Julia reports back from the Tuningi Safari Lodge in the North West Province

North West Province, SA
April 2008

When I saw the Tuningi Safari Lodge brochure, promising a "private and exclusive" Big 5 experience, I knew I had to see it for myself. That afternoon I arranged to celebrate my brother's 18th birthday there and the following week we set off for the 3½ hour drive from Johannesburg.

On arrival at Tuningi Safari Lodge, we were warmly greeted and shown to our room"...which was more like a palace! Accommodating 4 adults in luxurious style, the family villa comprises 2 beautifully appointed bedrooms complete with double or twin four- poster beds, each with their own spacious bathroom and private outdoor shower. There is a kitchen area and a comfortable lounge between the 2 bedrooms, leading out onto the most exquisite wrap around deck overlooking the reserve. We spent many a happy hour sipping drinks, playing chess and observing zebra and several species of buck from that deck.

The villas at Tuningi Safari Lodge are truly superb, accommodating a maximum of 16 guests in 2 or 4 sleeper villas. One can also privately book Little Tuningi, for 6 guests, and have access to their own private pool and dining area - ideal for weddings, honeymoons or any special occasion.

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Our days began with a 5 am wake up call, followed by homemade rusks and biscuits with coffee before heading out on an early morning game drive. The sunrise was spectacular and almost immediately we found a pride of lions devouring the last remains of a zebra. We were so close to these magnificent creatures that I felt as though I were in a dream.

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Our friendly ranger was a master tracker and we also saw cheetah, wildebeest, zebra, buck, rhino, elephant, buffalo and a very fast moving jackal! It was a thrilling experience. On other game drives we travelled far into the Madikwe game reserve and found a pack of rare and almost extinct wild dogs! This truly was a special sight to see. The 165 000 acre malaria free Madikwe game reserve is one of few places where this endangered species can still be seen. It was also fascinating to see a pregnant rhino and a large herd of elephants with babies. I was impressed with the amount of game we saw on every drive and the ranger's extensive knowledge. The coffee / drinks breaks were always in a different spot, enabling us to really enjoy the serenity of the landscape.

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After the morning game drive we returned to the lodge for a delicious breakfast. The buffet consisted of yoghurts, cereals, cheeses and pastries - and a range of hot breakfast options were available. The chef's special of the day was always delicious! After breakfast, we swam in the pool and relaxed in our beautiful surroundings.

Once the evening game drive returned, we all met around the bar and shared stories of our day's adventures. The staff at Tuningi Safari Lodge know the names of each guest and we were treated like royalty. Once we were ready to eat, we were shown to our table in the restaurant and indulged in a delectable 3 course meal. There was always a red meat, chicken / fish or vegetarian option available for the main course and the lodge can cater for any special dietary requirements. The food was beautifully presented and really delicious. During dinner one night, the rangers called us out onto the balcony to see elephants drinking at the water hole right in front of us!

On the night of my brother's birthday we popped the champagne and the staff surprised us all with a happy birthday song and a giant chocolate cake! They really did make it such a special night.

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Tuningi Safari Lodge is an ideal place to relax and unwind, with spectacular scenery, superb service, wonderful food and impressive game viewing. I was sad to leave this magical place and hope to return soon.

Special thanks to Madikwe Collection and Tuningi Safari Lodge for accommodating us on a complimentary basis to enjoy this spectacular experience.