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THE TRAVEL DIARIES: 'I spent two nights "glamping" at a luxury safari lodge in South Africa.'

When I was first invited to go on safari in South Africa, I have to admit, I was a little… worried.

In my mind, I imagined spending hours on end in the searing heat, trawling through the bush in an Indiana Jones-esque outfit.

To my ignorant mind, going on safari was essentially the definition of ‘roughing it’. A standard camping trip… with the added threat of huge, wild animals.

The reality, however, was very different.

WATCH: Take a look inside Jaci’s Lodges in the Madikwe Game Reserve. Post continues after video.

From the moment I stepped on a single propeller plane at Johannesburg Airport to head to Madikwe Game Reserve, it was clear that this was not going to be any ordinary holiday.

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s really like to go on a safari, look no further. I (very eagerly) took one for the team and spent two glorious nights at Jaci’s Lodges to take a glimpse into what it’s really like to go “glamping” at a luxury safari lodge in the South African wilderness.

Here’s what I discovered:

What is a typical day like while staying at a safari lodge?

The days began early at Jaci’s Lodges.

Before the sun had even risen, we were given an early wake-up call from one of the friendly guides… or in my case, I woke up to the (slightly frightening) sounds of a monkey playing in my suite’s outdoor shower.

Every day was a unique experience. The morning after my unexpected wake-up call from a monkey, I woke up to the sounds of a herd of elephants just metres outside my room.

Yep, it’s pretty… surreal.

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After a light breakfast at the main lodge, each morning on safari began with an early morning drive.

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Accompanied by our driver and field guide Ollie, who communicated with other local guides to help us see the 'Big 5' animals, our drive took us around Madikwe Game Reserve – the fifth largest game reserve in South Africa.

I loved the sense of anticipation that came with being on safari – you simply never knew what to expect next.

In fact, every drive was completely unique.

One morning, we got close enough to a pair of lions to hear them yawn.

Another morning, we watched a hyena feast on a dead giraffe – one that had passed away (presumably from old age) earlier that week.

During another drive, we watched a pack of wild dogs – South Africa's most endangered large carnivore – stalking a kudu at a watering hole, before a herd of elephants chased the dogs away.

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But here's the part people don't tell you about.

There's actually a lot of down time on safari.

After returning to Jaci's Main Lodge following a three to four hour morning drive, we were served brunch.

From then on, the afternoon was ours.

Whether you were pining for an afternoon nap, a dip in the plunge pool or a bath in the comfort of your own private lodge, there were hours upon hours of free time.

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In fact, a typical day on safari is often far more sedentary than you might be expecting – and trust me, it's heaven.

At Jaci's Lodges, the afternoon routine followed a similar structure to the morning.

After high tea – normally an assortment of savouries and pastries – we embarked on the afternoon drive, which normally lasted around three hours and concluded with sundowner drinks during sunset.

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On returning from the drive, the food continued (it basically... never stops) with South African-inspired dishes for dinner.

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What is the accommodation like?

Jaci's Lodges is set in Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa's North West province. The reserve, which is located a three-and-a-half hour drive or a one hour flight from Johannesburg, is one of the lesser known parks in South Africa.

The reserve is home to hundreds of animal species, including the famous Big 5 as well as endangered African wild dog, giraffe, cheetah, spotted and brown hyena, hippo and a wide variety of plains game.

Jaci's Lodges consist of two separate – but equally lovely – safari-style accommodation options.

Jaci's Tree Lodge features eight Treehouse Suites, which are custom built on wooden stilts and connected via raised walkways.

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The communal lodge at Jaci's Safari Lodge. Image: Supplied.

On the other hand, Jaci's Safari Lodge features two Starbed Suites (including an outdoor bed so that you can sleep under the stars), six luxury Tented Suites and two private Family Suites.

I was lucky enough to stay in one of the Starbed Suites at Jaci's Safari Lodge.

The suite came with a huge bed, a living room area, an indoor and outdoor shower, a tea and coffee station complete with Amarula cream, a freestanding bath surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows, a private balcony and of course, an outdoor bed under the stars. The suite is also completely private – meaning yes, you can shower naked comfortably outdoors. (Well, besides the possibility of spotting a nearby monkey, of course).

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The living room area in the Starbed Suite. Image: Supplied.
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The Starbed Suite included a freestanding bath. Image: Supplied.
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The Starbed Suite includes an outdoor bed under the stars. Image: Supplied.
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During your stay, guests also have access to a number of outdoor swimming pools as well as a range of incredibly affordable in-room spa treatments.

Besides the twice-daily game drives included in your stay, guests of Jaci's Lodges have access to the submerged Terrapin Hide, which is the perfect spot for capturing eye-level images of the animals that visit the waterhole, as well as conservation safaris and guided walking safaris.

What is the food and drink like?

There are so many things to do at Jaci's Lodges – game drives, spa treatments, multiple pools to relax next to... the list goes on.

But nothing beats the eating and drinking at Jaci's Lodges.

From a full English Breakfast or an omelette for brunch to a three course dinner paired with a variety of wines for dinner, each meal was meticulously and creatively planned.

The highlight, of course, was our final dinner at Jaci's Lodges.

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Image: Supplied.

After finishing up our evening game drive on our last night in the wilderness, we were surprised with a bush dinner under the stars in celebration of Heritage Day in South Africa.

After an entree of sweet potato and cumin soup served with fresh phaphatha bread, we were served a buffet of South African dishes, including chakalaka, oxtail potjie and beef bobotie, and finally, apricot malva pudding for dessert. What more could you want?

Jessica Staveley travelled to South Africa as a guest of South Africa Tourism.


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