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Life in the Bush: Molori Safari Lodge in Madikwe Game Reserve South Africa

We recently had the honour of reviewing Molori Safari Lodge in the Madikwe Game Reserve for our March Travel edition ‘Out of Kensington’.  Madikwe is a malarial-free area, some 400 km from Johannesburg and is home to the Big Five and some 350 different species of birds. Here is an excerpt from our diary:

We are having such an amazing experience and really feel we have arrived!  Molori Safari Game lodge is wonderful – very small, very understated smart, serious customer service, lovely people and no bling in sight.  We were given a two bedroom exec ‘suite’ – more like a lovely house with its own pool over looking a watering hole – the first lunchtime about 20 elephants paraded to it – along with a couple of babies – a wonderful sight.  We were v lucky as we never saw this again, and they didn’t stay long.

Game drives are typically about 4 – 6 hours long (in a session) which go surprisingly fast.  We have an excellent guide who has not been to uni, but is the most intelligent person I’ve ever met.  He is paying to send his children to private school, which I suspect is a first for an African guide.   He is extremely passionate and enthusiastic.  Highlights were coming across two lions who had just killed a wildebeest and had eaten so much they were hyperventilating; having dinner in the bush – table cloths, candles etc with the owners of the lodge and their family who happened to be on holiday at the same time as us (here think the South African equivalent of Richard Branson).  Very friendly and welcoming as were his kids (early 20s) and wife.  There was a tea-candlelit path to the loo which I expected to be a hole in the ground but no, behind a little wooden fence sat a rather splendid porcelain white loo – facing onto the bush with the stars above.

The next day we went for a night safari and came across a leopard, apparently snoozing, but a minute later was up chasing a poor baby rhino who was stuck in the mud in a watering hole.  With fierce defence and defiance from its mother the leopard backed off. The guide then cooked us a stew in the bush, this time more informal, just with some camping chairs etc. but with a very full large freezer box, akin to a full bar – plenty of whiskey.  After a lesson in astronomy we packed up at about 10.30 pm. went to see how the lions were getting on with their feasting, had a good look and then realised the jeep had a puncture.  Now this was scary stuff.  One lion a good distance off, the other about 6 – 10 feet (depending upon who you spoke to) – I reckon probably about 7 ft. However, close enough.  We managed to get the jeep a few feet further away, turned it around, and then the guide changed it – Stephen with a large spotlight to track the nearer lion, and me with a smaller torch to shine on the wheel, guide and jeep.  He managed it in about 10 minutes and then we were off.  I was rather frightened but the other lady with us was genuinely terrified.

Next day I went out on my own with the guide, for a walking safari – I thought I was very brave and that we’d been out for an hour and walked miles, but it turned out we had only gone about 500 metres!  Really interesting and learnt more about nature, biology, science and animals/birds than had done in a lifetime.  We then came across a cheetah lying under a tree.  The guide turned the jeep round (being a fellow photographer), so we had the best angle – I lay on the floor of the jeep (being the only one in it, I had plenty of room) and then played eyeball with the cheetah.  At first it was fun/an experience, but the longer it went on the more unnerved I became, so I then demanded that we move.  The most incredible sight and when we returned and the guide was beaming saying that was magnificent/amazing, for someone who goes into the bush every day, was really something.  This is an amazing trip.  They do rhino conservation too but we haven’t been able to see that in action as we hadn’t got the right passes.  All in all this is a trip of a lifetime and far surpasses the other three I’ve been on in the past.

With thanks to Jonathan Peach of JPS Luxury Safari’s for arranging this trip:  www.jpsluxurysafaris.com

Lucy & Stephen were guests of Molori Safari Lodge, and flew with Trailfinders.

Copyright and images:  www.lucyelliottphotography.com