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Madikwe savannah landscape in South Africa

If I can’t visit Kruger, I head for the North West and into Limpopo. Some of my happiest safari days have been in Marakele, Mapungubwe and Madikwe; the latter is brilliant for everything. Up here, it’s possible to still feel a sense of adventure, as if the animals outnumber people.

Three or four hours after stepping off an international flight in Johannesburg, you can be holding your breath as a lion paces confidently towards you in one of the province’s fabulous national parks or game reserves.

This part of the country suits all budgets and safari types. In some parks, you can self-drive, camp and search for your own big cat thrills. In others, you can set out on foot with expert rangers for the ultimate up-close and personal moment, and in some of the private game reserves, you can wallow in luxury and a highly exclusive safari experience.

Although some of the parks and reserves here are fairly close to major cities (and the gloriously tacky Sun City — South Africa’s answer to Las Vegas), this is a region of real wilderness where wide-open spaces, big skies, stirring semi-desert scenery and star-spangled night skies are the backdrop to some of southern Africa’s most epic wildlife encounters.

In this often dry and sunburnt region, life can be tough and this is reflected in the fact that compared to greener and better-watered areas such as Kruger National Park, the density of animals can be lower.

However, here it’s all about quality and not quantity. Most of the star players are resident on these open savannahs and bushveld, including all the Big Five. This is a prime region for Africa’s most lethal but persecuted predator, the wild dog. Elephants and rhino are also big fans of this part of the country but the cats, though present, tend to be a bit harder to find compared to other South African safari zones. Birdlife is impressive throughout the region.

In short, this part of the country suits two types of safari-goer: those short on time who merely need a quick safari hit with near guaranteed sightings of most big mammals and, by contrast, those with plenty of time and a willingness to forgo large numbers of animals in exchange for the adventure of never knowing quite what might be around the next corner.

South Africa safari

An expert guide to safaris in South Africa

South Africa is safari heaven. From the world-famous Kruger National Park and Sabi Sands to the lesser-known Karoo and family-friendly experiences in the Western Cape, there’s a wildlife experience to match all needs. First-time visitors will probably want to hit the Big Five highlights of the major parks, but don’t dismiss the more accessible lodges in the North West Province and around Cape Town...read more

  • Madikwe Game Reserve

    Madikwe Game Reserve

    Madikwe is unusual in that it is owned by the state in partnership with local communities and the private sector...
  • Waterberg Biosphere Reserve

    Waterberg Biosphere Reserve

    The vast upland massif of the Waterberg region is one of only two biosphere reserves in all of Africa...
  • Pilanesberg National Park

    Pilanesberg National Park

    Pilanesberg is safari made easy...

Places to go in North West Province

North West Province Tours

North West Province

Malaria-Free Big 5 Safari in Madikwe

4 daysFrom $2,880
Sabi Sands Game Reserve, Kwazulu-Natal, North West Province (and 9 more)

South Africa Safaris

Tailor-made safaris to match your budget

3 daysFrom $950
Kruger National Park, Sabi Sands Game Reserve, Kwazulu-Natal (and 13 more)

South Africa small group safaris

Escorted small group safari tours

8 daysFrom £1,125

North West Province Travel Companies

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Wayfairer

Tailor-made luxury travel
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Absolute Zambia Safaris

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Wild Frontiers

Safaris into East, West and Southern Africa
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The African Wild

Botswana tours and safaris
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Take Me To Africa

Experts in small group travel to Africa
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YellowWood Adventures

Sustainable travel for the modern-day explorer
South America, Africa, South Asia

The Adventure People

The Most Inspiring & Exciting Adventure Holidays On Earth.

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