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Big 5, malaria-free Madikwe


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The 75,000 ha (750 km²) Madikwe Game Reserve is malaria-free and easily accessible via a short flight from Johannesburg or by road from Johannesburg or Gaborone (Botswana). The Big 5 reserve lies within a transition ecosystem – between Lowveld bushveld and the Kalahari thornveld. Consequently, the region hosts an incredible diversity of species from both ecosystems. Geographically, the area features enormous volcanic inselbergs, which are prominent throughout and create a spectacular backdrop to the reserve. Here you will have an incredible African safari experience and get to see the Big 5 animals

This popular Big 5 safari takes place in the malaria-free Madikwe Game Reserve – one of the largest reserves in South Africa


Length: 7 days, 6 nights
Group Size: To suit you
Location: Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa
Departure Dates: To suit you
Highlights: Experience the Big 5 in a Malaria-Free Zone, explore a diverse ecosystem, spot African wild dogs, discover a bird paradise, exclusive safari experience, community-driven lodging, expert local guides, connect with local culture, enjoy a bush breakfast and embark on a village tour to the Balete community.

from ZAR 42,000 per person sharing (7 days)

Prices and dates

Lodge visited: Buffalo Ridge Safari Lodge

May – June 2024

Per person sharing

ZAR 42,000

Single person rate

ZAR 58,680

Child (under 12 years)

ZAR 22,185

July 2024 to April 2025

Per person sharing

ZAR 55,980

Single person rate

ZAR 76,880

Child (under 12 years)

ZAR 29,175


Price includes:
Six nights accommodation, return road transfers all meals mentioned in the itinerary (starting with lunch on arrival day to breakfast on departure day), teas, coffees, complimentary bush breakfast, Balete community village tour, game drives, conservation levy, park entrance fee and 24/7 office support.

Price excludes:
International or domestic flights, excess baggage/weight charges, visas, bush walks and village tours, items of a personal nature, bar services, spa treatments, travel and medical insurance (essential on all safaris), gratuities, and any activities not specified in the itinerary.

A prime safari location, Madikwe is home to the sought-after Big 5 (elephant, lion, leopard, Cape buffalo and rhino), and the highly endangered African wild dog (painted wolf), cheetah and brown hyena. Madikwe boasts over 60 mammal species and is a bird lover’s paradise, with up to 400 resident and migrant species recorded.

Madikwe Game Reserve does not permit day-trippers or self-driven game drives, ensuring a private safari experience for all visitors booked in lodges within the reserve.

Madikwe is a success story for wildlife conservation, local community economic empowerment and private/public enterprise. The state manages the land and animals, private investors profit from the lodges, and three nearby villages benefit via sustainable jobs and skills advancement.

One of these nearby villages owns and manages Buffalo Ridge Safari Lodge – the only lodge wholly owned by a local rural community - and where you will stay during this safari. The Balete people live in the town of Lekgophung, just west of Madikwe. Their story is one of endurance and hardship but also joy and triumph. Like many such places, Lekgophung has been shaped by the history of our country. Its people have deep roots in the region. They are members of the Batswana, the great tribe that has lived in and around the fringes of the Kalahari for many centuries. Their graves are scattered across the landscape, including in Madikwe. They speak Setswana, the common tongue of the Batswana, but the people of Lekgophung belong to a clan with its own traditions and way of life. During your safari, you will visit the Balete community on a village tour to experience the unique traditions of the Balete people.

The lodge is situated on the Tweedepoort Ridge overlooking the plains and inselbergs of the western section of Madikwe Game Reserve. The main lodge is spectacularly located on two tiers of the ridge and is accessed via a wooden bridge that crosses a ravine surrounded by rock fig trees. Each living area has its own character and style, providing guests with a choice of breathtaking views and tranquil spaces. Whether you are relaxing in the lounge, on the lower or upper deck areas or at the pool, you will find a space that suits your mood.

The lodge has eight suites, each with its own viewing deck, decorated in natural hues of colour and texture, offering a very private and luxurious experience. The thatched suites, with sliding doors from each room and shower, allow the guest to experience oneness with the beauty of the bushveld.


The 4-5 drive / one hour flight (OR Tambo Airport) from Johannesburg are convenient, and people traveling from Botswana can do so via a road transfer of one hour from Gaborone (plus border crossing duration).

Check-in time at Buffalo Ridge Safari Lodge is from around 12h00. If you are self-driving, the lodge is a short drive (25-30 mins) from the Wonderboom gate. A light lunch is served at 14:00, giving visitors plenty of time to offload their luggage, settle into their rooms and get ready and dressed for lunch and the late afternoon game drive.

Your first game drive usually departs at 15h00 in mid-winter or 16h30 in the heat of summer. Expect your first sightings to be of blue wildebeest, giraffe, impala, red hartebeest, Burchell’s/plains zebra and other plains game, but do not be surprised if lions or African wild dogs (painted wolves) make an appearance.

Towards the late afternoon, you will stop for drinks and a light snack break with the gorgeous sunset as a backdrop. While enjoying the views, winding down and sipping your tipple, there will also be time to discuss the plan for the rest of your stay. You could try to find wild dogs, which are normally on the hunt in the late afternoon or perhaps sit it out at a nearby waterhole where you could find yourself surrounded by up to 100 elephants as they bathe and drink.

Whichever spectacle you are blessed with, you will return to the lodge just after 19h00 – depending on sightings, of course – for a wholesome dinner, well-deserved rest and the sounds of the African bush to lull you to sleep.

Mornings in Madikwe Game Reserve start early, with guests gathering in the lodge just before first light for coffee/tea and a bite to eat. Be ready to depart shortly after for the first game safari drive of the day.

Getting up early is always hard, but those golden hours are the best moments in your day.

You might set out to find lions, cheetahs or leopards, but nature has its own plans, and you could be diverted by rarely-seen brown hyenas – Madikwe’s high diversity means you have to keep an open mind.

You will return to the lodge for breakfast between 08h30 and 09h30 (again dependent on sightings and time of the year), and after breakfast, you will have the chance to rest.

During the afternoon game drive, specific species will be targeted, but again this is a flexible plan.

Your guide will use his expert local knowledge to get you to the best possible location for sightings.

Spot-lighting during the dark hours on the way back to the lodge is possible, so expect a bit of crepuscular action such as civets, genets, scrub hares, springhares, lesser bushbabies, a full gamut of owls and, if you are extremely lucky, pangolin or a leopard on the prowl. ​​​​​​​

You will return to the lodge between 19h00 and 20h000 for dinner and to reflect on the day and go over the game plan and expectations for the following day

These days will follow a similar program to days 2 & 3.

A final early morning start in Madikwe means taking full advantage of this time when the animals are at their most active.

You will head out after coffee or tea and a bite to eat. As you depart, be aware of the sounds of the bush waking up, perhaps the call of a jackal in the distance or spurfowls saying good morning – hence their nickname of ‘avian alarm clocks.

Your last early-morning game drive will aim to target the species you have missed out on so far – perhaps cheetah, buffalo or black rhino. But you might be surprised by what does reveal itself on your final game drive.

After breakfast at the lodge, it is time to check out, bid farewell to rangers and staff and return home whilst processing a myriad of emotions, experiences and loads of wonderful memories

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