Jaci's Safari Lodges

Madikwe, South Africa Book from

A pair of award-winning lodges in the heart of the Madikwe Reserve, imbued with the spirit of their colourful and innovative creators, Jaci and Jan
Jaci and Jan were trail-blazers in Madikwe. They opened the very first lodge in the park, before moving on to create their Safari and Tree Lodges, which are hidden away in thick Kalahari bushveld on the banks of the Marico river. They still live here and it was seeing their kids growing up in the bush that inspired the child-friendly ethos of their twin camps. Kids aren’t merely tolerated here, but celebrated.

The thatched lodges and guest rooms are linked by sandy pathways and raised walkways that cut through the dense veld, beneath chattering monkeys and teeming birdlife. Jaci took charge of decoration, choosing a funky Afro-Asian mix of vibrant colours and jazzy sculptures, whilst Jan, with years of experience at the helm of one of the country’s top restaurants, oversaw the creation of 2 superb bush restaurants. Their staff and rangers are amongst the best in South Africa. During your stay at Jaci’s, whether on your honeymoon (children are not permitted in the Tree Lodge), or with or without kids, you are guaranteed superb game viewing and guiding. The lodges fully deserve their many ‘Best in South Africa’ awards.

Highs

  • Gorgeous, romantic accommodation, with wonderful outdoor showers both in the Tree Lodge’s stilted houses and the Safari Lodge’s glass-fronted rooms
  • Some of the country’s top game rangers, whose knowledge and enthusiasm make the bush come alive
  • The gourmet bush cooking - fantastic safari cuisine
  • Amazing game viewing, with no risk of malaria, in Madikwe’s 75,000 hectares of bushveld
  • Child-friendly, with all kinds of activities, including Jaci’s famous bush ‘bumbles’, invented with kids in mind
  • Pools in both lodges; the Nare and Safari Suites have their own pools

Lows

  • The rooms at the Safari Lodge are quite close to each other: the stilted houses of the Tree Lodge feel more secluded
  • You have a section of bumpy, stony track to negotiate before arriving at the lodges, but you can manage it without a 4x4
  • The juke box at the Safari Lodge slightly detracts from the whole ‘bush’ experience
  • Difficult to insect-proof your room, but your bed is covered by mosquito netting

Best time to go

Because of the absence of malaria, any time of year can be a good time to visit Madikwe. However, it can be chilly in the jeeps during the South African winter (June/July/August) and water holes can be dry, meaning reduced animal activity. But the game viewing is exceptional throughout the year thanks to the phenomenal success of Operation Phoenix.

Our top tips

Experience the rawer side of the bush with a game walk. Your ranger will carry a rifle for your protection

Great for...

Eco
Family
Foodie
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Safari Lodge
  • 18
  • All meals included
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Pool Table
Room:

Rooms

The Tree Lodge has 2 twins and 6 kingsize doubles in stilted treehouses, whilst the Safari Lodge has 8 canvas and thatch rooms: 6 with twins that can be made up as doubles and 2 with kingsize doubles. The impressive Nare Suite can sleep 6 and has its own pool; it's also found at the Safari Lodge.

We marginally preferred the rooms at the Tree Lodge, with their handsome planked floors and beautiful stick-lined walls and screens. The bathrooms also scored top marks with their free-standing bathtubs looking out to the veld, whilst at the Safari Lodge the bathrooms are a little darker. But all the rooms are generous on space, with the same colourful, funky decoration as the main lodges, and have been designed to maximise sweeping views of the river. The enormous, mosquito-netted beds are dreamily comfortable, with crisp white linen and duvets, and cotton blankets curled decoratively at their ends.

A host of little details reflect Jaci’s desire to get everything ‘just right’: a welcoming bottle of bubbly, handmade soaps and other natural beauty products, bathrobes embroidered with the lodges’ snail logo, fabulous kudu-skin rugs, loads of brightly coloured silk cushions and bolsters, quirky lamps and soap dishes, wildlife magazines and birding checklists. The fact that the rooms are so large, with plenty of storage space to get all your clutter out of the way, means that you really want to get back to them after your game drives.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Fireplace
  • Mosquito net
  • Safe box
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

The food is a real highlight of any stay at Jaci’s, and you should pick up a copy of the lodge’s recipe book when you leave. Both camps have open-plan kitchens, so that you can watch your meals being created by Jaci’s team of chefs.

A light breakfast is served before your morning game drive at around 6am, and a second more substantial spread laid up on your return (this takes the form of brunch in the winter months). Jaci’s homemade muesli, served in a high glass with natural yoghurt and topped with honey, is a meal in itself, but you’ll probably be tempted to dip into the extensive cold buffet or choose any variant of a full cooked breakfast.

Lunches are kept light, with a high salad quotient, whilst dinners are a real feast. Both of Jaci’s chefs are encouraged to give meals their own culinary twist. You always get the choice of at least 2 main courses, such as rack of lamb, braaied beef or chicken, or perhaps kingklip in Thai sauce or hearty game stew. Our starter was a rich butternut soup, and the homemade cheesecake for dessert was utterly yummy. Guests at both lodges can choose between eating at the long central dining table or at individual camp-style tables on the deck, overlooking the river.

Dinners are also prepared at a kraal-fenced boma, in a clearing by the river, or occasionally out in the reserve. These evenings are simply magical, with a central fire and oil lamps sending shadows flickering across the surrounding forest. Several different pooitjes bubble away on the braai and you’ll be treated to a pre-dinner snack of Jaci’s chilli and garlic dip, served with freshly baked phaphata bread.

Features include:

  • All meals included
  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Communal dining
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • The lodges offer superb game watching for all ages. You should get to see most of Jaci’s ‘top 10’: lion, leopard, elephant, black rhino, white rhino, giraffe, hippo, wild dog, brown hyena and cheetah

  • There are several different activities designed with kids in mind, including the game viewing bumbles which have become the model for other lodges

  • You can swim in the riverside swimming pools, or at 2 others hidden amongst the thick veld that surrounds the lodges

  • You'll also find some of the best birdwatching in South Africa, with a checklist provided

  • Sweat it out at the riverside gym; it has every conceivable excercise machine and you may need to pay a visit, as it's difficult not to overeat at Jaci's. Alternatively, take your pick from the extensive therapy menu - try the 'Deep African Massage' (see Rates)

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Hiking
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Pool table
  • Private guided tours
  • Safaris
  • Swimming
  • Wildlife

Kids

Jaci’s is amongst the most child-friendly lodges in South Africa and a fantastic place to give kiddies their first taste of the bush. Several different activities have been designed with children in mind, the camp was responsible for conceiving and developing the game ‘bumbles’ which have now been adopted by several other lodges, and babysitters can be arranged if parents wish to do a game drive alone.

Prices for children vary depending on season.

Best for:

Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

There are plenty of options for families - extra beds are available (these are camping stretcher beds). The Nare Suite is a combination of a King and Twin Room and sleeps up to 6; the Safari Suite sleeps up to 8 and has a loft bedroom for kids.

Babysitting:

Childminding is available on request during morning and afternoon game drives and during dinner.

Baby equipment:

  • Cots

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

When you arrive, the chef will ask what your children like to eat and tailor a menu towards that. You'll eat as a family for breakfast and lunch, and there's a special dinner for children under 12 in the dining room in the early evening (when parents may be on a game drive). Menus include the likes of spaghetti bolognese, hot dogs, chips and hamburgers (and veggies too). When you return from your drive, you'll find your children bathed, dressed and fed.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Twice-daily game drives (dependent on age)
  • Special family game drives for those aged 5+ with their parents in family vehicles, available morning and evening
  • 45 minute daytime jungle drives for ages 4 and under
  • Pools
  • Wildlife hides

Families Should Know:

It's fenced off from the game reserve but of course there are potential dangers in this wildlife reserve. Pools are unfenced. The Tree Lodge is not child-friendly

Distances:

  • Airport: 3.5 hours
  • Hospital: 1.5 hours by car, quicker by air
Kid Friendly:

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