the pool itself – with or without you in it!
Mhondoro has a gym, 2 different rooms for kids, (featuring TVs and board games in case the weather turns bad) and an outside fenced playground with a sandpit, jungle gym, trampoline, etc – so very child friendly.
The food served at Mhondoro is the best I have tasted in a long time – it was simply delicious, exquisitely spiced and wonderfully presented. They have their own water treatment plant and a small vegetable/ herb garden that supplies their kitchen.
The rooms are simple and luxurious, and all needs are met with their attention to detail, from a gas fireplace to a viewing deck of the watering hole with loungers, inside and outside shower and a bath, his and hers sinks, a torch in case of emergency, postcards, etc.
There is a spa and a curio shop that sells African curios, and also little things like extra memory cards for your cameras, beauty products and children's books, etc.
The game viewing was also extraordinary, as they have a variety of landscapes that provides different habitats for the animals, from densely treed areas to mountains to open plains.
Mhondoro now also offers a Rhino Tracking Safari, allowing the guests themselves to track rhino at an extra cost. The guests are shown what to look for and then allowed to try to track the path to the animal itself, under supervision of course, ensuring their safety at all time.
All in all, each lodge is unique with different highlights and in what they present to their guests. I found each team running every lodge working really well with their guests, each other and the environment.
It was an absolute marvelous experience that I will treasure for ever – Thank you Ilanga Travel!