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Reviewed 18 March 2018 via mobile

Jamala Madikwe Royal Safari Lodge is unique in my experience. An intimate hotel with only five guest villas situated fifty yards from what must be one of the busiest watering holes on the entire Madikwe Game Reserve. Exclusive, well appointed, with five star dining, generous accommodations and twice daily game drives (pre-dawn and 4PM) of three to four hours each to ensure that guests have every opportunity to see the many wild animals that call the reserve home. The truth is that most of the animals you’ll see across the reserve end up at the adjacent watering hole at one point or another so if four hours of bouncing through the bush isn’t your thing, the couch safari experience from the hotel’s front deck is almost as good.

The villas are superb with open floor plan, wrap around decks, in and outdoor showers, fireplace and a plunge pool. Glass enclosed and very private. Breakfast, high tea and dinner included, all served overlooking the pan (watering hole) our front. There’s a new pool, spa and gym, as well as a second story observation “lounge” that allows you to observe the action from a comfortable living room like atmosphere. The bar is always open and mid-tier cocktails and wine are complimentary.

GM, Rodney is omnipresent and very engaged. Nico, Lawrence, Happi and Patience will take great care of you as will your ranger, who will act as your guide for the duration of the visit (ours was phenomenal, but there’s no way I could ever spell his name correctly).

Little watch outs: make sure you have a conversation about what checkout time you need before you book. Most flights servicing Madikwe are into/out of JNB which is a four hour ride away. If you’re taking an overnight flight as we did, you’re going to want to CONFIRM late check-out.

New pool is great and affords unique viewing opportunity of goings on at the watering hole. Routines haven’t been worked out yet, so finding someone to assist you at the pool and behind the adjacent bar is catch as catch can. In future, I’m sure they’ll have someone tending the pool and bar throughout the day.

If you don’t choose to go on the pre-dawn safari, know that breakfast is not served until 9AM and that the Lodge is far too remote for alternatives. You’re on this property until checkout so bring what you need, including your own entertainment as there is thankfully not a TV anywhere.

This brings me to the biggest disappointment of an otherwise extraordinary experience, the Wi-Fi. Essentially they have a proprietary system that is limited to 1GB per villa before it locks you out. So, if you want to upload photos or videos, you’re screwed. This restriction precipitates numerous frustrating experiences and needless, “hey, is the Wi-Fi working for you?” conversations. Rodney resets the system as frequently as practicable but the bottom line is that the Wi-Fi system is woefully inadequate and inconsistent with the level of accommodation that Jamala Madikwe Royal Safari Lodge offers otherwise.

So, a truly magical and memorable experience that I highly recommend, with a couple of very minor kinks that need to be smoothed out. Knowing how engaged and attentive the staff is, I have no doubt that they all will in the near future. I’d rate Jamala Madikwe Royal Safari Lodge a must experience / bucket list priority.

Stayed: March 2018, travelled with friends
1  Thank LouPaskalis
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Nico V, General Manager at Jamala Madikwe, responded to this reviewResponded 25 March 2018

Dear LouPaskalis
Thank you for this review we are delighted that you could enjoy your time spent with us.

The pool is definitely an incredible new asset and with the free self service bar we do not for-see any additional services required, staff are always available around the lodge, spa and bar or alternatively via the phone system should a guest require any assistance. WiFi is definitely a bonus considering our remote location and we do our best to ensure fast free WiFi, on occasion due to connectivity issues or weather it may not be connectable.

Thank you again and all the best
Nico Verster

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Reviewed 15 March 2018

Although the weather could have been kinder the stay was great. The service excellent and the people very friendly. We especially like the fact that as a National Park with only a few lodges you did not feel that you were impinging upon the animals and we even saw the big 5! Looking forward to revisiting in the future.

Stayed: February 2018, travelled as a couple
Review collected in partnership with this hotel
1  Thank tonyb532018
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Nico V, General Manager at Jamala Madikwe, responded to this reviewResponded 25 March 2018

Dear Tony
Thank you for writing this kind review. We look forward to hosting you in the future.
All the best

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Reviewed 10 March 2018

Jamala Madikwe is, quite simply, superb. At this end of the market, of course your guide should be the best (thanks KG) and the accommodation luxurious - but Rodney and Nico and their team deliver myriad small touches that add up to a simply excellent whole. From design to food, they do it. How they manage that in the middle of the bush is beyond me, but they do.
If there is one weak spot in their operation, it might be that the photographs on their site don't quite capture how good the individual lodges are!
Context: We were travelling in March after a wedding as a family group with a three-month-old baby, so we wanted our safari experience to be in a malaria-free area. We consulted our new South African family member who in turn asked a safari-mad friend who said Jamala Madikwe would blow us away. It did. I won't detail the details - it might spoil the joy of discovery by turning it into expectation.
We stayed three nights - would have been great to stay a little longer and maybe have a morning off the game drives just to soak up the lodge and see what was turning up to the waterhole, but with the wildlife to be found during this maybe once-in-a-lifetime experience, we kept the Land Cruiser running.
A word for fellow newbies: we learned that the season certainly counts. Some folk recommend the dry as it forces the animals to the limited water and the bush is less thick, making spotting easier. But in the cold dry months, many of the birds migrate (those weaver birds at work!) and the bush itself would be less varied. Maybe we'll have to go back to do a careful comparison. I figure any season would be very fine indeed, but I have been close up with a big male lion lying amidst wild flowers - how good is that?
Michael Pascoe

  • Stayed: March 2018, travelled with family
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Service
1  Thank Pas1955
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Nico V, General Manager at Jamala Madikwe, responded to this reviewResponded 12 March 2018

Dear Michael
We truly enjoyed hosting you and your family.I am delighted that we could make your Safari experience a memorable one and we hope to see you return in the future. All the best
The Team at Jamala

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Reviewed 15 February 2018

I loved my time so much, that I cried when having to go. Best animal spots, best food, best guides, best everything, incredible comfortable lodge... Big. Love. Want to come back asap. Drove from JBurg by car easily...

Stayed: August 2017, travelled solo
Review collected in partnership with this hotel
Thank Aemaenda P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Nico V, General Manager at Jamala Madikwe, responded to this reviewResponded 19 February 2018

Dear Aemaenda
Thank you for this kind review. We are thrilled at your enjoyment of our beautiful property Jamala Madikwe. We look forward to your return in the future.

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Reviewed 14 February 2018

We stayed at Jamela Madikwe for 3 nights in early October 2017. The property itself is incredible! Accommodations are exclusive and the food superb. With only five rooms, there is a very special feeling of shared experience and intimacy. We met some lovely people from all over the world and enjoyed lots of laughs as well as enlightening conversation. The owner and chef left no stone unturned to cater to our needs. We were able to see incredible animal sightings right from a chaise on our back porch—from a herd of elephants sunning and swimming to nightly groups of rhinos mere feet from our room. All very cool! If you decide to go there be advised that the property itself is on a private preserve that is fenced in. We had wonderful safari experiences but at times it felt a bit like a very large zoo especially when driving along the perimeter chasing a leopard or following a herd of wild dogs. I would not say it took away from the magic of our Safari outings but I think it’s worth knowing in advance what you’re getting into. If you are lucky enough to visit this gem of a property, it will be a unique and memorable experience!

Stayed: October 2017, travelled solo
Review collected in partnership with this hotel
Thank PhillyTravelers4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Nico V, General Manager at Jamala Madikwe, responded to this reviewResponded 19 February 2018

Dear PhillyTraveler
Thank you for all the kind comments we are so pleased you enjoyed your time spent with us.

As with all national Parks in Africa and the world, we are fenced in keeping the animals safe within the 76 500 hectors that make up Madikwe Game Reserve. It is a true privilege for us to be the custodians that preserve these animals and protect some of the more endangered species in Africa from being wiped out. In an ideal world if there was no poaching and loss of natural habitat these animals would be able to roam freely, Lets hope for a better future for these incredible species and even larger conservation areas throughout Africa.

All the best
Jamala

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