A Magnificent Malaria-Free Safari

By Hilary Dubyk

My career as an travel specialist has allowed me the privilege of exploring some of the most breathtaking destinations on the planet. My recent adventure took me on an unforgettable safari through two of South Africa’s hidden gems: the Madikwe Game Reserve and the Welgevonden Game Reserve. Nestled in the northern part of the country, not far from Johannesburg, these reserves offer a unique blend of stunning scenery, incredible wildlife, and an unparalleled safari experience, all without the worry of malaria. In this blog post, I’ll share the highlights of my trip, the benefits of visiting these areas, and a glimpse into the luxurious lodges I stayed at.

The Benefits of Visiting Madikwe and Welgevonden Game Reserves

Beautiful Scenery

Madikwe and Welgevonden are renowned for their diverse landscapes, which range from rolling savannahs to dense woodlands and rocky hills. The beauty of these reserves lies in their untouched wilderness, providing a serene backdrop for a safari adventure. As you traverse the terrain, you’ll encounter dramatic vistas, picturesque watering holes, and an abundance of flora that make these areas truly enchanting.

Ease of Access from Johannesburg

One of the significant advantages of both Madikwe and Welgevonden is their proximity to Johannesburg. Madikwe Game Reserve is approximately a four-hour drive from Johannesburg, while Welgevonden Game Reserve is about a three-hour drive. For those preferring a quicker journey, private charters and scheduled flights are available, making these reserves easily accessible for both international and domestic travellers.

Hiring a car at Johannesburg Airport and driving myself to the game reserves and back was a simple and extremely cost-effective option. The roads were overall very good and well signposted, with most of the journey on paved roads. There were some sections with graded gravel roads, but they were easy to navigate. Our ground operator provided excellent driving directions, and having a local SIM card allowed me to use Google Maps just like I would back home. This made the drive straightforward and enjoyable, adding an element of adventure and freedom to the trip.

Incredible Wildlife Sightings

Madikwe and Welgevonden are both Big Five game reserves, meaning they are home to lions, elephants, buffalo, leopards, and rhinos. During my safari, I was fortunate to witness incredible wildlife sightings, including a pride of lions basking in the sun, elephants playfully interacting at a watering hole, and a rare encounter with a leopard. These reserves are also home to a variety of other species, such as cheetahs, wild dogs, giraffes, and numerous bird species, offering a rich and diverse safari experience. But for those travellers whose main goal is to see as many elephants as possible, there is no better place to be than Madikwe Game Reserve!

Malaria-Free Zones

One of the most significant benefits of visiting Madikwe and Welgevonden is that they are malaria-free zones. This is a considerable advantage for travellers, especially families with young children or those who prefer not to take anti-malarial medication. The peace of mind that comes with knowing you’re in a malaria-free area allows you to fully immerse yourself in the safari experience without any health concerns.

Lodges: A Touch of Luxury in the Wilderness

Thakadu River Camp (Madikwe Game Reserve)

My journey began at Thakadu River Camp in Madikwe which is an excellent option at a more affordable price point. This beautiful lodge is set along the banks of the Marico River, offering stunning views and a sense of tranquillity. Thakadu River Camp is unique as it is owned and managed by the local community, providing an authentic and sustainable safari experience. The tented suites are spacious and elegantly furnished, blending seamlessly with the surrounding environment. The staff’s warmth and hospitality made my stay even more memorable, and the daily game drives were filled with thrilling wildlife encounters.

Jamala Madikwe (Madikwe Game Reserve)

Next, I ventured to Jamala Madikwe, an exquisite lodge known for its opulence and attention to detail. The word “Jamala” means “natural elegance,” and the lodge lives up to its name. Each villa at Jamala Madikwe is a private sanctuary, complete with a plunge pool, outdoor shower, and panoramic views of the savannah. The lodge’s gourmet dining experience is a highlight, with meals crafted from fresh, local ingredients. The waterhole in front of the lodge attracts a plethora of wildlife, providing incredible sightings from the comfort of your suite or the main lodge area – also known as a “sofa safari”!

Mhondoro Safari Lodge (Welgevonden Game Reserve)

My final stop was Mhondoro Safari Lodge in the Welgevonden Game Reserve. Mhondoro seamlessly blends luxury with a deep connection to nature. The lodge offers stunning suites and an exclusive villa, all designed with a modern African aesthetic. One of the unique features of Mhondoro is its underground waterhole hide, which allows guests to observe animals up close and at eye level – an experience that is both exhilarating and intimate. The wellness centre and spa provide a perfect retreat after a day of adventure, offering relaxation and rejuvenation amidst the African bush. I loved the warm, welcoming feeling of this lodge where all of the staff clearly felt like family and were delighted to share their beautiful bush home with guests.

My safari adventure through the Madikwe and Welgevonden Game Reserves was a journey of discovery, wonder, and luxury in the African bush. The breathtaking scenery, ease of access, abundant wildlife, and malaria-free environment make these reserves an ideal destination for safari enthusiasts. The lodges I stayed at – Thakadu River Camp, Jamala Madikwe, and Mhondoro Safari Lodge – proved that no matter your price point, you can enjoy a unique and unforgettable safari experience that combines comfort, elegance, and a deep respect for nature. These hidden gems promise an experience that will leave you with lasting memories and a profound appreciation for the wild beauty of South Africa. I highly recommend adding one or both these destinations to your bucket list – you won’t be disappointed!

Contact our Africa experts today to start planning your South Africa safari adventure today!