The Madikwe Game Reserve is a 75 000-hectare wild game park that lies in the extreme north-west corner of South Africa. Home to a massive variety of wildlife, birds, trees and grasses, the reserve is world-renowned as a spectactular safari destination.

Visitors to Madikwe enter the reserve via car or plane. A three-and-a-half-hour drive from Johannesburg or a charter flight from OR Tambo International Airport gets you there.

About the reserve

The Madikwe Game Reserve was formally established in 1991 by the government of what was then Bophuthatswana. Previously a flat and dusty patch of arid farmland, with domestic animals as the only wildlife in the vicinity, the 75 000ha zone was earmarked for development as a wildlife sanctuary and tourist destination after a feasability study highlighted the potential of tourism and wildlife conservation in the area.

After it was formally declared a reserve, more than 8 000 animals were moved to Madikwe Game Reserve as part of the world’s biggest wildlife relocation project – Operation Phoenix. The mammoth transfer included, for the first time, the relocation of entire family herds of elephant, as well as the introduction of highly endangered wild dogs, spotted hyena, hippo and lion, to mention a few of the more-renowned arrivals.

Operation Phoenix

Populating the Madikwe Game Reserve with wildlife took just over six years.

The ground-breaking initiative became one of the largest wildlife translocation projects in the world.

Known as Operation Phoenix in testament to giving the land and its recent inhabitants a new life, the task entailed capturing and transporting some 8 000 animals of 28 different species from reserves elsewhere in the country to the North West province.

From 1991 to 1997, elephant, rhino, buffalo, cheetah, spotted hyena, lion, giraffe, antelope and the endangered African wild dog were introduced to the Madikwe Game Reserve.

Today, the reserve boasts more than 60 mammal species including the Big 5 (lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant) and well over 300 resident and migrant bird species.

How Madikwe is Run

Madikwe Game Reserve operates as a three-way venture between the North West Parks and Tourism Board, the private sector and local communities.

The Parks Board is responsible for setting up infrastructure and operational management, as well as identifying suitable sites for lease to the private sector for tourism-based developments and activities.

The private sector funds the construction of game lodges, which it markets and manages. Lodge employees are drawn from surrounding villages.

The success of this approach has made the reserve a blueprint model for similar joint ventures in South Africa and beyond.