The malaria-free Madikwe Game Reserve is a prime safari destination and one of South Africa’s largest game reserves. Situated against the Botswana border 90kms north of Zeerust and just a four-hour drive from both Johannesburg and Pretoria, Madikwe has the distinction of being one of the few game reserves in the world to be proclaimed purely on the grounds of being the most appropriate and sustainable land use for an area. It consists vast plains of open woodlands and grasslands dissected by the rugged Rant van Tweedepoort and bordered in the south by the Dwarsberg Mountains. The area is dotted with huge rocky hills. The reserve is run as a joint venture between the state, the private sector and local communities. The success of this approach has made Madikwe the role model for similar ventures being started up elsewhere in South Africa.
Madikwe is divided into two main areas: the area north of the Molatedi Dam is fenced and stocked with all the historically indigenous wild animals including elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and buffalo; as part of future developments for the park, the dam area will be fenced separately and stocked with smaller, non-dangerous animals thus allowing free movement of tourists and maximum utilisation of the dam. Even before Madikwe had been officially proclaimed, work had begun to clear the many derelict farm buildings and structures, the hundreds of kilometres of old fencing and the many alien plants. Some of the buildings were spared and now serve as park offices and workshops while various outposts have been built to house game scouts and other staff.
Approximately 60 000ha of the reserve was enclosed in a perimeter fence measuring 150kms. This was later electrified to prevent the escape of elephants and the larger predators. Where possible, local business and labour have been used to demolish and clear unwanted structures, erect fences, construct roads and build dams and lodges.
The largest ever translocation of game occurred when 10 000 animals of 27 species (including the Big Five as well as other endangered species such as the wild dog and cheetah) were moved to Madikwe in Operation Phoenix. At 75 000ha, Madikwe is home to around 100 mammals and over 300 resident and migrant bird species.