|Lesser spotted jackal at Madikwe (Photos by Willie Smit)
A mysterious phenomena this El Nino. And since I do not pretend to understand the vagaries of said Nino, I am therefore a mere travel writer. When the rains finally came to the desperately thirsty South African land, it came with a beautifully sweet vengeance. Today though is day three, rain free as we drive the 300 km or so from Johannesburg to Madikwe Game Reserve in the North West Province in South Africa. Even so, dark clouds threaten to break above us in a pregnant limbo, but the humidity is stifling. The heat grips us as the miles fly past on the relatively good road and the Highveld gradually gives way to growing green hills. I don’t usually answer calls from unregistered numbers on my phone, but driving 30 km outside Sun City in the North West Province of South Africa I do. "Hello is that Jo? This is Stefan from Morukuru." He then proceeds to give us precise directions, apart from the GPS, to our destination, Morukuru River House. What a nice touch!
Madikwe Game Reserve is currently the fifth largest game reserve and is also one of the lesser- known parks in South Africa. This makes it a hidden- gem as it is regarded as one of the best conservation areas in Africa and offers the Big-5 in a 680-square-km park (750 square km including newly incorporated privately owned land). The park offers a number of luxurious lodges, among which the Morukuru collection, as well as community lodges in a malaria- free zone. The land where Madikwe now stands was previously used as farming land. The poor soil meant that farming was mostly unsuccessful and the South African government then decided that it would best be used as a national park to help economically uplift the disadvantaged area. Stefan and his tracker actually meet us at the Park entrance and we follow them to River House.
On the way we spot zebra, impala and giraffe and a magnificent up-close sighting of the lesser spotted Marshall Eagle. We arrive to a welcome song from all the staff just for us! Then manageress Rosemary opens the doors to heaven - the house is utterly beguiling. The décor and design seamlessly fit into the environment but it also has a contemporary Zen feel.
|Sundowner dinner (Photos by Willie Smit)
The house is perched on the banks of the most important river in the Madikwe Game Reserve, the Marico River, where the background track of cascading waters will coax you into a permanent state of restful bliss, as the website so accurately describes it. The superbly appointed living area offers fine dining for a complete party of 10, with cuisine prepared to your taste and requirements by your personal chef. On moonlit nights, dine around a crackling bonfire in the boma. Guests can also have their breakfast in the morning sunshine, lunch in the shaded garden, or dinner by starlight and candles on the pool deck overlooking the Marico River.The pool is heated and surrounded by comfortable loungers for relaxing. A wooden veranda surrounds the lodge perimeter, providing quiet nooks for the private bush showers and leading to a romantic riverside raised walkway for the more energetically inclined. The house comprises of three double en-suite bedrooms, each featuring every comfort, including super-king size beds, crackling log fires (gas fires), cooling and heating A/C, and large tree-shaded private decks. The spacious bathrooms have tubs with bush views and indoor as well as outdoor private showers. Four children can be comfortably accommodated in the separate family room/study with bunk beds, where they have access to recreational facilities such as satellite TV, PlayStation, computer with internet and DVDs. I have been to actual entire lodges (accommodating other guests) smaller than this stunning property.
And it’s completely private! There are no other guests, just you and your party and it is all-inclusive so the pretty hefty price tag of about $2,000 per night is justified. There is even a little chalet down by the river, housing your very own spa! We have our own butler Isaac, own chef Kat and of course Stefan is our game drive guide. In fact, all told we have a staff of seven to eight at our beck and call - including hostess, nanny (if needed), housekeeper and a private safari guide and tracker for us to personalize your itinerary completely. After an orientation by Rosemary, lunch is served in the form of beef stir-fry - delicious. Dessert is pineapple crumble - yum! The service is ever so discreet but jovial and not uptight or obsequious.
We opt to laze by the pool for the duration of the day and wallow in the luxury of utter privacy like spoilt rotten royalty. There are no schedules here - no waking up at 5 am to go on a game drive, no lunch at 2 pm and dinner at 7 pm. You completely make it up as you go along. I later wake up from a deep sleep as dusk gently falls and I lie looking at the monkeys outside my balcony, swinging from branch to branch, momentarily stopping to curiously watch me also.
Dinner is a feast of bean and bacon soup, the tenderest marinated venison and a classic crème Brule to round it all off. Our superb meal is set up for us outside by the fire and no detail is overlooked. The next morning we leave on a game drive with Stefan at the very decent time of about 8 am and we spot two lion brothers, resting up after their buffalo kill. We also spot an elusive jackal which is rare. Madikwe Game Reserve is home to the Big 5 - lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo and as a special surprise, Brown Hyena, Spotted Hyena, Wild Dogs and Aardwolf. Truly an array that very few game reserves can offer!
We also go on a visit to Morukuru’s other property, the Farm House.
The Farm House
The owners house was unfortunately occupied so we didn't get a chance to see it.
Stefan does however show us the sprawling and stunning Farm House, which can accommodate up to 10 guests (5 presidential en-suite bedrooms).
This is a contemporary African homestead, offering the perfect private setting for families and larger groups.
Located on the other side of the mountain within the Morukuru property, the five-suite Farm House is an oasis, surrounded by luscious green lawns, and set within a 100-hectare fenced-in safe area which is home to general game, so kids can play and roam at will, and guests may have the freedom to walk and explore. Furnished by well-known South African interior designer, Sumari Krige, the Farm House is bright & stylish, with bespoke items produced by local artists and craftsmen in a neutral palette. Following the owners’ brief to create spaces where families with children of all ages can completely relax, the overall sense is kick-off-shoes and curl-up-on-the-couch comfort.
Dinner by lantern light
That evening Stefan fetches us for a game drive where we come across a spectacular heard of elephants up close and personal with babies and all. And then the big surprise! Dinner has been laid out for us high atop a hill overlooking the entire reserve! Lanterns glow softly in the last light of day as we all sit by the fire, watching the sun set over thee African land. Rosemary says that guests visibly get tears in their eyes when they observe this sight and I believe it for ‘tis magical...Kat teaches us to make "stokbrood" or bread on a stick over the fire, explaining how to maneuver the dough around a long stick.
Then we move to beautifully decorated table and proceed to have a feast under the stars.
Much later I lie in my snug humungous bed, reflecting on the wonderful day and fall asleep to the far-off delicate sound of thunder rolling over the land...
We have to bid adieu to our new friends the next day and again they sing us a farewell song. "Farwell, farewell until we see you again," they sing and I remember Rosemary mentioning that guest’s children cling to the staff, crying and refusing to leave with their parents when they have to depart. I remember this as I blink like an owl, struggling to control my tears. Ah, Morukuru what a tonic you are...
- All ages are welcome
- All inclusive
- Child friendly
- Complimentary WiFi
- Dining Room
- Electronic safe
- Exclusive use of the house
- Fully air-conditioned
- Heated pool
- Indoor & outdoor showers
- King size bedrooms
- Morukuru Freedom Concept
- Nanny service
- Outdoor bath
- Outdoor dining
- Private Butler
- Private chef
- Private Game Drive Vehicle
- Private Guide
- Wine cellar
- Wooden decks
There are weekly flights from China to South Africa with Air China. From Johannesburg it is advisable to rent an off-road vehicle. Go to the Morukuru website for all available options of how to get there.