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Madikwe Family Safari

“From playing soccer with elephant dung-balls to seeing the Big 5, Madikwe is an experience children will long remember”

The Kohrs family share their thoughts on their safari experience at the Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa. Travelling with their two children aged 2 and 4, they had a fantastic time: find out about the lodges they visited, what made their stay excellent and what to consider when travelling on safari with kids.

After months of lockdown and restricted movement in Cape Town, our family were feeling the pull of the African bush. We knew we had to get away from the city and get back into nature to experience wide open spaces, great wildlife and – although we love Cape Town – some different scenery!

Elephant in Front of Waterhole in Madikwe

After months of lockdown, we were ready for Africa’s wide-open spaces & its extra-size wildlife.

With the kids being four and two years old we didn’t have that many safari options available so we chose to go to Madikwe Game Reserve which lies a four-hour drive north-west from Johannesburg. Close to Botswana, it’s more Kalahari than Kruger. We flew up to Johannesburg from Cape Town, rented a car at the airport and drove to Madikwe ourselves; I can also recommend flying from Johannesburg to Madikwe – it’s only an hour’s flight, you’ll be transferred to your lodge and it’s much easier if you have young children.

Children waiting at Airport

Travel time to Madikwe is very quick if you fly all the way – something to consider with young children..

 

WHY WE CHOSE MADIKWE

There are Big 5 reserves near Cape Town but we loved the idea of our kids seeing the Big 5 in the real African bush rather than in a small and somewhat artificial Cape Town reserve. Madikwe is the real deal for a safari and the fact that it is completely malaria-free is a huge drawcard for families, easing any worries that parents might have with regards to the disease. It is very easy to get to and is well-known for its excellent family-friendly lodges. Indeed, its reputation for family safaris proved to be correct and I believe that Madikwe is most certainly the best option for a safari with very young kids. Our children had been on safari before but this was their first Big 5 Reserve and they absolutely loved it.

Family Safari in Madikwe Game Reserve

Madikwe is home to the Big 5 – lion, rhino, elephant, buffalo & leopard – & we saw all of them during our stay.

We chose to stay at three different lodges in Madikwe. All three position themselves as family-friendly yet each offered a very different experience which we found was another appealing aspect to the reserve.

Jaci’s Safari Lodge

Jaci’s lies in the eastern part of Madikwe. We stayed in the Narre Suite which was perfect for us: we had our own private house and swimming pool and it all comes with a chef, butler, safari guide and game drive vehicle – complete independence!

And although the house is staffed, it’s very low key: our chef and butler Ndisheni and Valencia were amazing and did not intrude our privacy at all. And not only did they do an outstanding job and spoil us rotten but they also connected with the kids. We really appreciated them and formed a great bond. This was a valuable experience for us, to get to know the local staff better and to have real human interactions.

Family Accommodation Narre Suite

Having our own private house was great: we could do what we wanted & everything was taken care of.

Our private guide Peter was very accommodating, and since we had our own game drive vehicle we could decide when and for how long to go on a drive. This flexibility was excellent and I would highly recommend a private vehicle for all safaris with children. It makes everything so much easier and we could start when we were ready, take shorter drives and have longer coffee breaks for the kids – all the things you can’t do when you are sharing a vehicle with other guests!

Family Game Drive at Jaci's Safari Lodge

Taking a break on a game drive: coffee & biscuits for us; elephant-dung football for Jano & Kai.

I can’t say enough good things about Jaci’s Lodge. The staff, the food, the quality of wildlife experiences where amazing. This is most certainly my personal favourite lodge.

Impodimo Lodge

We then moved into western Madikwe for another warm welcome – this time by the staff at Impodimo. The lodge is beautifully located with stunning views over the reserve and into Botswana. Again the management made us feel extremely welcome and they have a phenomenal waterhole in front of camp so you can just sit with the kids and watch animals.

Kai with Elephant in the Background

It was great to watch our young boys marvel at the real-life animals that feature in their stories & nursery rhymes.

Impodimo is extremely well priced and really good value for money. Rangers were very enthusiastic and had a great way with kids. The lodge has a well frequented waterhole that can be closely observed from an underground hide which is air-conditioned (a bonus in the hot summer months) and comes with honesty bar and coffee station.

We loved this lodge but it’s not fenced and therefore you have wild animals walking through the camp which we felt was not ideal with small children around. Kids aged six and older can join the normal game drives but Ipidomo also has a kid-friendly ‘bumble drive’ in the morning. Here the focus is on everything that is interesting to children: you’ll find that both guides and children enjoy the time. Again, I would recommend a private vehicle if possible. There is also a baby-sitting facility if parents want to go onto a drive and leave the kids behind – not really an option for us with very young children – and so we felt that this lodge would be slightly better for kids from around eight years old and up.

Kai with Elephant in the Background

The kids loved the pool at Impodimo; some Madikwe lodges have suites with private pools too.

Tuningi Safari Lodge

Also situated in the western section of Madikwe, this lodge has loads to offer. They have two huge family suites and lots of activities for children. Like Jaci’s, this lodge is fenced which makes everything more comfortable for parents with small kids. The individual chalets are set far apart and give you plenty of privacy as well as making for an enjoyable walk through the bush as you go back and forth – there are always birds to see – and with all the excellent food on offer at Tuningi, it’s important to stretch the legs a bit too!

Kai with Elephant in the Background

Zazu the hornbill came to visit us during breakfast & lunch – the kids loved it!

There is a children’s play area that forms part of the main lodge and the lodge also has child-minders. We felt that this lodge is a great option for families with young kids – our children were easily entertained by the child-minders – and it means parents get to have some time off and enjoy the lodge too.

What about Covid?

Covid Protocols were adhered to during every stage of our trip. Before boarding the plane we had to complete documents indicating where we would spend each night of our trip – the standard Covid questions and personal details. Sanitizer was everywhere at the airport.

Family Travel & Airports

It was clear as we travelled that airports & airlines are taking appropriate precautions against Covid.

Our flight to Johannesburg and back was with SA Airlink which I have personally found to be a great airline. They adhered to all protocols and we had to wear masks at all times during the flight except for the meal. Flight attendants all had masks and so did the airport staff.

Staff at the lodges in Madikwe were wearing masks but allowed guests the freedom to take them off or leave them on. This was perfect as you felt the freedom of being out in the bush and not having to wear a mask all the time; lodges were also not very full which helped the social distancing. As we mostly had private vehicles we did not wear masks on game drives which was a relief – it really was great to be in the wilderness with lots of fresh air.

Staff at Safari Lodges

All staff members at lodges wear masks, rooms are spotlessly clean & Covid protocols were followed at all times.

A private house on safari is perfect for families and especially during Covid. You have your own space and facilities, a private vehicle and the staff all wear masks: we felt very safe at all times.

When can we go again?

You can imagine that was the first question from our four-year old when we got home! We plan to make our next trip to the Eastern Cape Reserves in the beginning of next year if possible and visit Amakhala Game Reserve, Shamwari and Kwandwe – exciting times for the family.

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Reviews

It was a safari of a lifetime and exceeded all of our expectations!

Our mom grew up in Central and South Africa so we had visited the continent many times. My sister and I wanted to take our teens and husbands to Africa to experience the magic. We had a limited budget but big and specific expectations and by some miracle Walter was able to manage both.

Heather (USA)
Best trip I have ever been on. Highly recommend.

Would highly recommend. Safari online asked questions when booking and were efficient and knew exactly what we were looking for in terms of accommodation and animals were wanted to see. Gave advice on a few little extras with no pressure, which we did and am very grateful which make trip even more exciting. Would definitely recommend booking with them.

An incredibly well organised tour with no hassles whatsoever.

Safari Online understood our needs and was able to present us with sensible options to choose from. It was evident that this tour operator has knowledgable and experienced agents who can arrange a seemless tour. We were provided with a professional online itinary which was comprehensive and easy to use, knew exactely what to expect, and encountered no stumble blocks along the way.

Gwen (AU)
Professional, patient, efficient and responsive. Met all our travel needs and requirements spot on

Communication was excellent – I asked A LOT of questions and did a ton of research myself and Walter was extremely patient with me and very responsive. he was straight forward and extremely professional. Tour itself was excellent – an incredible experience and one never to be forgotten. Everything was spot on.

Neena
Professional, quick and top of the edge service!!!

From the very first contact we’re very happy about the respond time and quality of information from safari-online.com. Based on the received first tailor-made quote, which is a weblink with all the details about the flights, photos of the lodges etc. we knew that this is “our” partner for this trip. Our expectations were excelled!!!

Lukas (Germany)
Safari Online made our fantastic family holiday dream come true!!

Safari Online have been nothing but professional and incredible from the time we made our first enquiry to the last day of our stunning holiday. Nothing was too much trouble for Walter. We are now starting to plan our next family Safari for 2019. Guess who we will be booking with??? Safari Online we hope you are ready!!!!!

Penni (AU)
Karina was absolutely instrumental to our safari success.

Our experience with Safari Online was excellent. After becoming very frustrated trying to search for a safari destination on our own, we turned to Karina for help and she was a lifesaver.  We had an amazing safari adventure at the lodge–the experience of a lifetime–and are so grateful for her help. We literally couldn’t have done it without her!

Chris (USA)
Walter has always been an excellent communicator and has supported us fully

We have been to Africa for 24 of the last 27 years so know a bit about what is involved. Walter has arranged the details for the last couple of years, and has done a superb job. He is always quick to respond and comes up with answers immediately……..no evasive tactics, always head-on!

Roger (UK)
Very helpful good suggestions for holiday ideas always available for questions good organising

Excellent service and they supplied good suggestions for our holiday they also organised all internal flights and arranged check in for us so we had no worries while on holiday. We have had a most memorable holiday staying at wonderful places thanks to Sabrina and Safari Online. Would recommend Safari Online to organise your holiday.

Lorraine (UK)
Safari Online were extremely efficient and absolutely charming to work with.

Our 28-day itinerary took us to South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana. A magnificent and unforgettable adventure. Everything ran smoothly and efficiently from the flights, transfers, rides, connections, etc. Absolutely wonderful! Can’t thank them enough!

Ann and Mario (Canada)