PILANESBERG NATIONAL PARK
Pilanesberg national park article written by a visitor
The Pilanesberg National Park in northwestern South Africa is a bit less known than some other parks, but certainly no less worth it! With a bit of luck you will find the entire Big Five, as well as many other animal species such as wild dogs, hyenas, hippos, cheetahs and giraffes.
Also, due to special wildlife programs, many animals in the park are threatened with extinction.
Pilanesberg National Park is the fourth largest park in South Africa, with a different type of landscape than, for example, the parks in the south. About 1,500 million years ago this was a huge volcanic area. The volcano that dominated the area was 7000 meters high at its height!
Due to erosion, the highest peak in the area, Matlhorwe, is now only 700 meters high. If you look closely, you can still see the volcanic past in the landscape carved out by lava flows.
It is a green, attractive park to drive through. Due to the height differences, there are also many viewpoints.
Pilanesberg has been a National Park since 1979. Before that, the area was taken up by agriculture. Within a period of 10 years, this area has been transformed into one of the most important wildlife parks in South Africa.
Because the park is relatively close to Johannesburg, you can use Pilanesberg National Park as an alternative to the more touristic Kruger National Park. A total of 6,000 animals of 22 species have been released into the park, comparable to the animal population that lived in the area a century and a half ago.
The park is now very important for the survival of the wild animal species that live here.
In Pilanesberg National Park it is possible to drive around in your own (rental) car. This is a great way to get to know the park, and very adventurous! The park has an extensive network of passable roads. Most of the roads are unpaved (gravel).
These roads are easy to drive with a normal car, provided it has not rained too much. Between the three entrances in the north, east and south and in the middle of the park there are paved roads, which you can use with any car in all circumstances.
We thought that the animals would be mainly far away, but have also seen many animals along these paved roads.
The Pilanesberg Center is located in the middle of the park. You can go here for a light meal and there is also a shop with cold drinks, ice creams, snacks and basic ingredients for a meal. A nice place to stretch your legs with a cold drink on the game viewing deck.
There are also ‘picnic’ spots at various places. Here you can get out of your car, but there are usually no fences around it so that is entirely at your own risk. There are also several viewpoints where you can spot animals.
In some places you are allowed out of your car, in other places you are not allowed. The best places are the “hides” where you can spot animals from a shelter without disturbing them.
Very special to see a huge herd of elephants drinking and bathing less than ten meters away! An additional advantage is that many of these hides also have a toilet, which is very useful if you are on safari all day.
Pilanesberg National Park has four entrances (gates) that you can use to enter or exit the park. In the north is the Bakgatla gate, in the east the Manyane gate, in the south the Bakubung gate. These entrances are connected by an asphalt road.
The Kwa Maritane gate is located between Bakubang and Manyane gate. This is also an entrance, but it is only connected to the rest of the roads in the park by a gravel road.
At the Manyane gate is also the Manyane Rest Camp, where you can spend the night. In addition, there are several private game reserves in the park, often with their own entrance.
A good map of Pilanesberg is highly recommended to find your way around in the park.
At the gates you can buy an information booklet with a card for 100 Rand. More expensive than the maps in many other parks, but there is a lot of extra practical information. Such as tips for (safe) game spotting, an overview of what kind of landscape you can find which animals and a table with the distances between the various nodes.
You will also find a lot of background information about the history of the park, nature and of course the animals that can be found here. You will also receive a DVD with images about the park with this book.
Besides this handy book, it is also possible to be added to a Whatsapp group. In this group anyone can post a message if an interesting animal has been spotted. You can be added to the group by sending a message to +27 84 54 63 811.
When a special animal has been spotted, a message can be posted. A nice system, although the range in the park is very poor. This means that you often only receive messages (too) late.
There is no Wi-Fi in the park, so if you want to give it a try. You will need to purchase a local SIM card for South Africa or roam. The latter is not advisable given the costs.
Pilanesberg has a very convenient location for Johannesburg and you can easily drive around it yourself. Another big advantage is that there is no malaria in this area, unlike, for example, the Kruger Park.
Due to these advantages and the fact that there is so much to see. Pilanesberg National Park is becoming increasingly popular. In order to prevent the amount of tourists from having a negative influence on the park. The Heritage Park Project was started in 2005.
Over a period of 15-20 years. The park must be expanded until it eventually forms one large park with Madikwe Game Reserve in the north of South Africa.
How to get there
Pilanesberg is a two-hour drive from Johannesburg. This makes it an ideal place to start or end your holiday. So you are still looking for the Big Five in the morning. And you fly home the same afternoon or evening!
You can also take a day tour from Johannesburg. Sometimes a safari is combined with a visit to “Sun City“. This is a huge Las Vegas-style park with hotels. Water parks and even an artificial bay with white sand and waves.
You have to love it, but it can get quite hot in this area. And a little cooling after spotting animals is nice. An additional advantage is that the entrance fee is low (60 Rand per person). Although you still have to pay separately for all “extras” such as towels, beach beds. Activities and access to “The Valley of Waves”.
Stay at Pilanesberg National Park
Spend the night as mentioned in the park, in the Manyane camp or in a private lodge. For those looking for a bit more spectacle, Sun City Resort is a good alternative.
We stayed at The Kingdom Resort. A much smaller resort just outside the park, a 15-minute drive from the Manyane and Bakubung gates.
Between this resort and Sun City there is a small shopping center with supermarket. Gas pump etc. where you can find everything for your stay in this area.
Want to explore Pilanesberg National Park in a guided holiday or Safari. Learn more
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