North West

Gather your tribe for a getaway in a secluded bush cocoon

Plotting your next visit is all you need do after embracing all that is luxury at Morukuru Family Madikwe while soaking up the sounds and smells of the surrounding bush

08 October 2023 - 00:00
By Sanet Oberholzer
The exclusive-use Farm House at Morukuru Family Madikwe.
Image: Supplied The exclusive-use Farm House at Morukuru Family Madikwe.

Johannesburg is a true example of a concert jungle, but one of its saving graces is its proximity to game reserves and lodges, making it possible to nip to the bush after a short drive — or an even shorter flight.

On a previous occasion I’ve taken the four-hour drive from Joburg to Madikwe Game Reserve in the North West, bordering Botswana. But for a recent two-night stay, an hour-long chartered flight did the trick. “You’re getting fancy,” my mother remarked. “It’s convenient,” I countered.

After a short hop, skip and land on Madikwe’s eastern airstrip, we were greeted by two vehicles from Morukuru Family Madikwe: one for our bags, the other for our small group, chirpy after a slightly bumpy ride in the small plane.

The game viewing started from the air — a buck here, a buffalo there — while on colder days you may even be met by lions seeking warmth on the tarmac. From here, it’s a half-hour drive, depending on what you come across along the way, before you find yourself being pampered in a secluded bush cocoon.


Our stay was at Morukuru Family Madikwe’s Farm House in a fenced-off private concession in the reserve. We were dropped off on lush lawn framing an expansive house, both understated and welcoming, and eliciting a distinctly homely feeling one does not often find on a visit to five-star bush lodges.

We were greeted by smiling staff and the mandatory refresher towels and welcome drinks before being shown to our rooms — spacious, private and beautifully designed — to enjoy the bush views from plush beds or while soaking in a long bubble bath.

When you’re ready to emerge from the luxurious confines to mingle, the main living area comprises a wraparound veranda where nightcaps can be enjoyed; a large lounge with fireplace; a bar where books are not the only things to be savoured; and a dining area with pin board to keep track of sightings on your daily game drives.

The tasteful yet relaxed communal area.
Image: Supplied The tasteful yet relaxed communal area.
A perfect place to lay your head at night.
Image: Supplied A perfect place to lay your head at night.
A bubble bath with a view.
Image: Supplied A bubble bath with a view.

Recently renovated, the space is modern but rustic, comfortable and draped in muted colours with artistic flair. And because it’s available on an exclusive-use basis, for the duration of your stay your party won’t have to share with a another soul, apart from your hostess, chef, butler and housekeepers, who are there to act on your every whim.

As you flit through the house between game drives and outdoor activities, you’re welcome to make a cup of tea or coffee to enjoy with treats such as home-made ginger biscuits, oat crunchies and rusks.

For something stronger, help yourself to an assortment of drinks from the bar or ask butler Shadrack Mogwere, who you’ll affectionately come to know as Shaddy, to whip up one of his concoctions.

The viewing deck which overlooks the water hole.
Image: Supplied The viewing deck which overlooks the water hole.
The deck of the newly built spa.
Image: Supplied The deck of the newly built spa.

As luck would have it, our stay coincided with International Cocktail Day, which provided the perfect opportunity to sample Shaddy's creations while soaking up the African sun next to the pool. It was here Shaddy found me, all smiles and balancing a big glass swirling with multicoloured liquids, which he introduced as the “two blue rainbow nation”. When I asked what was inside, apart from the fresh pineapple juice, his reply was simple: “the big five in a glass”.

With its newly built viewing deck and spa, relaxing at Farm House would be incomplete without spending some time overlooking the watering hole or booking a treatment on the doorstep to the bush. Depending on your preference, you can melt into the massage table inside the elegant air-conditioned room or relish the outdoor air on the salon’s private balcony with views of the bush — if your eyelids can stay open long enough.


The exclusivity of your stay extends to game drives, for which we were assigned a private guide and tracker, Andre Jansen and Sunnyboy Mogorosi. Madikwe has a reputation for lion sightings and it wasn’t long before we spotted two males, recently fed and as lazy as they come.

Reports of a lioness traversing another section of the park had us in eager pursuit, until we heard of a pack of wild dogs milling around. Now that would be a good sighting, we all agreed.

Our search for the dogs proved futile — they had scaled the edge of a koppie — so we decided to see what else the bush had in store. Jansen was somewhat deflated that we’d missed out on the pups, until it dawned on us that, in our search, we’d already seen four of the big five. Leopards are notoriously elusive in these parts.

The two males provided our daily dose of reliable lion viewing and years-long birders in the group were excited to tick off new sightings. For others, early morning walks in the concession were the way they preferred to enjoy the abundance of nature.

All stays are planned around the Morukuru Freedom Concept, meaning there are no fixed schedules and it’s up to you what you want to do, when you’d like to eat and where. The latter is more important than you may think.

We preferred being surprised and found the team up to the task time and again. But it was for our bush dinner on the last night that they pulled out all the stops.

Owners Ed and Anka Zeeman each have a viewing point named after them and for this occasion we were welcomed to the former just as the sun was dipping on the horizon. With torches lit and a fire roaring in the pit, we clinked our glasses of Cap Classique, needing no better excuse to celebrate than finding ourselves in such a perfect setting.

Roasting stokbrood around a fire is nostalgic and fun.
Image: Sanet Oberholzer Roasting stokbrood around a fire is nostalgic and fun.

There was one last surprise as Shaddy handed out long sticks for preparing our own stokbrood. Having last done this as children, most of us needed a crash course.

“You have to make the dough sticky with your hands,” Shaddy advised as he demonstrated the trick of wrapping the dough in tight coils from the top of the stick, careful not to leave any gaps from which the lumps of butter can fall once your dough is cooked.

This was only the start: soon the stars emerged in the inky blackness above. With clear skies, toasty fires and plates bearing succulent cuts of freshly braaied meat, it made for a dinner we won’t soon forget.

As I slid into bed that night, I did so without a care, save for the note left on my pillow, reminding me to check in again soon: “When you long to see the elephants, or to hear the coucals sing, when the moonrise sets your blood on fire, you have been away too long.”


WHERE IT IS: Madikwe Game Reserve is in the North West, a four-hour drive or one-hour light aircraft flight from Johannesburg.

GETTING THERE: Federal Airlines operates flights between its Johannesburg airstrip and Madikwe Game Reserve seven days a week, departing Johannesburg at 10am and 1pm, and departing Madikwe at 11.30am and 2.30pm. Rates start from R5,415 per person one way. A minimum of two guests per booking; a single supplement may apply. To book, visit

A Federal Airlines flight will get you to Madikwe Game Reserve in no time.
Image: Sanet Oberholzer A Federal Airlines flight will get you to Madikwe Game Reserve in no time.

ACCOMMODATION: In five rooms built around a courtyard branching out from the main house. Each sleeps two people.

BABES IN THE BUSH: Morukuru Family Madikwe welcomes children of all ages. They receive a backpack of safari treasures when checking in and are encouraged to go on daily game drives with their parents. When they prefer not to, staff are on hand to keep them occupied with activities such as baking, fishing and swimming. On nights that parents would like a quiet dinner in the bush, babysitting services are available.

RATES: The minimum house rate for 2023 is R42,000 per night for four guests in the low season. Each additional adult pays R8,000 and the cost for each additional child aged between two and 15 is R4,000. Children under two stay free. Rates include all meals, local drinks, game drives, bush walks, picnics and reserve fees.

CONTACT: For more information or to book, visit the website

• Oberholzer was a guest of Morukuru Family Madikwe and Federal Airlines.