From the harsh Kalahari desert, to the rugged bushveld of Madikwe, this land will impress with the boldness with which its wildlife conquers its unforgiving terrain, while you repose in malaria-free luxury. Bring the camera, and unwind in a magical landscape.
The vast wilderness of the Kruger National Park is rightfully famous for its wildlife, but if you are pregnant, or travelling with small children, or just not keen on taking prophylactics, the malaria free Kalahari & Madikwe trip is one of two great alternative safaris (the other is in the Eastern Cape).
The first leg of this safari travels to Tswalu, a massive private game reserve on the plains of the Kalahari Desert. This transitions zone is not quite the sand filled wasteland that springs to mind when one thinks about desert, but rather a rich, albeit harsh, habitat that supports a variety of wildlife.
From here the safari takes a long hop to the Madikwe Game Reserve on the border with Botswana. Madikwe is a relatively new reserve, and is a unique collaboration between the state, private sector and local communities, which continues to grow in stature as one of South Africa’s top wildlife destinations.
The vast expanses of the Kalahari Desert stretch across South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, painting the landscape in red sands, thorny shrubs and golden grasses. In Tswana, the name means ‘the great thirst’, but despite the dryness and extremes of temperature, semi-arid savannah and dry river beds give life to the region, and more than 80 mammal species manage to thrive here. A myriad of birds, amphibians and insects have adapted to the harsh conditions too, creating a veritable treasure chest for wildlife enthusiasts. The Kalahari covers most of Namibia’s eastern side, and contrasts the soaring dunes of the Namib Desert in the east. Typical of desert climes, summer temperatures soar upwards of 40 degrees Celsius during summer, and plummet to below freezing on winter nights. Springtime brings with it rainfall, and this is probably the best time to visit, as the landscape becomes greener and the wildlife enjoys the newfound fertility. In good years, more than 250 millimetres of rain can fall, coating the plains in grasses and colourful wild flowers.
The Waterberg Biosphere was one of the first regions in South Africa to be afforded Biosphere Reserve status by UNESCO. It encompasses an area of about 15 000 km2 and is a mix of national, provincial and private reserves, and commercial farmland. Marakele is the flagship National Park in the Waterberg, and there are many equally beautiful, smaller, private reserves sprinkled throughout the area. Further to the west and south respectively lie the Madikwe and the Pilanesberg. Madikwe is a relatively new project, and was established as a joint venture between the state, the private sector and local communities. At 75 000 hectares, it is one of the largest conservation areas in South Africa. The reintroduction of game saw more than 8 000 animals released into the reserve. The Pilanesberg Game Reserve is adjacent to the Sun City resort, and a short hop away from Johannesburg. This makes it one of the most accessible big five reserves in South Africa. But, it also means that the park can be quite congested, particularly over weekends.
Experience the barefoot luxury of Tswalu Kalahari in the exquisite malaria-free Green Kalahari region and discover the beauty of this landscape, its diverse wildlife, and the serenity of what is one of South Africa’s most pristine wilderness areas. Catering for just thirty guests in two luxury lodges, the emphasis is on privacy, flexibility and exclusivity. Design your own itinerary with game drives, bush walks, horseback safaris and animal encounters, and sleep out on the Malori deck, with nothing between you and the brilliant stars of the Kalahari night sky.
Motse lodge consists of eight secluded suites, each with a private sun deck overlooking a waterhole. The main house is a spectacular space with its elevated decks and elegant lounges. An infinity pool offers an endless view over the savannah and a secluded spa is designed to complete your total relaxation.
Tarkuni is the ultimate private sanctuary set amidst two rolling mountain ranges, with its tranquil poolside deck and traditional boma. A host and private chef provide exclusive personal service. A private vehicle, personal field guide and tracker ensure an equally bespoke safari experience.
Most of the Kalahari Desert is covered with trees and succulent plants such as aloes, broken up by small red sand dunes. Elusive cheetah use the grass as cover to hunt springbok, the remarkable gemsbok glean sufficient water from just leaves and grass, and small carnivores such as the rare black footed cat pick off reptiles, insects and birds. A closer look will reveal scorpions, tortoises and frogs, and desert favourites such as meerkat and mongoose.
The Kalahari is famously the home of the San Bushmen, the remnants of Southern Africa's original hunter-gatherer inhabitants who occupied the whole sub-continent in days gone by. The remarkable resourcefulness of the tribe, along with their unique clicking language, are extraordinary to behold, and several farms in the Namibian Kalahari offer tourists the chance to experience this first hand. Other activities include farm tours, game drives, hiking, sandboarding, quad biking and cultural tours. On the eastern boundaries of the desert, close to the Namibian capital of Windhoek, tourists can pay a visit to the Arnhem Caves, the country’s longest cave system. This 4.5 km long cave is home to six bat species, including the giant-leaf nosed bat, the world’s biggest insect-eating bat. The Kalahari is sparsely populated and is not packed with tourist attractions, but its remarkable solitude is exactly what makes it special.
Exclusivity is the hallmark of Jamala Madikwe Royal Safari Lodge. This special property consists of 5 superb villas in the 75 000 hectare, malaria-free Madikwe Game Reserve, and caters for a maximum of ten guests. From its genteel position beneath a canopy of age-old Leadwood trees, the deck-fringed lodge offers a ‘sofa safari’ with panoramic views of open savannah, and a watering hole that plays host to Africa’s wildlife.
The freestanding villas offer superlative luxury, and extravagant outdoor facilities that include individual rim-flow pools and salas, expansive wooden decks and private outdoor showers. Each villa includes a private dining area and lounge with fireplace.
Jamala Madikwe won the award for Best Safari Cuisine in Africa 2014. Food aficionados can indulge in sensational degustation menus and wine pairings created by owner-chef, Nico Verster, and served with the colonial charm and grace.
Jamala Madikwe Royal Safari Lodge is not suitable for children under 16, except by special arrangement.
The Waterberg Biosphere is a deciduous dry broadleaf woodland that covers a large part of the north western part of South Africa, the eastern parts of Botswana and the south western part of Zimbabwe. It includes the Waterberg mountain range, which is the most important catchment area for the Limpopo Basin. The Lephalale, Mokolo, Matlabas and Magalakwena Rivers all originate here. In summer the mountains glisten with water and the floodplains are alive with birds.
The flagship reserve is Marakele National Park. As its Tswana name suggests, Marakele has become a 'place of sanctuary' for an impressive variety of wildlife due to its location in the transitional zone between the dry western and moister eastern regions of South Africa. Contrasting majestic mountain landscapes, grass-clad hills and deep valleys characterize the park. Welgevonden is one of the premier private game reserves in the Waterberg, but there are many equally beautiful, smaller, top-class reserves sprinkled throughout the area.
Further to the west and south respectively lie Madikwe and the Pilanesberg. Madikwe Game Reserve is a relatively new project, and was established as a joint venture between the state, the private sector and local communities. The reserve consists of vast plains of open woodlands and grasslands, dissected by the rugged Tweedepoort Mountains. The reintroduction of 8 000 head of game was one of the largest game translocation exercises in the world. The endangered wild dog is a speciality of the reserve.
The Pilanesberg Game Reserve straddles the transition zone between the dry Kalahari and wetter bushveld vegetation of the Lowveld, which explains the unique combination of wildlife for which this 55 000 hectare park is known. It is adjacent to Sun City, which is home to two world-class golf courses, a casino and vast entertainment areas. It is a short hop away from Johannesburg, which makes it one of the most accessible big five reserves in South Africa. But, it also means that the park can be quite congested.
This safari commences and ends in Johannesburg, South Africa