At 75,000 hectares, Madikwe is South Africa’s fifth largest game reserve. Viewing animals in Madikwe is relatively easy thanks to Operation Phoenix, the largest translocation operation in the world which saw over 8,000 animals and 28 species transferred to Madikwe over a period of seven years.
Safaris by converted bush vehicles set out early each morning and late each afternoon. These are the times when you have the best chance to see wide varieties of South Africa’s wildlife because animals are less stupid than humans so rest from the midday sun.
Those early morning safaris are bracing. Like the desert, the sveldt cools at night so you need to rug up. As soon as the sun rises, so does the temperature and the light, making it easier to spot wildlife.
One of my first encounters occurred just before sunset. Two male lions had hunted and killed a zebra. They’d eaten their fill and were sitting close to each other contentedly digesting their meal. We got up very close to them, but they were unconcerned as they knew they were not in danger. In fact, they were more concerned with yawning. It is a remarkable experience to get so close to a major predator in its own environment. The image of that deceased zebra, partly eaten, was a reminder of the tremendous guile and power possessed by those lions.
The two jackals that were hanging around close by to try to steal a bit of zebra also proved the respect they had for the lions’ power.
That was just the first of many exciting encounters with wild beasts in Madikwe.
We headed back to Jaci’s Lodge, where we were staying, stopping to have cocktails under the stars.
Another mind-blowing experience! Enjoying a gin and tonic on a clear night under that magical carpet of millions of stars. With no ambient light to dampen the glittering stars you could see deep into the Milky Way and the swirls of galaxies beyond.
Then it was back to the luxury of Jaci’s Lodge for a sumptuous dinner.
Built like a treehouse each room stands alone, well separated from the other lodges, so that you felt that you were alone in the bush. These were as comfortable as you could possibly be on a game reserve. With a large bed and living area, each lodge also had its own large bath and outdoor shower.
This was a luxurious adventure in Madikwe Game Reserve. After the first night, I wouldn’t have expected it, but even better experiences were due to occur.