In South Africa, we are lucky to have a huge variety of safari options in addition to the popular Greater Kruger Reserve and Sabi Sands. Malaria-free family safaris are aplenty, and as I’m in my third trimester of pregnancy, exploring some of these reserves in preparation for my new family dynamic was a priority.
I’ve always wanted to visit the Marekele National Park, famed for its mystical landscape of the Waterberg Mountains and rich animal diversity. My wish came true when I was invited to join MORE on a weekend familiarisation trip to visit two of their prestigious safari lodges located in malaria-free reserves: Marataba Safari Lodge and Madikwe Safari Lodge.
How to get there?
Marataba Safari Lodge and its sister property, Trails Lodge, are in the Marakele Reserve which lies just a 45-minute flight from Johannesburg.
Madikwe Safari Lodges are a collection of three properties: Lelapa, Dithaba and Kopano. They’re located north-west of Johannesburg on a 75,000-hectare reserve that runs along the Botswana border.
On Saturday morning, I departed Cape Town to catch my flight to Johannesburg’s O.R Tambo International Airport to start my family-friendly adventure. From O.R Tambo it was a short 30-minute road transfer to Grand Central Airport where we met our Angel Gabriel 6-seater private charter plane to whisk us away to our safari.
I was lucky enough to be seated in the cockpit of the plane, so for the 45-minute flight, I had a 180-degree bird’s-eye view over Limpopo’s dramatic scenery.
Marataba Safari Lodge
On arrival, an impala dodged our plane on the runway and disappeared into a bush as a warthog family foraged on the side. I’ve never encountered that on a plane landing before!
The transfer to the lodge was an eventful game drive with fantastic elephant, antelope, buck and giraffe sightings set against the breath-taking backdrop of the Waterberg Mountains.
Marataba Safari Lodge has 15 luxury tented suites beautifully furnished to reflect the natural surroundings; its design is a combination of canvas and stone with a contemporary twist.
The public zones are tastefully decorated with several comfortable seating areas overlooking dramatic mountainscapes and a busy waterhole.
During our 24-hour stay at Marataba, we experienced a night game drive, a chilly early-morning drive, and a tranquil water safari aboard the Miss Mara. The combination of game drives and a boat cruise is unique, giving a fresh perspective on the wide variety of wildlife found in the reserve.
Marataba Safari Lodge is great for clients who want a luxury safari experience at a serene pace and in a stunning landscape. Children from the age of 6 years are welcome. There’s a Kids’ Club and babysitters for parents who want some relaxation.
We also popped into the exclusive and modern 5-bedroom Marataba Trails Lodge, a 30-minute drive from Safari Lodge. Here, the focus lies on bush walks with a maximum of 8 clients at any one time. This unique eco property is simply perfect for clients who’d like to explore the region on foot and have an up-close wildlife experience. Trails Lodge accommodates children from 16 years and older.
After our brief visit to Marataba, I felt a deep connection to this beautiful wildlife sanctuary – I will certainly return to soak up the atmosphere and awesome wildlife experiences of this reserve.
Madikwe Game Reserve
A 30-minute flight took us from Marataba to the Madikwe Game Reserve and its Lelapa Safari Lodge. This five-star luxury property has one focus: family-friendly safaris!
Lelapa has 12 bedrooms including charming family rooms with bunk beds, a children’s club and an educational environmental centre. Each suite is beautifully decorated and includes your own private plunge pool, fireplace (handy during winter!) and indoor-outdoor showers. Cots for smaller children can be added to any room, and staff are fully trained to cater for all family needs.
The Madikwe Safari Lodge guides are exceptionally skilled at storytelling and making even the tamest of wildlife experiences dramatic and exciting for children (and adults!). Our spectacular sunset game drive was punctuated with extraordinary sightings of rhino, wild dog and a huge buffalo herd. After the drive we were treated to a surprise bush dinner; a delicious and magical experience in the heart of the reserve.
Close to Lelapa Safari Lodge are the Dithaba and Kopano Lodges: perfect for couples, honeymoon clients, small groups or any clients who’d like to enjoy Madikwe’s splendour without the sight and sound of kids! Each of these intimate lodges has just four suites with private plunge pools, as well as a restaurant, bar and public area overlooking the splendour of the Madikwe Reserve.
After a morning game drive with one of the best lion sightings I have ever encountered and a delicious breakfast, it was time to leave our fleeting luxury safari experience. One night at each of these properties is simply not enough!
Who should book Marataba and Madikwe?
MORE’s attention to detail, exceptional staff and beautiful locations have opened my eyes to malaria free family-friendly safari experiences on offer. I’m now confident that (thankfully) having a child doesn’t mean I cannot experience the beauty and excitement of safari in South Africa.
I will be back, with child (and husband) in tow. I can’t wait to see my family’s eyes light up with excitement, just as mine did when witnessing these magical unique experiences at Marataba and Madikwe.
If you’d like to book a malaria-free family safari in South Africa, just pop us an email.
Written by Elizabeth Rampfshaw, Senior Travel Consultant at Giltedge