Sanctuary Makanyane Safari Lodge

Derdepoort, Madikwe, South Africa Book from US$960

A stunning safari lodge in the malaria-free Madikwe park, with superb guides and exquisite suites
The Madikwe Game Reserve, west of Jo’burg on the border with Botswana, was established to bring sustainable tourism - and with it jobs - to a tract of 70,000 hectares of forgotten bushveld. After extensive reintroduction of animals and protection of those already around, it is now one of the best places in southern Africa for game viewing, and the area remains free of malaria.

Several lodges are dotted around the park’s periphery, but few are as special as Makanyane. Named after the African wild dog which roams this part of the veld, it is set in private land, providing exclusive game viewing. At its origin, Australian architect Bruce Stafford created an astonishingly beautiful decked-and-thatched lodge, with 8 super stylish guest suites hugging the banks of the Marico River; this is a real chef d’oeuvre of environmentally sensitive afro-chic design. We couldn’t find fault with the lodge, and the standards of game guiding - which, after all, is what you come for - were the highest we came across in South Africa.

Highs

  • The food is a match for the setting: you won’t eat better in the bush
  • You see masses of wildlife in Madikwe and, if you're really lucky, the elusive black rhino and endangered African wild dog. The birdlife is amazing, too
  • Glass-fronted suites on the banks of Marico river and the chance to sleep out under the stars
  • Exceptionally well managed: you feel cared for all day, and the high staff-to-guest ratio means you get loads of personal, friendly attention
  • Health and beauty treatments include massages, facials, pedicures, body wraps and waxing, so you’ll be looking good for those animal encounters

Lows

  • The electricity pylons which cut across Makanyane’s 17,000-hectare estate slightly detract from the ‘bush’ experience
  • Expect to see vehicles from other lodges, especially at kills: the guides from the different lodges work together when searching out the game. But this ultimately works in your favour
  • Pricey, but you get the perfect safari experience
  • Under new ownership since our visit, but in the safe hands of Sanctuary Retreats

Best time to go

The autumn is a great time of year to be in Madikwe, with fewer visitors and mild daytime temperatures which make for comfortable game viewing. You’ll see lots of animals at any time of year, although the high temperatures of the South African summer - that is January and February - could be an ordeal for some.

Our top tips

If you can afford it, 5-7 days would give you the chance to really explore the park, see masses of game on foot and by jeep, and still have time to enjoy gentler game viewing along the river bank from your suite’s private terrace. For the rest of us, 3-4 days is about right.

Great for...

Eco
Foodie
Spa
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
Room:

Rooms

Makanyane has just 8 suites built along the south bank of the Marico river, discreetly positioned to guarantee privacy. They are breathtaking, with all-glass frontages and fold-back windows to both sides, bringing the bush and the life along the riverbank straight in to you. Few lodge bedrooms we’ve come across have such a ‘wow’ factor and, like the main lodge, the sculptural trunks of old leadwood trees have been wrapped into their fabric.

All rooms are twins, but are normally made up as kingsize doubles, with a quadruple bank of cushions and pillows, snow white linen and duvets, and pure wool handwoven blankets which double as shawls on cooler nights. They have leather-covered lampshades, desk and tables, and swish white-cotton easy chairs with matching stools. There's a beautifully crafted dressing room with masses of hanging space, and a minibar and safe tucked out of sight. To one side of each suite is a kraal-fenced sitting area with sun loungers, as well as cushion-strewn bench seats looking out to the river.

The bathrooms, with pebbled patterns set into screed floors, are design-mag-perfect, with claw-footed bathtubs, double sinks, hairdryers, monogrammed towels and bathrobes, and an amazing range of natural body oils, creams, moisturisers and sweet-smelling citronella soaps. As in the main bedroom, there are floor-to-ceiling French windows which you can throw open to the bush.

If you’re here for a longer stay, you should spend a night at the lodge’s raised hide which overlooks a water hole. You’ll be driven to the hide after dinner, given a torch and bush radio, then left to ogle the extraordinary African night.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Fireplace
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries

Eating

Most meals are taken in the decked dining area, which looks out across an infinity pool to the surrounding veld and the Marico River.

If you’re off on a game drive, a light breakfast of cake, fruit, tea and coffee is laid up at 6am and a second spread will be waiting on your return some 3 hours later: a cold buffet followed by the cooked breakfast of your choice. Lunches stay light and get top marks for presentation. These could be a mixed platter of fish, poussin legs with a sweet and sour sauce, or maybe marinaded chicken accompanied by a choice of salads, such rocket and pear or mozzarella and green leaf, plus a selection of roasted root vegetables.

You’ll be reminded at dinner - sometimes served at the boma to the side of the lodge - that you don’t need to be in a chichi city restaurant to eat gourmet food. Our meal began with a small cup of butternut soup, followed by baked goat’s cheese garnished with a delicately dressed rocket and basil salad. At breakfast you’ll be asked for your choice of main course, normally either fish or game, which could be kudu, impala or warthog. If you have any special dietary requirements, they will make a point of creating appropriate dishes for you. Desserts, like the hot chocolate brownie and ice cream served in a small ramekin, were also yummy, and there’s plenty of choice on the wine menu. And we couldn’t fault the attentive yet relaxed manner of Makanyane’s 'Tswana staff.

Features include:

  • All meals included
  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Coffee tea making
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Take early morning and evening game drives through the park. You’ll see a huge range of animals - elephant, lion, white rhino, giraffe, wildebeest, kudu, hyena, jackal, several species of buck, leopard, wild dog - and be told lots about them, too

  • Trade a jeep for your feet and see the bush from a whole new angle on a guided bush walk, often led by the camp’s manager, Garth, who is one of the park’s top guides and brilliantly informative

  • Swim in the infinity pool, then lounge on the deck. Keep your binoculars close at hand; this is a great platform for spotting game and birds (checklists are provided). The open nature of the lodge means you get plenty of wildlife sightings without having to leave the comfort of your suite

  • Laze on your private deck and find time to luxuriate in your suite. You’ll miss it when you come to leave

  • Indulge in a wide variety of health and beauty treatments at the lodge’s spa (i-escape guests get a free massage)

  • Sleep out in the hide for a once-in-a-lifetime bush experience

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Hiking
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Safaris
  • Swimming
  • Well being
  • Wildlife

Kids

Madikwe is free of malaria and so is a great choice for parents. Makanyane’s high staff-to-guest ratio means that there will always be someone around to look after the children if they aren’t joining you for game drives.

Children over 12 years old are welcome all year. Children under 12 years are welcome when the lodge is booked exclusively.

Best for:

Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Children may share their parents' suites, which can fit up to 2 rollaway beds. Children sharing with their parents pay 50%.

Children's meals:

There is a child oriented menu and dietary requirements will be taken into account.

Kids Activities on site:

Children can take part in the Makanyane Pup Junior Ranger Course which teaches children a range of bush skills themed around survival, tracking and shooting. There is a written test, and when the course is completed children receive certificates during a graduation ceremony. The course is 2 hours a day, for 6 days. Enquire for details.

Families Should Know:

The Lodge is not fenced off from the reserve; children must not walk from the lodge to their suite unsupervised. Parents must also supervise their children when they are in the pool and the gym.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
10/
Overall

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