Leslie and I flew this morning to Gabarone, Botswana, and my friends Gerry and Adele van der Walt picked us up from the airport and drove us into Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa. It is kind of ironic that I had to fly to another country in order to get to the reserve, but it was the fastest and most efficient way of getting here. There is a charter service from Johannesburg directly into Madikwe, but it sure is nice to take a big bird every now and then. We could have rented a car and driven the 3+ hours, but I would have not needed the car upon my arrival in Madikwe. It was actually less expensive and more efficient to just fly on a major airline instead. Oh, and I accumulated some more Star Alliance points. :-)
We stayed at Tuningi Safari Lodge, which is in the western side of Madikwe Game Reserve. Madikwe is a very interesting place, as it was once heavily grazed with cattle. In 1991 it was converted into a wildlife game reserve, and has all of the big 5 within its boundaries. The wildlife was relocated to Madikwe through Operation Phoenix, which was one of the largest wildlife translocation projects in the world. More than 8,000 animals from 28 species were released into Madikwe, which included elephant, rhino, lion, cheetah, wild dog, buffalo, hyena, giraffe and impala. The project was completed in 1997, and today there are more than 100 lions in the included 75,000 hectare property. Madikwe is a malaria-free area, which makes it a wonderful area for family safaris.
Tuningi Safari Lodge has 8 villas, and can accommodate a maximum of 16 people. Leslie and I absolutely loved the accommodations, and felt right at home during our 4 nights there. I would love to bring our sons there when they are older, but 2 years and 4 years old doesn’t work at this time.
After getting settled into the lodge, we headed out for the afternoon game drive. We pretty much spent our afternoon with elephants and rhinos (not a bad thing!) and watched some interesting and funny behavior. We were at one of the water holes and watch 2 family groups of white rhinos drink at the water’s edge. One large male spent the better part of a half an hour scratching his, uh, underside on a dead tree stump. After looking at the stump it was obvious that it has been used quite a bit for similar activities.
This afternoon was such a relaxing afternoon that I didn’t take too many photographs. I sat back, enjoyed my time with Leslie, and chatted with Grant Marcus, our awesome guide. Grant is also a great photographer, and one should visit Grant’s web site to see some of what he sees in and around Madikwe.
We headed back to camp after sunset, and we washed up and had a wonderful dinner around the fireplace in the lodge.
Our room at Tuningi
White rhino at the water's edge
..now time to scratch, uh, the 'underside'
..and time to try another position