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Pilanesberg Game Reserve – Ten Things You Need to Know Before Visiting

If you’re planning to visit the Pilanesberg Game Reserve, there are a few things you should know about it before you arrive.

The game reserve is relatively new but offers many opportunities for game viewing, recreation, learning and nature photography.

1. Uniqueness – The game reserve is located in the ruins 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 birth to a game reserve”. It differs from Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater in that the walls of the Pilanesberg Volcano have collapsed inwards, creating many small hills within the park unlike the Ngorongoro Crater which still has its wall intact. In addition, 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 on the outer edge of Pilanesberg). The reserve was established in 1979 after Operation Genesis fenced off game and reintroduced thousands of animals. The park lies within the transition zone between the dry Kalahari vegetation and the wetter Lowveld (Kruger) vegetation, commonly referred to as the “Bushveld”. This allows animals from both areas to be present together. Springbok, brown hyena, red-eye and camel thorn trees commonly found in arid regions (such as the Kgalagadi and Etosha) are found along with wet region animals such as impala, spotted hyena, black hyena and Cape chestnut trees , which are usually found in the Kruger Park.

3. Size – 580 square kilometers (can fit into the Kruger Park about 35 times!) The North West Parks Board has, however, embarked on an 8-year plan to link Pilanesberg National Park with the 800 square kilometer Madikwe Game Reserve. This will create a 100 km wildlife corridor between the two parks creating one large park in the area of ​​1500 sq km. Pilanesberg receives nearly 400,000 visitors a year and can get crowded, especially during holiday periods, so this expansion plan is very welcome!

4. Known for – Lake Mankwe, which tends to be the central focal point and bird hides that allow wildlife photographers to get close to birds and mammals.

5. Roads – There are approximately 200 kilometers of roads in the park, both tarmac and dirt roads, making Pilanesberg an ideal destination for a self-drive safari. Pilanesberg is about 150 kilometers from Johannesburg and the roads leading to the park are all paved in good condition.

6. Weather – Summers are hot with the rains starting in October and ending around April. Winters are best for game viewing with mild days, but nights can get cold.

7. Accommodation – There are eight lodges in Pilanesberg, two budget (Manyane and Bakgatla), two medium priced (Kwa Maritane and Bakubung) and four above average priced (Shepherd’s Tree, Ivory Tree, Tshukudu and Buffalo Thorn lodge). Manyane and Bakgatla offer campsites as well as chalets. All lodges have BBQ facilities and/or restaurants as well as televisions with DSTV reception.

8. Activities and Facilities – There are conference facilities and swimming pools in all hostels. There are seven bird hides in the park and five picnic areas. All Hides and Picnic sites are securely fenced and all have toilets, but only the picnic sites have braai facilities. These hides, picnic sites and lookouts 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 has a restaurant and shops. You have the option of guided safaris, guided safaris and/or night drives.

9. Safety Tips – Please stay in your vehicles when in the park and do not speed for both your safety and the safety of the animals.

10. Things to look for in Pilanesberg:

– The Big Five of Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino (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 the bird hides especially in winter. Mankwe and Rathlogo are our favourites.

– Hot air balloon safari

– Poultry at Manyane Camp and Sun City

– Have breakfast or lunch at one of the picnic spots in the hills – the view is amazing

– The rare black rhinoceros – sightings can be regular in Pilanesberg

Pilanesberg Game Reserve is definitely one of the most incredible places in South Africa. The density of rare species within the park, its striking beauty and close proximity to Sun City and Johannesburg, as well as the absence of malaria, make it a most attractive safari destination.

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