January 20, 2004
Development of the reserve began in 1992 with Operation Phoenix. The rich diversity of the vegetation and topography mean that a wide variety of animal life is sustained here (including a great many unusual breeds of antelope, including the sable – photo below) – Phoenix was (and continues to be) the largest reintroduction of game undertaken by man in any African reserve. 8,000 large mammals, including repopulation of entire herds of elephant, antelope, buffalo, black and white rhino, zebra, giraffe, leopard, cheetah, spotted hyena and wild dogs, increased the inhabitants of the land to more than 16,000. Many of these were taken or bought from parks in other African countries whose own stocks exceeded what the land could accommodate (particularly Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe) – apparently, there's considerable, regular swapping. The process has been an almost unqualified success, with the sole exception of the hippo population which was unhappy with its new home after several years of low rainfall and spontaneously moved outside the reserve to where water was more plentiful.
The reserve is managed by the North West Parks and Tourism Board, who quietly patrol the area regularly and seem well known and liked by driver-guides from the lodges/camps (unlike other countries/reserves where they are sometimes seen as flouting the rules and ignorant of the wildlife).
There are no campsites or self-drive facilities – there’s a check when you enter into the reserve as to where you’re staying and all cars have to be dropped off at the NW Parks office with visitors being collected by their camp/lodge. You can do 4x4 drives or walks within Madikwe (again obviously with a guide and they’re not too much like hard work) to see the smaller beauties (lizards, flowers, birds – of which there are hundreds – a twitcher’s paradise, plus the guides are knowledgeable and the camps have reference books a-plenty) that are often missed out in the hunt for bigger mammals.
As for accommodation, we stayed at the Moseltha Bush Camp, right in the centre of the Reserve and recommend it highly (see above). If you’re into luxury (and are prepared to pay for it), try more upmarket lodges such as Jaci’s Safari Lodge, Madikwe Bush House, Tau Game Lodge and Madikwe River Lodge – what you’re there for, in my view, is the game viewing and that comes down to the personality and ability of your game guide/driver. Madikwe Reserve truly has it all – though leopards as ever are the hardest to find (there’s always someone at dinner who saw one when you didn’t!).
From journal Johannesburg - a Jumble of Contrasts