Madikwe Game Reserve
Safari suitability: 9/10Find your tour
All of the big five. Within 4 hours of Johannesburg. Great opportunity to see wild dogs.
What YAS members think
- A malaria-free park.
- Home to all of the big five.
- Madikwe's private lodge system limits visitor numbers to keep the experience wild and authentic. Diverse wildlife inhabits the parks varied landscape.
- Regular encounters with photogenic, highly-endangered African wild dogs
- Astonishing accommodation in full board lodges.
- A possibility of a fly-in safari.
About Madikwe Game Reserve
Located in an area that used to be nothing more but abandoned farmland, Madikwe Game Reserve rose to become one of Africa’s best preservation areas. The park lies close to the Botswanian border, 90 kilometers (55 miles) north of Zeerust. If driving from Johannesburg, it can be reached in roughly four hours. There is also an airstrip that allows landing for small aircrafts.
Unlike in national parks like Kruger, self-driving on safari is not allowed, nor are day visits. Guests must be booked into one of the many high-end lodges in the reserve and then enjoy the park on guided game drives in open vehicles or other activities operated by the lodges such as bush walks.
This policy limits the number of vehicles in the park and allows better regulation of behavior at sightings. Madikwe is equipped to receive the most discerning guest and offers a unique combination of astonishing game viewing, well-managed conservation efforts and ambient, luxurious accommodation.
This game reserve, sited on the basin of the Madikwe or Marico River, offers an experience of a true African wilderness. It is one of the less widely known South African Parks - here, you can avoid the crowds and be awarded with close and personal encounters with some of Africa’s most majestic wildlife. Positioned on the edges of the Kalahari Desert, it offers a sanctuary to some rare animal species that occur here naturally, as well as to those that were relocated from other areas.
Over 60 mammal species roam the park’s 750 km² (290 miles²) of bush land. Among them are the big five and the endangered African wild dogs, which were introduced into the park in 1994. The vanishing wild dogs managed to endure the initial challenges to form three well-established hunting packs that promise to preserve this beautiful species.
Madikwe might also be the best place in South Africa to spot the elusive leopard, and the reserve is renowned for its cheetah population. Vibrant birdlife is another highlight of the visit with over 350 species of birds recorded at the reserve.
Madikwe game reserve is run and managed by Tourism board, the local communities and the private sector. The latter funds the construction of game lodges and more recently, 70 km² (27 miles² ) of privately owned land has also been incorporated into the park. Efforts are also being made to involve and uplift the local communities through their involvement with the park’s work.
When to visit Madikwe Game Reserve
As there is no migration period, spectacular game viewing is possible all year round. The rainy season stretches between October and April and coincides with the summer months. The dry season runs from May to September. During the winter, when temperatures are generally more pleasant, animals tend to congregate around water holes, offering opportunities for uninterrupted game viewing.
Activities in Madikwe Game Reserve
The reserve offers a plethora of safari options, including family/self-drive safaris, honeymoon safaris and fly-in safaris. The park’s guides are known to be very knowledgeable and charismatic and can provide everyone with what they are looking for.
It is advised not to use vehicles with low ground clearance and all park lodges are accessible via gravel roads.
There are many good reasons to visit Madikwe Game Reserve: It is just a 3-hour drive from Johannesburg. It has the 'Super-Seven' animals - big-five plus cheetah and wild dog. It is malaria free. The park is most well-known for its wild dog sightings. Leopard sightings used to be scarce but since the lion population was reduced the leopard sightings have started to increase. It is not a busy park as self-drive is not permitted - game drives are guided with field guides. There are about 21 commercial lodges in the park and we have stayed at 12 of them. They are all unique and to give you an idea of the diversity. The Bush House has an amazing underground hide, Makanyane Lodge is situated on a private concession so you get to have the animals all to yourself, Madikwe River Lodge faces the Marico River so you get to see hippos, crocodiles, water birds as well as the super-seven animals, Buffalo Ridge Lodge has superb views over the park, Mosetlha Bush Camp is a rustic camp that provides a true wilderness experience, and Jamala Madikwe Lodge is an elegant colonial lodge. Go and check them out for yourself!
Madikwe Game Reserve is located about 4.5 hours from Johannesburg in the North West Province close to the Botswana border. The history of this area goes back to early missionaries such as David Livingston who established a mission station in Madikwe in 1846 and later there were clashes between the Boers and the British during the Boer war at the turn of the century. The Marico district became familiar to many South Africans through the writings and stories of Herman Charles Bosman, one of South Africa’s most famous short story tellers. He created the atmosphere of Groot Marico during the 1930’s and 1940’s with his tales told through the eyes of ‘Oom Schalk Lourens’. Madikwe Game Reserve which covers an area of 76,000 hectares was created in 1991 when the largest translocation of wild animals ever recorded took place. Operation Phoenix saw the introduction of 10,000 animals into the reserve. Today Madikwe is regarded as one of the finest conservation areas in Africa, offering all of the major species, including: lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant, buffalo, black and white rhino plus wild dog and 17 antelope species. A special feature of Madikwe lies in its unique location on the edge of the Kalahari where a number of rare species occur naturally. Over 340 species of birds have been recorded at Madikwe including many interesting raptors. The Bush House, one of the most popular lodges in Madikwe dates back to 1919 when the first house was built on the original Wonderboom Farm near the Botswana border. The Du Toit family, pioneers of the region, developed a most successful farm with cattle, citrus and other fruits. However in 1991 the farm was incorporated into the Madikwe Game Reserve when the entire region was converted to game conservation. In the year 2000 The Bush House became a commercial game lodge which today offers a memorable 4 star experience to South Africans as well as international visitors. The addition of the original underground hide in Madikwe makes it a most exciting destination.
Madikwe Game Reserve is among the bigger reserves in South Africa but is relatively little visitedone of its major advantages. Another advantage is the close driving distance of about 4 hours by road from Johannesburg or Pretoria. Finally, Madikwe is not only home to the big five, but is also conveniently malaria-freeits a great safari option for families with young children who still want an authentic safari experience in a large and wild game reserve. The reserves management is a collaboration between the provincial parks department, private tourism operators and local communities who have adopted a strategy to target higher value, lower volume tourism. Thus, Madikwe operates like a private reserve. Unlike in national parks like Kruger, self-driving on safari is not allowed, nor are day visits. Guests must be booked into one of the many high-end lodges in the reserve and then enjoy the park on guided game drives in open vehicles or other activities operated by the lodges such as bush walks. This policy limits the number of vehicles in the park and allows better regulation of behavior at sightings. For example, guides use radios to communicate with each other about special sightings to limit vehicles to just a few per sighting at a timeits a better experience for guests and wildlife alike. Limited off-road driving is also allowed for certain special sightings, which increases your chances of seeing the species the park is so well known for. Besides the big five, Madikwe is a great place to look for wild dogs and cheetah. Its also an excellent safari destination thanks to its location next to the Botswana border on the ecotone transition between the Kalahari Desert and the bushveld savanna. This means it hosts species from both desert and savanna ecosystems. Some highlights from our recent trip include the following: - two leopard sightings, - wild dogs, - cheetah, - lion, - spotted hyena, - brown hyena, - rhino, - elephant, - buffalo and more. The birding is also fantastic and, in the wet season, the frog chorus from pans and wetlands is incredible. Madikwe has a varied landscape including rocky hills (where we were lucky to spot an elephant shrew bounding between rocks), wetlands, grasslands, woodlands and stretches of Kalahari sand. These varied habitats ensure an interesting and diverse stay in the parkwhether your visit is just a few nights or a whole week. Before it was proclaimed as a game reserve, much of the Madikwe area was agricultural land and some of the historical buildings remain, which add another interesting perspective to visits. Iron age ruins and rock art tell of earlier inhabitants. If youre looking for something to do between morning and afternoon game drives while lounging by the pool, take along a book of renowned South African author Herman Charles Bosmans short stories to get a feel for life in the area a century ago.
Another amazing location in South Africa to get a classic safari experience. Madikwe Game Reserve plays host to some of our favourite accommodations and animals. The best part of this region is that you don't have to worry about malaria whilst settling in inside on of the largest game reserves in South Africa. The next-best part about this region is that it is lesser known by the masses and where some regions during peak seasons may seem full, Madikwe will have less crowding.
Getting to Madikwe Game Reserve
Madikwe is located in South Africa on the border with Botswana, and is easily accessible by car, making it a desirable park to visit for those wishing to combine multiple parks in their African safari. It is about three hours from Pilanesberg National Park and two hours from Marakele National Park.
From Johannesburg, the drive is roughly four hours. If you are coming from Botswana, the drive is roughly two hours from the capital city, Gaborone.
It's worth noting that most of the lodges are located near the eastern and western gates.
The following airlines travel to Madikwe Game Reserve
Air shuttle and charter services throughout Africa, former name - Pelican Air Services. Federal Airlines (Pty) Ltd. Trading as Federal Air, is the preferred aviation partner for the top safari destinations in Southern Africa, and the market leader in Aviation Shuttle and Charter Services. Taking guests to the most beautiful and remote parts of Africa is our specialty and a market segment which Federal Air innovated in the late 1990s. We partner with world leaders in luxury safari experiences, and are committed to raising the bar in aviation to play our part in delivering a unique and seamless travel experience unparalleled anywhere in the world. Visit website
Also flies to: