Heaven on earth, away from everyday stresses
I've always wanted to see the fuss that is the "majestic' Madikwe game reserve.
When the invitation arrived to visit Tau Game Lodge - located in the reserve on Botswana's border - I was ecstatic. But a drive from hell, thanks to my GPS, almost saw me turning back to Joburg.
A four-hour trip took me no less than six, thanks to the dirt road detour of 30km, which left me with a punctured tyre and stone chips so huge my windscreen needed replacing.
But in the end it was all worth it.
Tau Game Lodge is nothing short of a luxurious safari camp. Two days in the bush left me feeling rejuvenated, appreciative of nature and somewhat closer to God.
Upon arrival I meet Mike Ray, my ranger for the weekend who takes care of the luggage and parks my car.
The reception is a cool, tented area - a temporary structure that was erected after the severe fires in April last year. The facility is undergoing a major revamp and will have a permanent reception area next year.
Assistant manager to the lodge, Billy Dixon, gives a short history of how the game park was once owned by cattle farmers, but was transformed under Lucas Mangope, in his time as president of then Bophuthatswana homeland.
The staff are uber friendly, but have no time to waste as they whisk us off on our first game drive for the weekend.
I've been on many game drives but this is by far the best. I saw four of the big five, a host of other animals including zebra and giraffe, crocs and birds.
What's special about this place is that most of the animals come to the watering hole that is visible from all the rooms, as well as the reception deck.
On day one we saw a sneaky hyena hiding in the bushes and a serval, which I'm told is more precious that spotting a lion.
Ray explains the serval is not as well known as the larger cats, they are smaller, nocturnal and solitary.
We also stop and appreciate the sunset, sipping on our favourite happy juice.
The cold has even the lions in the park feeling frisky as we spot and follow a lion trying to hump Matsumi, the lioness.
But it's a struggle due to his spiked or barbed genitals. On day two we spot the same couple, but a second male who mated with her before comes into their midst. He doesn't put up a fight and retreats.
Meanwhile an older lioness, covered in blood, is walking her four cubs to her kill. The curious cubs keep looking back at the more curious humans.
It's only on day three that we find where they were feeding happily on a zebra, well hidden from other predators.
It's always a pleasure to return to the eating areas after the game drives to listen to stories told by Ray.
Dinner is hosted in the Boma, restaurant or dining deck near the pool, depending on the weather.
Food served is proper SA cuisine, much to the delight of the many international guests. Impala steaks are to die for, as is the eland and lamb chops, served with pap and morogo.
The malva pudding and custard settles the meal just right as staff entertain with folk and celebratory songs.
Be warned - there are no TVs in the bedrooms and the phone signal is barely there.
Ray notes the rangers, who stay on site for six weeks at a time, have no clue what's happening in the news - but they don't fuss about it.
"It's heaven on earth. The point is for our guests to get away and feel like they are on holiday without being burdened with the everyday stresses. But there is a TV in the convention centre where we once hosted [former president Jacob] Zuma and other delegates," says Dixon.
There is also a spa that offers more than just facials. It comes complete with hot stones, mud wraps and steam rooms.
The rooms are warm, homely and comfy - with an outside shower, enclosed by a rock wall.
The current winter special is R17500 for a three-night stay in a five-star chalet for two adults sharing, which includes conservation and park fees.
*Somaya was hosted by Tau Game Lodge