- Set in one of the quieter game reserves
- Luxurious yet authentic in character
- Private viewing decks and plunge pools
- Good provision for children
Etali is a privately-owned luxury lodge located within the Madikwe Game Reserve, an expansive protected reserve in the far north of South Africa. The property has a sophisticated yet down-to-earth feel and does away with unnecessary modern conveniences in order to focus on offering an authentic, refined and highly personalised safari experience.
The accommodation comprises eight stylish ‘standard’ suites, plus one designed especially for families. All suites are fully air conditioned and come with amenities such as indoor and outdoor showers, a minibar, a fireplace and a private game viewing deck complete with plunge pool and sun loungers. There’s plenty of space and the outdoor deck provides the chance to observe some of the reserve’s many animals in complete privacy.
Morning and evening guided game drives are offered, with each one providing the chance to spot a different line-up of animals. There are also guided bush walks for those looking to get up close and personal with the area’s flora and fauna. Stargazing is also popular, especially since the lodge has its own on-site telescope through which an abundance of stars can be viewed on a clear night. The reserve covers some 75,000 hectares and is home to around 120 mammal species, along with 350 bird species. Despite being the fifth largest game reserve in the country, Madikwe is exceptionally quiet and far from touristy in feel. It’s a good spot for viewing the Big 5, along with other notable animals including the cheetah, the African wild dog and both the black and white rhino. The guides leading the drives and walks are professional experts who have a wealth of wisdom on the reserve to share with guests.
The lodge is very family friendly, and there are plenty of age-appropriate activities for children to partake in, such as arts and crafts, face painting sessions, cookery classes and special drives. Those travelling with younger ones should look to book the family suite, and a babysitting service is available on request. While it’s rare for animals to approach humans, parents are reminded to keep their children under adult supervision at all times due to the lodge's rural location.
- Glass walled bedrooms with river views
- Morning and evening game drives
- Game walks, sleep-outs under the stars
- Heated infinity pool, spa, gym
- Star gazing under clear night skies
- Chalets with private plunge pools
- Game drives and walking excursions
- Malaria-free Madikwe Game Reserve
- Malaria-free Madikwe Safari
- Five-star luxury
- Lots of activities for children
- Pool overlooking waterhole
- Excellent viewing decks for spotting wildlife
- Located in Madikwe Private Game Reserve
- Fantastic Big 5 vehicle and walking safaris
- Star gazing under clear night skies
- Secluded location in Madikwe Game Reserve
- 3 large lodges
- Superb vehicle and walking safaris
- Great for families and large groups
- Game drives in Madikwe Game Reserve
- Views of natural watering hole
- Malaria free area
- Infinity pool, spa, bar, game-viewing lounge
- Malaria free Madikwe Safari
- Renowned Family Friendly Lodge
- Bush Luxury
- Exclusive Family Suites
- Traditional lodge in riverside setting
- Secluded wildlife reserve
- Malaria free area
- Spacious accommodation and pool
- Malaria-free Madikwe Safari
- Great value for Madikwe
- Special drives for under-sixes
- Dedicated family suites
- Strong community links
- Malaria free Madikwe safari
- 8 lovely private suites
- Authentic atmosphere
- Recommended option for Madikwe
We had an absolutely fantastic time, thank you! My comments here contain just very minor things which could have improved it - please don’t take it as any criticism of the holiday which we absolutely loved, but small tweaks which could have improved it even further!
Arrival and transfer were superb - lovely to be met straight off the plane and smoothly transferred straight to the waterfront.
You should note that Lawhill no longer has a dedicated reception - this caused a couple of issues getting into the accommodation and meeting our guide. Just worth letting people know as nothing which wasn’t overcome with a couple of calls to the complex reception.
The accommodation itself was ideal for us - spacious, clean and a great base to relax and go out to dinner.
Our guide from AWOL, Bevan, was first class - really friendly knowledgeable and great with the kids. 10/10!
The tours were a perfect balance for us of interesting stuff for adults and children
If I could change anything from our holiday, I’d have had an extra day at leisure in Cape Town, so much to do in the city itself.
Also worth noting the cable car to Table Mountain seems to be closed during August - just worth noting in advance as we had planned to do that. The aquarium was a good second best though which the kids probably enjoyed more!
Departure was a pain - our car didn’t turn up at 4.00 as per the schedule which was a pain, particularly that early in the morning. On contacting them, they said it has been booked at 4.45 - an extra 45 mins sleep would have been good - just worth double checking those in future.
Transfer to Madikwe was superb again and really easy
Accommodation was good - I guess this might be because we originally booked a couple of years ago, but the bed for the kids was a bit small for a 9 and 11 year old. Our bed was so big however that Chloe just bunked down with us so no problem at all. Food and service was first class.
Our safari guide, Pride, was amazing. I’d recommend a private safari to anyone - we were able to be flexible with times and destinations (for example on one day he picked us up a couple of hours early to we could drive much further into the reserve which was rewarded with some cheetahs, another day we went on an all-dayer rather than morning and evening) - mixing things up to see more made a great experience even better.
Transfer back to Johannesburg was just as easy
Johannesburg hotel was ok - nothing special but for a transfer hotel it did what we needed!
Transfer to and from the resort was seamless
The resort is lovely - food, accommodation and facilities all great. After such a busy start to the holiday we didn’t really take full advantage of all the water sports but anything we did do was really easy and great fun. Would definitely recommend it to others!
For a family like ours the drinks package wouldn’t have been good value so pleased we just went full board (having a few drinks during the day and a bottle of wine with dinner our bill came to about £450)
Just to note a specific plus from the resort: I has some issues with my banking whilst away - the resort waived the fees on my phone call back to the UK to sort it out. Little things like that really make a great impression and reflect so well on the management.
Thank you again for all your work helping us get there in such difficult times. Great memories of a superb holiday for all the family!
Matt W reviewing South Africa Madikwe Safari and Mauritius on 31 August 2022
I don’t know if you collect feedback but thought it might be useful for you! Happy for you to use any of my comments in testimonials etc.
We had an utterly amazing holiday and firstly I want to thank you for your patience during what was a very frustrating process for all of us / my procrastination, then covid, date changes, flight cancellations / I can’t quite believe we got there in the end and the trip lived up to all our expectations. Our itinerary felt pretty much perfect so thank you for all the advice and steering in the right direction.
Thank you also for your flexibility in terms of allowing us to book certain aspects of our trip independently (Cape Town) and then adding flights at a later date. The flexibility to do this and change dates etc was brilliant.
Originally we intended to self drive, mainly to save cost and then I got nervous about it and we had transfers for the whole trip. Once we were there I was aware that pretty much everyone one was self driving and that the N2 route was actually quite straightforward. In retrospect we could have done self drive however my husband and I both agreed that for us the transfer option was probably best. Although a straightforward route, the N2 is quite a hairy road with lots of trucks and there was a definite etiquette for driving and overtaking. Our son is quite anxious and I think he would have found the driving stressful and so we feel we made the right choice.
It obviously meant that we were not able to do any self drive safari but this did not matter, I would not have wanted to the advantages of being taken with someone who can spot things we would never have seen, imparting huge amounts of knowledge and having the right vehicles for going off road were worth every penny.
St Lucia, this was a great place to start our safari, we did a night drive (highly recommend), a day safari up to Cape Vidal and also a boat trip on the estuary. Would recommend all of it. Our accommodation at Lidiko Lodge was comfortable and they do a lovely breakfast on a gorgeous terrace. The rooms are quite dark and although there was nothing wrong with it, it was probably our least favourite accommodation on our trip.
Ghost Mountain Inn, we arrived here after 4 full on days in Cape Town and then 2 days in St Lucia so were ready for a bit of a rest and it really was lovely. We had lovely rooms, enjoyed the pool, food and did a fantastic trip to visit the local Zulu village and then a morning game drive into Mkhuze park (they have hides here and it was wonderful to watch the animals come to the waterhole to drink) it felt slightly more intimate than watching them from a vehicle.
Rhino River Lodge, undoubtedly the highlight of the trip. It was a wonderful experience from start to finish. The food was lovely, the level of service was amazing (little touches like hot water bottles on your seat at dinner and hot flannels and an aperitif handed to us as we returned from our evening game drive. It was 3/4 star rather than 5 star and the rooms were quite rustic (very comfy beds) but we really liked that (not 5 star people) and felt very comfortable with the children who were made very welcome and there were food options to suit them (although mostly they ate the adult food but nice to have an alternative, simpler option). The ONLY downside is that you can hear the N2 from the lodge and initially it bothered me a bit but actually it was such a fabulous place it didn’t really matter in the end but maybe something to flag to other clients.
Fairlight Beach House – I’m glad we only had 1 night here as actually the weather at this point was not great but it was a great place to gather ourselves before the flight home (I would NOT have wanted to go straight from Rhino River to the airport to fly home). Lovely, super comfortable place to stay and we spent the morning watching dolphins and whales breaching less than 100m from the shore line.
My only regret is that we didn’t make it to Drakensburg Mountains (Rorkes or Fugitives Drift). If I was planning the trip again I probably would just do 2 nights (instead of 3) at Ghost Mountain and add one extra day to give another 2 nights to get to the mountains.
Thank you Lisa and I really hope that we will have the opportunity to do another 'Big Trip' at some point soon and book through you!
Josine B reviewing Value KZN Bush & Beach Safari For Families on 30 August 2022
The trip was great. Thank you!
Summary of key points below. If there is anything else that would be helpful to know please do get in touch again.
Dubai part 1
Airport transfers all ok.
Palace Downtown - really lovely hotel. Very central location. Tastefully decorated. Great pool etc. Direct access to amenities eg mall/fountains etc. We ate lunch there by the pool and the food quality was very good, but we went elsewhere for dinner.
Transfer by Ilios from airport to hotel - really Excellent
Oyster Box - best service I have ever had in a hotel, excellent, food great, rooms great, location great, but only so much to do.
Transfer by Ilios from hotel to Safari - really Excellent
Amakhosi Lodge - excellent. Facilities excellent. Food all fantastic. Very helpful staff. The house we stayed in was really lovely. Spacious, own splash pool, amazing views etc
Safari guides and trackers - excellent - lovely people, could not have done more to be friendly and helpful. Our boys got a sickness bug for 24 hours and they were as helpful as possible about that and so kind and caring
Really hardworking staff - made sure we saw all the key animals. Safari was suitable for children and adults. As we had the house you automatically get your own private Safari vehicle with that which was nice to have.
Transfer by Ilios from Safari to hotel - really excellent.
Oyster Box second time - again - best service I have ever had in a hotel, excellent, food great, rooms great, location great. However I would say that 3 days was probably slightly too much - I think 2 days would be a more suitable amount as beyond the hotel there's not loads to do very locally and although there is lots of security in the town everywhere which is great you do feel a little conscious with guns etc around. Maybe if you had a younger family 3 days would work if by the pool the whole time. But that aside I cannot fault the excellent hotel.
Transfer oyster box to airport - really excellent
Transfer Dubai to Sofitel Downtown - not great. The driver was late so I had to ask an agent from TUI if he had seen him and he ended up calling him for me. Once he found us he didn't really apologise and was very rushed/driving fast etc so ok but not great.
Sofitel Downtown - a good hotel but I would say had a bit more of a corporate feel - so I preferred the Palace one. Breakfast was very good - lots of choice and the staff were all helpful. The pool area was very good. We didn't eat dinner here. It's location was a little further from the mall so not quite as convenient - you could walk along a tunnel for 10/15 mins to get there but we used a taxi.
Emirates flights - all went well. Good flights. Good staff. Airports all ran smoothly in Dubai and South Africa. Only airport that ran less well was Heathrow! Baggage took ages and on the way out check in was long!
Overall though the whole trip worked really well and felt like a good mix of adventure time and relaxation time. I also think having to stop in Dubai anyway added something more to the trip as we saw that city as well as South Africa. For the first Dubai part we stayed in the newer areas and for the second Dubai part we went to the creek and the historical areas and souk areas so that was interesting to see the two sides of the city.
I hope that covers all.
Thanks for your help and I look forward to planning another adventure in the future.
Louise C reviewing Value KZN Bush & Beach Safari For Families on 30 August 2022