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Madikwe, up in South Africa’s far north, is one of South Africa’s finest, but lesser-known reserves, easily accessible to Micato safari travellers from Johannesburg and graced with a number of lovely luxury camps and lodges.
In the early 1990s the government launched Operation Phoenix, which transformed almost 300 square miles of unproductive farmland into a superb wildlife preserve for conservation and for safari, reintroducing displaced species until the reserve now has healthy and large populations of more than 60 mammal species, including all the Big Five (lion, Cape buffalo, rhino, leopard, and, of course, elephant).
Classic African grasslands and bushveld plains, suddenly risen hills, and set-piece rocky outcrops, or kopjes, characterize Madikwe’s landscapes, which are roamed by springy ungulates, the lions, hyenas, and cheetahs who keep a sharp eye on them, and, very interestingly, three robust packs of rare African wild dogs, whose intensely social lives and intricate hunting skills lead Rosie Woodroffe of the London’s Institute of Zoology to say, “There is nothing so enthusiastic as wild dog. They live the life domestic dogs wish they could live.”