The Pelton family recently returned from their vacation at Lelapa lodge in Madikwe. They had a wonderful time and we hope to see them again soon! Here’s what Jackie Pelton had to say:
Lelapa – truly means Family – Wonderful holiday family travel experience!
“We just returned from 3 nights at Madikwe Lelapa Lodge with 17 of our family members (3 generations, ranging in age from almost 2 to 70 years old). We had 9 children (14 and under), 6 parents and a set of grandparents. What a wonderful experience we had. Lelapa means family, and by the end of our days there we felt like family with the staff at Madikwe. And I must admit 3 nights didn’t seem long enough…
We arrived in 2 shifts on Christmas Eve. Staff greeted us with cool towels and lots of hugs. They took our luggage to our rooms where we found lovely notes for our families and small ornaments and candy for the children as gifts. The first group to arrive made it in time for the evening game drive where they saw lots of animals and an amazing sunset. The second group arrived just in time for dinner (definitely plan on at least a 5 hour drive for Johannesburg; and don’t be fooled, once we entered the gates to Madikwe Game Reserve it was still another 45 minutes to the lodge, but it was worth it!)
Dinner the first night was in the Boma – and special it was. Fire-pit, barbeque and serenaded by song and drums. Our children LOVED it and within minutes we felt like family with the staff of Lelapa. The lodge itself is quite nice. I mean it is Africa, so there were some bugs (spiders, mosquitos, etc.) in our room but nothing crazy. We had reserved 3 family suites with bunk beds which were perfect for those of us with young children (the bunk bed room was sweet and cozy, and they provided a pack n play for our toddler as well) and 2 other rooms for individual couples. The rooms were spacious and housekeeping service was excellent. We loved our little deck with outdoor shower and plunge pool – we even saw the elephants making their way to the watering hole right from our deck. The rooms are all along a path on either side of the main lodge. The family rooms are close to the pool, and a short walk back to the main lodge. Only after dark did we need to call for security to escort us to and from our rooms. On the other side of the main lodge were individual rooms and the Eco House for children’s activities.
Meals were fantastic. They truly catered to our every need (we had children, vegetarians and nut allergies in our group, so it wasn’t easy). We were never hungry with 3 big meals as well as snacks on both game drives, a morning snack before the drive and afternoon tea. And the adults enjoyed plenty of drinks as well.
We ended up with two guides: Josh and Mitchell, since our group was so large. They were both fantastic. So knowledgeable about the game reserve, the animals and could answer just about any question we asked. They were great with the kids (and with the adults too!)
One evening drive was cancelled due to a very large rain storm – but we managed to make the most of it with games and drinks in the lodge. Throughout our stay we managed to see 3 of the big 5 (lion, elephant and rhino) and loads of other animals, big and small. My mother really wanted to see the wild African dogs and Josh went out of his way to bring her to see them! She was thrilled. We truly got an “off road” experience going through the bush and over water, to seek out the animals. What an adventure!
Back at the lodge, there were lots of activities for the children. Painting, scavenger hunt, learning about animals, and of course the pool. The pool was beautiful, and we were lucky enough to find elephants, giraffe, zebras, wildebeests and more that came right to the watering hole by the pool. It was truly amazing. Christmas lunch by the pool was lovely. The other meals (other than the one in the Boma) were served in the main lodge.
We had a little excitement when 1 child needed stitches but the staff handled it like pros and quickly got the child/parent/grandparent off to the closest hospital with Wayne at the wheel and they even packed snacks for the 3 hour journey (P.S., child is just fine!)
We fully expected to take advantage of the child care while we were there for our youngest who is 2, but in the end she was able to join us on all of our game drives because we had a private vehicle (and she is extremely well-behaved, you wouldn’t want to take a crying baby on a game drive, that’s for sure!). But I do know that had we decided to leave her back, she would have been well-cared for by the staff at Lelapa.
Honestly, with a group of 17 and the wide range of ages, we knew it would be tough to please everyone. But we can truthfully say it was one of the best family vacations (if not the best, and we’ve travelled extensively as a large group). Everyone at Lelapa was really great: from Dreeine, Doreen, Natasha to Josh and Mitchell, Beauty, Kebla, the waitstaff, night watchman/security Daniel, housekeeping, bartenders, etc. We honestly couldn’t have asked for anything more!
One thing I will say, if you’re not traveling with children, I would perhaps book a stay at one of the other 2 Madikwe lodges. Lelapa is definitely child-friendly, and I felt bad for the lovely couple who was there on their own while we had 9 children with us!
THANK YOU LELAPA – WE HOPE TO BE BACK ONE DAY, PERHAPS WHEN THE BABY CAN TRULY ENJOY HER OWN SAFARI EXPERIENCE!”
A big thank you again to the Pelton family for this lovely review. Until next time…