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Thakadu River Camp, Madikwe

Weekends out of Jo’burg can be the loveliest thing when you have a reason to celebrate. With P’s birthday coming up soon, I wanted to write about Thakadu River Camp in Madikwe Game Reserve where we spent it last year. About 3,5 hours out of Jo’burg, just past Sun City, Madikwe Game Reserve is a private reserve dotted with small, romantic camps and lodges.

Madikwe itself is a small reserve near to the Pilanesberg Game Reserve in South Africa’s North West province. Thakadu River Camp is not only one of the smallest camps in the reserve, but is also one run by the local community living on the periphery of Madikwe. The authentic, genuine staff and intimacy of Thakadu is what we were after for a quiet weekend away removed from city stress.

Upon arrival, we were shown to our absolutely massive tented suite. Sitting in stilts about 3m off the ground, our deck overlooked a small valley and river below, while our neighbouring unit and us were separated by thick foliage, making the suite private and with nothing to hear but the sound of insects and the occasional bokkie wandering past below our deck.

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The bathroom in our suite was an open-plan one, with a big freestanding bathtub, an open shower and the most gorgeous vanity with copper basins. The fittings were also copper and gave the bathroom a lovely warm feeling. The window flaps along the sides of the tent were left open for a breeze to flow through, but also brought in the smell of the bush and its accompanying sounds.

A shaded walkway lead us through to the main building at Thakadu later that afternoon. A dining room overlooking a watering hole, as well as a small deck next to the swimming pool, were at the ready for the small pool of guests staying at the lodge that weekend. A boma area with firepit lay off to the side of the main building. Dinner on both nights at the hotel was superb with options for any taste. My favourite was without doubt the boma dinner on Saturday night. A big fire, food cooked on open fires nearby and comfy canvas chairs were set up for all the guests.

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With your stay, there are two daily game drives, one in the early morning and another in the late afternoon. It’s great to go on both the guides explained, as you’re likely to see different animal species on each as they’re all active at different times of the day. Rolling around Madikwe in the open vehicles is one of the best natural rushes you could ask for. We saw so many animals including rhinos, cheetah, jackals, lions aplenty, giraffes and wild dogs and their new litter of pups! My favourite sighting though had to be of the two teenage male lions who had been gorging on a giraffe carcass for over three days. The just ate and slept in a continual cycle, fighting off scavengers with a mere twitch.

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The weekend was also topped off with a massage in our room. The therapist set up a portable bed and made our afternoon before we were able to have a quick nap and shower before our evening game drive and dinner. While the camp’s website didn’t specify what kind of massage the treatment was, it was a really pleasant relaxing full-body massage with aromatherapy oil. The therapist is also from the local community and works at the camp, so don’t be surprised if she serves you breakfast the next day!

Being run by the local community, there is so much value in spending time at this camp. You know the profits are going back into the development of the local people in the area and the ownership each member of staff displays of this camp is an incredible thing. There is a wonderful, warm atmosphere and staff are friendly and caring in the most genuine way.

A small boutique on the premises also sells little bits and pieces as a source of extra income for the camp. It’s worth having a look to take home a keepsake of the weekend here.

To find out more about Thakadu River Camp, visit their website here.

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Travel & food blogger helping adventurous South Africans find their next escape.

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