Madikwe offers spectacular game reserves, which – despite the beauty of the landscape and the thriving populations of the big five – remain one of South Africa's best-kept secrets. The Kalahari's deceptively-populous green desert plays host to plenty of wildlife, too. Luxurious lodges coupled with exclusive safari trips can make for the holiday of a lifetime.
Transformed in the '90s from inefficient farmlands into one of Africa's spectacular, lesser-known jewels, the Madikwe Game Reserve lies in the transition zone between greener areas and the Kalahari semi-desert. You can spot all the traditional big five here, as well as less-common desert animals, like the caracal. This is some of Africa's most pristine new wilderness, with only a select few lodges allowed on the reserve, making for the ultimate in luxury travel.
The Pilanesberg Game Reserve is one of Africa's finest options when it comes safaris. Covering all of the big five in incredibly healthy numbers, plenty of lavish lodges, and with some truly breathtaking natural scenery, this spot embodies what a luxurious South African safari holiday should be. From the mindbogglingly ancient Pilanesberg mountain and geological formation to the entertainment complex, Sun City, there's plenty to see and do here.
Aiming to 'restore the Kalahari to itself', the Tswalu Kalahari Reserve is a vast haven of outstretching desert scrub, occupied by most of the big five (minus the elephants). It features several luxury lodges, complete with experienced, friendly tracking guides and exploratory vehicles. The best thing about this reserve is the abundance of rarer desert animals, with most people coming here to catch a glimpse of aardvarks, meerkats, and pangolins in their natural environment.
Through the summer in the more desert-like regions like Madikwe, temperatures can sit at around 40 degrees Celsius in the day, and drop as low as freezing at night. During the spring, the increased rainfall makes for a more temperate climate, while producing a lush, green and engaging landscape.
Winter is also a great time to visit, with the receding bush and plant life letting you spot animals easier, and watering holes steadily attracting more wildlife. Be sure to pack some layers though!
South Africa has long been a melting pot of cuisines, from Indian to European, all combined with their native tastes and local culture. With a vast selection of extremely high-quality local meats and produce available, you can expect meals that are at once familiar and exotic.
The quality lodges that dot the Madikwe and Kalahari regions pride themselves on their food, providing large, welcoming meals that cater to even the fussiest of diners. Nearby are also several annual wine festivals, showcasing SA's spectacular range of local wines.
When travelling, it's always sensible to carry identification, ideally a photocopy of your passport. For most of the EU, a visa isn't required when staying in South Africa up to 90 days, and this can be extended by a further 90 days if requested. For more info, go to GOV.UK.