We’re just recovering from the jet lag of a long flight back from Africa, but I had to write this review while things were still fresh in my head. We met the owner of Mafigeni, Jill, at the hunting expo in Denver. We weren’t even interested in an African Safari but the friend we were with was, and he stopped by all the booths so, subsequently we did too. We started getting very interested and then fairly excited about the prospect of going to Africa. Mafigeni looked like they had a very nice package and after a bit of research and discussion, we decided to pull the trigger and buy their photo safari package.
All I can say is that I’m really glad we went with them! The lodge itself is amazing. Tucked off in a very safe area, we left thousands of dollars of camera equipment and cash unlocked in our room without ever thinking twice about it. The lodge is secluded and beautiful, very authentic safari experience! We got our own “bungalow” which was very comfortable and in great condition. The eating area is amazing and I’d go up in the morning to check email on wifi and sip coffee with beautiful views. The staff is incredible. Let me start with our photo guide Leo. You absolutely couldn’t ask for a better guide in Africa! Leo was so attentive to us, always looking out for us and making sure we had anything we wanted. Leo has a lot of great stories and we very much enjoyed talking to him and learning about Africa. Leo can also spot animals like nobody I’ve ever seen. We’d be driving down a road and Leo would say “Oh, there’s some wildebeest over there”, we’d look and look and after driving a quarter of a mile we’d start to be able to make them out! He has a super eye for things normal folks would miss. Leo would also get the car in the perfect position for me to take photos. Not sure how he could just “judge” where I needed to be to get the perfect shot in a small opening, but he did it!
The rest of staff is amazing too. They treated us like family and we were actually quite sad to leave them at the end of the safari. Theresa was wonderful and fun to talk to, her two beautiful daughters were there as well and both were so sweet and fun to spend time with. The hunting guides Gavin, Matt, and Alec are a blast too, we didn’t get to spend a ton of time with them, but each meal we had with them they would tell stories and make us laugh, what a great crew! The other staff such as Chef King and Happy who took care of our room were great. We ate out a lot as we were on the road for adventures so we didn’t get to eat a lot of King’s cooking, but what we did get was very tasty! The meals were from game meat harvested (I believe) on their farm and we got to experience some great local dishes! Don’t worry, none of the meat was “gamey” at all, everything we had was delicious!
The package was a lot of fun. We definitely kept busy seeing cool things like animal rescues and game preserves. We opted to pay a little extra for an extra day in Kruger, glad we did as we got to photograph lion’s mating! The other adventures were fun, even the zip lining canyon beat the zip lining we did in Costa Rica! You’ll be tired when you get back to camp as there’s a lot to do and to see.
I’d highly recommend a visit to Mafigeni, even if you only stop in for a night or two. Such a wonderful place with amazing people, you won’t be disappointed.
Here’s a little advice I’d give anyone booking with them:
1. Our package included airfare which was nice, but the flights were long and on Ethiopian Airlines which is not a great airline. See if you can either get a credit for airfare and book your own or find the path you want and request it. 30 hours of travel time on a crowded plane with little AC was not fun.
2. Talk to them about the activities and what’s available. They have a lot you can do and as I said, we decided to pay for an extra night in Kruger and forgo another adventure which was well worth it to us.
We had the most amazing trip to Mafigeni- From what I could see from other lodges in the area this lodge is pretty unique. Mafigeni is about 45-60 minutes outside of Hoedspruit and the Orpen Gate to the Kruger, so they really shine in making sure that you get an all-encompassing taste of the Limpopo region of South Africa-big game (really really BIG game!) animal interactions with everything from crocodiles to lions, to cheetahs, vultures, and we even kissed a hippo! We went zip-lining and even went on a river cruise on the Swadini dam (although the word "cruise" may be a bit generous) Many lodges take you on game drives on their property and you don't get a chance to go out and explore. Mafigeni- a different animal. Simply amazing.
We booked an all-inclusive photo safari so they took care of EVERYTHING- the flights, the meals, the adventures, we even had a private guide that looked after us, gave us the background, the history of the region, he even knew the low down on the animals we saw (the Birmingham coalition of Male lions-you can check it out on YouTube) We even went to cultural center for an interpretive dance history of South America, the renowned Kaross Embroidery Center, and the African Silk Company that weaved their creations on-site.
The rooms were spacious- we had a one bedroom that had two twin beds and a main room that had a spacious queen bed. The bathroom was up to snuff, but don't expect power outlets in the bathroom- plenty of outlets in the main rooms though. The staff picked up any laundry that you left and it was cleaned and folded properly, waiting in your room when you returned from your adventures. The lodge definitely had that "Out of Africa" feeling- it was what we were looking for!
The meals are served family style- they were in the midst of hiring a chef while we were there, so we had one dinner, and a couple of breakfasts (delicious) prepared by staff and the rest prepared by a chef on trial. There was all sorts of fresh game as well as many vegetarian options. As someone who rarely eats meat, it added to my adventure to sample most of the fresh game (although admittedly, I didn't eat THAT much of it) I tried, Kudu, Sable, Cape Buffalo, and Impala (not the Chevy).It was amazing. The non-meat options were delicious as well- and the breakfasts were complete-eggs prepared to order, toast, muffins, cereals and granola, fruit, yogurt, bacon (sometimes it was bacon made from game), and of course, sausages!
Bring a flash drive and your guide will upload all of his photos. Our guide, AK, is brought in when the owner needs him and was very knowledgable-we were picked up at the airport by one of their new guides, Leo, who was very kind, helpful and gracious, and our friends that referred us to Mafigeni simply RAVED over Gavin. I don't think you can go wrong. Which is good, because you are with your guide ALL the time! Oh- and they can adjust your itinerary to meet your personal desires- one group that was there when we were had one hunter and three photo safari people and they just made it work- Our guide was even able to accommodate us adding my daughter's friend for the weekend!
The staff was great- Tamsin (Gavin's wife) handled the travel details for us as well as the financial end, Lorelei was AMAZING, so funny, kind, generous and helpful in all things LODGE- had there been any issues, she would have taken care of them promptly and efficiently - she was like Mary Poppins- anticipating everything we needed, before we knew we needed anything! Caroline was the new equestrian and was helpful and funny and we were just so impressed with the way we all felt like family.
The wifi was available in the lodge, and our cabin was close enough to the lodge to mostly get a signal, but remember that this is rural Africa- it isn't NYC, London or LA!
Last word of advice: Book NOW
We felt very welcomed by the team at the lodge. I want to give a special thanks to Amber and Tamsen. Amber was a volunteer, She really made us feel welcomed and was attentive. Tamsen was also great. I did not feel very good one day and Tamsen checked on me a couple times and wanted to do whatever she could for me.
Guide: Matt is great! He explained everything we did very well. We did everything we wanted and more. He has a great sense of humor and we really had a blast with him. He took very could care of us and I would highly recommend him to everyone who travels to the lodge.
Accommodations: We stayed in small couple unit. We traveled with another couple and would probably recommend a family unit as there are separate bathrooms and bed rooms with additional room for sitting. Smaller rooms have a bedroom, bathroom and a small hallway.
Laundry was washed and returned timely and you could tell that care was taken in folding etc.....
We did an all inclusive package and they paid for everything. If we stopped at a gas station and wanted a Coke they paid for it. We did elect to do an open top vehicle at Kruger for a night and early morning drive. That was extra and they told us up front that this would not be covered by the lodge. There were no surprises.
The only thing that was not excellent was the chef. The lodge was in the process of changing chef's so I think that will improve in the future.
My wife and I spent a wonderful overnight stay at the lodge. The room we were assigned was quaint and romantic. The main lodge was beautiful and comfortable. The food was fabulous and plentiful as was the drink selection. In order to be entirely accurate, I must say that my initial reason for visiting the lodge was to partake in a guinea fowl hunt. Unfortunately, that part of the experience was a bit disappointing as it appeared that little planning went into this hunt. That being said, I did manage to bag a couple of "guineas" and it must be understood that their expertise is in big game hunting and not birds. Overall my mission was accomplished and I was satisfied with the experience. I must give Gavin a special mention as he went out his way to make certain that notwithstanding the hunt, that I had an enjoyable time at the lodge by taking me on an extensive game drive throughout the property and showing me the inner workings of the lodge. It was an "over and above" effort on his part. My wife had a wonderful time at the lodge. They treated her like royalty, taking her on a private game drive as well as on a Cheetah walk. This lodge was the highlight of our ten-day trip for her. Overall this is a great place with wonderful and attentive staff. We highly recommend it.
I was introduced to the Mafigeni Safari lodge in the May of 2015, what a beautiful lodge! All the comforts of home; excellent food, first class accommodations and a very attentive staff to your every need.
Each of the private cabins acts as your home away from home with private baths and your own porch overlooking the African bush. Beautiful furnishings and plenty of room to spread our and make yourself right at home.
Mafigeni is centrally located to many activities including the world famous Kruger National park. I highly recommend Mafigeni and I will be returning myself in September 2016!