“A pair of award-winning lodges in the heart of malaria-free Madikwe Game Reserve, imbued with the spirit of their colourful and innovative creators, Jaci and Jan”
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 the 2 superb bush restaurants. Their staff and rangers are amongst the best in South Africa - many have been with them since the start and feel part of the family. During your stay at Jaci’s, whether on your honeymoon (children under 13 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.
- Big 5 game viewing, with no risk of malaria, in Madikwe’s 75,000 hectares of bushveld
- Wonderful friendly staff and some of the country’s top field guides, whose knowledge and enthusiasm make the bush come alive
- Gorgeous, romantic accommodation; we loved the newer Starbed Suites with the option to sleep under the stars
- One of the most child-friendly safari lodges in Africa, with all kinds of activities, including Jaci’s famous bush ‘bumbles’
- A photographer's dream with dedicated photo safaris, specialist vehicle and guide, equipment for hire and unique water-level hide
- The tented rooms at the Safari Lodge are quite close to each other: the stilted houses of the Tree Lodge feel more secluded
- Surrounded by bushveld, the rooms lack the far-reaching views of some of Madikwe's other lodges
- Difficult to insect-proof your room, but your bed is covered by mosquito netting
- You have a section of bumpy, stony track to negotiate before arriving at the lodges, but you can manage it without a 4x4
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Safari Lodge
- All meals included
- All ages welcome
- Open all year
- Outdoor Pool
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Pool Table
Double and Twin Rooms are split between the Tree Lodge and the Safari Lodge. The impressive Nare Suite can sleep 6 and has its own pool; it's also found at the Safari Lodge. Newest of all is the Starbed Suite, which affords a unique opportunity to sleep alfresco on the rooftop sleeping deck (there is an indoor bedroom as well though).
We marginally preferred those 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. At the Safari Lodge, bathrooms are a little darker. But all the rooms are generous on space 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.
- Air conditioning
- Central heating
- Cots Available
- Extra beds
- Mosquito net
- Safe box
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.
- All meals included
- Children's meals
- Communal dining
- Vegetarian menu
- 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
- Budding photographers can submerge themselves within the Terrapin Hide, located in the middle of a waterhole for a unique vantage point. If you're lucky you may even be able to capture the elusive leopard or swimming elephants.
- 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 or take your pick from the extensive therapy menu - try the 'Deep African Massage'
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Plantlife / flora
- Pool table
- Private guided tours
Jaci’s Safari Lodge is amongst the most child-friendly lodges in South Africa and a fantastic place to give kiddies their first taste of the bush. As well as family suites and kid-friendly menus, several different activities have been designed with children in mind, the camp was responsible for conceiving and developing the game ‘bumbles’ which has now been adopted by several other lodges, and babysitters can be arranged if parents wish to do a game drive alone. Look out for the giant fluffy beanbags in the main lodge - our daughter absolutely loved them!
Prices for children vary depending on season.
Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)
Family friendly accommodation:
There are plenty of options for families in Jaci's Safari Lodge: the Tented Suites can each accommodate 2 children over 6 years sleeping on extra camping stretcher beds, while the large Nare Suite (2 bedrooms, sleeping up to 6) and Safari Suite (4 bedrooms including kids loft room, sleeping up to 8), each with kitchenette, living area and private plunge pool, are ideal for larger families and have no age restrictions. Note that Jaci's Tree Lodge is not suitable for children under 13 years and rooms cannot accommodate extra beds. No children are permitted in the Starbed Suites.
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 brunch, 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
- Games room
- Swimming 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 suitable for children.
- Airport: 3.5 hours
- Hospital: 1.5 hours by car, quicker by air