There are about 20 luxury lodges in the malaria-free Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa’s North West province. They offer a wide range of accommodation from the ultra luxurious to bushveld simplicity. You'll be surrounded by the Big Five and more, plus happy people.

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Operation Phoenix, which brought over 8000 wild animals to Madikwe, remains unparalleled in scale.

There’s a three-way partnership that makes Madikwe Game Reserve in the North West province the success that it is.

The state conserves the land and the animals, private enterprise runs the lodges, and the surrounding local community benefits through jobs and levies.

There are about 20 Madikwe lodges, and staying in any of them is a prerequisite to visiting Madikwe Game Reserve, since no day visitors are allowed.

And there’s a wide and interesting variety to choose from in this stunning malaria-free reserve.

Mateya, for example, epitomises the absolute height of luxury. And in addition to a wine cellar that a prince might be proud of, it is also a showcase of some significant African art. Also expect wi-fi connections, personal plunge pools and orchid arrangements.

At the other end of the range you get Masetlha, an eco-lodge where the only air conditioning comes through the open-topped walls. Here you feel completely within nature. Your food is cooked on an open fire. You have safari-style bucket showers. All the emphasis is on a low-impact, direct experience of nature.

Then you get other popular notables like Buffalo Ridge and Thakadu River Camp, which are 100% owned by local communities. Also that effortlessly stylish Jaci’s Tree Lodge, which looks like Bali-marries-Africa. Jaci's Safari Lodge, right next to Jaci's Tree Lodge, is especially wonderful if you're going with your family. Even the youngest of kids is catered for here.

There are more than a dozen others, each special in some way: Impodimo, Madikwe Hills, Madikwe River Lodge, Royal Madikwe, Makanyane, Motswiri, Rhulani, The Bush House, Tuningi, Etali, Jamala Madikwe, Molori, Morukuru and Tau.

But what they all have in common is this: all these businesses benefit from the state’s conservation of animals (the Big Five included, plus the elusive wild dog), and they also benefit from a pool of highly satisfied employees. Staying in this game reserve guarantees very friendly service and good game sightings.

You’ll also see animals here that are often difficult to see anywhere else. Apart from savannah game (including the Big Five), you’ll find springbok, brown hyena and other specials like wild dogs and cheetah.

Of all uses for the land considered for this area in the early 1990s, conservation and tourism have definitely supplied something very close to the best possible solution. In terms of prosperity, general contentment and jobs, Madikwe has delivered far beyond what anyone could have projected.

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