Not Quite Roughing it at Jaci’s Tree Lodge, Madikwe
Tree house life is a wonderful life. Especially when it’s paired with game drives, sundowners in the bush and wild encounters. With the birds, squirrels and owls as neighbours we reveled in a bit of luxury safari time in the trees and wilderness in Madikwe.
“What a good day! It is the first time, in my 14 years of guiding, that I have seen this animal. I am so happy to have seen him here!” We shared the excitement beaming from of our guide Peter as we craned over each other in the game vehicle for a better view. The skittish Black Rhino was making himself one with the thick bushes. What a rare and special sighting!
My husband Graham and I were on one of our numerous game drives during a few days of safari-bliss spent at Jaci’s Tree Lodge in Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa. And were in our element.
It’s not our usual style of bush whacking. We’re more the self-driving, camping sort of laid-back adventurers; following the sunset and reaching for our own beers. The Jaci’s experience is different and we embraced it, surrendering to life’s luxuries. It made for a charming change and a fresh perspective on safari lifestyles.
Jaci’s safari style is decadent, fire cooked meals under the stars, never needing to lift a finger and game drives with radio contact with the other guides so we found those animals, no matter what. It is unpretentiously grand with a relaxed nature, and the staff are all smiles and warmth. We sipped chilled refreshment while the resident ellies played in the waterhole in front of the hide and were lulled to sleep at night by the Scops Owl and lions roaring in the distance. It was glorious.
The main part of the lodge is linked to the tree house rooms by wooden walkways, up in the trees. We were elevated, both physically and in mood. We lazed on our king-sized bed made for napping and completely gave into serenity and bird song outside. The outdoor shower and massive bath in our tree house were favourite features and our personal wooden deck called for sporadic bouts of birding and just sitting and gazing.
There is a darling little family of Bushbuck who have made the camp home too. Clever little things they are as the camp is fenced in, keeping them protected inside. A pair with a baby chose our abode as their sleeping quarters too, them below it and us high above in the branches.
Jaci’s Safari Lodge is in walking distance from Jaci’s Tree Lodge and is connected by a little path that strolls you alongside a tributary of the Marico River, just behind a fence. That main lodge melds in with its bushed surroundings with suites as accommodation instead of the tree houses. It’s bigger than Tree Lodge but with a similar friendly character, colourful, bush-decor and relaxed feel to it. We explored its grounds and found the swing bridge and the wild dogs that guarded the lodge entrance without stirring; since they weren’t actually real.
Peter was our personal safari guide for the duration of our stay and took us adventuring through the wilderness, twice a day. Game drives are just part of the wild package when you become a Jaci’s guest. Peter transported us through varying landscapes throughout the reserve. We tracked the real wild dog, but didn’t quite catch up with them. We followed a Kori Bustard through his grassy domain and found ourselves eye-to eye with a coalition of cheetahs as they were waking themselves up for the evening’s festivities in the bush and marking their territory. We found snoozing lions and then others munching on a kill. We were so close we could hear the flesh tearing and bones snapping in those jaws.
We were spoilt to fantastic winged sightings too like a Red Crested Khorhaan in flight display as he hurtled from the sky and flipped, circus-style, trying to impress a lady of his kind. The Pearl-Spotted Owlet and Spotted Eagle Owl were also kind enough to make an appearance and challenge us to staring competitions.
The Madikwe rhinos honoured us with their heavy-set presence and allowed us to appreciate them in their natural surroundings. We were reminded of how fortunate we are to still have these gentle giants in our country. As we watched a family dance in their own dust, we smiled at their free, playfulness but we were also very solemnly aware of the threat they and their kind are under and the need to continue to protect them in any way we can.
On our final night, Graham, and I took advantage of the opportunity to sleep-out in the Jaci’s hide, at the waterhole. The comfy, double bed draped by mozzie nets greeted us, surrounded by solar lamp light. It is known as the Star Bed to all those at Jaci’s. We excitedly shone our torches out over the waterhole to see if any animals were treating themselves to a night-cap drink. But alas, only the barbel were out to play.
We cuddled into the bed and peered out into the night before us. We were sung to sleep by the sounds of the bush and Jaci’s choir of frogs. It was an incredible experience. We woke to the soft morning and watched the sky lighten at the tips of of our duvet’d toes before heading out for a final game drive.
(Read more about our night at the hide in my Classic Safari Camps of Africa blog. )
We left Jaci’s Tree Lodge with that content, inspired feeling only a few days in the bush can give us. Our tummies were stuffed, our camera memory cards full and we had fat smiles on our faces, just like the ones we shared with Peter when we met that Black Rhino.