The pride of Africa

People spend their lives planning a trip to Africa, where spotting the Big 5 is something they’ve dreamt of since reading adventure stories as children. Ironically, for us the journey into the wild was as easy as jumping into our Alfa Romeo, and somewhere between singing along to Mariah Carey and taking pictures of our ‘safari- inspired’ outfits, found ourselves among a herd of wild elephants in a matter of hours.

The exotic Africa depicted on postcards comes alive at Tau Game Lodge – a mere four hour drive from Joburg. From the moment you leave the national highway you’ll find yourself on gravel roads and once Siri has abandoned you – which she will – the only directions you’ll receive are from a handful of locals telling you to ‘turn right at the marula tree’. All you can do is throw your hands in the air, say ‘welcome to Africa’ and go along for the ride.

The lodge in Madikwe Game Reserve is the perfect place for families or romantic getaways. Unlike other game lodges (often ostentatious and garish), from the moment you arrive you are welcomed into a family, who are as at home in their lodge as you soon will be. It’s the kind of place where you feel as if you can kick off your shoes and walk around the reception area in your gown at 11pm trying to find a cellular connection. Well, we did exactly that – and there were a few other guests doing the same thing.

Among the large fireplaces, sink-into-me leather couches and animal skin rugs, Tau made us think of Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals. Crocodiles swim lazily in the waterhole in front of the rooms, monkeys cause havoc outside the spa while you’re enjoying a massage and elephants think nothing of breaking down trees and fences because, after all, this is their home and we’re only visitors.

From the moment you’re woken up – gently, at 6am – an abundance of food is something you’ll come to expect at Tau. From coffee and rusks before your game drive (which is cosily kitted out with blankets and hot-water bottles) everything about the lodge ensures your comfort and gastronomical delight. After hours on the open plains in the chill of winter, you’re welcomed back with hot chocolate and Amarula and a large breakfast (only three hours before your next meal).

If eating, sleeping and game drives are not enough to keep you entertained, guided walks, spa treatments, animal conservation projects and even a kids’ club for the little ones are options for more adventurous guests. We say adventurous because we could quite happily sit on the deck in the mid-morning sun, cup of home-brewed tea in hand, watching a fascinating assortment of animals pass by.

After another evening drive (and we’re not complaining because it’s not every day you get to see the entire Big 5 in a single afternoon) you’re welcomed back with a glass of warm Glühwein and, surprise, surprise, another three course meal in front of a big bonfire in the boma. It’s so easy to become absorbed in good conversation, the smell of fresh air and the sound of crickets chirping loudly in the still African night, that before you know it you’ve spent four hours enjoying the meal. It’s at these moments that you vow to slow down and take time out to visit this little piece of heaven more regularly, where the complexities of the city seem miles away.

Here, the only thing that jolts you out of complete relaxation is the sound of elephants drinking water or wild dogs fighting outside your bedroom window in the middle of the night.

So while the country slept, we walked out onto our decks and watched the animals under the moonlight and pitied those who had not yet been to South Africa – and specifically to Tau – as when they do, they’ll have so much to look forward to.

Stuff you need to know!

Who says vacations are just for summer? Tau’s winter weekend getaway starts from R2950 a person sharing, a night. Make it a long weekend by booking a third night and get a complimentary spa treatment valued at R350 a person. Rates include accommodation, three meals a day, as well as game drives in the morning and evening. Details: www.taugamelodge.com

FB: Ready for Big 5 game drives, relaxing spa treatments and watching the sunset sipping on Amarula? Tau Game Lodge is the place to go!

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