Your guide can make or break your safari experience. The difference between a bad guide and a good guide is usually quite obvious, but the difference between a good guide and a great guide is often more subtle and you may only realise this when looking back on your experience. At Madikwe Hills, I was very fortunate to be assigned to Trevor Robinson’s vehicle. He definitely sits on the great guide side of the spectrum. He has been guiding for 11 years, 8 of those in Madikwe, but it’s clear that his passion is lifelong.
His genuine interest in the natural world is infectious. Trevor is the opposite of a jobsworth guide who just drives and points at things, and occasionally throws out a random fact or statement, such as the gestational period of a zebra, or how impala are known as the “McDonalds” of the bushveld (groan).
Madikwe Hills – Finding Your Passion
Madikwe Game Reserve is the perfect reserve for someone like Trevor and he is the perfect guide to help you get the most from your experience. The lodge is well placed in the reserve and quite central which means you have access to most of the diverse areas and habitats. Even so, you aren’t going to tick off the Big 5 (lion, rhino, leopard, buffalo and elephant) on every drive. For me personally, that’s never been a goal.
I’m not a difficult guest. I’m happy as long as you can show me a few birds and share some of your own passions. I have been on plenty of drives with guides who are tired and bored and are just ticking boxes from one guest to the next. I feel that the key with anything, not least of all guiding, is that you need to have a genuine and fiery personal interest in something before you can expect to inspire or even interest others. If not, you will get bored, and this will filter through and become quite obvious to the people around you.
Trevor, A Guide With Many Talents
Trevor has his own interests that keep him going. Insects and reptiles are two of these interests, but they are wide and varied. Besides his natural interests – like being an amateur beekeeper, to name one, he is also a qualified welder and in his spare time he designs and builds suspension systems for off-road racing vehicles. This may seem like an irrelevant thing for me to mention but it’s an example of what makes him interesting. Trevor is a force, and with an experienced tracker like Charlie at his side, being on their vehicle feels like you are riding along on an adventure with them, where nature is on centre stage.
A Guide, who goes the Extra Mile
It had been raining quite a bit in the week before our arrival and continued to rain on and off throughout our stay. This brought about a number of fascinating natural phenomena. From the hundreds of butterflies that would gather in flocks on the road, to frogs sending their chorus out from every puddle, to mushrooms popping up seemingly everywhere. Many of these were new even to Trevor but, as an example, instead of simply pointing out a mushroom that we saw, he went out between drives and found out what kind of mushroom it was, how the spores were grown by termites, and even went as far as cooking and eating it with the lodge chef so that he could come back to us with a story for the next game drive and complete the circle on what we had seen earlier.
Similarly, he spotted an attractive giant fly on some grass as we were on our way back to the lodge one day. He carefully picked it up and made sure we each got a good enough view to marvel at it. Many people would have left it at that, but not Trevor. When we arrived for tea that afternoon, he was very proudly able to tell us everything he had discovered about it in the last few hours, from the scientific family to some of its habits.
Madikwe Hills values Great Guides & Trackers
The ground was particularly wet during our stay at Madikwe Hills and there were plenty of muddy areas that were not as accessible as they usually are. I was impressed by how Trever would keep an eye on the grasses, knowing which types of grasses grow in which types of soils. As soon as he noticed grass types that grew in the softer, muddier soils, he was able to navigate around them in order to avoid us having to get stuck anywhere. All the while remaining sensitive to the more delicate habitats.
On larger reserves, where there are many different lodges all driving in the same area, I am often asked to justify why a visitor should spend more to stay at one lodge when they can see the exact same lion or elephant when staying at another lodge down the road, and for half the price. A large part of the difference is people like Trevor. Lodges like Madikwe Hills value their guides and trackers. They are able to employ career professionals rather than people who are just doing it because it’s a job to keep them busy whilst they figure out their lives.
The value you get from your experience with a good guide is impossible to put a price on. At Madikwe Hills, the same goes for the rest of the lodge staff, from the housekeepers to the chef. Madikwe Hills stands out firmly as one of my favourite lodges and I am looking forward to returning soon.
Madikwe Hills Highlights
- Situated in the 75,000 hectare Madikwe Game Reserve (the 5th largest in South Africa)
- Excellent views throughout the lodge
- Private plunge pools to refresh yourself after an existing game drive
- No single supplement for single guests
- Little Madikwe is perfect for families and small groups
- Malaria-free safari destination
- Huge diversity in habitats and species with some lesser-seen species like gemsbok (oryx) and brown hyena
- Great for bird watching with some special species like the Eastern Long-billed Lark, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Violet-eared Waxbill, Marico Sunbird, and +-350 others.
- Easy access with direct flights into the reserve from Johannesburg or an easy drive from Gaborone. Johannesburg is a slightly longer drive, but also an easy one.
Madikwe Hills is ideal for…
- Couples: Relax in your private plunge pool, watch stunning sunsets and enjoy the exclusive privacy that this lodge has to offer.
- Solo travellers: There is no single supplement for solo travellers, which makes the lodge the ideal choice for a spontaneous trip to treat yourself.
- Families: Little Madikwe is perfect for families with kids and the fact that Madikwe is a malaria-free area is another advantage.
- Nature lovers: You can look forward to an amazing experience in the South African bush. Reconnect with nature and leave all your worries (and emails) behind.
Keen to go on a safari with an amazing guide like Trevor? Don’t hesitate to contact our experienced travel experts, who will plan your dream safari in South Africa. We can’t welcome you to the beautiful continent that we call home.
Featured Image: Madikwe Hills Private Game Lodge
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