An extraordinary experience

What could be better than hosting a conference or meeting in a boardroom overlooking the vast expanse of the true African bush? And Madikwe Safari Lodge in the malaria-free Madikwe Game Reserve is not your run-of-the-mill conference venue. Julia Mafcher found this out and more.

On a recent trip to MORE hotel group’s Madikwe Safari Lodge, I was blown away by not only the first-class conferencing and business meeting facilities, but by the sheer luxury, beauty and hospitality too.

“Welcome home,” said food and beverage Manager Sam Moralo as I stepped out of my car late on a hot Friday afternoon. “For the next two days Madikwe Safari Lodge will be your home away from home.” Lodge manager Ulrica Morgan was just as friendly and led me to the beautiful open lounge and bar area, overlooking the bush, where an ice cold welcome drink was waiting for me.

Just by looking around I could see it was the perfect place for meetings and staff incentive travel too. The spacious communal lounge, complete with the softest sofas around, is an ideal sun downer spot after a day of meetings. Outdoor dinners are held every other night in the authentic bush boma, where the theme regularly changes from true African cuisine like pap ‘n wors to African-Asian fusion.

The three lodges that make up Madikwe Safari Lodge – Lelapa, Kopano and Dithaba – together comprise 20 suites and give guests a choice to stay as a group of colleagues, family and friends, or a more private bush experience as a couple.

Lelapa, which means ‘family’ in the local dialect, is exactly that. It’s got the feeling of home comforts, although slightly more luxurious. Lelapa Lodge can accommodate 24 guests in the 12 rooms and can host 15 delegates cinema style inside and 18 delegates in the boardroom. Bigger groups can have their meetings set up outside.

Kopano Lodge, a little further along the path from Lelapa, can accommodate eight guests in the four rooms. Kopano is perfect for casual business meetings. The spacious room complete with sofas, arm chairs and ottomans, and most importantly a fresh cool breeze, is great for brainstorming sessions. For a more formal ambience, the boardroom can be set up for eight people.

If a no-distraction stay is what you’re after then bringing a group of clients or hosting a small business meeting at Dithaba Lodge is where you need to be. Dithaba Lodge is set further away from the other two lodges and can accommodate eight adults in the four rooms. If it’s a staff incentive trip with families included, then the sleeper couches in each room will come in handy for the kids. The lodge can host 10 delegates boardroom style. Pens, notepads, water, mints, projector and screen are provided in all three lodges, as well as tea, coffee, fruit juice and lunch.

There’s no shortage of teambuilding activities at Madikwe Safari Lodge. Two game drives a day guarantee excellent big five viewing. The area is well known for providing the best game viewing within the reserve, as well as having the lowest concentration of safari vehicles, which makes sightings a lot easier. Despite my best attempts to spot a leopard, leopard print pants and all, it wasn’t to be. However leopard sightings have become more frequent in recent months and, along with buffalo and black rhino, are seen fairly regularly in the reserve.

If a game drive isn’t wild enough for you, then why not get even closer to nature by going on a bush walk? Although not for everyone, the bush walk guarantees close-up viewing. Unique to Madikwe Safari Lodge is the Eco-House educational centre. A visit to the centre is a learning experience for both kids and adults alike. The real animal skulls and bones in the centre include some of the big five as well as the wild dog, an animal common to the area. There is also a variety of live specimens including snakes, spiders and scorpions – not for the faint hearted! Interactive talks are led by members of the field ranging team, during which you’ll make some eye-opening discoveries.

If the teambuilding activities don’t tickle your fancy, an afternoon in your room is just as splendid – in fact the game will come to you. Just about to doze off I heard a loud rustling noise outside and opened my curtains to find not one or two elephants, but an entire herd no more than a metre away. Never a dull moment in the bush.