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Operation Phoenix: Madikwe Game Reserve

September 1, 2015 Hotel Deals No Comments Email Email

unnamedWhen planning a luxury safari, South Africa is a top of mind destination for many travellers. But choosing which park or reserve to visit there can be a daunting prospect. According to luxury boutique safari specialists, Sanctuary Retreats, Madikwe Game Reserve is the cream of the crop, and the greatest private game reserve South Africa has on offer.

Madikwe 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 many more. The birdlife is also spectacular, with over 360 bird species found there.

This beautiful and diverse African wilderness encompasses over 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 game-rich grasslands, travellers could be forgiven for believing this area was always an ecological haven. However, up until 1991 the land was utilized largely for intensive farming, which had almost completely destroyed indigenous flora and fauna. Confronted by degrading fertility and productivity and a bleak outlook for agriculture, local communities and South African government looked to tourism to revitalize the land.

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 of stimulating ecological, sustainable economic activity in the region. The key impetus for change was to create viable long-term employment and business opportunities, which in turn would generate much needed revenue to conserve the biodiversity of the area. And so in 1991 Operation Phoenix, one of the biggest and most ambitious wildlife trans-location programs ever seen on the African continent, got underway.unnamed (1)

Over the next seven years, over 10,000 animals were relocated into Madikwe. The 27 species released into the newly created reserve all occurred historically in the area and included lion, elephant, buffalo, black and white rhino, wild dog, giraffe, zebra and a host of antelope.

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, boasting a world-renowned breeding program in the reserve.

Madikwe’s Operation Phoenix marked a significant turning point in the way that many of Africa’s parks and reserves are now run. Whereas excess wildlife would have been culled been culled in the past, today oversupply of species are trans-located to other conservation areas where indigenous populations of game have suffered as a consequence of poaching and mismanagement.

Sanctuary Retreats is currently involved in one such project – the relocation of black and white rhino to Botswana’s Moremi Game Reserve where they have a greater chance of protection and population growth. It is projects like this that give hope to a variety of species on the brink of extinction.

Madikwe Game Reserve is still strictly protected and self-drive or day trips are tightly 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.

Sanctuary Retreat’s 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 have access 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.


Right now guests can stay three nights at Sanctuary Makanyane Safari Lodge and only pay for two. Normally priced from USD$1260 per person, stay three nights for only USD$840 per person for travel booked between 1 May 2016 and 31 August 2016.

Terms and conditions apply.

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