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Madikwe Safari vs. Kruger Safari

By Madikwe Hills on May 28, 2019

South Africa is a fantastic destination for an uncomplicated safari. Large international airports, well-maintained road networks (compared to other African countries) and the plethora of accommodation options puts South Africa above the rest when it comes to choice an accessibility.

Kruger National Park and Madikwe Game Reserve are two of South Africa’s most popular safari destinations. We’ve broken down the key aspects of each for you to compare.

Madikwe Game ReserveKruger National Park
High SeasonMay to OctoberMay to October
Low SeasonNovember to AprilNovember to April
Distance from Johannesburg+/- 4 Hours+/- 5 Hours
Combines well with Cape Town & Pilanesburg National ParkCape Town & Victoria Falls
Air transfersYesYes
Malaria-freeYesNo
Notable wildlifeWild dogs, elephant, cheetah, lion, rhino. Leopard, elephant, lion, rhino, buffalo.
Vehicle limit at sightingsYesNo
Night drivesYesNo
Off roading Yes No

Wildlife and Big 5 Sightings

Both wildlife areas offer good Big 5 sightings. Leopard sightings are however more consistent in Kruger National Park – especially in the surrounding private game reserves like Sabi Sand and the Timbavati. Wild dogs are present in both Kruger and Madikwe. If you are lucky enough to find them, seeing them is a huge thrill.

As it sits on the border of the Kalahari Desert, Madikwe offers sightings of eland (Africa’s largest antelope), oryx or gemsbok, springbok, tsessebe and red hartebeest. You might also see brown hyena and the very rare pangolin.

Kruger is known for its reliable Big 5 sightings. It is not unusual to see the Big 5 in a day with a good guide. It supports much larger herds of buffalo and elephant than Madikwe.

Location and getting there

Both Madikwe and Kruger are located in South Africa, between 4 and 6 hours from the main international airport, O. R. Tambo in Johannesburg – depending on which lodge you choose to visit.

We would strongly suggest opting for a professional road transfer when visiting either. Although the roads are in relatively good condition, transfer drivers are experienced in dealing with other South African drivers and unpredictable happenings, like elephants blocking the road.

Madikwe Game Reserve is located in the North-West Province, roughly a 3-hour drive from O. R. Tambo to the park entrance and then a further hour onto your accommodation within the park. There are no commercial flights to Madikwe, but charter flights on light aircraft can be arranged.

Kruger National Park is about a 5-hour drive from O. R. Tambo International and there are commercial flights and a number of domestic airstrips in the area. KNP is open to all members of the public – it is only the smaller reserves on its borders that limit access at sightings.

Best time to visit

Both Madikwe and Kruger are located in the north of South Africa with both experiencing cold, dry winters and hot, wet summers. Green season runs between November to April and dry season from May to October.

Generally, game viewing is more rewarding towards the end of the dry season as wildlife congregates around permanent water and the veld is less-dense, making animals easier to see. The green season (also low season) is marked by afternoon thunderstorms, vibrant green landscapes and excellent bird watching.

The green season usually offers lower rates and fewer visitors, the dry months conversely higher rates but also more visitors. When you choose to visit will ultimately depend on budget and your interests for your safari (such as birding, lowest risk of malaria and your vacation schedule).

It’s good to know that Madikwe is a year-round malaria-free destination and therefore precautions are not necessary. The slightly more arid climate on the border of the Kalahari Desert means the summer days are not as humid.

Accommodation and costs

Kruger National Park and the surrounding private reserves offer a huge variety of accommodation to choose from. Whether you are in search of the most high-end, luxury safari camp or an affordable self-catering option just outside the park – there is something on the market for you.

Madikwe Game Reserve on the other hand is closed to the public and home to a limited number of camps and lodges which share traversing rights on over 75 000 hectares. All accommodation within Madikwe is fairly upscale and lodges have more permanent structures that don’t have a ‘under canvas’ atmosphere.

Madikwe Hills

Madikwe Hills Private Game Lodge is situated on a rocky outcrop in the heart of the malaria-free Madikwe Game Reserve. The lodge is situated in the middle of Madikwe, giving visitors a huge game drive advantage over other lodges situated on the borders of the reserve.

The lodge accommodates just 24 guests at one time, in beautiful glass-fronted suites overlooking the bushveld. Game drives are conducted in state-of-the-art vehicles, with no more than 8 guests per vehicle, ensuring a highly exclusive game viewing experience. Please note, we do not accommodate children under the age of 10 in the main lodge.

If you’d like to chat further with a member of our team regarding your trip to Madikwe Game Reserve, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us via email at book@madikwehills.com or by filling in our online enquiry form here . We look forward to welcoming you to our beautiful part of Africa.

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