Madikwe

I’ve been wanting to write about safaris and game viewing for quite some time. There are so many choices and places to go, it’s hard to even break through the surface. Your inclination, as a freshly-arrived expat, is to wait and get your new life sorted out before you feel like going travelling again. But don’t. After all, seeing the animals is what you’re meant to do in Africa, so you might as well get started right away. Before I tell you where to go, have a look at these pictures and I’m sure you’ll want to read more (click on it to view full screen in Picasa):

http://picasaweb.google.com/s/c/bin/slideshow.swf

After conducting quite a bit of research (or, as Noisette might say, researching the thing to death) I’m happy to tell you exactly where you should go on safari if you live in or visit Johannesburg: Madikwe Game Reserve, which is located three and a half hours to the Northwest of Joburg, right on the border to Botswana. It’s an easy drive (“only” 30 km of dirt road) and you won’t find anything better in Southern Africa. You got the Big Five there, and much more, and it’s entirely malaria-free year-round, as opposed to the Kruger Park. It’s also much less crowded. You can choose from a total of 32 lodges in Madikwe, most of them 4 or 5 star luxury lodges, and unfortunately quite pricey, but that is the same everywhere. I recently stayed at Mosetlha Bush Camp, where the above photographs were taken, and had a wonderful time. It is also by far the cheapest lodge in all of Madikwe.

What I loved about Mosetlha is that it’s a true bush camp, not a luxury lodge. That doesn’t mean that you have to make do without amenities – it’s just a bit more complicated and you’ll definitely feel closer to nature. You will learn to use a donkey boiler, a most amazing contraption where cold water goes in one end and hot water comes out the other, you will enjoy hauling that hot water up into the shower bucket, and you will marvel at the fact that such little water can give you a pleasant bath. In fact, I found myself silently wishing that we had such a thing at our house, as it surely would conserve a lot of water and might put my “shower wars” with Zax to an end! (Although I shouldn’t have attempted to also shave my legs, by the light of a paraffin lamp). You will also marvel at the “VIP Toilet,” which through some ingenious design has absolutely no smell at all, even though it can’t be flushed. In fact, there is no electricity in the entire camp.
Mosetlha is located right in the middle of Madikwe’s 75,000 hectares that are home to some of the most abundant game you’ll find in Southern Africa: The Big Five (leopard, lion, elephant, buffalo, and rhino), zebra, giraffe, monkey, hippo, hyena, jackal, and a huge variety of antelope. Madikwe is also home to the endangered African wild dog, which you won’t find in many other places. Included in the price – as at any lodge – are two daily game drives. The food at camp is cooked on an open fire, where you’ll sit and share bush stories before retiring to your cabin on a path lined with paraffin lamps. The beds are very comfortable and you wouldn’t know the difference from a deluxe hotel room, except for the breeze – and flies – wafting through the canvas sides and the occasional roar of a lion.
For more information on Mosetlha, visit http://www.thebushcamp.com/.
The best place to research and book safaris: http://www.bushbreaks.co.za/
Another affordable game lodge we really liked (it’s located in the Waterberg and is not Big Five): http://www.yellowwoodgamelodge.co.za/