Madikwe Game Reserve is arguably Africa’s best malaria-free safari destination. Rehabilitated from degraded farmland in 1991, it soon after became the focal point of the world’s largest program of wildlife translocations. Today, exceptional elephant and white rhino viewing are all but guaranteed at Madikwe, and it’s one of the few places where you stand a high chance of seeing lion, leopard, cheetah and African wild dog in the course of a normal-length safari. Closed to self-drivers and day visitors, this exclusive reserve can only be explored on one of the all-inclusive packages offered by its 20-odd luxury safari lodges and camps.

The accommodations below are not ranked in a specific quality order. 

26 Madikwe Safaris

 

1. Last Word Madikwe

Last Word Madikwe Last Word Madikwe is renowned for its busy waterhole and superb photographic hide

Formerly known as Bush House, Last Word Madikwe is an exclusive five-room lodge overlooking a busy waterhole in the far west of the game reserve. In-house wildlife viewing is usually superb throughout the year. Large herds of elephant regularly congregate around the waterhole together with white rhino, zebra and various antelope. Photographers will love the opportunities afforded by the underground hide, which is open 24/7. Amenities include a characterful rock swimming pool surrounded by sun loungers.

Last Word Madikwe Tours

 

2. Motswiri Private Safari Lodge

Motswiri Private Safari Lodge Luxurious villas and top-notch wildlife viewing can be expected at Motswiri Private Safari Lodge

One of the most luxurious Madikwe lodges, Motswiri consists of five doubles and one family unit set in a shady stand of mature leadwood trees. All villas have a gas fireplace, air-conditioning, ceiling fan and private deck with a view. The family villa comprises three en suite bedrooms, a private lounge, and a wide private deck that incorporates a plunge pool. The central location of Motswiri means you can explore the entire reserve on different game drives.

Motswiri Tours

 

3. Madikwe Safari Lodge

Madikwe Safari Lodge Madikwe Safari Lodge is a longstanding favorite suited to families and honeymooners alike

A favorite with many regulars, Madikwe Safari Lodge consists of three separate lodges set at the base of a rocky hill in the reserve’s northeast. Lelapa, the main lodge, is a child-friendly set up comprising a row of 12 chalets sheltered in a patch of thick woodland that’s alive with colorful birds. All the chalets at Lelapa have a wide deck and private plunge pool, but it’s more fun to hang out at the main swimming pool, which stands alongside a waterhole that attracts plenty of thirsty wildlife. For a more exclusive experience than Lelapa, try Kopano, which comprises just four suites and doesn’t allow children, or else honeymoon-friendly Dithaba, which sleeps two people only. Whichever of the three lodges you book into, the architectural style – rounded stone-and-adobe walls and neatly layered thatch roofs – is very appealing and blends perfectly into the African bush.

Madikwe Safari Lodge Tours

 

4. Tau Game Lodge

Tau Game Lodge The 30 stone chalets at Tau Game Lodge all face a busy waterhole

Tau is the largest Madikwe lodge, comprising 30 chalets, a convention center and a wedding venue, making it particularly well suited to small conferences, family events and other such gatherings. It stands in a semi-private concession in the reserve’s northwest, overlooking a waterhole that witnesses plenty of animal activity. The air-conditioned stone-and-thatch chalets are laid out in a horseshoe formation, ensuring that all the private decks offer a view of the waterhole.

Tau Game Lodge Tours

 

5. Impodimo Game Lodge

Impodimo Game Lodge Impodimo is an attractive 5-star lodge with luxury chalets and great views

You’ll be treated to sweeping grandstand views over Madikwe if you stay at Impodimo, a 5-star lodge set on a rocky ridge in the reserve’s west. You’re also sure to enjoy the warmly decorated thatched suites, which come with comfortable king-sized beds, air-conditioning, closed-system fireplaces, airy bathrooms, and large private decks facing out to the bush.

Impodimo Tours

 

6. aha Thakadu River Camp

aha Thakadu River Camp Thakadu is a classic tented camp set on the forested banks of Madikwe’s only permanent watercourse

Part of the respected aha chain, family-friendly Thakadu stands in the shady forest that lines the Marico River as it flows along Madikwe’s eastern boundary. Essentially a luxurious variation on an old-school tented camp, it accommodates guests in canvas chalets set on stilted timber platforms that incorporate a private viewing deck. There’s an attractive swimming pool where you can relax between game drives, and plenty of bird activity in the riverside forest.

Thakadu River Camp Tours

 

7. Morukuru Owner’s House

Morukuru Owner’s House Perfect for honeymooners and small families, Morukuru is arguably the most exclusive of Madikwe lodges

It doesn’t get much more exclusive than Morukuru Owner’s House. As its name suggests, this two-bedroom house was built by its owners as a personal retreat, and it now caters mainly to small families, honeymooners and couples seeking an exclusive safari with private game drives. The large house has a tall, thatched roof and is appealingly decorated in a contemporary African style. It also has a wonderful wide deck, complete with an infinity pool, and a location close to the Marico River.

Morukuru Owner's House Tours

 

8. Jaci’s Safari Lodge

Jaci’s Safari Lodge Jaci’s unique collection of suites includes open-air star-bed units and stilted treehouses

Named after its dynamic owner-manager, Jaci’s is one of Madikwe’s longest-serving and best-known lodges. It actually comprises three separate but jointly managed lodges, all clustered within a few hundred meters from each other on the Marico River in eastern Madikwe. The lodges collectively include six luxury standing tents, eight stilted treehouses, two open-air star-beds and two private family units. The all-suite accommodations at Jaci’s are renowned for their bright, vibrant and colorful interiors. The underground Terrapin Hide allows for eye-level wildlife viewing and photography at the waterhole.

Jaci's Safari Lodge Tours

 

9. The Royal Madikwe

The Royal Madikwe Royal Madikwe is an absolutely top-end lodge offering exclusivity, luxury and fine cuisine

Royal Madikwe is arguably the reserve’s most luxurious lodge. It comprises a six-bed house, a five-bed villa and three double suites, all – as the saying goes – fit for a king. Each of the five units is individually decorated, but all are very spacious and stylish, and come with air-conditioning and a wide deck that incorporates a plunge pool. Guests at Royal Madikwe can expect a high level of privacy, expert guiding on game drives or walks, and imaginative South African fusion cuisine paired with some of the Cape’s finest wine.

 

10. Mosetlha Bush Camp & Eco Lodge

Mosetlha Bush Camp & Eco Lodge Eco-friendly Mosetlha is a rustic and relatively affordable bush camp set in the heart of Madikwe

Most Madikwe lodges and camps are aimed squarely at the luxury market, which makes the reserve rather inaccessible to budget-conscious visitors. A notable exception is Mosetlha, a low-key solar-powered bush camp that’s been run by the same hands-on family since it became the second lodge to open in Madikwe back in 1995. Mosetlha isn’t luxurious, that’s true, but it’s comfortable enough in a refreshingly down-to-earth way, and easily the best value option for a Madikwe safari. It accommodates a maximum of 16 guests in small but well-ventilated stilted wooden cabins that each have their own (non-en suite) eco-toilet and bucket shower (which guests fill themselves from an old-school donkey boiler). It’s set in a patch of dense woodland that’s rustling with birds and often visited by leopards and buffaloes at night. The central location means that game drives can cover all corners of the reserve.

 

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26 Madikwe Safaris

By Philip Briggs
South Africa ZA

Philip is a renowned Africa expert and author of the Rough Guide to Game Parks of South Africa.

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