Thakadu River Camp is one of the finest examples of responsible tourism bringing benefits – social and financial upliftment – to the local community that owns it. The five-star lodge is Fair Trade Tourism (FTT) certified and is set on the eastern side of Madikwe Game Reserve, one of South Africa’s few malaria-free parks.

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Thakadu means 'aardvark' and is a totem for the Batlokwa people who own the lodge.

Listening to the story of Thakadu River Camp in Madikwe Game Reserve is like immersing yourself in a happy-ending, real-life fairy tale.

This tented camp along the clear green Marico River not far from the Botswana border, is 100% owned by the Batlokwa people, most of whom live in a small nearby village called Molatedi. The community members gain clear benefits from having this luxury lodge here. It's a model of responsible tourism.

Not only is there an annual amount paid to the community’s trust fund, but it is only local villagers who are employed and trained at the lodge. Not surprisingly, Thakadu is a Fair Trade in Tourism-certified destination.

A trip to the village of Molatedi is easily arranged. It is memorable in part for the lack of visible people of working age. You’ll mostly only see old people and very people along the quiet, dusty streets.

Everyone else is either working at Thakadu or is involved in the ecotourism business. This is thanks to the Madikwe Game Reserve, which is an enormous park embodying a mutually beneficial partnership between the owner (the government), the owners of the lodges (communities or private sector) and the environment that supports both.

An added benefit for visitors is that Madikwe is malaria-free.

Ecotourism is an industry that particularly favours female breadwinners. They don’t need to travel far to seek work, and can be close to their families, saving rent, food and transport money. It’s far easier to raise children in this environment than if they worked far from home.

The little shop owners don’t have to deal with crippling debt, because most people can pay their bills. The school is of a reasonable standard, with motivated teachers.

The Thakadu tented camp (Thakadu means 'aardvark', an animal sacred to the Batlokwa) offers five-star accommodation. The tents are set on platforms over the thickly wooded Marico River. Each has a wide balcony, a romantic room and an en suite bathroom.

The community members are tremendously proud of their beautiful lodge, and it shows in their welcome.

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