As winter moves on and the warmer months return, The Sandton Times continues its voyage of discovering weekend getaways with JEEP Apparel South Africa, heading South of the Botswana border to TAU Game Lodge in the Madikwe Game Reserve.
Madikwe Game Reserve, the 4th largest game reserve in the country, offering Big 5 game safaris and bird-watching safaris for those avid ornithologists.
Having kicked off in Heritage month, The Sandton Times in collaboration with JEEP Apparel South Africa looks to explore South Africa and take in the riches that this beautiful country has to offer. Visiting the JEEP store at the Mall of Africa in preparation for the weekend at TAU Game Lodge, the comfort, style and durability of the JEEP range, especially for women, was a welcome delight. From classic outdoor boots to comfortable stretch jeans and timeless golfers, it didn’t take all too long to find the right look for the weekend ahead.
The Friday afternoon drive out of Sandton is met with the expected pre-weekend traffic and notable road construction and upgrades, as the journey heads through Haartebeesportdam towards Zeerust and onwards to Madikwe Game Reserve. The estimated 4.5-hour drive, with some refreshment stops, does end up taking somewhat longer, arriving at TAU Game Lodge just as darkness falls over the African bushveld.
Received at the gate by Assistant General Manager Billy, the lights of TAU Game Lodge are a welcoming sight. There’s no time to unpack as Billy has a dinner barbeque ready and waiting in the bush. And there’s more! The lodge has a very special guest staying over, Professor Donald Kurtz, who has offered to do a post-dinner tour of the galaxy. Professor Kurtz, an astronomer known for his research into asteroseismology, discovering oscillations in what are now known as rapidly-oscillating Ap (roAp) stars.
After a long drive and escape from the city lights, an evening with a leading Professor in Astronomy under the star-filled bush sky sounds incredible. He’s arrived from Manchester that morning, with a packed agenda to Botswana and South Africa, with a mission to bring the world’s latest stellar knowledge to those destined to work on projects like the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).
In complete darkness, guests gather around a dying fire-pit, to venture into the cosmos. With a powerful laser pointer, the Professor points to the African night sky, mapping out the galaxy to his captive audience, unpacking the milky way and highlighting the latest discoveries, from the closest stars, to new moons and solar-systems. He shares some of the latest plans by a billionaire in Silicon Valley to produce satellites the size of SIM-Cards, which will be propelled by laser light through the universe to the nearest star to our galaxy, which has a planet orbiting it, with similar conditions to earth, and moreover water.
These SIM-Card size satellites traveling at light speed will then be able to take images of the surface and collectively have enough power to send images back from this foreign planet. It is a most extraordinary experience and a bedtime story unlike any other. Too soon, it’s time for the group of star trekkers to hit the pillow and dream of worlds far far away, as the serenity of the bush makes for the perfect soundtrack to an undisturbed sleep.
The next morning, opening the curtains to the private room patio offers a feast for the eyes, as wildlife congregate around the TAU Game Lodge waterhole, only meters from the chalet. Breakfast is ‘safari indulgence’ on another level. The lodge offers a wide range of exceptional homemade granola’s, almond milk and almond butter, homemade jams, gluten-free breads and rye breads, fresh pressed vegetable and fruit juices with a dash of ginger and a selection of warm breakfast options including eggs, sausages and other all-time favourite sides.
Chef Cynthia Tait spent a month training and familiarizing the TAU Game Lodge culinary team with the art of healthy cooking and using more organic seeds, vegetarian dishes and now globally popular Thai flavours. For regular guests enjoying the comfort safari food at TAU Game Lodge, the chefs do continue to create deliciously unpretentious and tempting cuisine for those who still enjoy an off-time indulgence.
This health conscious selection is topped-off by a gorgeous view of the watering hole that wraps around the lodge, offering guests a front-view seat to Africa’s wildlife theatre. As Elephant, Waterbuck, Zebra and Impala congregate around this popular hang-out, the odd curious Monkey looks at fulfilling his breakfast dreams with the chance attempt at an abandoned plate of food.
Watching the wildlife meet for breakfast or sundowners at the large waterhole from the safety of the private room deck or the lodge’s hospitality and pool area adds further romance – or drama – to an unforgettable safari.
The stylishly refurbished Reception, Lounge, Dining Room, Leisure Decks, Bar, Boma and two Pools, of which one is an infinity design, make for contemporary out of Africa safari heaven, overlooking the photogenic waterhole, and gives guest some much needed relaxation space to just take in the great South African outdoors.
Yet the after-breakfast rest and relaxation time has to take a backseat as a parade of Elephants, around 15, make the TAU Game Lodge waterhole a Saturday outing of note, captivating guests with a plunge unlike any other, that goes on for hours.
The afternoon game drive, one of two every day, takes guests deep into the Madikwe Game Reserve bush. The afternoon’s elephant spectacular right at the doorstep of the lodge is a hard one to top. As luck may have it, there are a few show-stoppers lined up! A pack of wild dogs are catching the last of the setting sun, with a quick snooze before the night hunt begins. At times playful, at times merely napping, this siting soon becomes a wait and see for a few other game drive vehicles joining the find. With fewer than 5,000 wild dogs globally, this endangered species is truly a privilege to experience in its natural habitat.
On route back to the lodge for dinner, two Cheetah’s are spotted on the side of the road, recovering from a Wildebeest kill, that had just taken place. It is quite a site to see. As the sun sets fast, it’s a gorgeous drive back to TAU Game Lodge with the warm summer breeze and orange evening sky lighting up the last sight of the bushveld, before darkness sets in.
The afternoon game drives include dazzling African sunsets with decadent sundowners before returning to the lodge for a genial Boma dinner with guests and rangers conversing about the safari sightings of the day, whilst enjoying the roaring fire and extensive African cuisine buffet. The evening is topped off with another talk by Professor Kurtz, this time unpacking the possibility of life on other planets.
With a gorgeous integration into its natural habitat, along with divine cuisine and a spa, TAU Game Lodge offers a luxury African safari that ticks all the boxes. And there are some major developments on the way! Much to the delight of avid followers of the wildlife activity at the iconic TAU Game Lodge waterhole at the foot of the lodge and all the rooms, a new wildlife web camera will soon be reintroduced, with a dedicated WiFi connection to share the prolific wildlife interacting 24/7 via the web. There are also plans underway to refresh some of the accommodation and common areas. The Sandton Times promises to keep you updated on developments as they unfold!
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