By Bert Duplessis

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By midday on June 4, Kathy and I headed from Madikwe Hills to Jaci’s Safari Lodge, located right along the Groot Marico River on the eastern-most border of Madikwe Game Reserve.  Jaci’s Safari Lodge and its sister camp Jaci’s Tree Lodge are two of Madikwe oldest and also most popular and highly regarded properties.

Our hybrid tented room (some canvas wall and zippers, otherwise a permanent structure) was quite comfortable and spacious enough and would make a fine stop-over for a few days.  The room did have a few rustic touches such as a large tiled bath, and an outdoor shower which is difficult to access, with zipped up flaps between it and the room.  The outdoor shower did not drain properly. 

One other design feature which we did not care for, is that the toilet has no door whatsoever and it is not private at all.  There are two odd ‘corner’ steps down into the toilet from the bathroom, which can be tricky to negotiate at night.  There is a curtained partition between the main room and bathroom but it is real rigmarole to have to close it up every time you use the bathroom and/or toilet. 

On the plus side, the room had a great patio overlooking a small stream, under floor heating and electric blankets.  Lighting is adequate; there is ample shelf and hanging space for clothes and other stuff.  As well as several well-places plugs for recharging camera batteries and other equipment, any time of the day or night.

Lions with Ollie at Jaci’s Safari Lodge

That afternoon we met our driver-guide Ollie who would spend the next couple of days with us: he turned out to be very friendly and knowledgeable and extremely familiar with the area.  With Ollie, we started to see lions again almost immediately, the first sighting between two females with 9 cubs – they were in the process of devouring a wildbeest.  We tried for the wild dogs again but got to the area a little late, and struck out.  We did manage to get a pretty good look at a serval cat on the way back into camp. 

Dinner at Jaci’s Safari Lodge was excellent.  We dined privately at fire-side – it was very romantic – and we appreciated the fact that the chef had previously come to talk to us about our dietary preferences.  They really went out of their way at Jaci’s (both lodges) to make the vegan food choices as exciting and varied as any we have enjoyed before.

Our morning game drive on June 5 was on the quiet side.  Ollie had decided to travel to the south in the hopes of picking up the tracks of 4 male cheetah which had lately been seen in the area, or to find some black rhino for us.  In the end we settled for a pretty good look at two young male lions who were taking a siesta near one of the giant electric pylons (#178). 


More lions and wild dogs – this time from Jaci’s Tree Lodge

We packed up our stuff this morning and the bags were taken off to the nearby Jaci’s Tree Lodge, a sister property.  We were joined by 2 guests from the UK on the afternoon game drive – and almost immediately ran into a gorgeous male lion which we had heard calling earlier that morning, near day-break.  He was checking out the scenery and put on quite a show for us before he settled down in a depression, to doze off.  We then headed off to the eastern fence-line where we got lucky again with the wild dogs.

Ollie’s anticipation on where the Wild Dogs would pop up next was uncanny.  We ended up being perfectly positioned to see them at several difflerent spots.  Other than on our previous encounter with the dogs out of Madikwe Hills, the vehicle was 100% stationary a couple of times, so I could get off a few decent shots.  Guides in pursuit of wild dogs would be well advised to keep this in mind:  nobody can take pics from a moving vehicle.  You can be on top of the dogs in perfect light but unless you stop your vehicle so the guests can take their pics, it will remain just a great visual experience for them.  Slowly creeping along is no good either.  Just stop the vehicle, ask the guests if they are positioned correctly and give them a chance to press the shutter. 

Just before sundowners that evening, close to the Madikwe Airstrip, Kathy and I also had a good view (brief and in poor light, but better than on the Mashatu Walking Safari) of a brown hyena.  Apparently these animals are quite common at Madikwe.  

On the way back to the lodge we saw a herd of 30+ elephants drinking in the marshy area in front of Jaci’s Tree Lodge.  It was amazing to see them all – big and small – moving around at night.  In the bright starlight and even more so in the beam of the spotlight they looked exactly like ‘great grey ghosts’ – almost soundlessly padding around on their giant fleshy feet.  Elephants are not exactly nimble but their agility and sure-footedness can be astonishing.  They can turn on a dime, can accelerate like a mountain bike and they are much faster than even Usain Bolt, reaching speeds of 40 kilometer per hour, about 25 mph.  Almost twice as fast as most of us are able to run.  Beware. 

This evening, we enjoyed dinner at the boma at Jaci’s Tree Lodge.  It was a very special affair outdoor around a large fire, with space heaters put at our back for an all-round toasty experience.  The food was excellent.  The special vegan offering was a curried bean stew, while the rest of the crew tucked into an oxtail casserole (declared to be superb) as well as various charcoal-grilled meats including lamb chops and chicken breasts. 

Our last game drive with Ollie was very satisfying with good views of some young elephants jousting, as well as the previously seen two female lions with 6 cubs (three were temporarily absent) in very good light. 

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