Discover Pilanesberg National Park
Among Southern Africa’s fascinating game reserves, Pilanesberg National Park is possibly the most accessible. Situated in the transition zone between the Kalahari and the Lowveld, this vast area offers thrilling big game viewing in a malaria free environment. A wide variety of accommodation is available depending on your needs.
Top Reasons to Visit
You may be wondering what sets Pilanesberg Game Reserve apart from other National Parks and what makes it so unique. Here are some of the best reasons to visit Pilanesberg:
- Accessibility: at roughly a 3 hour drive from South Africa’s biggest city (Johannesburg), Pilanesberg is largely accessible and perfect for weekends or even long weekends away.
- Accommodation: The diverse set of accommodation options means that Pilanesberg reaches a wide audience. Whether you enjoy “roughing it” and camping out in the bush or fine wine in a big bubble- bath as you stare out the window of your luxury lodge, Pilanesberg has it all.
- All in a day: Unlike the famous Kruger National Park, Pilanesberg is a relatively small park and much of it can be explored within a single day’s game drive. Although we wouldn’t classify it as tiny, your chances of seeing the Big 5 dramatically increase.
- Formation: Explore Pilanesberg knowing that you are in a volcanic crater formed over a billion years ago by overflowing magma. The landscape and rock formations we observe today are heavily influenced by this magnificent occurrence. Operation Genesis which saw the introduction of game into the reserve, was the largest translocation of wildlife in the world during its time.
See the Big 5
Some of the most beautiful scenery within the entire park can be viewed in the Mankwe Dam region. The dam is the largest body of water in the game reserve. This makes it the perfect place to spot a wide variety of animals. water-buck, wildebeest, zebra and impala are among the animals that make a stopover on the grassland bordering the dam. For bird lovers, there is a bird hide very close to the water’s edge. Make sure you take note of the fish eagles, kingfishers and cormorants circling the dam. All of these places provide many a fantastic opportunity to photograph the plentiful array of fauna and flora.
Pilanesberg National Park, or Pilanesberg Game Reserve as it is often called, is located in the Bojanala Region, within the North West Province and relatively near Johannesburg. With an area of 550km², it is the fourth largest park in South Africa. The volcano crater in which the park is situated erupted 1300 million years ago. Pilanesberg was originally owned by 3 of the local tribes. Many of the Stone Age and Iron Age sites around the reserve show proof of the presence of man.
- Park Area: 550km²
- Currency: South African Rand
- Seasons: Dry season in the winter months (April to September), and wet season in the summer months (October to March)
- Popular attractions: Big 5, hot air-ballooning, elephant back safaris, day trips, Lost City at Sun City
- Nearby airports: O.R. Tambo International (220km)/Pilanesberg International Airport (inside the park)
- Nearest cities: Johannesburg, Pretoria, Rustenburg
Over 7000 animals
In 1979, Operation Genesis was launched. Operation Genesis was designed to reinforce the homegrown game population in the area. As part of the initiative, 110km of game fence was put up, as well as the 188km of roads that were established. Another plan of action put into place involved 6000 animals being introduced to the area. In the years that followed, Operation Genesis has been expanded on. Today, there are over 7000 animals, 300 bird species, and more than 200km of roads.
The park was named after a Tswana chief who went by the name “Pilane.” The northern part of Pilanesberg National Park was originally owned by the Bakgatla- ba- Kgafela tribe (also known as the Bakgatla tribe). The southern area of the park was formerly a set of farms owned by local farmers in the 1860’s and they were responsible for the development of the Mankwe Dam in the reserve. These farms in the south of the park were then bought by the Government during the 1960’s under the apartheid regime. The Bakubung tribe decided to settle on this land, arriving from the nearby town of Ventersdorp. This land was then passed onto Bophuthatswana (an area set aside for members of a specific ethnicity- “Bophuthatswana” means gathering of the Tswana people).
Now was the time for the re-introduction of wildlife into the area and the conversion of Pilanesberg into a game reserve. Chief Tsidmane Pilane from the Bakgatla tribe agreed to the inclusion of a mountainous region owned by them, to be included in the new reserve. Families were moved to a new town to the east of the reserve in an agreement with tribal authority.
These are the stages leading up to what we observe today as Pilanesberg Game Reserve. Around the same time, Sun International obtained a lease on the adjacent farm and built one of South Africa’s biggest entertainment complexes, Sun City. The development of Pilanesberg National Park is still considered to be one of the most complex yet aspiring projects of its kind found anywhere in the world.
Did you know?
- Recent polls conducted by the South African Tourism Board have shown that Pilanesberg is now the most popular game reserve in the country.
- Pilanesberg was formerly known as Pilandsberg and is often misspelt. Here are some common misspellings: pilansberg, pilanesburg, pilansburg.
Been to Pilanesberg? How many stars would you give it?