Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa
Thinking of going on a Safari to South Africa?
Start planning today, but be warned, once you’ve experienced the wonders of the African bush, you would always want to return! South Africa offers many safari options. Madikwe Game Reserve is one of the lesser-known reserves and in my view a hidden gem!
- The 75,000 hectare conservation area is home to the Big Five and hundreds of birds and wildlife species that you will see during game drives through forests, mountainous areas, grassland, seasonal wetlands and a perennial river.
- Professional guides are well trained to spot animals and will provide interesting facts about the wildlife that you will encounter along the way.
- Access to the park is restricted to staying guests, so you do not have to compete with day visitors at sightings and water holes. You will have exclusive access on open game vehicles driven by expert guides.
- A bonus to visiting Madikwe is the fact that it is a malaria free area; no need to take medication.
- For foreign tourists the best part at the moment is the weak currency – you can have an ultra luxury safari at very affordable rates!
- If you are serious about photography, the diverse landscape and many different species of game make this reserve a photographers dream!
- The term Big Five refers to the elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard. It is said that big game hunters believed that they are the five most dangerous animals to hunt. Today most people want to see these magnificent animals when on an African safari.
- Unfortunately rhino poaching is becoming a huge problem in South Africa. Madikwe has recently rolled out a very effective anti-poaching program to protect both its white and black rhino. Please support anti-poaching efforts to save the rhino for your children and grandchildren to see these magnificent animals!
- They introduced 6 endangered African wild dogs to the reserve in 1994, as part of the conservation project. Today there are several hunting packs. If you are lucky, you will get to experience the results of this conservation effort when visiting Madikwe.
- Madikwe has a community based wildlife conservation approach. The local communities benefit from community-based projects and the reserve offers many employment opportunities to members of the local communities.
What can you expect to see?
- Like most visitors, I assume you want to see the Big Five.
- Madikwe is home to over 900 elephants and you are sure to encounter a few herds during your stay. You may even be surprised by elephants visiting your camp!
- Night drives are spectacular! You will leave your lodge in time to watch the sunset whilst sipping sundowners somewhere in the bush. Along the way your guide will point out many interesting nocturnal creatures.
- If they are in the vicinity, you will see why the lion is at the top of the food chain. These magnificent animals can reach up to 250kg! Watching them on a hunt, or at a kill is an unforgettable experience.
- Leopards are shy animals, but I’ve been lucky enough to see a few on different visits to the park. Your guide will always try and find one, but they are elusive animals.
- Madikwe has a healthy population of buffalo. They move in large herds and must be respected when encountered. They have a reputation of being aggressive. Watching a herd of buffalo at a waterhole will leave a lasting memory of your visit to Madikwe.
- Apart from the Big Five you may encounter giraffe, hippo, hyena, wild cats, herds of zebra, wildebeest and antelope. Bird species include ostrich, vultures and the large Kori bustard.
- If you are lucky, or privileged, you might see a hunting pack of the endangered African wild dog!
- The animals roam freely in the reserve, and of course, you are never guaranteed to see all of the Big Five. Guides are in constant contact with each other and visiting Madikwe promises an unforgettable bush experience and the best possibility of seeing the Big Five in a few days.
How to get there
- Madikwe is situated in the Northern Province bordering Botswana. It is a 4-5 hour drive from Johannesburg. Depending on the route, you might have to drive a short distance on dirt road.
- If you don’t want to drive, Madikwe has its own airstrip and offers daily flights into the park. You will be transferred to your lodge from the airstrip. If your budget allows for this, this is the best way to go!
- Alternatively, you can reach the park from Gaborone in Botswana. Remember to plan on spending extra time at the border post.
Where to stay
- Madikwe offers a number of different accommodation options. Rates are all-inclusive, including accommodation, all meals, afternoon tea, limited drinks and two game drives a day.
- Choose from tented camps to luxury lodges. Whether you want adventure or a romantic holiday, Madikwe offers it all.
- Some lodges are family friendly and offer special programs for children, others are ultra luxurious with private plunge pools and personal butlers. Madikwe Safari Lodge is my personal favourite for an exclusive luxury experience
- For a more affordable stay, look at the tented Thakadu River Camp, on the banks of the Marico river. Great value for money! No “roughing it” here!
- If you feel adventurous, book your stay at Jaci’s Lodge and take part in their active conservation safaris. Imagine being part of collaring a lion, or micro chipping a rhino!
The best time to go
- Madikwe can be visited all year round.
- The rainy season is from October to April. The rain is normally limited to short, heavy afternoon showers and it offers a welcome relief to the hot and humid days. Average daytime temperature is around 30 degrees Celsius.
- May to September are the dry cool months. Early morning and night temperatures can be very cold, but this is the best season for game viewing. The animals are forced to move to the waterholes for drinking water.
- Some South African schools have three terms and others have four terms. This means locals visit the reserve during March/April, mid June/July, August and December/January. Although Madikwe is never crowded, you may need to book well in advance to visit during these periods.
What to pack
- Comfortable clothes and closed shoes. If you are planning on joining a bush walk, you need good walking shoes.
- Sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat.
- Insect repellent
- If you are going in the dry cooler season, you need a warm jacket, a beanie and gloves for your early morning and night game drives. Your guide will also provide blankets on the vehicle. Don’t be put off by the cold temperatures; the game viewing is always worth it!
- Camera’s and binoculars
How long should you stay?
- My answer is always, as long as possible!
- You need at least 2 nights/3 days, but I recommend a 4 night stay. You will be taken on several game drives and will have time to explore a bigger area of the reserve and see more animals. You will also have time to relax and enjoy the facilities at your lodge. Some lodges offer spa treatment for extra relaxation.
- You could even consider staying in two different lodges.
How to book
- Most tour operators can assist you with your travel arrangements.
- I recommend booking directly with the travel consultants at www.madikwegamereserve.co.za. They offer very competitive rates and can find the best match for your needs and answer all your questions.
Things to remember
- You will be treated to excellent African cuisine during your stay. Notify the lodge of any special dietary requirements, when you make your booking. The chefs will do their best to accommodate your needs.
- It is customary to tip your guide and the lodge staff. It is not compulsory, but it is sincerely appreciated.
List by: Sandra
I love all kinds of travelling! Adventure, food, sight seeing, culture and history. I’ve shopped and dined in New York, London, Paris and Rome. Cruised Alaska and encountered a super pod of Orca whilst on a private charter. I’ve snorkeled in Seychelles, Maldives, Mauritius and Thailand. I’ve jet skied in Monaco, travelled on a Vespa along the Amalfi Coast and drove from Miami to Key West on the back of a Harley. After all of that, I still feel that nothing beats the smell and the sounds of the African bush! Experiencing the African bush is a special privilege!