“I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up that I was not happy,” said Ernest Hemingway. It was easy to understand why when we went on safari in South Africa.
The safari adventure started on a plane like this, flying from Johannesburg to Madikwe. There were no flight attendants; and refreshments were in a cooler in the back, where we were invited to help ourselves. It was a really fun experience!
The view of the topography below demonstrated to us that, in more ways than one, South Africa is truly a nation of color.
The Madikwe Eastern Airstrip was our arrival ‘airport.’ We were definitely not in L.A. anymore! And to further make that point, near the end of our time at Jamala, I asked, "How early do we need to get to the airport prior to our flight back to Johannesburg?" The answer was, "About five minutes."
With Lazzie behind the wheel of our transfer vehicle, and the views that lay before us, this was better than any Town Car service we’d ever had. With springtime in the Southern Hemisphere, yellow forsythia-like bushes dotted the red African earth.
Suddenly, there was the potential for danger.
Just like this waterbok, Lazzie immediately changed course and repositioned the vehicle to allow for a quick getaway if necessary. “You always want to have an escape route where elephants are concerned,” he said. “We can outrun them going forward, but we can’t outrun them in reverse.”
The elephants kept coming in small groups of two to four at a time—small ones, large ones and huge ones. Even some babies.
But they were happy to continue peacefully on their way to a waterhole.
After their showers, they passed within about ten feet of our vehicle.
We learned that it’s really the elephant that's the king of the jungle, not the lion, because the lion knows that an elephant can throw him.
Elephants can also be fierce protectors of the water supply, which we discovered as soon as we got to our safari lodge, overlooking its own waterhole. We had hardly arrived there when we saw the first of multiple examples of that.
Note the zebra’s timid posture. It’s thirsty enough to gamble that the elephant might feel a moment’s generosity.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work well for the zebra this time. He would have to try again later. We even saw elephants chase away birds that were trying to get a drink!
Jamala Madikwe was the perfect destination for us to enjoy this safari. For one thing, Madikwe is malaria-free. For another, Jamala is fabulous! With only five villas, there are never more than ten guests at a time, so you really do feel like a guest, not a customer. And it is gorgeous.
This close-up of our roof and chimney illustrate the charm of each villa.
The bedroom is so romantic with its four-poster bed, Oriental rug, and three walls of glass doors for views over the savannah.
The bathroom has a freestanding tub-with-a-view and separate shower. A thatched roof covers the villa.
There is also an outdoor shower.
It is quite an experience to be showering outdoors while watching a herd of zebras. The setting is so private that the half wall is not needed to shield one from human eyes; however, before it was added, giraffes were guilty of coming over and ogling the showering guests, so a privacy extension had to be built!
Of course, the primary focus of a safari is usually the game drive. Safari mornings started with a 5:30 wake-up call (they do confirm the night before whether you want that). After coffee/tea and light snacks in the lounge, we were off with Lazzie by 6 o’clock.
The mornings were so beautiful and crisp. How well we came to understand the earlier quote from Hemingway.
The following animal photos are organized by category, but in actual experience, the game drive is much like a treasure hunt: you never know which animal you’ll see next. And in between the sightings, you enjoy the vastness of the African landscape.
Giraffes were always the easiest to spot.
The zebra is one of the animals I most wanted to see—and we saw a lot of them. They are so beautiful. We learned that no two have identical patterns.
This little one was still fuzzy.
About half way through the morning drives, Lazzie set up his coffee shop, which included what he jokingly referred to as elephant cream: Amarula. It’s a South African cream liqueur that has the taste of slightly fruity caramel—so naturally, wanting the whole South African experience, I enhanced my morning cup of joe with "elephant cream"!
Our first lion sighting was exciting, as was getting closer for a better look. It's amazing how the animals, wild as they are, don’t feel threatened by the vehicles.
The next morning, we were fortunate enough to see the cubs. Here Junior is getting his face washed after having munched away on the partially eaten wildebeest nearby.
We learned that lion cubs spend a lot of time in their dens, and when their parents leave the den, the cubs stay where mom has put them (a far different behavior from humans!). They are let out for increasingly longer periods as they age. As we witnessed, when they’re out, there’s a lot of security, with multiple male and female adults to protect their young.
This cross-eyed lion is looking right at our vehicle with at least one eye. He looks so deceptively cuddleable.
After the morning drive, back at the lodge, it was time for breakfast on the veranda. One morning we saw elephants, giraffes, zebras, and impala—all at the same time—while we were eating.
Between morning and afternoon game drives was the perfect time to enjoy a refreshing dip. Who knew you could have a viewing safari right from your own private infinity pool?
Afternoon game drives provided more animal viewings.
These are all white rhinos, though there is no difference in color between the white and black rhino. The name ‘white’ comes from a misunderstanding the English had of the African word 'widje,' meaning 'wide,' referring to the white rhino's mouth.
It's interesting how this troika had positioned themselves.
The poaching of rhinos continues to be a problem in Africa. Even during our two-night stay in Madikwe, there was the discovery on the reserve that another rhino had been killed, just for its horns. :(
The afternoon game drives had the added advantage of the sundowner. Again, Lazzie set up shop, this time with a variety of adult drinks and snacks. Being on safari, I opted for a gin and tonic both nights, as I wanted the whole safari experience (with modern conveniences, of course)!
And then, there were the sunsets! These were the ones we saw on our two nights there. We watched this one progress until that top cloud was a flame.
But I especially loved this one, where the whole sky was orange. Stunning to witness!
Back at the lodge, a gourmet alfresco dinner awaited. Lanterns lit the way to the boma.
Silver candelabras and crystal sparkled in the candlelight.
And the food was fabulous.
We saw so much more. Big things, like a whole herd of cape buffalo thundering toward Jamala's waterhole while we were eating dinner--and at a time when one lone elephant had been left to guard it. (He wisely exited the scene!) And small things, like this dung beetle (so when you think your lot in life is bad...!).
All too soon it was time to say good-bye to our gracious hosts, owner Rodney (right) and general manager and chef/cookbook author, Niko.
Please let us know if you’d like to discuss further the treasures of Africa or the ScheckTrek Pick for a malaria-free safari destination: Jamala Madikwe. Special amenities are available when we book for you.
"In wilderness I sense the miracle of life, and behind it our scientific accomplishments fade to trivia."