As my daughter Matilda and I touch down on a little airstrip in the Madikwe Reserve in South Africa for a safari with Sanctuary Makanyane Luxury Safari Lodge, the next ten minutes are as imprinted on my mind as the birth thirteen years ago of the girl beside me. Every second as vivid, exhilarating and heart thumping as life can throw at you.
Just seconds after departing the airstrip an impala leapt lightly to the side of the track and the gasps of Matilda led our guide, Kaiser, to turn his head to check if we were OK.
Imagine our behaviour less than ten seconds later when a big bull elephant was standing alongside the track. A real elephant in the real wild. Then at our first river crossing we saw zebra, waterbuck, warthog, impala and a monitor lizard. I was looking for Elton John to start singing the Circle of Life.
CHECK-IN & BEYOND
As we approach the Makanyane Safari Lodge I notice a gathering of people at the entrance and think that we must have arrived at a busy time with people checking in and checking out, the usual commotion of a hotel reception area.
Remarkably, the gathering was the management team of Makanyane Safari Lodge, out to welcome us. I had thought a free iced tea on arrival at some of the South East Asian resorts I’ve visited was pretty flash but this was taking things to another level.
Furthermore, it wasn’t because I was travelling with the most gorgeous girl in the world, it is just what they do for all of their arriving guests, for which there are no more than sixteen at any time. For the next few days we experience not just a luxurious way of life but a level of service that was more akin to friendship than customer service.
Accommodation is spread across just eight luxurious suites that are more like small houses. Each suite is well spaced from the others and built from thatch and stone. The air-conditioned bedroom and bathroom have floor to ceiling windows overlooking a river but I highly recommend the outdoor shower to instantly get you back to nature.
While they are mostly intended to be occupied by couples, the suites pass the rigorous privacy test of a father and daughter. There is plenty of space to do what needs to be done without cries of, “Gross!”
In between game drives and meals, we sit and watch the environment that is just outside our suite. We spot snakes in the trees, monitor lizards, birds and monkeys while other travellers we meet have watched zebra, elephant and kudu make their way along the riverbank in front of their window.
For meals at the lodge there is always plenty of choice and Matilda and I are quick converts to South African cuisine. We loved the gamey flavour of ostrich skewers and tang and spice of chakalaka and love saying it almost as much as bobotie. Chakalaka is a vegetable relish that can used alongside anything while bobotie is a spicy mince dish that is baked with an egg topping.
Matilda and I are warmly included in forming a larger group at mealtimes despite her being the only child at the lodge and all of the other guests being honeymooners. She probably hears a few stories that aren’t quite age appropriate but having heard some of her exclamations upon getting close to roaring lions and charging elephants perhaps I need to reassess her ability to understand the world around her.
We depart Makanyane Safari Lodge in much the same way as we arrived, in the company of the staff who embrace us. Around our vehicle are the friends we have made and as we take a final look at the faces who have pampered us, fed us, protected us and taught us, I hope they truly understand the impact they have had on our life. Experiences that I hope my daughter will describe to her children one day and inspire them to add this remarkable land to their travel bucket list.
The Sanctuary Makanyane Luxury Safari Lodge is located within the lost world of the Madikwe Reserve and is one of the few Malaria free safari locations in South Africa.
Madikwe Reserve is in South Africa’s North West Province, close to the border of Botswana and just a short flight by light aircraft from Johannesburg. It is surrounded by a ridge of hills and well protected by antipoaching patrols.
South African Airways is the flag carrier airline for South Africa and flies regularly to Johannesburg’s O.R Tambo International Airport. From the airport, it’s a one hour flight with Federal Airlines to the Madikwe Reserve or a three hour drive, renting a car from the airport.
Prices at Sanctuary Makanyane Safari Lodge start from ZAR 7,500 per person per night, twin share, for 1 – 3 nights, including all meals and drinks (excluding premium brands) and transfers to and from the airstrip to the Lodge plus a choice of daily shared game viewing activities.
But for even better savings, take advantage of Sanctuary Retreats’ extended stay offer 2018, when you stay at one or more of our properties including Sanctuary Makanyane Safari Loge depending on your season of travel.
Stay 4 – 6 nights and save up to 30%.
Stay 7+ nights and save up to 40%.
Terms and conditions apply.
For more information about Sanctuary Retreats visit:
South Africa has very strict anti-child slavery rules. It is important to ensure that if you’re travelling as a single parent with a child to South Africa that prior to your travel you complete the immigration form and have it correctly signed by a valid certifying agent and, if possible, correspondence from the other parent of the child that certifies permission to travel to South Africa.
Be conscious of the timing and detail provided in social media posting of your safari experience as poaching is a serious issue throughout Africa and any notification of where an animal is located may be of use to poachers.