I have just returned from an incredible week at Nkurru Lodge in Madikwe. Nestled in the North West Province of South Africa, Madikwe Game Reserve offers a wilderness sanctuary like no other. Here, wildlife thrives, and the landscape paints a stunning backdrop for your safari experience.
Throughout our stay in Madikwe, we were immersed in the enchanting beauty of the reserve, which spans over 75,000 hectares of diverse terrain. From open plains to rocky outcrops, and meandering rivers to dense bushveld, every corner held the promise of a remarkable encounter with nature's most majestic creatures.
With each passing day, the thrill of spotting wildlife grew, and the sightings exceeded all expectations. Whether it was the graceful movements of a herd of elephants around the waterhole in front of camp, the regal presence of a lion pride, or the playful antics of a herd of impala during the rutting season, Madikwe showcased the magnificence of Africa's iconic animals.
Yet, beyond the extraordinary game viewing, Madikwe bestowed upon us some truly special moments. Although the mornings and evenings were quite fresh and cool, as the sun rose it painted the sky in hues of orange and pink. The echoes of a lion's roar pierced the stillness of the night, reminding us of the wilderness that we were surrounded by.
I wrote how special this Madikwe safari is in a recent blog and wow did it deliver once again!
Being the end of May, beginning of June, we have just gone into winter and it was easily visible on the drive in. The vegetation has started too dry out, the only water points are the waterholes. Talking about waterholes, the waterhole in front of camp did not stop with animal activity. During our stay the days were filled with general game such as zebras, warthogs, impalas, giraffes, kudu, a variety of birdlife and the herds of elephants just kept on coming and coming. Majority of our days were spent sitting out on the lodge deck and just observing the animals and their behaviour as they all came down to drink, for myself its always fascinating to see the different species interacting with each other and also how they interacted with one another in their own family groups.
In the evenings, we still had elephants coming down to drink but the real highlight was having a herd of buffalo come down to drink as well as black and white rhinos that would come down every evening. Its difficult to put the waterhole in front of camp into words, but being able to sit at leisure and see such a variety of animals in one place is almost over whelming.
Out on drive, our Guide Grant Marcus, went out of his way to make sure that we were always in the best positions and somehow managed to always be in the right place at the right time.
We had some very special sightings such as:
Thlou Dam, this is always a must stop in the afternoons just before the sunsets in the winter months. With there being no water lying around in the bush, its a massive hub for a variety of animals to come down and have a drink. this makes for some really great photographic opportunities with animals drinking, but more so, as the sun starts to dip, the animals coming down for a drink create plenty of dust which is just iluminated by the last rays of light making for spectacular images. Out of the whole week, we spent three of our afternoons at this waterhole and there was always something going on, which meant that we would literally spend the whole afternoon by the waters side just immersing ourselves in everything that was happening around us, from listening to the birds, to watching all the different species of animals coming down to drink.
Apart from spending time at the waterholes in the afternoon, we often explored the northern section of the Reserve, which was extremely productive the entire week. We saw two cheetah brothers twice, we got to see the two New male lions that have been brought in from Tswalu, these two males are absolutely beautiful, they are just over 4 years of age and have made it clear that they are here to stick around.
According to Grant they have already taken over the pride in the south west of the Reserve and are now moving further north. We got to see some interaction between one of the males and one of the prides of lions consisting of 4 females and a sub adult male lion. We were sitting with the pride at first and could hear a lion vocalising in the distance, one of the lionesses returned the call and the next minute, one of the brothers emerged from the opposite direction and chased the 4 lionesses and the sub adult male. We later found out that the 4 lionesses eventually stood their ground and got the Male to back down. Such interesting behaviour to observe and understand, the whole point of this process is for the 2 Tswalu males to take over and the reason they were brought into the Reserve was to bring in fresh genetics.
The Following morning we found these 2 males on a wildebeest kill. They had been calling throughout the evening not to far from camp and when we found them, they had a very fresh kill.
It was amazing to see these two new males up close, they are very impressive, that was until a bachelor herd of Elephants moved through the area and once again to watch the interaction between species was simply spectacular. The lions didn't want to leave their food and the elephants were not happy the lions were there, so the elephants were trumpeting and chasing the lions while the lions were growling and running away, trying to avoid all the elephants.
Madikwe is very well known for its wild dogs and one thing we really wanted to try and find was the dogs, but in 75 000 hectares its no easy task. One morning on our drive back to camp we got word that the dogs were in the area and resting in a thicket near to one of the access gates to Madikwe. We decided, high risk high reward and made that our plan for the afternoon.
Once again, Grant's timing was spot on, we found them not far from where they had been seen in the morning and when we arrived they were already moving around. Just to see one of these animals in the wild is really special and definitely no guarantee when on ANY safari, so you can imagine our excitement when we sat while they ran up and down the road, they attempted to hunt a warthog, but the warthog definitely won this round. It was a massive warthog and similar to the lion king where Pumba runs through the clan of hyenas, the warthog did a very similar thing with the wild dogs as it charged them and they went scattering in all different directions.
Our second last morning was definitely a morning to remember. Its hard to say which sighting of the week was the best as they were all so different and unique, but I must say this specific sighting was really powerful. Having explored the Northern Section and had some great sightings, we once again decided to take the high risk high reward option and headed south to see what we could find.
It was a VERY chilly drive heading south, we checked one of the waterholes where Grant spotted some male lion tracks, the terrain isn't the easiest to track on, but somehow Grant managed to work out the direction this Male lion was heading and not even 5 minutes later, BOOM! there he was. He is one of the older males in the Reserve, but still in great condition. When we found him he was resting, we decided to sit with him for awhile and see if he would get up to anything.
It wasn't long before we heard lions calling in the distance, to our surprise, this male responded.c It sounded like the other lions were feeding on something as there was distant roars and growling. For this old male its an opportunity for him to potentially steal some food. He then got up and started heading in the direction of the other lions, the next vocalisation sounded like the other lions were coming closer and you could almost see this older male weighing up the options in his head and decided against it and turned around and went in the completely different direction and didn't vocalise again.
He found a nice spot in the sun to lie down and was still very interested in what was going on in the direction of the other lions, almost like he was expecting them to show up at any stage. To all of our surprises the calls suddenly sounded further than they had ever been and this male jumped straight back up and headed right back to where he originally heard the lions. We followed him throughout the morning as he sniffed around and vocalised right next to us. We were with him for over two hours of the morning before we eventually lost him going into some dense vegetation, but WOW what a special moment for me to share with my guests and what a spectacular morning.
The experience went beyond the wildlife encounters. Each night, you retired to Nkurru lodge nestled in the heart of Madikwe, where warm hospitality and luxurious accommodations awaited us. Sharing stories and laughter around the campfire, we shared stories and forged new friendships, and all this from a united shared love for nature's wonders.
As our week in Madikwe came to an end, we carried with us a treasure trove of memories, woven with the threads of breathtaking scenery, exhilarating wildlife encounters, and the warmth of African hospitality. Madikwe had revealed its secrets to us, leaving an indelible mark in our hearts and a longing to return to this magical place once again.
Until next time,
Madikwe Safari Trip Report
It’s often thought that it is simply not possible for one safari destination to “have it all” and perhaps this statement is indeed true. That said, the diverse and wildly dynamic fauna and flora of Madikwe Game Reserve is about as close as it gets.
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