Pilanesberg Game Reserve safari guide

Elephant bums in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve, with Makorwane Dam in the background

Are you looking for your next safari destination? Pilanesberg Game Reserve might just be the perfect spot for you. It is a fantastic getaway, especially if you’re staying in the Gauteng area and are short on time.

The park is in the Bojanala Region in the North West Province of South Africa. It is only about one and a half hours away from Johannesburg and is next to the famous “Sun City” complex.

There are few things better than spotting wildlife on safari. And the chances of glimpsing big cats, endangered rhinos, and rare antelopes are high in Pilanesberg. The unusual landscape and small size of the park is the ideal combination for game viewing.

Check out this concise Pilanesberg safari guide. It is sure to get you excited about your next wildlife adventure!

Reasons to Visit Pilanesberg Game Reserve

Of course, the opportunity to go on safari and encounter some of Africa’s majestic creatures is reason enough to visit a park.

But if you need a little more encouragement, here are some top reasons why Pilanesberg park is a special place.

Pilanesberg is one of the most accessible game reserves

Typical landscape in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve

South Africa has over 20 national parks and two of the most iconic in the world: The Kruger National Park and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. However, many of these parks are in remote areas, a considerable distance from main cities.

Of all the preserves, Pilanesberg is extremely accessible from Gauteng province, a hub of South Africa. It is within one and a half to three hours driving distance which makes it easy to get to.

The park has a temperate climate compared to the reserves further north. The summers are not nearly as scorching and sightings tend to dip in the heat. This means that excellent game viewing is possible all year.

Perfect place for your first safari

Pilanesberg, South Africa, is relatively small but it packs a huge punch. It boasts unbelievable ecological diversity as it exists between the Kalahari and Lowveld. This creates an interesting habitat for a wide variety of wildlife and vegetation that would not usually exist side by side.

For safari newbies, who want to cram in as many wildlife sightings as possible, this is the ideal park. Visitors have a high chance of spotting the Big 5 and other interesting fauna and flora.

The small size of the park is well-suited for a self-drive safari, even for first-timers, without being confusing or overwhelming. You can traverse most of the reserve in a short time and hopefully catch a glimpse of its plethora of wildlife.

There are a ton of things to do in Pilanesberg Game Reserve

Three hot air balloons over the Pilanesberg Game Reserve

The park offers many exciting cultural activities and safari options. If you’re wondering what to do in Pilanesberg and want to indulge in all things safari, the game reserve will not disappoint.

Check out these Pilanesberg safari options:

  • Besides a self-drive safari, there is the option of guided game drives in open vehicles. Expert rangers provide interesting knowledge about all animals – big and small.
  • For something a little more extravagant, try a hot air balloon safari. You’ll have a bird’s-eye view of the spectacular park and its wild inhabitants.
  • Walking safaris are an incomparable safari experience. Walking through the bush is an opportunity to become intimately connected to the surrounding nature. You can spot dung beetles working hard on clean-up duties, intricate spider webs, and animal spoor.
  • There are some incredible bird hides and viewing points, and birding safaris are a popular activity in the park. Look out for the African spoonbill, Cape vulture, African crake, Kalahari scrub robin, and many more unique species.
  • Photographic tourism is fast becoming the biggest contributor to conservation in South Africa. Guided photographic safaris provide guests with exceptional opportunities to snap some incredible images. The guides are passionate photographers themselves and work hard to find guests the best shot.

Pilanesberg Animals & Flora

White rhinoceros grazing in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve

While the reserve is relatively small (572 square kilometers), it has rich floral and faunal diversity. Its unique landscape is incredibly diverse. It includes grasslands, steep hill slopes, rocky outcrops, and thickly wooded gorges. This enables distinct patterns of vegetation to form. There are over 132 species of trees and at least 68 species of grasses.

Animal diversity also flourishes in the area. The park is home to the Big 5 with 50 additional species of large mammals. There are approximately 354 bird species, 65 reptile species and 18 amphibian species. And, of course, thousands of other smaller creatures.

The game area is especially known for its great population of white rhinoceros and the rare brown hyena.

Pilanesberg game reserve safaris almost always produce interesting sightings. Keep your eyes peeled for the elusive cheetah, and the majestic Verreaux’s eagle, sometimes seen in flight or perched on rocky slopes.

Where to Stay in Pilanesberg

A resident hippo near Bakubung Bush Lodge

There are a lot of accommodation options in Pilanesberg, ranging from rustic and budget to high-class and grand.

For those seeking a luxury safari experience, there are a few magnificent places to stay in Pilanesberg. Expect catered sundowners in the bush, splash pools on private decks, and delicious food.

Alternatively, there is a great choice of campsites and mid-brow accommodation for keen campers or those on a budget.

These are some of the most popular lodges and camps for their ideal game-viewing locations and accommodation options.

  • Tshukudu: A luxurious lodge nestled against an isolated koppie. It has its own waterhole, which makes it extremely pleasant for game viewing.
  • Bakubung: This bush lodge borders the park. It has a waterhole with resident hippos. It is also a good place to stop for lunch, even if you’re not staying overnight.
  • Kwa Maritane: A four-star lodge that is African elegance at its best. The underground viewing hide is really special and worth a visit.
  • Manyane Resort: The best value for money campsite with good facilities, including a swimming pool. If you don’t have gear, the Safari Tented Camp in Manyane is a good option.

Discovering the Wildlife of Pilanesberg Game Reserve

Lone giraffe in Pilanesberg Game Reserve

You might be wondering how a safari gem such as Pilanesberg has slipped under your radar. It’s easy to forget about this small – but amazing – park among the giants of game reserves.

Yet it is the ideal safari destination as it is accessible and there are so many exciting activities. The sanctuary has so much amazing wildlife and a host of unique landscapes.

To have the opportunity to experience incredible wildlife encounters, plan your epic safari to the beautiful reserve.

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