Madikwe Game Reserve is the fifth largest game reserve in South Africa – 75 000 hectares of pristine, malaria-free bushveld located in the North West Province, just a 4 hour drive from Johannesburg or a 1 hour flight. It is also still one of the lesser known parks in South Africa, which makes it a hidden gem. The reserve is run as a three-way partnership between the State (represented by the North West Parks and Tourism Board), local communities and the private sector. The reserve offers the opportunity of a malaria-free Big Five game experience, as well as offering good opportunities to see the endangered African wild dog.
Prior to the reserve’s proclamation in 1991, the area consisted of largely-degraded cattle farms. A feasibility study showed that developing the area into a game reserve, linked to wildlife-based tourism development, was the most efficient form of land use and the most beneficial to the local communities. These days the lodges in the reserve offer employment to many people from the local communities.
The process of reintroducing wildlife to the area began in 1992 under the codename ‘Operation Phoenix’ which relocated entire breeding herds of elephants, Cape buffaloes, black rhinos and white rhinos along with various species of antelopes. Following Operation Phoenix, the reserve has also successfully reintroduced predatory species such as lion, cheetah, spotted hyena and the endangered African wild dog. Madikwe also boasts an incredible 350 bird species, making the reserve a paradise for any enthusiastic birdwatcher.
These days Madikwe Game Reserve not only offers the Big Five (or indeed the ‘Magnificent Seven’ including cheetah and African wild dog) but also an incredible scenic beauty thanks to the riverine forest along the Marico River, the red Kalahari soil and the vast open plains of grasslands, woodlands, rocky outcrops and single mountains. The area is bordered in the south by the Dwarsberg Mountains. From several high vantage points the views are absolutely stunning.
Access to Madikwe Game Reserve is easy. Federal Air offers shuttle flights from Johannesburg twice daily, or it is possible to book a private charter flight. Madikwe Game Reserve has 2 airstrips inside the reserve. For those that prefer to drive, access is possible with a 2WD vehicle, preferably with a slightly higher ground clearance. A 4WD is not necessary.
There is not just one best time to visit Madikwe Game Reserve. Each season has it’s specific benefits. The dry and sunny winter months (May-September) offer prime game viewing, but the nights can get chilly. In October and November the first thunderstorms signal the arrival of the summer rains. From December until April the landscape looks lush and green, thanks to the afternoon rain storms. This is also the time for the animals to give birth to their babies. For birdwatchers these summer months are the most attractive, thanks to the arrival of the migratory birds.