Small boutique hotels that pride themselves on offering the best personal care sometimes fail to make a stay memorable with small gestures that only well-trained staff can achieve, but at Tau, with 30 luxury chalets, each visit is strictly personal. Just over an easy four-hour drive from Johannesburg, and close to the Botswanan border, Tau Lodge is situated inside the Madikwe Private Game Reserve. Charter flights are also available from various locations.

Arriving at check-in, there wasn’t one, but three people to welcome us at the entrance just before the reception area. The service is very slick; valet parking will take your car, warm, wet towels are offered to refresh oneself after the dusty road in and your bags are whisked off to your room, while you are escorted to the reception where you are handed a refreshing drink and are introduced to your ranger who will stay with you for the duration of your stay.

Guests get two game drives per day one in the morning at 06h00 and one in the afternoon at around 15h30. As we had checked in a little after 15h30, our guide, Lazarus, offered to take us on a game drive immediately, but we chose to explore and enjoy the lodge and go out on the 6am call time the next day. We checked into one of the chalets which opens up to a waterhole. The chalets at Tau are beautiful works of art in the bush and you immediately feel relaxed as you see nothing but the bush and mountains for as far as your eye can see. In this wonderful setting, you don’t have to look for game as it will come to you! What I really like about Tau is that all chalets have a perfect view of the waterhole, so whether you are in a standard chalet, deluxe chalet or family chalet, you have the same access to the game animals that Tau has to offer.

Talking about animals, ‘tau’ means lion in Tswana and you cannot come to Tau without expecting to see the pride. In addition to having the ‘big five’, Madikwe is a haven for bird watchers with over 250 different bird species. It also has cheetahs, endangered African wild dogs. All the native wild cat species reside there, including the small African Wild Cat which Lazarus warned me not to expect to see it as it’s hardly ever spotted at the lodge.

On our first game drive in the morning we quickly ticked off four of the big five, with just lions escaping us. However, the two cheetahs we saw almost made up for not spotting a lion! We still had the afternoon game drive to do and Lazarus promised that he would do his best to find us lions and he did just that. He told us that at any given time there are only four vehicles out for a game drive, so if something interesting is spotted there is never a long queue before it’s your turn to see the game.

While we were observing monkeys fooling around under the pylons, we were alerted of a pride of lions that had just taken down a wildebeest. I have seen lions in the wild before but never on a kill, so I was excited. We got to the spot and I could count up to nine lions but only three were feeding. The rest were napping and you could see from what was left of the kill that they were full and had no interest in us. This is what made the viewing extra special. There was no chance that you could be dinner so we got really close and just watched.

In the bush the only real time-keeper is the sun, and it was fast approaching the horizon, so we stopped in the bush for drinks before the sunset and the sunsets are glorious at Tau! With everything checked off our lists and sitting warmly under our blankets, the drive back to the lodge was blissful knowing that dinner awaited us.

All meals at the lodge are prepared with great care but the highlight by far was dinner at the Boma around a huge fire. As soon as you walk in, you are greeted with a welcome drink and shown to your table and the only light is the firelight and a few candle lights that provide a beautiful cozy feeling.

If you are travelling as a family, Tau has a Cubz Club, baby-sitting services and special safaris and education for youngsters, affording the adults some quality safari.

Madikwe has a spa to check into to unwind and since the animals roam free walking isn’t an option unless you book a walking safari with one of the guides at the lodge. There is a gym for those who want to keep fit while on holiday. For the special breed of people that can manage to work and focus in such surroundings there is a conference room with high speed internet access.

Checking out was the hardest part and since we wanted to drive out early we decided to pack our bags in the car just before breakfast. One of the staff members who was tending to the garden saw the bags and immediately offered to take them. Throughout our stay the staff at the lodge were not only paying attention to us as guests but also fully supported each other as well. The front desk staff would easily help out where needed and as a guest you get the sense that not only guests are taken care of but the staff too. As much as it is about the game that attracts people to Tau, I would say it’s the people that make it feel like a family you want to get back to as soon as you can.