Southern African Safari

by Marcus Macdougall, October 2018

We flew out of Launceston and stayed overnight in Sydney for an early morning flight from Sydney to Johannesburg. We enjoyed our Qantas flight in the ‘quiet’ area of economy, where there is a curtain to divide you from the potential noise of the main economy cabin.

Arrival in to Johannesburg was simple, we were met by a representative of Bench International, and taken to our airport hotel for the night.  After spending all day in the air, it was a shower and early night, ready for action tomorrow.

After a lovely breakfast, we climbed into a 12 seat van with luggage trailer – and headed towards Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa. The drive through small towns along the highway was interesting, and after a 6 hour drive we reached a high security gated community. Not quite sure what to expect, we were warmly welcomed by a group of security guards (be warned – they do carry big guns). After inspecting our passports and ensuring them we did not have any koalas in our luggage,  we were ushered through with calls of how much the guards loved Australians.

After another short drive, we arrived at Tau Lodge. Tau Lodge is an amazing lodge with a main building consisting of a large lounge area, reception, bar, dining area and spectacular deck looking over the unbelievable watering hole! The cabins are all scattered along both sides of the main building, and consist of either a king bed or two king single beds and private bathroom with deck.

The view from all accommodation cabins and the main lodge building all look over the watering hole where all day the animals come to feed and drink.  At any one time around the watering hole you would have elephants, lions, rhino, crocodiles, lots of bird life and zebras.  While at the lodge, its very easy to lose hours and hours sitting on the deck or laying in the pool watching the animals only metres away (don’t worry – there are high voltage electric fences to protect you).

South Africa has a large Indian cultural influence, so we tasted a spectacular selection of local African and Indian dishes over our stay.

An average day on safari will be as follows:

05:30am Wake up call, coffee in the lounge room
06:00am Depart lodge on the morning game drive
09:30am Return to lodge for breakfast
10:00am – 3:00pm Time to relax by the pool, socialise with the locals, enjoy lunch and the relaxed African way of life
1:00pm Lunch and more time to relax
3:00pm Meet for afternoon game drive
7:00pm Back to lodge to enjoy dinner and to relax with a drink or two around the big fire pots

There are options of days when you can take trips to local schools and communities – which we did and really enjoyed spending an afternoon with the kids playing soccer and teaching them where we were all from.

We spent 6 days at the lodge, and got to see up close all the big 5 animals, and more!

We then transferred on to Sun City, just outside of Johannesburg.  We had four nights in this large casino complex, perfect for relaxation.  While here we went on a sun rise hot air balloon ride over one of the local parks – a seriously beautiful experience to be up in the air looking over elephants and giraffes below us in the wild.  Another day we experienced a zip line trip – 6km long mind you! What an experience!

I discovered that having a few days to relax while being at a lodge was a wonderful way to finish of a really exciting, fun packed journey.

A couple of my top tips when you are considering a trip to South Africa:

  • Don’t drink the water
  • It gets VERY cold at night
  • Pack for ALL occasions, but also pack light!
  • Good walking shoes are a MUST
  • South Africans LOVE Danish Fetta (it comes with everything)
  • The locals are just beautiful people
  • South Africa has SO much to offer – you do not need to travel over the entire continent to see all the amazing animals – South Africa has so much to offer!
  • South African Red Wine is delicious
  • I would go back tomorrow!!!!