“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”
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.
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.
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.
Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)
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.
Childminding is available on request during morning and afternoon game drives and during dinner.
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
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.
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