An easy half-day drive from Johannesburg, the Madikwe reserve offers some of southern Africa’s most exciting malaria-free game viewing. Created in the early 90s, it covers a vast 75,000-hectare slice of veld in a remote area of the ‘Tswana homelands, close to the Botswana border. The area was already home to a number of wild animals, including some exceptional birdlife, but next came Operation Phoenix - one of the largest game translocation programmes the world has seen. Over a 6-year period, some 8000 animals of 27 different species were to find a new home in Madikwe. New lodges were built, old farm buildings torn down and local ‘Tswana people trained as game rangers; in less than a decade the reserve became a top wildlife destination.
The animals took easily to the reserve thanks to its exceptionally varied natural habitats. Open woodlands and thickets are dotted with a series of spectacular rocky outcrops or inselbergs - perfect big-cat terrain - and water is abundant in its pans, rivers and dams. And in the bush, where there’s water, there’s wildlife.