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art safari

Art safari with Alison Nicholls – Madikwe 2023

Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa

from ZAR 65,205 / US$ 3,685 per person sharing

Art safari

Big 5

Classic Safari

Malaria free

Art safari with Alison Nicholls – Madikwe 2023

E-mail    +27 (87) 551-8105 (RSA)   |   +44 (23) 9387-7464 (UK)   |   +1 (786) 655-4040 (US)

Indication Price (from): ZAR 65,205 / US$ 3,685 per person sharing *view all prices and dates

Length: 7 days

Group Size: 5 + Alison Nicholls (Guide). 6 in Total

Location: Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa

Departure Dates: 15 - 21 September 2023


Final prices vary, subject to factors such as exchange rates, time of year and availability. Contact us to fine-tune these prices and to tailor-make your dream safari.


Our fee for compiling your dream safari is included in the price that you pay.

Join professional wildlife artist Alison Nicholls on this art safari at The Bush House in malaria-free Big 5 Madikwe Game Reserve, one of South Africa’s best-kept secrets.

Wildlife viewing is exciting and excellent – Madikwe boasts the Big 5 (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, buffalo) plus other iconic species such as springbok, oryx, zebra, hippo and giraffe, and predators such as cheetah, brown hyena and African wild dogs, all of which are often sighted during a visit to this “gem” reserve.

Madikwe is a private and uncrowded reserve in North West province, close to the Botswana border, an ideal enclave in which to base this thrilling art safari. Art safari guests will be the only residents at this beautiful lodge, allowing the group the freedom to decide it’s own daily routine.

The Bush House is in a malaria-free area, so you can rest, relax, sketch and enjoy Alison’s art lessons. Morning and afternoon game-viewing activities will be vehicle-based, using a private open vehicle with a ranger. And whenever the group is in camp, sketching opportunities abound, as The Bush House has a very active waterhole which can be viewed from the lawn or from the amazing underground hide inches from the water.

Alison Nicholls, a professional wildlife artist, will share with you her art techniques and teach you how to create your own wildlife field sketches. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned artist, Alison will help you improve by offering advice during game drives and workshops back at the lodge. This safari allows you to experience the African bush in a new way, learning creative skills in a beautiful and relaxed environment.

Watch this video of a previous art safari in the Greater Kruger.

Africa Geographic client Susie G enjoyed her 2022 art safari and had this to say:

This was my first art safari, but I have done a few photographic safaris with professional photographers. I have come to expect a high level of communication, creativity, and teaching skills, as well as personalized individual attention from the instructor. Alison was amazing! Besides being an experienced artist, she has great communication skills and presented art exercises in easy-to-understand examples. Everyone felt that they received lots of personal attention and suggestions. She was never too busy to answer questions or draw a quick sketch as a helpful example. She demonstrated simple forms for each animal that were very useful as a place to start when facing a blank page and a moving subject. Alison was able to determine our individual skill levels and suggest improvements without us becoming overwhelmed. The watercolour classes after lunch were fun and informative, with detailed steps to achieve the suggested results, but with her understanding of each student’s skill level and their personal creative vision.

The trip was organized to perfection by Africa Geographic. All of the internal flights and the transfers were on time and easy. The overnight hotel at City Lodge at the airport was convenient and easy to find. Christian even recommended a safari lodge to recover from jet lag before the art safari began. It was a great recommendation! I would use AG as a travel agency again. We all made new friends and learned as much from each other (well, almost) as from Alison. She is an inspirational artist, a dedicated and skilled teacher, an experienced guide, and a delightful travel companion. It was a very fun and creative trip and I am looking forward to the next art safari!

Christine O also enjoyed her 2022 Art Safari:

You know a trip has been great when you are sad to see it end and are already thinking about the next one shortly after. Alison’s art safari helped me reconnect with my art in an inspiring and joyful way. With Alison’s expert advice, I noticed an improvement in my sketches on day one and learnt how to translate better what I was seeing onto my page. The daily drives helped hone my ability to capture what I was seeing quickly and to feel more comfortable using watercolour to sketch.
The AG team were also great to work with. They were very responsive and helpful with all my questions and travel logistics to ensure a positive trip. I’m so glad I signed up for this memorable experience that I will always remember.

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Day 1: Arrival in Johannesburg, South Africa

Arrive at OR Tambo City Lodge, Johannesburg, and meet Alison Nicholls for dinner at the hotel. Overnight at OR Tambo City Lodge.

Day 2: Johannesburg to Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa

Depart to Madikwe Game Reserve by road transfer (4 -5 hours with a rest stop along the route). During the drive Alison will show you some of her sketches, talk about the Art Safari, and ask what each of you hope to achieve during your safari.

On arrival, you will meet your Bush House hosts and check into your room.

Before lunch, you can acquaint yourself with the lodge, grounds, waterhole and underground hide.

After a light lunch, Alison will talk about which materials to take on your afternoon game drive, and will give a short demonstration showing how she uses simple shapes to begin her wildlife sketches. With your materials in hand and Alison offering advice, you will embark on your first art safari game drive.

Alison will sit in the middle row of the vehicle on drives, allowing her to easily talk to every guest. On the drives, the main aim is to learn to sketch wildlife quickly and confidently, mostly in dry materials like pen or pencil, with the aim of completing as many sketches as possible. Watercolour and other materials are more suitable for use during workshops at the lodge, but you can of course try using watercolour on drives too.

After a stop for sundowner drinks, you will slowly return to camp, keeping an eye out for some of the nocturnal species that will likely start emerging as the shadows lengthen. At around 19h30 dinner is served, and the following day’s art safari plan and sketching activities will be discussed.

Overnight at The Bush House

Days 3 – 6: Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa

The routine for each day can change depending on guest requests, weather and wildlife sightings, but the general routine is as follows:

06:00 – Wake-up call followed by tea/coffee and biscuits in the lounge.
06:30 – Morning game drive to sketch wildlife. During the drive, you will stop for tea/coffee and biscuits. Late morning return to The Bush House for brunch.

09:30 – Brunch

11:00 – 14:30 – This time will be spent at the lodge, where guests are able to watch and sketch a variety of animals that come to drink at the lodge waterhole; visit the underground hide to get close-up views; relax by the pool; and take part in art workshops.

Art workshops are usually held from 11am-1pm (although the timing is flexible), as this gives you a chance to relax before heading out on the afternoon drive. During the workshops each guest works at their own pace and on their own chosen subject matter. You can continue with pencil and pen or take advantage of Alison’s experience with watercolour and learn how to turn your sketches into completed paintings. Alison will demonstrate watercolour techniques, in particular her use of watercolour washes. She will discuss and demonstrate how to use colour & composition; how to simplify a complex scene, and how to know when to stop painting. The aim of the workshops is to allow you to leave the art safari with your own completed artworks and the knowledge of how to sketch and paint when you return home.

14:30 – Lunch.

15:30 – Afternoon game drive.

19:00 – Return to The Bush House for dinner.

Overnight at The Bush House

Day 7: Last game drive and transfer to Johannesburg

The morning game drive and breakfast will be at the usual time, followed by checkout and transfer by road back to Johannesburg.

If you intend to depart from Johannesburg on this day, we recommend that you choose a late evening or night departure.

All art safari participants will be dropped at O.R Tambo International Airport or at any other airport lodging of their choice.

Africa Geographic will be only too happy to arrange any extensions or pre-trip accommodation bookings/program you may need in Johannesburg (or elsewhere in Africa).

If you are a ‘first timer’ on safari, we recommend that you schedule your art safari after other safari activities, rather than as your 1st destination. This will allow you to become familiar with some of the wildlife before you attend the art safari and begin sketching.

End of services

Indication Price (from): ZAR 65,205 / US$ 3,685 per person sharing (see below for further pricing where relevant)

Solo Rate: ZAR 66,215 / US$ 3,625

Departure Dates: 15 - 21 September 2023

2023 Rates
Per person sharing ZAR 65,205 / US$ 3,685
Per solo traveller ZAR 66,215 / US$ 3,740

Price Includes:
One night accommodation at OR Tambo City Lodge on bed and breakfast, and, six nights full board accommodation at The Bush House, drinks (soft drinks, waters, juice, local wines and local beers, tea and coffee), 2 game drives daily, return road transfers from OR Tambo to The Bush House. Alison Nicholls guidance fees. The services of an additional driver/guide. Gate entrance fees and conservation levies to access Madikwe Game Reserve, and 24/7 office support.

Price excludes:
International flights, visas, any COVID-19 Tests or vaccines required, and/or related costs to acquire them. Items of personal nature, telephone calls, laundry, alcoholic drinks (especially spirits), travel and medical Insurance, tips, excess baggage charges, any activities not specified in the itinerary.


Final prices vary, subject to factors such as exchange rates, time of year and availability. Contact us to fine-tune these prices and to tailor-make your dream safari.


The price you see includes all services rendered by us and we only generate revenue once and if you book one of our safaris. Going directly to any of the lodges and other suppliers in our safari packages will not save you money because we earn discounts from suppliers based on the volume of business that we generate for them.

Game drives

Game drives will be conducted by one of The Bush House’s professional safari guides using an open safari vehicle with 3 rows of comfortable bench seats.

As we have a maximum of 5 guests plus Alison on the vehicle, there will be only 2 people per row, so each person has an outside seat and space for their materials. Alison will sit in the middle row, allowing her to teach and talk to every guest during drives. The main aim on the drives is to learn to sketch wildlife quickly and confidently, so most sketching will be done in pencil, pen and other dry materials. You will stop frequently to sketch, and Alison will assist you with sketching tips, instruction and advice. You will also stop to look at vegetation, tracks and other interesting things that will enrich your sketches with appropriate detail.

All drives include a chance to stop and stretch your legs and enjoy refreshments.

Art Workshops

Daytime art workshops will feature topics chosen by guests depending on their interests. You will be able to assess your sketches, add colour or more detail, practice sketching some commonly seen species, and learn many tips and techniques from Alison. Some topics which can be covered in detail are:

  • Adding colour to your sketches and how to use colour to show distance, heat, dust, light, shadows etc.
  • How to use a sketch as the basis for a studio painting.
  • Different ways of creating a field sketchbook – by species, by day etc.
About the Guide

Alison Nicholls is a professional artist who lived in Botswana and Zimbabwe for 9 years and returns annually to sketch in the bush, work with conservation organizations and lead Art Safaris. Sketching wildlife in the bush is an essential part of her work and the inspiration for her larger studio paintings comes from these hours of observation and wildlife sketching.

Alison is a signature member of Artists For Conservation; the Society of Animal Artists; and a member of the Explorers Club and Salmagundi Club in New York City. Her work is in collections around the world and has been featured in wildlife art magazines in the USA and UK. She donates a percentage from every sale of her art to African conservation projects.

You can see more of her work by visiting her website: Art Inspired by Africa.

To find out more about Alison’s art and travels, read the following art-related blog posts:

Decisions and disasters: Materials for your art safari
How to sketch lions in watercolour
• 6 Tips to sketch a cheetah hunt


The Bush House exudes a true sense of home away from home in Madikwe’s Big Five country. Its informal style, intimate atmosphere and caring staff never fail to make you feel part of the family.

The lodge has six en-suite rooms, four of which have private verandahs where one can sit and contemplate the bush surrounding the lodge. One room overlooks the garden and waterhole with another room having the soothing sounds of a water feature outside the sliding door. All the rooms are part of the main lodge building.

Throughout the day, a large shaded garden provides a myriad of places to sit and observe one of the best waterholes in Madikwe, visited by a plethora of species. For incredible close-up views, you can visit the underground hide situated just feet from the waterhole, or you can lounge at the pool while the staff takes care of your needs.

There is also a private nature trail inside the lodge’s fenced grounds. This trail is ideal for those keen on focusing on smaller bush denizens such as birds, insects and butterflies, trees, grasses, flowers, etc.

Additional Information

Climate: For the most part it will be hot (28-35°C), and dry.

Difficulty: Walking the trails on The Bush House’s fenced property is easy and the rest of this safari is enjoyed on board a game viewing 4×4.

Booking and payment details: Once you have decided to join one of our safaris, you will need to contact us for a booking form, which will include details relating to deposit and final payments etc. As our groups are small they fill up quickly.

Client Testimonials

“My art safari experience with Alison was beyond my wildest dreams.  I learned so much about drawing the animals I saw.  We went out on two game drives a day and it was such an intimate experience.  Alison gave each of us individual attention and tips on our sketches.  It was so helpful and encouraging.  I cannot describe how wonderful it was to experience really looking at the animal when you are trying to sketch them.  We came back to the lodge to do some watercolor and more intimate instruction, as well as watch Alison work on some of her marvelous work she had done in the bush.  It was a trip of a lifetime filled with fun, learning and lot’s of laughter.  Thank you, Alison for a wonderful experience.” – Debra Singleton

“We had a wonderful experience with Alison. The opportunities to see and draw animals were abundant and it was great to be with likeminded sketchers. Alison is a great teacher and I feel my work improved because of her feedback. Thanks for organising the safari.” – Amanda & Don Scott

“Alison taught us how to really look at an animal and see things that you don’t see from photos. I was able to continue sketching on the rest of our trip in Africa and found the game drives to be more interesting than before because I was constantly trying to sketch, and by the end of our trip my sketches had much improved and I now have my own references for future paintings. Alison’s art safaris would work for any level of experience and non-participating spouses can enjoy it as well.” – Bobbi Bryson

“By the time we met, I already felt that I knew Alison well as she had taken the trouble to make contact with me on a number of occasions before the trip to outline what to expect, what was required and to make sure any questions were answered. Her artistic prowess is unquestioned but as a tutor, her quiet encouraging manner and friendly demeanour meant that a complete novice such as myself could reveal my artistic ineptitude with no fear of embarassment. I learnt a lot and was very much inspired to continue my efforts in future.” – Alastair Gibson

“Sketching in the bush with Alison was a delight, she is thorough, humorous, knowledgeable, and patient. I found it amazing that the placement of a single line transformed my house cat into a lion.” – Celia Clowe

“This trip exceeded my expectations and imagination.” – Stacy Edick

“I attended Alison Nicholls’ Africa Geographic safari as a non-participating spouse. Using my photo safari experiences as a baseline, I’ll state unequivocally that never have I experienced such professionalism, enthusiasm, organisation and warmth as I did with Alison on this safari. The photo safaris I’ve been on paled in comparison. Alison’s organisational skills are superb, and her ability to orchestrate game drives, meals and other logistics all while providing each individual enough attention and mix it with a lot of laughter is most impressive.” – Butch Mazucca

“It was amazing to have Alison right there on every game drive offering ideas and suggestions. I can’t believe in such a few short days how quickly I improved my sketching!” – Barbara Womack.

“I attended Alison Nicholls’ Africa Geographic safari as a non-participating spouse. Using my photo safari experiences as a baseline, I’ll state unequivocally that never have I experienced such professionalism, enthusiasm, organisation and warmth as I did with Alison on this safari. The photo safaris I’ve been on paled in comparison. Alison’s organisational skills are superb, and her ability to orchestrate game drives, meals and other logistics all while providing each individual enough attention and mix it with a lot of laughter is most impressive.”Butch Mazucca

“This trip exceeded my expectations and imagination.”Stacy Edick

“I’ve been on over eighteen safaris and have never so thoroughly enjoyed my animal-watching experiences. In fact, I cannot imagine going on future safaris without a sketchbook and pencil in my backpack and taking the time to sit, watch, listen, and to really “see” and record the marvels unfolding before me.”Penelope Bodry-Sanders

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