For the August issue of Getaway, I set out to discover the ‘secret gems’ travel writers dream of finding and visited eight North West provincial reserves. Four were great – including Madikwe Game Reserve – but the rest, although lovely in terms of landscape, made for unsettling travel, especially for a woman alone.
My favourite North West Provincial park
Why are some of these parks derelict and unsafe? How is Madikwe Game Reserve such a success when others are in a state of disrepair or suffering due to incidents of crime?
Madikwe Game Reserve was established in 1994 and is one of the only parks in the country that was established as a socio-economic park, founded to benefit the immediate community (and province) monetarily – not solely to preserve the wildlife. By involving the private sector who pay the state concession fees, some earnings are used for conservation within the reserve and the other portion is paid to locals, funding a variety of community-based projects. The community benefits from both the projects and employment opportunities created in and around the park. An immediate difference is visible in entrance fees: the smaller spots like Borakalalo and Barberspan cost as little as R35 a person where Madikwe costs R160.
When it comes to parks that don’t have the Big Five, their smaller visitor numbers mean that they have less revenue to work with, and local communities are not incentivised to make the parks more appealing to visitors. It’s such a pity because bird sanctuaries, significant hiking areas and important biodiversity zones also deserve protection – and investment from South African travellers is often the most crucial aspect of keeping smaller causes running.
Luckily, Madikwe is a success story and I had the most amazing stay there, at the only unfenced camp in the Big Five park. Along with this park, I found three others that we can support: find out more in the August issue, on shelves now!
Read the full story about Madikwe, and three other parks that we should support, in the August 2016 issue of Getaway magazine.
Our August issue features Mana Pools, great North West parks, and best trips for women. On shelves from 25 July.