See the Big 5 just a few hours from Johannesburg or Pretoria in one of South Africa’s most popular wildlife areas, the Pilanesberg National Park. Set in the eroded remains of an ancient volcano that towered 7 000m high and spewed fire 2-billion years ago, this well-stocked reserve offers a fittingly dramatic landscape that supports a wide variety of plants, animals and birds.
Pilanesberg is a true Big 5 area featuring elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard and rhino. Although those heavyweights get all the headlines, there’s a lot more wildlife to discover. Some of the other animals that roam the park include African wild dogs, brown hyenas (or ‘strandwolf’ in Afrikaans) and sable antelope – all 3 of which are endangered.
Like nearby Madikwe Game Reserve, Pilanesberg used to be farmland. Between 1969 and 1979, the land had to be rehabilitated. Alien plants were removed, eroded land was restored, houses and windmills were knocked down. An old fluorite mine was also dismantled.
Heading north from Johannesburg, The Pilanesburg is approximately a 3 hour drive is adjacent to Sun City.
Spring and summer (October to March) can get very hot, but visitors to Pilanesberg will enjoy the park all year round.
Sun City, with its entertainment centre, crocodile farm, golf course, water world and casino, is right next door.
Activities include game drives, either self-driven or guided, game walks and birding. Pilanesberg also operates balloon safaris.
The reserve offers guided game drives and walks, but you are welcome to drive yourself around the park too.
A minimum of 2 nights is recommended.
Sturdy walking shoes or boots, hat, sunscreen, camera and binoculars.
Pilanesberg offers a variety of affordable accommodation, like the self-catering Manyane, Bakgatla and Metswedi camps. The more upmarket Tshukudu, Kwa Maritane and Bakubung game lodges are also situated in the reserve. Hotels to suit a range of budgets are available nearby at Sun City.
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