Pilanesberg Game Reserve: Ten Things You Should Know Before Visiting
If you plan to visit the Pilanesberg Game Reserve, you should know a few things about it before you arrive.
The game reserve is relatively new, but offers many opportunities for animal watching, recreation, learning, and nature photography.
1. Uniqueness – The game reserve is located on the remains of an extinct alkaline volcanic crater that was active a few thousand years ago. Its rare rock types and structures make it a unique geological feature. It is known as “The volcano that gave rise to a game reserve”. It differs from Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater in that the walls of the Pilanesberg volcano have collapsed inward, thus creating many small hills within the park as opposed to the Ngorongoro Crater which still has its wall intact. Furthermore, the Pilanesberg is about twice the size of the Ngorongoro Crater.
2. Location and history – The game reserve is located in the North West province of South Africa (Sun City is located on the outer edge of Pilanesberg). The reserve was established in 1979 after Operation Genesis encircled the reserve and reintroduced thousands of animals. The park exists within the transition zone between the dry Kalahari and the wetter Lowveld (Kruger) vegetation, commonly known as “Bushveld”. This allows animals from both areas to be present together. Springbok, brown hyena, red-eyed bulbul, and camel-hawthorn trees generally found in arid areas (such as Kgalagadi and Etosha) are found living together with animals from humid areas such as impala, spotted hyena, black-eyed bulbul, and chestnut brown. Cape. trees, normally found in the Kruger Park.
3. Size – 580 square kilometers (can fit in Kruger Park about 35 times!) However, the Northwest Parks Board has embarked on an 8-year plan to connect Pilanesberg National Park with the 800-kilometer Madikwe Game Reserve squares. This will create a 100 km wildlife corridor between the two parks creating a large park in the 1500 square kilometer region. The Pilanesberg receives almost 400,000 visitors a year and can be crowded, especially during holiday periods, so this expansion plan is very welcome.
4. Known for – Lake Mankwe, which tends to be the central focus point and bird hideouts that allow wildlife photographers to get up close to birds and mammals.
5. Roads – There are around 200 kilometers of roads in the park, both asphalt and dirt, making the Pilanesberg the ideal destination for a self-drive safari. The Pilanesberg is about 150 kilometers from Johannesburg and the roads leading to the park are all paved in good condition.
6. Climate – Summers are hot with rains starting in October and ending around April. Winters are best for game viewing on mild days, but nights can be cold.
7. Accommodation – There are eight hostels in Pilanesberg, two inexpensive (Manyane and Bakgatla), two with mid-range prices (Kwa Maritane and Bakubung) and four above average price (Shepherd’s Tree, Ivory Tree, Tshukudu and Buffalo Thorn Lodge). Manyane and Bakgatla offer camping and chalets. All lodges have braai (barbecue) facilities and / or restaurants, as well as televisions with DSTV reception.
8. Activities and facilities – There are conference facilities and swimming pools in all lodges. There are seven bird skins in the park and five picnic sites. All picnic sites and bird caches are securely fenced and all have restrooms, but only picnic sites have braai facilities. These hideaways, picnic sites, and overlooks are great as they allow visitors to enjoy “out of the car” experiences. The Pilanesberg Center is located in the middle of the reserve and features a restaurant and shops. You have the option of self-drive safaris, guided safaris, and / or night tours.
9. Safety tips – Stay in your vehicles when you are in the park and do not speed for your safety and that of the animals.
10. Things to look for in Pilanesberg:
– The big five of lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros (black and white) and buffalo
– The Super-seven: the big five plus the wild dog and the cheetah
– Brown hyena
– Honey badgers
– Sable, Eland, Tsessebe and Red Hartebeest
– Visit bird hideouts especially in winter. Mankwe and Rathlogo are our favorites.
– Hot air balloon safari
– Walk-in Aviary at Camp Manyane and Sun City
– Have breakfast or lunch at one of the picnic sites in the hills – the views are incredible
– The rare black rhino: sightings can be regular in Pilanesberg
The Pilanesberg Game Reserve is undoubtedly one of the most incredible places in South Africa. The density of rare species within the park, its stunning beauty and its proximity to Sun City and Johannesburg, plus the absence of malaria, make it a very attractive safari destination.