Jaci’s Safari Lodge, South Africa

Spotting cheetahs at Madikwe Game Reserve. Photo © Linda van de Pavoordt.

What day is it today? It’s the day I go on safari in Africa! I feel like a 9-year old kid who just woke up discovering it’s her birthday. We’re in Madikwe Game Reserve in the north of South Africa and Sello, our guide, walks from tent to tent, waking his guests with a soft but cheery “This is your wakeup call!”. Our base these days is Jaci’s Safari Lodge, a small tented camp with 8 luxury safari tents and a main lodge with bar, restaurant and swimming deck. It’s before six in the morning, I lean back against the many pillows on my king sized boxspring bed (yes, camping in Africa is a luxury affair) and enjoy the darkness and the sounds of the bush.

That time between night and day: Africa awakens

Armed with binoculars, cameras, hats and bird books we climb in the open jeep, Sello jumps behind the wheel and drives onto a dirt road. From the comforts of our lodge into the African wilderness. It will be hot in only a few hours, but this early the air is crispy and cool and we are grateful for the blankets Sello provided. The time between night and day (and day and night) is when the wilderness is at its liveliest and the chances of seeing wild animals are biggest. A few moments ago it was still pitch black around us, but slowly the surroundings become more visible. Birds start singing and it’s not before long that a sliver of red appears on the horizon: the sun is coming up. Its warm rays paints the African bush in beautiful colors and makes the African earth an even deeper shade of red.

Where the wild things are

The radio in the jeep comes alive with some squeaky noises and then we hear the voice of one of Sello’s colleagues. A sighting! But what and where? Sello reacts by turning the wheel, onto a sandy track, into the wilderness. After ten minutes off the road the jeep stops at an open space and Sello turns of the engine. His trained eyes scan the bush and immediately see what he has to point out to us: two little orange ears. It’s a lion cub! And another one, and another… Four young lions appear from the thick bush and start frolicking and chasing each other, right in front of us. It’s as if they are giving a show. It’s so adorable, we are just happy to watch them and are totally eat ease in the open jeep. In the meantime Sello and his colleague (who spotted them first and was so kind to call us via the radio) are very alert and scanning the surroundings. Why? “We are wondering where the parents are”, is their answer. That makes sense! Their remark and their serious faces remind us immediately of the fact that we are – in fact – in the wilderness. Sello explains: “In the vehicle the animals see us not as a threat or a prey, but they are wild animals, so of course we always have to be alert.”

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Sundowner on the African savanna

Pure magic! When Jaci and her husband Jan said they had a surprise for us, they weren’t lying. In the middle of the savanna tables are set with white linen and candles, a campfire has been made and a ‘braai’ (barbecue) has been lit: we are going to have dinner on the African savanna. But first it’s time for a sundowner – a drink during sunset – a South African tradition. Later that evening I am staring in the flames of the campfire and contemplating my day. The cub’s parents didn’t come to the scene, but during the remaining time of our safari we saw elephants, a hyena, four cheetahs hunting together, hundreds of colorful birds, impalas and giraffes parading over de savanna, their heads with their soft eyes and long eyelashes high against the blue skies. Every encounter felt like a little miracle. Tonight I will sleep comfortably again in my luxurious safari tent, with my own bathroom and outdoor shower. But the truth is: I can hardly wait for a new day in Africa. What adventures will tomorrow bring?

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Where is it: Jaci’s Safari Lodge is situated in Madikwe Game Reserve in the northern part of South Africa, near the border with Botswana. The reserve covers about 750 square kilometers and has the Big 5 (elephant, lion, buffalo, rhino and leopard), amongst lots of other animals like giraffe, impala and kudu.

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How to get there: it’s a 4 hour drive from the airport of Jo’bug (OR Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg) or a 2 hour drive from Gaborone in Botswana. The lodge has an airstrip for small planes and helicopters. Private charters and transfers via helicopter can be arranged on request.

What to do: daily safari’s are included in your stay, as is breakfast, lunch, tea and sometimes a braai or dinner in the bush. There’s a small pool, a spa and a riverwalk to enjoy by yourself. Although we have to say: just sitting at the wooden deck in front of your safari tent, listening to the sounds of the African bush, is a unrivalled pleasure by itself.

Read our blog about Walking Safaris at Jaci’s Safari Lodge in Madikwe Game Reserve.


Text & photography by Linda van de Pavoordt.

More luxury in South Africa: Grootbos Nature Reserve

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