Written by: Quintin Koekemoer
In search of the ideal location for an African photo safari, I eventually settled on the north of South Africa and decided to visit two locations instead of one – the famous Sabi Sand Game Reserve and Madikwe Game Reserve bordering Botswana.
Located in two separate biomes and a short flight from one another, Cheetah Plains and Jaci’s Lodges offer a wide and varied perspective when it comes to safari experiences. Whether it’s the lovely red-bush willow trees of the Sabi Sand or the majestic shepherd’s tree standing fast on Madikwe’s red soil, they provide a lovely backdrop for any photographic adventure.
Offering the most amazing leopard encounters, Cheetah Plains gave me my long awaited ‘female leopard with cub’ photo, which was very rewarding on a personal level.
Comparing this to the 75,000 hectare expanse of Madikwe Game Reserve, which is home to a population of 1,200 elephants moving around in big groups, it’s difficult to decide which of the two I like the most.
If I had the choice again I would book four nights at Madikwe and three nights in Cheetah Plains, that’s seven days of the best safari experience you can have in South Africa.
Both of the reserves have wild dog and almost anybody who has encountered these predators before will tell you that it was one of their best sightings thus far. Some of the world’s most ferocious lions can also be found in the Sabi Sand, making for some impactful photographs.
Each reserve has different touches and wildlife. Madikwe Game Reserve is located on the border where savanna becomes desert, which offers a wide variety when it comes to general game. With springbok and impala on the same reserve, it gives the guests an opportunity to see the world’s fastest land mammal in action – two out of the three times I saw cheetah during our trip they made a kill.
One thing South Africans are very proud of is their appetite and their skill to create the most unique combinations in food and presentation. Whether it’s sitting around the fire overlooking the water hole in Cheetah Plains or a well-organised plated dinner at Jaci’s Lodges, you will get a taste of the finest foods and flavours this great country has to offer with a dash of precision and passion. All this under the unforgettable clear African night sky, something which many city dwellers in South Africa haven’t had the chance to see before. It truly is a wonderful and life changing experience.
Diversity and quality rein in these two very different reserves. I’m not going to be the guy that tells you which is the best, I’m simply going to tell you “why not do both?”