Madikwe Game Reserve is an 80 000-hectare wildlife reserve which lies in the North-West Province of South Africa. Home to a wide variety of animals, birds, trees and grasses, the reserve is world renowned as a spectacular Big 5 wilderness safari destination.
The Reserve is easily reached by car or air: A 31⁄2-hour drive from Johannesburg or a daily scheduled flight from OR Tambo International Airport.
Madikwe Game Reserve was formally established in 1991 by the government of what was then Bophuthatswana. Previously arid farmland, the 80 000-hectare zone was earmarked for development as a wildlife sanctuary and tourist destination after a feasibility study highlighted the potential of employment, business, and tourism opportunities as well as wildlife conservation in the area.
Madikwe’s rich cultural history began almost one million years ago and is as much a part of the Reserve as the wildlife and other natural wonders in the area. Historical sites containing irreplaceable artifacts are in abundance and in time will be restored and displayed as part of South Africa’s heritage.
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, Operation Phoenix. The mammoth transfer included, for the first time, the relocation of entire family herds of elephants, as well as the introduction of highly endangered African wild dogs, spotted hyena, buffalo, hippo and lion. Today, the reserve boasts more than 60 mammal species, including the Big 5, and well over 300 resident and migrant bird species.
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 Madikwe Game Reserve a model for similar joint ventures in South Africa and elsewhere.