Sprawling for a vast area of 75,000 hectares, Madikwe Game Reserve encompasses rocky peaks, open grasslands and verdant valleys, each habitat home to its own particular range of wildlife. And within the reserve lies Makanyane, a luxury Safari Lodge where, in 2005, the wife and daughters of the then President Bush stayed, and just a week ago, America's first lady, Michelle Obama, spent time with her two daughters and other members of her family.
The Madikwe Reserve is home to Africa's Big Five – the five most difficult animals to hunt on foot – lion, African elephant, Cape Buffalo, leopard and black rhinoceros, as well as many other mammals, a wide range of reptiles, and over 340 species of birds. The Obama family group enjoyed two private game drives in the Madikwe Game Reserve, where they spotted elephants, rhino, lions, giraffe and other game. The rangers who lead the expeditions share their wealth of knowledge on all the creatures of the area, from the fascinating private life of the dung beetle, to the intricacies of the social system of the makanyane, the rare African wild dog for which the Lodge is named.
There are hides, too, set in well-chosen locations on Makanyane land: one overlooks a waterhole hidden deep in the bush, a favourite place for animals and birds to drink. Another looks over the vast plains, providing observers with an ever-changing view of animals moving across the breathtaking landscape.
Of course the natural world continues on its way round-the-clock, and so the Makanyane experience continues on through the night: guests can sleep out under the stars in a bed made up on the upper deck of a hide lodged deep in the bush next to a waterhole where the nocturnal beasts come.
But Makanyane isn't just a place to discover the wild beauty of Africa; activities at the Safari Lodge revolve around relaxing your body and mind: the bush spa is just the place to pamper yourself with a massage or aromatherapy treatment, or you can unwind and work up an appetite exercising in the well-equipped gym, or borrow a book from the library and sit on your private sun-deck and read.
In the main lodge, ancient leadwood trees support the sweeping thatch roof in the dining room and in the spacious lounge area with its two rock fireplaces. The lounge opens out onto a wide wooden deck hanging over the ravine and waterhole below, and you can enjoy afternoon tea or a drink while watching the great beasts of Africa in their natural habitat.
Rich African textures abound in the eight lavish suites, whose walls of natural rock and dried tree trunks blend with rough teak doors and contrast with the overhanging thatch. The glass-walled bedroom suites allow uninterrupted views of the river and surrounding bush, while the spectacular bathrooms have under-floor heating as well as indoor and outdoor showers, and the sounds and scents of the surrounding bush drift around you as you laze in the luxurious freestanding bathtub.
The Lodge prides itself on the exceptional quality of its cuisine, and the chef chooses the freshest local ingredients to blend European and African flavours and create unique menus that are complimented by fine South African wines from the extensive cellar. Meals can be enjoyed in the bush, too: greet the day with the scent of fresh coffee mingling with woodsmoke and see it draw to a close as you dine by the light of lanterns suspended from the trees, or toast marshmallows over the fire's dying embers as you discuss the sights and sounds of another unforgettable day.
Makanyane Safari Lodge