Madikwe Game Reserve is an ongoing success story. Prior to 1991, this region of land in the North-West Province was far from pristine – extensive cattle grazing, poor agricultural maintenance and economic depression made this an area hardly worth remembering. But it was in August of that year when the new 60 000ha Madikwe Game Reserve was announced, a joint-management, community upliftment project that was the first of its kind in South Africa.
Fast forward 25 years and we are now looking at one of the most successful game reserves in the country. A triumph for the wildlife industry. Following successful reintroduction of animal species, today the Big 5 and a host of other animals can be found here, including 350 different birds.
So what makes Madikwe truly special?
A recent census put the population of African elephants in the reserve to just over 1200. Now, considering the size of Madikwe when compared to similar comparable Big 5 reserves, this is a remarkable accomplishment. In fact, due to the steep growth in elephant population here, Madikwe now boasts the highest density of this land-dwelling giant in the country, more so than any other protected reserve. When visiting the reserve, you’re bound to witness at least a few of the herds which roam freely within.
The primary objective of the reserve is unique, in that wildlife and conservation efforts make Madikwe a social and economic hub too. Management of the park exists from three different areas, namely state, private sectors and the local community. The private sector’s role is to establish and manage all tourism-related activities, while the state uses incoming concession fees from the private sector’s efforts for reserve upkeep and conservation as well as for various community-based projects, which brings us to Madikwe’s third managerial force, the local community, who receive a portion of the concession and proceeds to be actively involved in upkeep and preservation of the reserve and its wildlife.
Unique meeting place
While there are a number of antelope to be found within reserve limits, Madikwe is the only place in Africa where the springbok and Kalahari gemsbok meet naturally. For wildlife enthusiasts this is a special reason to visit as both species usually prefer to reside in completely different habitats.
Madikwe is best known for its ultra-luxury lodges and exclusive-use villas. However, some of these may fall out of local traveller’s budgets, which is why it is a delight to report that there are a number of striking lodges within the reserve that do not break the bank. Look a bit deeper beyond the glamour of Madikwe and you’re likely to find an affordable option offering clean & cosy accommodation coupled with daily game drives as part of a package deal. From the budget-friendly Mosethla Eco Bush Camp right up to the stylish grace of the Royal Madikwe Safari Lodge, it pays to shop around to find a Madikwe accommodation special that’s right for you.
Wild Dog reintroduction success
In 1994 six African Wild Dogs were translocated to Madikwe. Despite various tribulations involving lions and other big game, today their population has healthily increased to three main hunting packs, these units usually consisting from 5-15 individuals. The flourishing population is an outright success and has seen Madikwe Game Reserve become an icon of South Africa for these critically-endangered pack animals.