Operation Phoenix: Madikwe Game Reserve
When planning a luxury safari, South Africa will no doubt be one of the top destinations in your mind. However, choosing which park or reserve to spend your time in can be a daunting prospect. At Sanctuary Retreats, we think Madikwe Game Reserve is the greatest private game reserve South Africa has to offer.
The reserve is home to a fantastic host of game species
including the "Big 5" (lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard),
the rare African wild dog, cheetah, giraffe, hyena, and more. The
birdlife is also spectacular, with over 360 bird species being
found there. This beautiful and diverse African wilderness
encompasses 75,000 hectares of widely varying terrain. From rocky
peaks, across open grasslands, to verdant valleys, each area, with
its own distinctive inhabitants, provides visitors with an
unforgettable safari experience.
Driving through the game-rich grasslands, you could be forgiven
for believing that this area has always been an ecological haven.
However, up until 1991 the Madikwe area was used for farming which
had almost completely destroyed the local flora and fauna. With the
fertility degrading and the outlook bleak, the local communities
and South African government had to find a new way to use the land;
the answer came in the form of tourism.
Developed as a three-way partnership between the South African
government, local communities and the private sector, Madikwe Game
Reserve was established with the primary objective to stimulate
ecological, sustainable economic activity in the vicinity. The
driving force behind this change was to create an area which would
benefit the local communities through employment and business
opportunities which in turn conserved the biodiversity of the area.
In 1991 one of the biggest wildlife trans-location programmes got
underway: Operation Phoenix.
Operation Phoenix was an ambitious wildlife reintroduction
programme and remains one of the most successful in the world. Over
a period of seven years, ten thousand animals were relocated into
Madikwe, with twenty seven species, all historically occurring in
the area, being released into the reserve. These species include
lion, elephant, buffalo, black and white rhino, wild dog, giraffe,
zebra and a host of antelope species.
In fact, so successful was Operation Phoenix that Madikwe is now
home to the second largest population of elephant in South Africa,
second only to Kruger National Park. Madikwe is also one of the
best places in Southern Africa to watch the elusive wild dog, with
their breeding programme being world-renowned.
Madikwe's Operation Phoenix marked a turning point in how many
of Africa's parks and reserves are run. Whereas in the past excess
wildlife would have been culled, today the oversupply can be
trans-located to other areas which have suffered from poaching and
Sanctuary Retreats are currently involved in one such project,
black and white rhino to the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana
where they have a greater chance of protection and population
growth. It is projects like this which give hope to a variety of
species on the brink of extinction. From wild dogs to rhinos,
Sanctuary Retreats is committed to protecting and growing Africa's
wildlife population in a safe and sustainable way.
Madikwe Game Reserve is still strictly protected and self-drive
or day trips are restricted in the area. This means that the best
way to see the reserve is during a stay in one of the area's
exclusive bush hideaways. Our newest lodge,
Sanctuary Makanyane Safari Lodge, is situated on private ground
within the reserve overlooking the Marico River. With limited
off-road driving restrictions and full traversing rights over the
entire 75,000 hectare Madikwe Reserve, Sanctuary Retreats guests
will be treated to some of the best game viewing South Africa has
to offer, safe in the knowledge that this area is one of the best
examples of the country's dedication to conservation.