Among Southern Africa’s fascinating game reserves, Pilanesberg National Park is possibly the most accessible. Situated in the transition zone between the Kalahari and the Lowveld, this vast area offers thrilling big game viewing in a malaria-free environment. A wide variety of accommodation is available depending on your needs.
Pilanesberg National Park is located in the Bojanala Region, within the North West Province of South Africa. With an area of 550 sq km, it is the 4th largest park in South Africa. The park was formed within a volcano crater after eruptions that took place 1200 million years ago, giving way to this beautiful landscape that became a game reserve. The most outstanding geological feature in the region is the 'Pilanesberg Alkaline Ring Complex', which is the ancient and fascinating circular formation of rock surrounding the park.
The Reserve was originally owned by 3 of the local tribes, and the name 'Pilane' comes from that of a Tshwane chief. Many of the Stone Age and Iron Age sites around the reserve show proof of the presence of man, adding fascinating history to the experience at Pilanesberg.
Scattered throughout the park are various sites that originate from the Iron age and Stone age and reveal the evidence of man in this area many years ago.
There are several camps serving Pilanesberg National Park from outside the borders, but there are also a number of accommodation options that are situated in the park itself.
The park has an enormous array of animals, including the Big 5. Hyenas, giraffes, hippos, crocodiles, wild dogs and many more can be spotted on safari in Pilanesberg.
There has been a plan on the go since 2004 to link Pilanesberg and Madikwe Game Reserve via a corridor of land. It involves the co-operation of private farmers who have dropped their fences in the name of conservation of wildlife.
Black Rhino Game Lodge is set amongst the trees of an old Tamboti forest in a private section of western Pilanesberg National Park, called the Black Rhino Reserve. It is a hidden treasure and a wildlife wonderland located only 30km from Sun City, offers a perfect bush getaway.
Overlooking a waterhole and savannah plain, and nestled within the remains of an extinct volcano lies Tshukudu, one of Africa’s most romantic game lodges. Tshukudu is known for its five star service, bushveld experience, the quality of field guides and uniqueness of its African inspired cuisine.
Bakubung, meaning 'People of the Hippo', offers a spectacular Big Five game viewing experience. This lodge provides guests with the peace and tranquillity of a true bush experience coupled with luxury and service. Children are welcome, while parents will find the environment relaxing and family-friendly.
South Africa is a wonderful location for self driving. The country is diverse and there are many points of interest along any path. Pilanesberg is located in a historically significant area and it has a huge variety of game, making it a superb destination. It can be reached either by direct flight or by road travel.
Sun Safaris will arrange all travel details for guests, whether they choose to drive or to fly to Pilanesberg. The national park is located adjacent to the Pilanesberg International Airport, meaning that guests can fly directly to their destination. From the airport, guests will connect with a road transfer that will take them to their booked accommodation.
Pilanesberg is just 2 hours' drive from Johannesburg's OR Tambo International Airport. This is a short and enjoyable drive, and can either be taken as a self-drive or as a road transfer. Sun Safaris will arrange all car rentals and transfer bookings.
Some of the most beautiful scenery within the entire park can be viewed in the Mankwe Dam region, which is where the largest dam in the game reserve was constructed by man. This is the perfect place to spot a wide variety of animals, as they gather at the water to drink, particularly during the dry season. Waterbuck, wildebeest, zebra and impala are among the plains game species that make a stop at the grassland bordering the dam.
For bird lovers, there is a bird hide very close to the water’s edge, offering a quiet, close-up look at the feathered creatures that call Pilanesberg home. It is worth looking out for fish eagles, kingfishers and cormorants circling the dam. This is a beautiful area to spend some time and take photos, practising of perfecting one's shot.
Pilanesberg also offers a variety of activities that guests can take part in, such as interactive drumming, quad-biking, archery, tribal dancing, clay pigeon shooting and tennis. Specific safaris for birding and photography can be constructed, as well as walking safaris, which are a refreshing change from regular game drives.
Pilanesberg experiences wet summers and dry winters. It rains from October to April with the highest rainfall expected between November and February. Daytime temperatures are hot and humid with an average of 31 degrees Celsius. The rains at time of year water the land and encourage rapid growth of beautiful greenery.
Although lovely and lush, this is a difficult time of year for game viewing because the animals are hidden by the bush and spread out due to the abundance of water. The best time to go on safari in South Africa is during the dry season when the bush thins out and water becomes scarce, encouraging the wildlife to gather at the few permanent waterholes and rivers to drink.
The dry season occurs during the winter months, from May to September, and bring with them fresh, clear air. The mornings can be particularly cold, dropping to 2 degrees Celsius, but by midday it is much more pleasant at around 22 degrees. Bundle up for morning and evening game drives!