If you’ve read my first two posts about our safari experience seeing the Big 5 as well a pack of wild dogs hunting, perhaps you’re thinking of going on safari as well. I’d highly recommend it! In this post I’ll go into detail about what Madikwe Game Reserve is like from the visitor’s point of view. I explain why we chose it and what we thought. Of course, our positive experience was heightened by the fact we stayed at an amazing lodge and saw some incredible sightings. Nonetheless, I think Madikwe Game Reserve is a great option for honeymooners, couples, adventure seekers and even families.
Why we chose Madikwe Game Reserve?
We started planning our safari adventure in November with the intention of going to South Africa in January. Not a whole lot of time to plan! We were strict with the timing and location for various reasons. We wanted to combine the safari with a beach holiday in Cape Town and minimize the amount of traveling from Aberdeen.
In many parts of Africa, January isn’t the best time to go on safari. It’s the height of summer so it is super hot. In South Africa, it’s the rainy season. Kruger National Park is naturally the location many people gravitate too, however, due to its location on the eastern coast, rain is highly probable. We didn’t want to leave one rainy place for another. And looking back I’m happy we didn’t since spending 3 hours in a game vehicle in the rain with all our camera equipment can’t be much fun. A travel agent suggested Madikwe and after some research, we figured there was no need to look any further.
Madikwe Game Reserve is a state-owned park but feels more like a private game reserve. It is the fifth largest in South Africa but lesser known. It used to be farm land when in 1991 it was declared a park and some 10,000 animals were reintroduced to the area, the largest translocation program in the world. It’s home to over 66 large mammals and over 300 bird species.
Self-drive safaris are not allowed and drives are conducted by the guides from over 30 different lodges. All the guides communicate with each other so that each of their visitors get a quality safari experience. They radio eachother to share knowledge of sightings and also restrict the time each vehicle gets to view a rare animal so that everyone gets a chance. Off-roading is permitted which is a big advantage since animals don’t just hang out by the roads. Most of the action we saw was all off-road.
Madikwe Game Reserve is also malaria-free. Bonus for avoiding that nasty illness from pesky mosquitos. And we actually never came across any mosquitos or flies. Sighting the Big 5 is pretty much guaranteed although leopards can be hit or miss. The park is fenced but that didn’t bother us. It seemed like it was more to protect the farmers around the park and ensure poachers stay out.
Traveling to Madikwe Game Reserve
Federal Air operates flights from Johannesburg to the Game Reserve air strip. Aside from that time I crazily jumped out of a plane in Australia, I hadn’t been in a small, single engine plane. A Cessna Caravan to be exact. With about 15 seats, you could easily see the pilot’s command centre and watch as you flew through the air toward the clouds. It was a very anxiety-filled experience for me. One of the longest hours on the whole trip. I clung to my seat and consoled myself in the (irrational) thought that we weren’t that high up so there was still a chance of survival if the plane went down. Although more expensive, it was worth it compared to taking a shuttle taxi to the Game Reserve (about 3.5hr journey). Funnily enough, I slept the whole way back on the return flight. Our lodge booked the flights for us and it was all very well organized.
Visiting Madikwe is actually a good decision any time of the year although the best is May to October when the weather isn’t as hot. During those drier months, there is less vegetation (thus making it easier to see the wildlife) and water is scarcer (thus animals congregate more around watering holes). Despite that, I had no complaints going in January and would happily go back again, any time of year! It was a great time of year since many of the wildlife had recently given birth. We saw baby wildebeest, baby hyenas, baby zebra, baby wartogs. They were absolutely adorable.
The park is large enough that we rarely bumped into other game vehicles. We were never in a situation where there was more than 3 vehicles in the area at the same sighting. Hence, it was not a problem to snap beautiful photos without people or vehicles in the background. It felt like an exclusive, private experience. Although that might also have to do with the game lodge we chose, Makanyane. More on that in the next post.
There are so many more pictures I’d love to share, so head over to Facebook to view the whole album.
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If you were on safari, what animal would you be most excited to see? Answer in the comments below.