Safaris at Etali are something special. Every day in the bush brings a new experience. We offer twice daily safaris in modified open Land Cruiser game vehicles, which include a canvas roof for sun protection. Your safari is led by an experienced guide, who shares a wealth of knowledge whilst driving the vehicle, and a “hawk-eye” tracker, who sits on a seat mounted on the hood of the vehicle to help spot animals and their tracks. Part of the magic of the bush is that you don’t know what nature will show you. The excitement of tracking a lion, rounding the corner and seeing a “crash” of rhino, or finding a pack of African wild dogs will stay with you forever.
Your first safari starts early in the morning, just before dawn (at 06:00 am in winter and 05:30 am in summer), to ensure that you are ready for sightings during the prime time of dawn. There is nothing like being out in the bush, watching the sun rise, looking for wildlife. Mid-way through your safari, your guide and tracker will stop and set up morning coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and snacks. The morning game drive lasts around 3 hours and a fresh breakfast is on offer when you return to the lodge.
The afternoon safari starts after royal tea on the lodge’s main deck at 04:00 pm (in winter) and 04:30 pm (in summer). This drive also lasts around 3 hours. You will drive for an hour or two before stopping for “sundowners”—enjoying drinks of your choice, along with safari snacks, whilst watching the sunset. After sundowners, the “night drive” begins and you experience nocturnal animals by spotlight. Upon your return to the lodge, our staff will welcome you under a bed of stars and escort you to dinner.
The quality and experience of our guides and trackers will make your safari. Not all lodges have guide-tracker teams; we believe that two sets of experienced eyes give the best safari for our guests. Vehicles in Madikwe are allowed to drive off-road for most sightings such as lion, leopard, elephant and buffalo or unusual sightings, vehicles from all lodges in the park are connected via a radio system, and the number of vehicles at sightings are limited to ensure intimate and private experiences.
We offer blankets and hot water bottles when the temperature is cool; cold, fresh water for summer; and we have ponchos in case of rain.
Although guests under 6 years of age are not allowed on game drives, we organise “bumble” drives for younger guests, where larger predators are not sought out. Our guides and trackers are excellent with kids. In addition, we offer babysitting services, subject to availability and for an additional fee.
Walking safaris are also on offer. Being on foot gives a different and exciting perspective of the bush. These safaris are led by experienced guides, who carry a rifle and who have been trained in how to approach wildlife to allow guests to enjoy safe and thrilling encounters with any of the wildlife in Madikwe. Imagine watching an elephant or rhino with your own two feet on the ground—it is unforgettable.
Walks also unveil everything from the finer details of the bush to the grand swaths of landscape. This type of safari allows you to connect to nature at a whole other level. We focus on aspects of the bush that are easier to enjoy on foot rather than in a vehicle, like birds, trees, grasses, tracks, animal dung, soil, and rocks.
There are no set routes for these walks; our guides set a pace that is comfortable for the group. Walks are usually done after breakfast, for as long or short as the group would like. You do not want to miss this experience.
Walks are limited to those over the age of 16. Guests who are 60 years or older are welcome on walks as long as they have a medical certificate.
If you have luck on your side, there are sometimes opportunities to fund and observe the darting of an animal, for medical reasons; to add a collar; or to notch a rhino’s ears. The funds that you pay go directly to the actual darting—costs of which are expensive. In return, you have directly helped an animal in need, and have the amazing chance to view the procedure up close. Imagine getting a window into on-the-ground conservation and watching first-hand.
Such darting opportunities are only available when there is a need; the reserve does not dart or perform procedures on an animal unless necessary. If you are interested in sponsoring such a procedure, please inquire about pricing and whether a procedure can take place during your visit. This is a special event that few people have the privilege of experiencing.
Children of all ages are welcome at Etali Safari Lodge. We offer a range of kids activities to help keep younger guests entertained while simultaneously respecting the experience of other guests.
Although children under the age of 6 are not allowed in dangerous game sightings, our kids program includes a “bumble” drive where our guides take the kids (with or without parents, depending on how much of a break you’d like), on a drive after breakfast. The bumble drive is one where dangerous game is not sought out, or closely approached, but our guides make the bush exciting, including by casting plaster-of-paris tracks. We also entertain children with kitchen activities like decorating cupcakes; kids’ manicures and face-painting; arts & crafts; and special kids menus during meals.
Kids activities are included in our rates and are adapted to the individual age and preferences of each child. Babysitting services are available on request, are subject to availability and may incur a small fee.
A surprisingly large variety and number of animals visit the Etali waterhole daily. Watch a herd of elephants approach the waterhole, the younger ones eager to drink and play. Or a leopard quietly drinking at night as you enjoy a boma dinner. Or an entire herd of buffalo noisily wading in to the water. Or a giraffe cautiously bending down to take a drink. We’ve seen all of the big 5, plus cheetah, plus African wild dogs, plus about every species of antelope in the Reserve at our waterhole.
The Etali Waterhole is perfectly positioned in front of the lodge to allow for amazing, close sightings. Located in front of the lodge’s main deck and pool—and even closer to the boma dining area—you can savour breakfast, lunch and dinner, or enjoy a dip in the pool, whilst watching waterhole visitors. The private decks of three of our rooms overlook the waterhole as well. All of the photos of the waterhole were taken from the lodge main deck, boma, or the private decks of one of the waterhole-facing luxury suites.