The Madikwe Game Reserve Through My Lens: A Photo Essay

After an amazing start in Zambia, followed by some incredible game drives in both Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta in Botswana, our 10-year anniversary trip was sadly coming to an end. The last part of our trip took us back into South Africa, to a part of the country we had not heard of prior to booking our trip, the Madikwe Game Reserve.

Where is the Madikwe Game Reserve?

The Madikwe Game Reserve is in South Africa, close to the border of Botswana and not far from the Kalahari Desert. It takes roughly three and a half hours to get there by car from either Johannesburg or Pretoria or roughly an hour by plane.

From the Okavango Delta, we flew to Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, where a minivan transfer took us across the border back into South Africa. Getting into South Africa the second time around was a lot smoother than our first experience in Cape Town!

Why should you visit the Madikwe Game Reserve?

Although many people flock to Kruger National Park for their South African safari, it turns out that Kruger isn’t the only park offering excellent wildlife sightings. Madikwe Game Reserve is also home to the famous “Big Five” of Africa and it just happens to have one advantage over Kruger National Park, it’s Malaria free.

This makes Madikwe perfect for families, honeymooners or anyone that doesn’t fancy taking an anti-malarial course. Madikwe is also a lot quieter than Kruger. They have a rule in the Madikwe Game Reserve that only three jeeps at a time can be at a sighting. So the guides have to take it in turns, which is better for the animals and of course better for your photography as well.

What were our best sightings in the Madikwe Game Reserve?

A Pack of Wild Dogs

Two minutes into our first-morning game drive, we came across a pack of Wild Dogs that had just made a kill, a few metres from our Lodge. They were playing tug of war with the carcass, each of them trying to get a piece! It was a lot of fun watching their antics but we didn’t linger too long as they were extremely smelly!

Some Endangered Rhinos

It’s not easy to see Rhinos in Africa. Sadly, due to poaching, there are very few of them left. This means that when you do see one you are very lucky and you should enjoy the moment as much as possible. In the Madikwe Game Reserve, we were fortunate to see them on every game drive. We saw three different groups of Rhinos, including one that had a young baby in it. It was so nice to see!

Our First Cheetah

We still hadn’t seen a Cheetah, so when told that we would likely see one in Madikwe, I was very excited. So I let our guide Kelen know just how keen we were to see one. That very same evening, he received a call on his safari radio. The last female Cheetah left in Madikwe had just made a kill.

We quickly headed towards her but we had to wait our turn because three jeeps were already viewing her. When we finally saw her, she was resting near the Impala she had killed (not a pretty sight!). She eventually stood up, walked around for a bit and then lay down again.

Because she was the park’s last female Cheetah, she was fitted with a tracking collar, to allow the Rangers to keep a good eye on her. We saw her again the next day; she had remained with her kill and was lucky that no scavengers had come along to fight her for a piece!

A Black Mamba

As we drove around the park, our guide suddenly stopped the car. There was a large snake track clearly visible across the road in front of us. We decided to investigate further. Smart? Probably not! Our guide walked to the nearest bush and peered into it. He could see a small snake’s head inside. We decided to take a better look as well.

We could see the snake staring out at us. Thinking it was probably a python, we backed off and left it alone. Only seconds later, a huge Black Mamba came out from under the bush and slithered away from us. It was at least two metres in length!

The Black Mamba is one of the most dangerous snakes in Africa and if not treated, its venom can kill you in under an hour. It was probably not that smart for us to get that close to it but no-one was hurt and we survived to tell our story of the Black Mamba! As is usually the case, the snake was, fortunately, more scared of us than we were of him.

A pride of Handsome Male Lions

One morning, we saw a pride of Lions in the distance. From what we could see through our binoculars, there were three young male Lions and one Lioness, their mother. Not long afterwards, the other jeeps left but we persevered and were eventually rewarded when they ventured closer and closer, before finally crossing the road right in front of us. The males were a sight to behold. They looked so stunning with their beautiful golden manes.

Lions Hunting at Night

On what would be our last game drive in Africa (at least for now, we are hoping for many more to come), we had another surprise. As we were driving back to the lodge after our drive, our guide took a call on the radio. A pride of Lions had been spotted close to the lodge.

It was pitch black as we headed over there, so our guide grabbed his red-filtered spotlight (the red filter protects the lions’ eyes in the dark). As he pointed the spotlight off to the side of the road, straight away it lit up a huge Lioness, just metres from our jeep. She was on the hunt and walking so silently that without the spotlight, we would never have known she was there. It was pretty thrilling to discover her but also a little unnerving!

At first, we’d assumed that they were referring to another lodge, but it turned out that it was ours! One Lioness was standing right alongside room number 7, which was two of the girls in our group’s room! Frightening? Yes. Exciting? Absolutely!

Five minutes after sighting the Lions right next to our rooms, we drove back to the lodge where they’d set up tables outside for a lovely dinner by the river! It was a little unnerving eating outside, knowing the Lions were hunting close by. But no-one at the lodge seemed too concerned, so we went with the flow and enjoyed our dinner. It was just another eventful day in Madikwe. We were certainly going to miss this.

Where did we stay in the Madikwe Game Reserve?

The last resort of our trip was the Makanyane Luxury Safari Lodge. It’s another lodge in the Sanctuary Retreats portfolio. Once again, we were treated to pure luxury, comfort and the highest level of service. It’s another all-inclusive resort, so all of our game drives were included. Sanctuary Makanyane has eight luxurious and secluded air-conditioned suites and an amazing infinity pool from where we could watch the wild dogs on the hunt across the river.

The infinity pool at Makanyane.

Although the rooms are absolutely perfect and leaving them was hard, Makanyane offers another experience which is rather hard to say no to. That’s the opportunity to spend a romantic night sleeping under the stars. That’s right! The resort has a three storey hide, a 10-minute drive from the lodge, in the middle of the wilderness, with the wildlife as your only neighbours. One night during our stay, we took up their offer and slept on the top storey of the hide. We watched the stars and listened to the sounds of nature. The Hyenas kept me awake for most of the night but it was one of the best nights I had in Africa. What an experience!

Sleeping under the stars.

Find out their latest prices here.

Other Accommodation in Madikwe

You can use the search box below to find alternative lodges in Madikwe:

What do you need before you go on a safari in the Madikwe Game Reserve?

A good camera with a good lens is essential!

Some insect repellent to keep those mozzies away!

An action camera for wildlife videos!

Binoculars to observe the animals from afar

A hat… it gets hot!

Sunscreen to protect your skin from sunburn

Madikwe is just one option!

South Africa has so many different options for going on Safari. You can use SafariBookings to discover some great tours. We used it to find and contact tour operators when planning our African itinerary and it was really helpful.

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