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Madikwe Game Reserve
Madikwe Game Reserve 1

Madikwe Game Reserve

Madikwe Game Reserve, the fifth largest game reserve in South Africa, covers 750 km2 of land from the north of Groot-Marico, all the way up to the border of Botswana. With its location on the Marico river basin, the Madikwe Game Reserve’s diverse ecosystem includes dotted bushveld plains, lush grasslands, rocky outcrops, and single mountains.

Madikwe Game Reserve was named after the Marico river. The word Marico comes from the Twana word ‘Malico’ meaning “drenched with blood.” This refers to the tragic history of the land.

The Madikwe Game Reserve has a rich cultural history, dating back millions of years. Stone Age artifacts were found along the Marico river, and Iron Age artifacts were found at several sites including Dwarserge and Tweedepoort ridge.

History of the Madikwe Game Reserve

  • 15th century-17th century: Sotho-Tswana people migrated to these parts from east Africa. Hurutshe people were amongst the first to arrive in the area and settled along the Marico river. However, Kaditshwene was considered their main settlement, and this became the largest town in South Africa at the time.
  • 1810: A severe drought led to pillaging, killing, and cannibalism.
  • 1815-1840: Mfecane, also known as Difaqane, was a period of extreme chaos and warfare. For survival, the Sotho-Tswana had to move their homes to the top of the hills. They started living in large settlements. After the battle at Kaditshwene, the town lay in ruins.
  • 1854: Andries Pretorius, a Boer leader, succeeded in his negotiations with the Britishers to free the South African Republic.
  • 1856-1864: Civil war amongst the Boer clans was ongoing during this period.
  • 1877: The British annexed the Boer’s Transvaal, which was rejected by the Boers.
  • 1879: Father Henri Depelchin, Father Charles Croonenberghs, and several others set out to establish a Mission in Bulawayo. On their journey, they passed through Dwarsberg, today’s Madikwe Game Reserve. Here they saw antelope, blue storks, cheetah, herons, hyena, jackal, kudu, and leopard.
  • 1880-1881: Neither the Boers nor the British would let go of the land, leading to the Transvaal war. When the war ended, the Boers held on to Transvaal.
  • 1899-1902: The victory of the Transvaal war was short-lived, as the British seized control of the whole country.
  • 1948: After years of turmoil, the Madikwe region found peace, and several buildings, such as schools, convents and churches were erected.
  • 1991: Before the establishment of the Madikwe Game Reserve, a detailed study of the region was conducted. It revealed that the economically depressed status of the area could be improved with the establishment of wildlife-based tourism. On 31st October, Madikwe Game Reserve was officially established. It covered 750 km2 of bushland north of the Groot-Marico up to the border of Botswana.
  • 1991-1997: Operation Phoenix helped reintroduce wildlife to the park, by selecting breeding herds of large mammals. After the success of Operation Phoenix, rare predator species such as cheetah, Cape wild dog, lion, and spotted hyena was also successfully introduced to the area.

Wildlife In Madikwe Game Reserve

Since the successful reintroduction of wildlife into the Madikwe Game Reserve, the park now has 66 large mammal species and over 300 bird species.

Due to its ample Big Five population, Madikwe Game Reserve is amongst the top Big Five safari destinations to visit. Other predatory mammals found in the park include African wild cat, aardwolf, bat-eared fox, black-backed jackal, caracal, Cape fox, serval, spotted and brown hyena, and an abundant wild dog population.

Amongst the different species to be spotted in the park, antelope, blue wildebeest, mountain reedbuck, red hartebeest,  eland, and impala are the most popular. The park is also home to smaller mammals such as ground and tree squirrels, porcupines and springhares.

The park has a wide variety of bird species including ostrich, black-headed heron, cattle egret, African hawk-eagle, lizard buzzard, and marsh owl.

Camps In Madikwe Game Reserve

  • Mosetlha Bush Camp and Eco Lodge: The camp follows the principles of ecotourism, focusing on the conservation of neighbouring lands, and consequently providing benefits to local communities. It is located in the heart of the Madikwe Game resort.
  • Aha Thakadu River Camp: The main camp, set within a riverine canopy, is located between Marico river and a smaller tributary of the river. The camp is designed to blend into its surroundings, and includes a pool area and a bar for relaxation after game drives.
  • Royal Madikwe Safari Lodge: A luxury retreat, this camp offers beautiful views of the surrounding grasslands, dotted with volcanic intrusions.
  • Jamala Madikwe Lodge: This lodge offers a luxurious space to unwind after an action-packed day of game viewing. Here visitors can enjoy gourmet meals, time around the fire, a bar area, and a swimming pool.

When To Visit Madikwe Game Reserve

Similar to most South African parks, the best time to visit Madikwe Game Reserve is during the dry season, from May to September. With thinning vegetation, it’s easier to spot animals as the majority of wildlife can be seen gathering around waterholes. On the other hand, Madikwe is an excellent year-round destination for bird enthusiasts.  For bird-watchers who want to see migratory bird species, the best time to come is between November and April.

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