Is Madikwe the best malaria-free Big 5 safari experience?

The malaria-free Madikwe Game Reserve in northern South Africa, close to the Botswana border, is favoured by those who want a Big 5 (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo) safari – but without the crowds sometimes associated with larger, more popular reserves. 

The reserve does not permit day trippers or self-drive game drives, ensuring the ultimate private safari experience.

lioness, walking, Madikwe, South Africa

©Fotoart de Chalain

The dry Kalahari ecosystem offers an alternative to the lush Lowveld bush seen in the Kruger National Park, and so Madikwe offers some unique and exhilarating safari game viewing and photographic opportunities.

Aside from the Big 5 species, Madikwe offers the chance to see wild dogs, cheetahs, brown hyenas and large numbers of plains game – and about 360 species of birds.

cheetah, Madikwe, South Africa

©Fotoart de Chalain

The absence of malaria, plus easy access from Johannesburg via road and air, makes Madikwe an excellent choice for family safaris, and some lodges even cater for child-friendly activities.

The range of accommodation, from luxury to basic, means that there is something for everyone.

wild dogs, Madikwe, South Africa

©Fotoart de Chalain

Madikwe is something of a success story for wildlife conservation, local community economic empowerment and private/public enterprise.

The land and animals are managed by the state, private investors profits from the lodges, and three nearby villages benefit sustainable jobs and skills advancement.

zebra, waterhole, Madikwe, South Africa

©Fotoart de Chalain

Read what Africa Geographic Travel guest Marc de Chalain had to say about his Madikwe safari:

“We had been in Madikwe for a couple of days and wow, we had seen so much already! We had seen cheetahs on a kill, lions in great light, wild dogs, spotted hyenas, a brown hyena, rhinos, elephants, many bird species and much more.

And then our excellent guide, Francois presented us with a dilemma: Male lions on a kill, or stake out a brown hyena den in the hope of seeing the cubs?

brown hyena, Madikwe, South Africa

©Fotoart de Chalain

Debate ensued, and we decided to go for the baby brown hyenas. Brown hyenas are rarely seen in most reserves, although regularly in Madikwe, but baby brown hyenas are very seldom seen anywhere.

We waited silently and patiently at the den in the fading light, and after a long while the mother ghosted in from the surrounding thickets, approaching the den cautiously and warily. Then a small cub appeared and shortly after, another.

brown hyena cub, Madikwe, South Africa

©Fotoart de Chalain

We were treated to an amazing array of interactions between the mother and cubs, as Africa put on one of its most amazing shows just for us.

black-chested snake eagle, bird of prey, Madikwe, South Africa

Black-chested snake eagle ©Fotoart de Chalain

What a privilege to observe these shy and wary creatures go about their lives in front of us. Amidst a cacophony of shutter releases, the adrenaline and joy we all experienced was tangible.

We had seen Africa reveal herself in a way which mere words can hardly do justice to.”

male lion, walking, Madikwe, South Africa

©Fotoart de Chalain

Travel to Madikwe with Africa Geographic

Travel in Africa is about knowing when and where to go, and with whom. A few weeks too early / late and a few kilometers off course and you could miss the greatest show on Earth. And wouldn’t that be a pity? Read more about Madikwe here, or contact an Africa Geographic safari consultant to plan your dream vacation.

Africa Geographic Travel

We're the Africa Geographic Travel team - a passionate bunch of experienced safari-goers keen to share our deep understanding of this addictive continent we call home. We create life-changing safaris just for you. Travel in Africa is about knowing when and where to go, and with whom. A few weeks too early / late or a few kilometers off course and you could miss the greatest show on Earth. And wouldn’t that be a pity? Visit our website.

  • Believe it or not, I have never gone to any safari, and I would LOVE to visit one as soon as possible. I usually spend my vacations on golf and traveling. This year maybe Madikwe will be on the list. I went to some zoos, but I have heard that safari can be a whole new experience. The pictures and the article seem appealing and promising! Thanks for posting!

    • Christian Boix Hinzen

      Hi Paul, glad that the blog stirred you on our direction…we can certainly help you if Madikwe is what you would like to enjoy. Please check on this weblink to find out more about our photo safaris in Madikwe GR.
      https://africageographic.com/expeditions/madikwe-photo-safari-francois-van-heerden/
      However, if you are not a photographer and just wish to experience a safari, please contact me christian@africageographic.com and we can discuss many other options that will supersede hands down any visit to a zoo. I will be only too happy to design your first Safari in Africa and ensure your needs and expectations are properly met…

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