We spent a glorious weekend (26-28 April 2014) at The Bush House in the Madikwe Game Reserve. This 75,000 hectare reserve lies in the far northwest corner of the North West Province next to the border with Botswana. The http://www.parksnorthwest.co.za/madikwe/ website says, “Madikwe Game Reserve is home to 66 large mammal species including the Big Five and approximately 300 resident and migrant bird species. It is one of South Africa's largest game reserves.” Because The Bush House is a refurbished farmhouse that has been converted into a beautiful lodge, it accommodates a maximum of 12 people. We became acquainted with other guests as well as the guides and owners and the support staff. The home boasts air-conditioned rooms with good-sized walk-in showers and deep tubs for soaking in after game “hunting/viewing”. There may not be a spa but you won’t need to pack your hair dryer or a few other “essentials”. The cookies with the in-room tea/coffee service is a nice touch. The “panic button,” too was a surprise.
Reserve: Fenced and shares a border with Botswana. Gordon, the owner told us that there are upwards of 50 lodges in the reserve but half of them are corporate-owned lodges. The other lodges work with one another in communicating what animals are found and have agreed that only 3 vehicles at a time may approach while the other are in stand-by mode, so we could stop and be with the animals as long as we chose. On the evening drive when we spotted the four cheetah brothers, only 3 vehicles spent time with the animals. We were fortunate to spend quite a bit of time with them and JR maneuvered the open air vehicle (has a canvas top for shade but does restrict some viewing) so that we were quite close to the cheetahs. This was especially exciting for the three children (7, 10, 12) who were in the vehicle.
Camp: The area in which The Bush House is located is also fenced so we could walk within the confines of the camp quite safely, although a young kudu did find its way into the fenced camp. The lush lawn and carefully sculpted garden is very pleasing. Gordon and Sue had an underground hide put in next to a watering hole that has fresh water pumped in. This hide is open all day and into the night so you could spend as much time in the hide as you like. It has four comfortable camp chairs, blankets, refrigerator with cold drinks, and flashlight for emergency. The one day we spent going in and out of the hide was magical because various groups of zebra, giraffe, elephant, impala, and blue wildebeest quenched their thirsts in shifts of their own devising for over an hour. Previously two black rhinos quenched their thirsts and a lion did approach one night but was wary and did not come out of the shadows.
Accommodation: Our room was towards the back, separated from the main house and had a walled sitting area shaded by a tree. The large room is air-conditioned as well as having a ceiling fan. Your room is made up every day while you are on the morning game drive. You are provided with shampoo, body lotion, and mosquito repellent cream, hair dryer, and a small safe for your valuables. There is quite a bit of storage for long stays. There is a screened door on the patio side so you can let fresh air blow through without the bugs. Bug spray is also available if needed. There is a panic button if you should find something in your room that frightens you.
Food: Abundant! Good, hearty meals are served three times a day. Brewed coffee or tea with a fresh muffin or an apple are available for a quick pick me up before the morning game drive. Upon your return Toomi takes your egg order while you help yourself to yogurt, fruit, cereals, etc. Afternoon tea is light with a salad or small helping of tasty chicken drumsticks and a sweet (brownie or other small treat). Dinner is set up like a five-star restaurant with wonderful meals. A fully stocked bar serves almost anything your heart desires. I did miss the camaraderie of having our guide dine with us. The delicious African dinner served in the boma with fires to keep us warm with the staff singing traditional songs was a real treat.
Game drives: It is always luck of the draw as you should well know. We were there for 4 game drives and found it interesting that JR did not have a rifle. He does not believe in them and is convinced that a good guide does not need one. Gordon and Sue must have great confidence in his abilities otherwise he would not work for them; hence, we put our lives in his hands. Even when we were within spitting distance of the very relaxed cheetahs or parade of elephant or obstinancy of cape buffalo, JR was warily relaxed and so were we. We also got very close to a huge dazzle (estimate of 100+) of zebra that were licking salt from the ground. We saw 4 of the big 5, but the rear end of a lion feasting on a downed zebra in the thickets doesn’t technically count as having actually seen the lion. The leopard was elusive but spending time with cheetahs in the wild is just as thrilling. JR is very knowledgeable and he was not shy in testing what we may know. I still have to check his facts about what the group names for various species are, e.g. implausibility of wildebeest. On our last evening game drive, JR played a little trick on us as we drove through the darkening evening while he both drove and handled the spotlight. He shone the light on the eyes of an impala, which we all saw but did not realize that there was an elephant just off the road to our left. We all nearly jumped out of our skins when the elephant sounded an alarm! JR had a good little chuckle. JR's passion for his work is evidenced in the quality of his explanations. We learned a lot of new things and had other knowledge reinforced. The group was quite congenial and we all teased and laughed a lot.
Situated only 3-4 hours from Johannesburg, this is a fabulous experience you won't forget because of the 100+ photos you will take!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Safari isn’t just safari anymore…. And game lodges aren’t all alike. Every visit really does need to be special and every moment something to be remembered forever.The Bush House is not your typical Game lodge. The Lodge is set in the malaria free Madikwe Game Reserve. It is an old farmhouse that after years of family laughter and happiness has been transformed into an inviting and relaxing residence that encourages guests to kick off their shoes and unwind. ... more less
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