The North-West Province, provides a link between South Africa and Botswana and is home to the Madikwe Game Reserve. The province is the largest platinum production area in the world, and its Stelland area is the “Texas of South Africa” with some of the biggest cattle herds in the world.
Before Madikwe Game Reserve was an official reserve, work had already begun to remove many of the derelict farm buildings, non- indigenous plants and the hundreds of kilometres of old fencing. Many of these old buildings have been spared and turned into workshops and park offices. Some of the outposts have also been left and are being used to house reserve staff and game scouts.
The area where Madikwe Game Reserve stands today was previously farming land, used for farming cattle and arable agriculture. The farming culture in the area was largely a failure, due to bad farming practises and mismanagement. Once the vegetation had degraded to unusable levels, the land was taken from the existing farmers and there was talk of handing it over to the disadvantaged and young cattle farmers.
This land has recently been opened up to a few select private farms. The farm owners are required to abide by park rules as there are still restrictions as to where private vehicles can drive. Other new developments include Community Lodges which are run by local villages. The profits from these community lodges are then used to uplift the local communities.
Madikwe Game Reserve consists of vast open plains of woodlands and grasslands. The reserve is dissected by the rugged Rant van Tweedepoort and is bordered in the south by the Dwarsberg Mountains. The reserve has been enclosed in a 150 km perimeter electric fence to prevent the escape of larger animals.
The famous Mafikeng road runs through the reserve. This road was known as a historical route long before the reserve was established. Its path was used by traders, hunters, missionaries and explorers. King Mzilikazi of the Matabele tribe, passed through the Madikwe area many years ago on his way to expanding the Matabele Kingdom.
In 1991 the reserve was announced to the public and in the same year became part of the Board’s Estate on October 31st that same year. Before this the remote and economically- dejected area needed upliftment and it was decided after a feasibility study that wildlife- based tourism was the most favourable option for the area. It is one of the few game reserves in the world that has been established on the grounds of being the most sustainable and suitable land use in the area.
Today the park is home to the Big 5, which can even be extended to the ‘Super 7’, which includes the African Wild Dog and the Cheetah. More than 250 species of birds have been recorded in the park. For the visitor, the park is widely accessible and today boasts numerous lodges and camps to choose from.
The visitor also plays a role in the sustainability and economic upkeep of the area. Investment and job creation in the area is a step forward towards creating new opportunities for businesses and eradicating poverty. This process has already been observed and Madikwe Game Reserve has become one of South Africa’s success stories. Placing people at the centre of conservation efforts is the number one priority when planning the development and constant improvement of the park.