We opted to drive the leisurely three and a half hours to take in the country side and towns along the way, rather than the usual light aircraft charter flight from Pretoria to Madikwe Game Reserve with Moon Tours, Australian based African travel specialist. 
Madikwe Game Reserve is one of the biggest in South Africa, about the size of Wales. It is a conservation success story after being transformed from pastoral lands in 1991. Home to the Big Five; Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo, Lion and Leopard with limited numbers of lodges and safari vehicles keeping it exclusive with minimal crowds. Game viewing restricted to three vehicles at a time ensuring animals have plenty of space and the least amount of interruption.
The large elephant proof gates to the reserve were remotely opened, immediately after entering we had a herd of female elephants and young close by, Warthogs lay in the shade and Impala slowly graze in the hot midday sun. The dirt track eventually led to a circular drive; greeted by guides and camp staff of the incredibly beautiful Sanctuary Makanyane lodge. The vehicle and bags were swiftly taken care of and we followed our guide across a suspended wooden foot bridge to the entrance of the camp where a half dozen more staff awaited our arrival with ice cold face towels and refreshing mock-tails.
It’s late October and Southern Africa is in the midst of a drought, not unlike our own country at the time. It was hot and the infinity pool overlooking a small water hole taken over by elephants at the time made for the most spectacular welcome. The barman was quick to keep us hydrated as we cooled off and awed at the different animals following in the elephants to drink. It’s easy to keep the fluids up when everything on the bar is included in your stay.
The common areas surrounded a large thatched roof lounge, bar and restaurant area which stretched out around the pool on one side and down to the river bank, bbq and shady rest area on the other. Meandering along the path to the rooms, each far enough apart to maintain complete privacy we were met by heavy oversized hardwood doors that open up to our accommodation, a room to rival most luxury hotels of the world. Floor to roof windows, some five by three metres each stretch across the entire front of the villa for perfect viewing onto river where elephants, resident bush buck and impala hung out during our stay. The villa laid out with all the trimmings, indoor and outdoor shower, freestanding bath, indoor and outdoor living areas, air-conditioning and fans throughout and a well stocked bar. It was the most mazing place we’ve had the pleasure of staying. 
As the afternoon rolled on we were met by our guide who’d stocked our private safari vehicle with all the drinks of our choice as well as a condiment of snacks and a celebratory bottle of bubbly to celebrate our first ever African safari.
Sanctuary Makanyane is situated in a private area inside Madikwe Game Reserve that allows for private game viewing, off road driving, walking and night safaris. We’d not driven more than a few minutes when we had multiple rhinos next to the car, cheetah on a kill, elephants to many to count, zebra crossing the road and giraffe towering above the trees. Where ever we looked life was in full play.
As the sunset on our first safari drive an unmistakable orange hew from dust stirred up by the animals shadowed the sun as we looked toward the hills across the border into Botswana. Out of the vehicle now, our guide set up a picnic table with an array of hot and cold snacks and a well stocked bush bar enjoyed until dark before making our way back using the spotlight to view animals of a different kind.
A truly magical first day on Safari, an experience repeated and outdone over the following five days at Sanctuary Makanyane with Moon Tours.
Steve Tourtsakis

Private Client Adviser
Bell Potter Securities Ltd