The small and imaginatively designed Jaci's Tree Lodge (tel. 083/700-2071 or 014/778-9900; www.madikwe.com) is worth serious consideration, as is Jaci's Safari Lodge (the latter is particularly good for families). Comprising just eight air-conditioned treehouses built around giant tambotie and leadwood trees, the Tree Lodge setting is more magical than neighboring Jaci's Safari Lodge's, but the latter is one of the most family-friendly lodges in Southern Africa. Both lodges cost R6,790 to R9,590 double, including all meals and game activities; each child sharing is R1,495 to R2,195 per night.
Most of the lodges reviewed below are in the eastern part of Madikwe; more centrally located is Mateya Safari Lodge (P.O. Box 439, Molatedi 2838; tel. 014/778-9200; www.mateyasafari.com), with only five superluxurious suites, offering a great sense of privacy and excellent service standards. An incentive for basing yourself here is the highly rated wellness center: The spa team offers everything from hot-stone therapy to African head massages. That said, a major drawback is the Sabie-Sands level tariff: R15,000 double (R11,000 during Aug-Sep low season), and that does not include the spa treatments.
With just 10 elevated glass-fronted luxury chalets overlooking a natural spring and fantastic views, Impodimo Lodge is also highly rated, not only for its game-viewing. It's an excellent-value lodge (www.impodimo.com; tel. 018/350 940; Oct-Apr R6,700, May-Sept R5,000 double; rates all-inclusive). Rates are a quarter of those for Mateya (and half those for Makanyane), but you'll want for nothing, from the minute you are met at the airport to the moment you stop in front of your first lion sighting. For seriously good value, you can't beat Mosetlha.
More for Your Money -- Madikwe is proudly home to the first wholly owned community safari lodges to be developed in South Africa: Buffalo Ridge, an elevated eight-unit lodge that affords grand views of the thornveld plains of Madikwe while making the most of its breezes, is owned and run by the Balete community; its sister lodge on the eastern edge of Madikwe, Thakadu River Camp, is managed and owned by the Molatedi people. Both communities have enlisted the aid of the Madikwe Collection to help with promotions and safari logistics. Of the two, I slightly prefer Thakadu (tel. 011/805-9995 or 082-926-7373; www.thakadurivercamp.com or www.madikwecollection.com; R6,700 double). The camp is also more child friendly, with special programs for kids. Set within the riverine forest that lines the banks of the Marico River, each of the 12 tented suites has a viewing deck and views of the Marico River. It's a lovely camp, and the game-viewing is as good as anywhere else in Madikwe. It's nice knowing that you're helping a community that has taken the initiative to create employment opportunities and negotiate a substantial stake in the profits. (Incidentally, the Madikwe Collection is also partnering with De Hoop Nature Reserve [see Western Cape chapter], South Africa's most beautiful coastal reserve, so it's worth inquiring into packages that combine a trip here, too.)
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.