Have you ever been to Botswana? If your answer is no, then you need to remedy that asap, take my word for it. It’s a wonderful country with wonderful people, wonderful weather, and wonderful scenery… in other words, it’s just wonderful. It’s a lot cheaper than i thought it would be, considering their currency is stronger than the Rand, but i found taxis, hotels and food in general extremely affordable.
On our return to Johannesburg from Gabarone, we both thought that it’d probably be a good idea to try and visit a game reserve in the area seeing as we’d driven all the way out there. So on our way back to the Big Smoke – we decided to stay at one of the lodges in Madikwe Game Reserve, as it’s a reserve i’d never visited before.
Madikwe Game Reserve is on the South African side of the border, but barely 35min from Gabarone. The reserve itself is relatively “young” at only +/- 24yrs old. It also happens to be the fifth largest game reserve in South Africa – which is unusual considering how little we hear about it. It’s supposed to be one of the best conservation areas in Africa and offers the Big 5 in a pretty decently sized park. With it only being 3.5hrs from Joburg AND in a malaria free area – it is exceptionally convenient.
There around 27 different lodges within the reserve [so you’ll be able to find one in your budget quite easily], and we finally settled on Motswiri. Since moving up to Joburg, i’ve prioritized visiting as many game reserves and lodges as possible because of the proximity to the city and the fact that it wasn’t something i did a lot as a kid.
Motswiri is a beautiful lodge, although i haven’t been to an unattractive one in South Africa yet. I will say that the welcome to any lodge immediately sets the mood for the rest of your stay – and the welcome felt stiff and like something was possibly a little off. I sometimes get the feeling that touristy places in South Africa are a bit disappointed when a local arrives – for whatever reason i think that a little bit of prejudice exists against locals visiting places like these. It’s even worse when you’re younger than the average guest, and maybe they assume that because you’re in your twenties that you’re going to be a difficult/rowdy guest. I could be wrong, but it’s just the way it feels. Other lodges we’ve been to made us feel welcome from the moment we stepped out of the car, but at Motswiri it seemed like we were an irritation.
Besides the initial first impression, everything was quickly turned around by shy and sweet Patricia who makes sure you have anything you want, and by Werner the super enthusiastic and passionate game ranger.
Our game drives were amazing, even though it poured for about 40min on our first afternoon drive. We saw everything you could hope to see, and i was particularly excited because i got to see Cheetah’s in the wild for the very first time ever. We got to see a young male lion, plenty elephants, an adult male rhino, loads of zebra, impala, steenbok, wildebeest, buffalo, and pretty much every other bok under the sun. I also got to see a small pack of female hyenas, something else i’ve never before seen on a game drive – especially in the middle of the day!
My only regret is that i didn’t have a proper camera to catch any pictures on. All i had was my iPhone 6 – which i absolutely adore, but we all know that cellphone cameras aren’t that good at taking crystal clear distance photos… even if the distance is just a couple of meters away.
The accommodation at Motswiri was fantastic – a massive bath that looked out into the bush, an outdoor shower (which is thrilling when you can see animals just a few steps away from you), a massive four-poster bed with a mosquito net, and even a fireplace for those cold Winter nights.
The communal areas are equally impressive, especially the boma area that overlooks the small watering hole that they have (which is frequented by elephants, buffalos, and more). The food was also great, although the buffet dinner did feel somewhat rushed. If you eat indoors, everyone at the lodge sits at the same table, so conversations start up… and then before i knew it, the food was gone and i hadn’t even gotten to eat much more than the salad and a few bits that i had initially dished up for myself.
I would love to go back to Madikwe sometime soon – it is just breathtaking. I absolutely need to see the wild dog pack that lives on the reserve, and find the elusive leopard with her cubs! After looking through some of the other lodges, Royal Madikwe, Rhulani, and Jamala Madikwe look pretty special too.