A pair of crocodiles chased each other as a fish eagle looked on. Ducks quacked around the waterhole and a couple of herons stood haughtily amid them. A dazzle of zebras and a herd of wildebeest arrived to quench their thirst. A bit later, a parade of what seemed like over a hundred elephants came to hydrate themselves. No, I was not on a game drive. I watched all this activity from the comfort of my room at the five-star Tau Game Lodge in the malaria-free Madikwe Game Reserve. It was like watching a wildlife TV channel live. All this action is also recorded live on webcam and can be seen on the lodge's website.
Tau Game Lodge is the biggest lodge in Madikwe Game Reserve in the North-West Province and the third-oldest. It is just an hour away from Gaborone, making it equally popular with guests from Botswana and South Africa. The 30 African-inspired thatched chalets accommodate up to 60 people and comprise standard, deluxe and family rooms. They are built in a U-shaped formation around the meandering waterhole allowing all guests great views of the wildlife frequenting it. All the chalets boast private viewing decks and outdoor showers from where only voyeuristic animals will be able to observe you.
The lodge is family-friendly and we saw many kids having fun during our stay there. Children from six years and over are taken on normal game drives and those under six can be taken on shorter game drives especially for them. The lodge has a conference centre making it a popular choice for corporate getaways. It is also a popular place for romantic bush weddings. A curio shop, swimming pool, library area, spa and a Cubs Clubhouse and play area for the little ones complete the surroundings.
The 10 km stretch of bumpy gravel road leading us to Tau punctured the tyre on our rental vehicle. Apart from this mishap, the rest of our stay was idyllic. Within minutes, a pair of rangers arrived to assist us and soon we were being welcomed at the lodge’s huge reception with home-made lemonade and briefed on our stay. Then we were led onto the outdoor deck overlooking the waterhole for a sumptuous lunch including fresh fish prepared especially for us.
In keeping with its namesake Tau (meaning lion) the lodge’s motto is “It takes a pride to serve a king.” The service from all staff members is impeccable and they go out of their way to make you feel like family. For example, you are assigned a game ranger for the duration of your stay. He or she – yes the lodge boasts two female rangers too – takes you on all your game drives and joins you for breakfast and dinner. Our ranger, Michael, took great care of us and treated us to some awesome sightings while entertaining us with bush tales. Another staff member, Maggie, on hearing that I had enjoyed her lemon meringue but would be leaving the following day, ensured that I got some for breakfast before I left.
Our dietary preferences were well-catered for and at one meal, the chefs had to accommodate 15 different dietary requirements from guests. The attention to detail is evident in the small touches such as the hot water bottles on game drives, birthday celebrations for guests, turndown goodies and cute little soaps shaped like lion cub paws.
A typical winter's day at the lodge unfolds like this. Breakfast is served from 7am to 8am. Morning game drives are from 8am to 11am. Blankets are provided on game drives as well as hot water bottles on the morning drives. Lunch is served at 1pm, then tea and coffee at 3pm. Afternoon game drives begin at 3:30pm. After a 3-hour game drive, you come back at 6:30pm to a warm welcome and drinks. An alfresco dinner is then served around a hot fire before you retire for the night to a comfortable bed heated perfectly with an electric blanket. All in all, your day revolves around game viewing and eating, with just enough time to fit in a siesta or a pampering spa treatment at the intimate Tau Spa Oasis. I opted for the latter and thoroughly enjoyed it. Sheer bliss!
This was my third visit to Madikwe, South Africa’s fourth largest game reserve and I’d been raving about the exceptional game-viewing to all and sundry after my previous visits. This visit also lived up to my great expectations. From the Big 5, we saw huge herds of buffalo and elephant, smaller groups of white rhinos, a solitary black rhino and several magnificent lions. Just the leopard managed to elude us. However this was more than made up for by the other sightings, such as my first sighting of an aardwolf, which was hunting for food at sunset, a couple of spotted hyenas and a jackal fighting over a lion’s leftovers, and some awesome bird sightings. So, if game-viewing in authentic surroundings is what you enjoy, like me, then there are few better places to visit in South Africa.
It is a testament to Tau Game Lodge’s popularity that so many guests say that they can't wait to return. I am now one of them too. And with the lodge's rates being among the most reasonable in the game reserve there is no reason not to book that trip now.
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