The tug of Tau

Reading time: 7 min

When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I usually retreat to the sanctuary of my home, but sometimes even that can be too demanding – and this is when I turn to the healing power of nature. This time, I didn’t have to think twice about where I wanted to go. I had fond memories of my first trip to Tau Game Lodge in Madikwe Game Reserve three years ago and didn’t hesitate when the opportunity arose to return there.

A favourite part of a local travel experience for me is the drive, as focusing on the road and scenery quiets my mind. Fortunately, the journey to Tau is a very manageable four-hour drive from Johannesburg, which is long enough to be therapeutic, but not so long as to become stiff and uncomfortable behind the steering wheel.

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Road-tripping to Madikwe Game Reserve. Image: BabyYumYum

Arriving to a sea of smiling faces, a warm washcloth and refreshing drink, the focus is suddenly shifted to you and your needs, giving you welcome respite from being the caregiver. Your vehicle and luggage are seamlessly whisked away while you sign in and are escorted to your suite overlooking the waterhole. This is not as “exclusive” as it sounds because all the chalets are strategically positioned around the waterhole affording all guests the best views – a unique value proposition if ever there was one!

There was one notable difference from the last time I visited. Assistant manager, Billy Dixon explained how a fire gutted the main lodge in July 2017. Fortunately, nobody was hurt and none of the surrounding chalets, conference facilities and spa had been damaged, but a complete overhaul of the reception and dining facilities was required. The lovely two-storey building with the spiral staircase leading to the library and bar has been replaced with a neat, functional open plan layout with wooden floors, which adds to the rustic allure of the lodge.

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Deluxe suite with special welcome note. Image: BabyYumYum

Having arrived too late for the evening game drive, we freshened up and made our way to the dining hall. A buffet fit for a king (literally an eat-all-you-want affair) awaits you at every mealtime, allowing you to pace yourself and enjoy the company of other guests from far and near, or sit quietly soothed by the sounds of the wild.

“… all the chalets are strategically positioned around the waterhole affording all guests the best views – a unique value proposition if ever there was one!”

Having arrived too late for the evening game drive, we freshened up and made our way to the dining hall. A buffet fit for a king (literally an eat-all-you-want affair) awaits you at every mealtime, allowing you to pace yourself and enjoy the company of other guests from far and near, or sit quietly soothed by the sounds of the wild.

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Stopping for morning coffee (and Amarula) in the bush. Image: BabyYumYum
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Stopping for morning coffee (and Amarula) in the bush. Image: BabyYumYum

Even if you’re not a morning person, I encourage you to drag yourself out of the comfortable bed to make the morning game drive. You’ll get a friendly wake-up call from your ranger and gather at the main lodge for coffee and muffins before climbing into the vehicle – be sure to bundle up warmly (in layers) as the morning starts off chilly, but there are blankets on the vehicle if you need one.

For me, the drives are surreal. Suddenly there is no other world but Madikwe and being present in that moment is the greatest elixir for the soul. Whether it’s sunrise or sunset, or the animals are shy or they bravely show their faces to the many strangers invading their home, no drive is the same. Every time you will see and feel something different and form a new soul tie with the heart of Africa.

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Tau Game Lodge Spa. Image: BabyYumYum
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Elephants jostling at Tau’s waterhole. Image: BabyYumYum

In the time between drives, you are free to lounge around the pools, indulge in a spa treatment, take a nap or simply sit on your balcony and soak it all in. I found real solace in being able to pop my feet up on the table on our balcony and lose myself in a good book for a time. Due to the nature of my work, I don’t do nearly enough reading just for pleasure. The truth is, you don’t even need a book – the magical diorama is constantly changing as the reserve’s wild residents make their way to the waterhole throughout the day.

Three days in Tau’s warm embrace was enough to shake off the city grime and restore my sense of purpose. Whatever your reason for needing a holiday, Tau Game Lodge is one destination that should make it on your family’s list. I have little doubt that once you’ve been there it will tug at your heartstrings the way it does mine.

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Zebra grazing. Image: BabyYumYum

Note to parents:

One of the things I like about Tau is that it is family friendly. I am a firm believer that children should experience the wild treasures South Africa has to offer first-hand, and not in enclosures. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many family-friendly game lodges (most have an age restriction), which is understandable as there is an inherent risk when venturing into the wild, but Tau goes out of their way to accommodate families with little children.

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Warning sign not to get too close to the fence. Image: BabyYumYum

The key phrase here is family-friendly – and not childproof. In the same way that parents would keep their eyes on their children when on the beach or at a shopping mall or even at a friend’s house where there is a swimming pool, the minimum requirement is that you parent responsibly. Tau provides suitable accommodation and exceptional experiences for little ones (from kiddies’ welcome packs to Bumble mini-game drives and babysitters), but cannot be a substitute for an alert guardian.

Tau Game Lodge is located in Madikwe Game Reserve in the North West Province, 10km from the South African border with Botswana, and is home to the Big Five. Tips, conservation and game reserve fees are not included in booking costs. Contact them on +27 11 466 8715/7 or visit www.taugamelodge.co.za and ask about their upcoming specials.

Also read:

Travel with kids
Safety hints when planning a road trip