My family and I have recently been on a short holiday in South Africa. We spent a few days there on our way to Europe last September. Today, I will share with you my Motswiri Private Safari Lodge Madikwe – South Africa Guide in the hope that you can find it useful to organise your own trip.
I had never been to Africa before, so I was really looking forward to this trip! The idea was to just spend a few days relaxing and doing safaris. We chose South Africa because there are direct flights between Sydney and Johannesburg and Johannesburg is also very well connected to Italy.
We had only 8 nights and 9 days to use up for this part of the trip, so we had to make hard choices. Keeping in mind that our main goal was to go on safaris and see as many animals as possible, we decided not to go too far from Johannesburg. Also, we did not want to take the anti-malaria prophylaxis for just a few day-stay, so we chose to stay in a malaria-free area.
We also wanted to stay in 2 different places to get some variety of both flora/landscape and fauna. That’s why we chose Pilanesberg and Madikwe.
Also, we chose to stay in private reserves instead of National Parks because it was our first time in Africa and we wanted to maximise the probability of seeing wildlife. In the end, I am very happy we did that because our drivers were really knowledgeable about the animals and gave us lots of information. They also knew how to spot them, which meant we saw A LOT in just 6 days. In fact, we saw 4 out of 5 of the Big Fives – the only one we missed out on was the leopard! If we had gone with our own car, we probably wouldn’t have seen half of the stuff we saw.
Anyhow, no matter where you choose to go, make sure to reserve well ahead of time. I booked about 10 months ahead!! The lodges are small and they fill up pretty fast!
The best time to visit South Africa’s parks is from May to September. This is the dry season and animals congregate around waterholes and rivers. Also, September is the time when you will find a lot of cubs – and that was the highlight of our safaris!
We spent the last 3 days of our safari adventure at Motswiri Private Safari Lodge in the Madikwe Game Reserve, right at the border with Botswana. We were so close that we could see Gaborone’s lights from our dinner table! This is about 5 hours out of Johannesburg.
There are only 6 rooms in this beautiful boutique style lodge: 5 Bush Villas and 1 Family Bush Villa.
We stayed in a normal Bush Villa with a king bed and 2 single beds.
The room looked nice and it was big enough for the 4 of us, even though it would have been better for 2.
It was also clean and with all the amenities you need – tea and cookies included.
The only problem was that there were squirrels living in the roof! Which meant, everything had to be kept locked as they would try and eat anything edible. And they would also poop around. I don’t particularly mind this kind of stuff, especially knowing we were in a game reserve in Africa and not in New York. However, some people might find it annoying.
Also, there is no internal shower in the room. The only shower is outside. It is totally private, but it makes it hard to have a shower after dark, as it can get quite cold. Especially for the kids. 😉
The common areas were nice. There was a bar (drinks NOT included) and a coffee/tea making area with cookies. However, unlike in Tambuti, the coffee was only American style. Not for me. 😉
The little living area was nice as well.
Another let down was the Internet. It was only available in the common area, and even here it didn’t always work. Again, not a huge problem, but considering the price we paid, I am sure this is something that could be improved!
There is a small pool in the common area, but we did not try it.
I really liked the waterhole here. We often got to see animals gathered around it.
The grounds were also visited by plenty of wildlife. We saw a few klipspringers.
And a black dwarf mongoose.
Drinks are not included, not even water (!). During the safaris you stop for breakfast and sundowner, but you need to pay for the drinks (coffee/tea/hot chocolate/and a small bottle of water are included though). Snacks are included too.
The day at Motswiri works like this: you wake up very early and, after having a quick coffee/tea with cookies, you go on a morning safari. The times vary depending on the sunrise, however, we were usually out before 6 AM and we would be back at around 9:30 AM.
Around halfway through the drive, you stop somewhere to have a snack. This changes daily, but you can expect tea, coffee, hot chocolate, juice, muffins, home-made cookies, etc.
Once back, they serve you breakfast and then you are free to rest till lunch, which is a 2-course meal.
At 4 PM the evening drive starts. During the evening drive, you stop for a sundowner and they serve you drinks (NOT included, apart from water) and snacks while you enjoy the beautiful African sunsets.
When back, you have your dinner, which is a 3-course meal and then you are ready for bed!
Madikwe is a private game reserve, which means only guests staying in one of the local lodges can visit it. That is definitely a plus as there is a huge difference between observing the animals in peace and quiet and fighting over a good photo spot with 10 other jeeps.
The area is much drier than Pilanesberg N.P. and the landscape is quite different too.
Also, when you choose the lodge, make sure to ask how many people they take per jeep. At Motswiri it was just the 4 of us (+ the driver) for 2 full days and then 1 couple joined us on the last day!
As I said, we saw a huge variety of animals.
We were also able to see 4 out of 5 of the Big Fives. And many times over. I especially fell in love with elephants.
We were also very lucky to see many cubs. I was so happy to be there in September! These baby hyenas were cute!
And so was this baby buffalo.
We also saw a lot of giraffes. How beautiful are they??
Plenty of zebras.
And we were so lucky to be able to see 2 black rhinos. These are apparently quite rare!
We also saw some warthogs.
And many impalas, gazelles, kudus…
Madikwe was definitely the place to see big cats. We saw many lions!
And we often heard them roaring. That was impressive.
We also had a bit of a funny experience as we punctured a tyre when a lion was standing right next to us. No kidding! We had to wait for it to move before we could safely get down and change it!
Another great moment was when I (yep!) managed to spot 2 lionesses!
We also got to see 2 beautiful cheetahs!
And some breathtaking sunsets.
Unlike at Tambuti, the food at Motswiri was nothing to write home about.
The options for me were a bit limited – even though they did try to accommodate my dietary requirements. It’s just that the food wasn’t as sophisticated as the one we had at Tambuti.
Breakfast included eggs cooked to order and some other options.
The 2-course lunch was probably the worst meal. Very bland food and not too exciting.
Yes, one day I had a salad and mash potatoes for lunch. 🙁
The 3-course dinner was a bit better. Then again, the “regular” dishes were much better than mine.
On the last night, we had a South African Buffet which included a braai (a South African barbecue) around the open fire, followed by a couple of beautiful songs sung by the local staff. The chicken, lamb, and sausages were quite tasty.
However, our tummies really missed Tambuti Lodge!
Madikwe Game Reserve was nice, however, we did not fall in love with it. Motswiri Lodge was nice, however, we felt it was over-priced. It was more expensive than Tambuti Lodge in Pilanesberg and not quite as good. It also did not include all the things that were included in Tambuti (like drinks, in-room wifi, laundry, amazing food, etc.). The staff did try their best though.
The game drives were good and I liked the fact that we were by ourselves most of the time. However, they were a bit shorter than in Tambuti.
All things considered, we all agreed that we would probably not come back.
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