Our countdown to our stay at Tau Game Lodge in Madikwe Game Reserve started about 50 days before our departure. “How many more sleeps til we go to Tau?” my son would ask. “Fifty”, I’d reply. Then 49, 48, 47… until with no more sleeps, we woke up excited on a Friday night, packed the last of our luggage, and off we embarked on our family break to this malaria-free game reserve.
We had a smooth 4.5 hour drive, with plenty stops, sufficient snacks (I’m pretty good that way) and enough Spotify kids’ playlists to keep my toddler Rebecca in good spirits. About 25 “How far are we” questions later, we arrived to the most wonderful reception – the kids got hugs and high fives, and we got handed glasses of juice and warm towels. There’s so much to love about a luxe lodge like Tau, and the friendliness, warmth and hospitality are surely up there.
I’ve been to Madikwe Game Reserve several times, thanks to my “past life” as a journalist and magazine editor, where I got to visit and write about other magnificent lodges. This was the first time with my family, and it was such a privilege to experience this with them – from the early-morning wakeups to catch the sunrise game drives, to the animal spotting, and the waterhole relaxing.
Luxury lodges aside, I have loved Madikwe for all the amazing game spotting, and on a Landrover and with an experienced ranger, it obviously takes everything up a notch.
We arrived at the lodge just before the first game drive, so there was just enough time to refresh, settle a bit in our deluxe chalet, and ooh and aah about how our room had a sliding door and balcony looking right onto the reserve. There are 30 luxury thatched chalets in the lodge, and each has aircon, ceiling fans, open-air shower, bath (for that lovely relaxation time while sipping a glass of Amarula, if you wish), and a little viewing deck.
The chalets are spread out in U-formation on either side of the lodge and offer the most brilliant views of animals approaching the waterhole from the opposite bank. I was told that people stay at Tau simply for this. The day before we arrived, lion were spotted snoozing by the waterhole, and numerous kills have been seen too.
The formation is such that you might see elephants from the dining area of the lodge, and then from your chalet further down, spot waterbuck and zebra. It’s like you never need to leave the lodge, but who would want to miss drives with a ranger, and stop for sundowners in the evening (hello G&T!) or rusks and coffee in the morning (with a dash of Amarula, if you so wish).
There is also a family suite and a family unit which are semi-interleading. They have two bedrooms, and share a comfortable lounge.
Kids under the age of six aren’t allowed to go on the main game drives, but separate ones are arranged for them – we did ours with our toddler Rebecca the next day, after breakfast. We therefore set off for our evening game drive without Rebecca, but she was in the brilliant hands of a babysitter. Rebecca was happy to go off with her new bestie, while we went off for some good coffee and carbs before hitting the bush, so to speak.
I won’t break down what we saw on each of our four drives, but here’s some of what we saw on the weekend:
- Lots of elephants, including babies
- The usual – but still special – suspects: impala, kudu, warthog, zebra, wildebeest
- Lion (three sightings!)
- Assorted antelope
So, what else did we get up to? I for one had numerous visits to the buffet tables where there were abundant breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Meals are eaten in the dining area of the lodge, usually outside if it’s weather permitting, which is another opportunity to do some animal spotting and viewing. On our second night, we had dinner in the boma, which was great. Nighttimes are filled with the most beautiful symphony of frogs croaking, and more, depending on what else is in the area.
There was also plenty relaxation time and we spent a lot of it in the pool, with what felt like waterbuck and elephant within arm’s reach. There’s also a spa, which I didn’t manage to get to, which offers some gorgeous sounding treatments, like the Tau Spa Oasis Journey, which you can do with a partner.
Here’s the description: “The 120min treatment starting with a relaxing session in the steam room set up and infused with fresh herbs and ice-cold cucumber slices for your eyes. Your body is massaged to a velvety soft touch with an exfoliating Snowbush scrub. After a refreshing shower the body is sprayed with Orange & Ylang Ylang water and the Tau Spa Oasis Journey is completed with a full body massage using special blended aroma oils.”
There’s more on the kids’ activities and offerings, which I’ll chat about in a follow-up post.
The bush weekend was, unsurprisingly, blissful and quite hard to leave, and I thought it appropriate to quote Winnie the Pooh here, since he is a bear (though we don’t find them here, but still): “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
Need to knows:
Deluxe Chalet: per room per night, R15 822
Family Unit: per room per night, R21 096
The lodge is R360km from Joburg, and close to the Botswana border. It’s a straightforward drive, with several garage stops along the way. One can also get to Tau via plane from OR Tambo to Madikwe airport. To keep up with what Tau is up to, follow them on Facebook.