Living in the bush doesn’t mean you’re roughing it.
Just a one hour flight from Johannesburg is one of the largest game reserves in South Africa, the 75,000-hectare Madikwe Game Reserve. A newer park, just 10 years-old, it’s not as well known as the Sabi Sand or Kruger National Park, but still it’s must-see.
As my private plane landed, I could already see giraffe and elephants wandering about. Waiting for me on the airstrip was our ranger Anthony with his land rover and a glass of champagne (that’s my kind of welcome). After taking a few moments to enjoy the bubbles, we were off to the Morukuru Family Lodge.
This was no ordinary airport transfer though. Within 10-minutes of touchdown we saw a real life Pumbaa with a pack of his warthog friends. Around the next corner, a Yellow-billed Hornbill (a.k.a Zazu) sitting on the track. And then halt! A whole herd of elephants crosses our path.
Thirty exhilarating minutes later we reach Morukuru and check into our beautiful private lodge. There are three different types of houses to choose from: The Lodge, The Owners House and The Farm House. So whether you’re traveling as a couple or with a few friends, you’ll still be able to enjoy a private experience.
Our personal butler for our stay, Evanz, together with the rest of team waits outside to welcome us. Lunch was served on the deck overlooking the Marico River under the majestic Tamboti trees. Utterly peaceful and relaxing. But not for long, it’s winter right now, which means it gets dark around 6 p.m., so you need to set out early for your afternoon game drive. The advantage is the heat isn’t too oppressive, and you can sleep in a little later in the morning.
A quick change and we were off. Anthony had spotted some young male lions that morning not far from the lodge, so we set off to find them. Sure enough, there they were having an afternoon siesta. Lazing within Morukuru’s private land, of which they have 2,500 hectares, they were not concerned by our presence. With no other vehicles in sight, we were able to stay and watch for as long as we liked.
We carried on and saw elephants enjoying a drink at the watering hole, a giraffe reaching for the highest, tastiest leaves and two white rhino.
Rhino, as you may have read, continue to be poached for their horns. Anthony was telling us that between January and March of 2011, over 160 rhinos were killed in South Africa. An alarming fact, when you know the year totals were 333 in 2010 and 122 in 2009. The Morukuru team, together with all other rangers in the Madikwe Game Reserve, are doing all they can to stop this through vigilance and raising awareness.
At 5:45 p.m. it was time for sundowners in a special hide on stilts near a watering hole. Apparently you can sleep overnight here if you like. That’s brave.
After enjoying a fantastic glass of South African wine and some delicious homemade nibbles from Chef Asion, we were on our way again to see what night loving animals we could spot.
Nearing the end of our drive, we rounded a corner to be greeted by flames. Not a bushfire, thankfully, but a surprise dinner awaiting us. What a treat to sit by the fire listening to the ranger’s stories whilst Chef Asion prepared dinner.
Nothing uncivilized about this unexpected dinner in the bush.
When it was finally time to go, we climbed back into the Land Rover and made our way back to The Lodge. After enjoying a candlelit bubble bath I tumbled into bed and slept soundly.
Intimate, friendly and relaxing (malaria-free too, an added bonus)–an escape here really is the definition of “getting away from it all.”