The Northwest Province and its border with Botswana have increasing popularity in terms of tourism. As it turns out, the bushland along the border is in perfect condition for wildlife. Hence, one of the biggest and most recent safari parks was founded here. Opened to the public in 1991, Madikwe Game Reserve is the fifth largest safari park in the country and a perfect example of the land-utilization efforts of the government. Although the area was initially proclaimed for agriculture, the landowners quickly discovered that the soil was far from fertile. Following this, the wildlife was successfully introduced, as well as ultra-luxurious safari facilities. Let’s explore the park in greater detail.
The landscape of Madikwe is hard to summarize in one sentence. Throughout the Northwest province, the land is mainly taken up by vast plains, although the region Tshwane Tshwane is quite hilly. The park is bounded on the south by the magnificent Dwarsberg Mountain Range. The highest point within the range is Branwacht with 1228 meters.
Tshwane Tshwane hills erect at the centre of the park, bearing Madikwe’s highest point at 1328 meters.
The rest of the park consists of a plate bearing intense bushveld along the basin of Madikwe River.
The Kalahari starts just to the north of the park, so the area is considered a transition zone between the arid Kalahari Landscape and Northwest bushveld/ grassland, showing characteristics of both.
The infertile land of Madikwe is surprisingly heaven for the wildlife. Through centuries of erosion and the effects of different climate zones, several habitats have formed including Kalahari veld, seasonal wetlands, Savannah, and thornveld.
Thanks to this variety, the park now houses over 60 mammal species and 340 bird species.
In addition to large numbers of all the big 5 members, you will find excessive numbers of a hyena, wild dog, cheetah, hippo and giraffe.
Elephants are a huge part of the park, constituting almost half of the entire mammal population with over 900 members.
The park boasts both white and black rhinoceros, taking superb precautions to prevent poaching.
Buffalo population is the second most crowded with 844 members. Madikwe’s management is quite sensitive about the health of the buffalos, providing protection from deadly diseases.
There are currently 60 lions in the park. Some of them were introduced into the park from Etosha Game Reserve or Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park to diversify the gene pool. The same relocation was done on leopards that are also found here with similar population size.
The long list of species is definitely not limited to the big 5. You can find lots of rare and indigenous mammal species like bat-eared fox, reedbuck, hartebeest, and gemsbok.
We weren’t kidding when we said that Madikwe offers a VIP experience.
The biggest advantage of Madikwe is that the safari tours require a dedication of at least 3 days, meaning no day visitors are allowed. If you are going to stay here, you will definitely not encounter heaving crowds battling to capture wildlife shots.
The ultimate safari drives are divided into three categories: 3 days, 4 days, and 5 days.
They don’t differ too much in terms of itinerary and content; however, the 4 and 5-day tours give you more time to relax and explore the park inside out. Besides, the 5-day tour allows you to stay at two different lodges so that you can get a grasp of two different habitats in the park.
The tours are all-inclusive with meals, transfers, and accommodation. During the game drives, you will be guided by the experienced rangers who know the area better than anyone else.
Each day contains a drive in the morning, one in the afternoon, meals and fun activities in between. A vehicle will take no more than six people besides the rangers and the trackers, making the experience even more unique.
Accommodation facilities in the park are just as diverse as the landscape. There are eco-bush camps, luxury lodges, super-luxury lodges, family suites, honeymoon suites, basically any type of accommodation you could imagine.
Transfers to safari parks can be challenging. Luckily, Madikwe’s all-inclusive safari tours will arrange that for you. All you have to do is fly to Johannesburg’s O R Tambo Airport, where you will get on air shuttles that will take you to the private airstrip of the lodge you booked.
The region experiences two main seasons: The rainy season from October till April, and the dry season from May to September.
During the rainy season, the temperature is around 30 degrees. The highest rainfall occurs between November and February. The rains are short-lasting but sharp. The humidity is at a high level during the day. This is the best time for bird watching since birds will be attracted more to the lush green vegetation.
The dry season has still mild temperatures around 23; however, the temperature drop at night can be drastic with single digits. The water resources narrow down, which means animals will be on a quest to find water. So, the dry season is certainly much better for big five viewing.
The park is in a malaria-free zone, so you will not need prior medication.
The park is only 28 km from Gaborone, so you can combine your experience with a Botswana trip even.
If you are wondering how Madikwe compares to Kruger in terms of big game viewing; both have excellent opportunities. However, leopard sighting is much more common in Kruger because of the abundance of riverine forest and leadwood trees.
As with any safari adventure, you must be mindful of the wildlife and avoid anything to disturb them or put people in danger. Leaving the vehicle is strictly prohibited and will cause you to face legal charges.
Because of previous agriculture and civilization attempts, there are still some ruins from that era. Keep an eye out for the ruins of a Catholic Mission and a handful of windmills.