This year for our luxury holiday we changed things up a bit a visited Madikwe River Lodge, a three star luxury lodge located in the Madikwe Game Reserve in North-Western South Africa, which is renowned for it’s big five sightings.
Getting to Madikwe River Lodge
There are a few routes you can use to get to the lodge and we allowed a full morning to get there by first visiting the Pilanesberg Nature Reserve for breakfast and a short drive before making our way towards the Molatedi Dam. From there we drove towards the Derdepoort border post between South Africa and Botswana and entered Madikwe via the Derdepoort gate.
This turned out to be a terrible choice. As soon as we crossed the provincial border from North West into Limpopo the road condition took a turn for the worst and the remainder of that drive was atrocious.
I would highly recommend entering Madikwe through the Molatedi gate and following the main road until you reach Madikwe River Lodge. This will give you a short self-drive through an amazing reserve and save you from losing body parts due to the rattling along a poorly maintained dirt road.
Madikwe River Lodge Facilities
Arrival at the lodge was pleasant, we were met by porters who carried our luggage to the rooms and were provided with face cloths to wash our hands and faces. This was, however, the last time we were greeted with face cloths.
Check-in was relatively painless although getting information about the daily program was not unlike pulling teeth.
The communal area of the lodge (dining room, lounge and pool) was spacious and care had been paid to the decor, however, more care should have been paid to the upkeep of the area. For example, the thatching was visibly neglected and falling apart.
We saw Madikwe River Lodge had a boma and went to have a look. Now, I’m not sure when last it was used, but this was 15:00 in the afternoon and there was tinfoil and mess scattered around the place. It wasn’t a pretty sight.
Our room was beautiful. We had a good view over the river, although Jason and Mandy weren’t as lucky. The room was spacious, clean and well decorated. We did notice a lack of plug points for charging camera equipment.
We had two lights in our room that didn’t work and after numerous requests and complaints, left the lodge four days later with those lights still not working.
The room had air conditioning which turned out to be a life saver as some evenings the temperature plummeted and we may have frozen to death without it.
The food was very good to say the least. They had a goods delivery that ran late during our stay and they ran out of a few key ingredients, yet the chefs at Madikwe River Lodge did a good job doing what they could with what they had.
At dinner we made a request regarding dietary requirements and they did a very good job in accommodating us.
You can expect three meals a day at Madikwe River Lodge:
- Brunch after your morning game drive consisting of a buffet of continental breakfast, English breakfast with eggs to order, and a lunch type of dish, for example, chicken curry and rice or ribs and chips.
- High Tea before your afternoon drive which was usually an assortment of finger snacks ranging from quiches and spring rolls to muffins, and breads.
- Dinner after your game drive. We had a set meal, a buffet dinner and a boma dinner around the fire on our last night.
We had one main mishap at meal time and it may have had something to do with the late delivery. One of our desserts was a chocolate mousse which we were all very much looking forward to. Unfortunately it was terrible, best described as a poorly made mousse-from-a-packet.
Madikwe River Lodge Staff
Overall, the staff at Madikwe River Lodge were average at best. We had a very good waiter who was a pleasure to be around and on our final morning we met our house keeper who was also charming and polite.
As for everyone else, everything seemed to be a chore for the staff. Requests we had seemed to get in their way and I feel there was no communication between the reception staff at all as on three occasions across two days we asked them to fix our lights in the room and, as I mentioned earlier in this post, we left after three nights with them still not being taken care of. Jason also had to complain about their coffee supplies in the room not being replaced in the morning.
On our first full day we decided to spend some time in the lounge and have a drink or two. This turned into only one drink as the rest of the time was spent trying to find someone to help us. There is no bar at Madikwe River Lodge so staff availability has a large role to play.
Knowing that Madikwe River Lodge is only a three star lodge when we usually visit higher rated lodges adjusted our expectations slightly and I would happily say that we had a three star experience. The part of this that leaves a sour taste in my mouth is that we have stayed at five star lodges and paid less per person per night. No, we did not get value for money.
The flip side of that coin is that we still had a fantastic stay, but this was made up during our game drives and by our field guide. I cover our game drives in depth in part two of this series.