A wildebeest grazing with Mankwe Dam in the background. Courtesy of Christopher Clark

So I’m back in the office after a wild week away in Pilanesberg on what I am lucky enough to call “work”.

It had been a while since my last visit and as we drove into the park through Bakgatla Gate, I realized I’d forgotten just what a pretty park Pilanesberg is, with the undulating hills enveloping the shimmering expanse of Mankwe Dam, and the long grass on either side of the road hissing slightly in the light breeze as we drove.

Within our first ten minutes inside the park we were held up by a huge bull elephant who was blocking the road as he slowly munched away at an acacia tree on the roadside. We had to beat a fairly hasty retreat as he suddenly started coming down the road towards us with apparent intent. Considering past stories of one of Pilanesberg’s famous old bulls flipping cars over and the fact that we were in a rental car, we didn’t want to take any chances with this chap.

We eventually arrived at Manyane Resort, our home for the next week. It was mid-week and the holidays were over, so the main reception areas and the campsite were wonderfully calm and quiet. We unloaded our stuff into our safari tent and met with Gavin from Mankwe Gametrackers to discuss our activities itinerary for the next week.


Looking for game on a guided bush walk. Photo courtesy of Christopher Clark

We’d come to Pilanesberg to make some promotional films about the park and the activities on offer, and we were advised by Gavin that we should try everything on offer. We happily agreed to this plan.

That afternoon we set off on our first proper game drive through the park with Gametrackers. By Pilanesberg’s standard, it was a relatively quiet afternoon in terms of wildlife sightings, but we still saw rhinos, more elephants, plenty of plains game and a brown hyena just as we were leaving the park a little after dark. And in terms of human traffic, we saw just a small handful of cars all afternoon.

Next on the activities list was a guided bush walk. We met our guide, Greg, before sunrise the following morning and headed through the park to one  of the walking concessions. En route, we stopped close to Mankwe Dam to observe a pride of lions with young cubs perched on a hill just beside us, scanning their surrounds.

A guided bush walk is always a particularly exhilarating and intimate way to experience any park and this was my first time taking part in this activity in Pilanesberg. Over the course of our few hours of gentle walking, we encountered many giraffe, zebra and hartebeest, and got to within about 10 to 15 metres of a large herd of elephants. We also came across plenty of leopard spoor, but no sign of the elusive cat that made the tracks.

Tracking rhinos. Photo Courtesy of Christopher Clark

Tracking rhinos. Photo Courtesy of Christopher Clark

That night we enjoyed another braai and some beers beneath star-studded skies at our safari tent, and found that we were already very much into the swing of the bush tempo. With the sounds of the bush all around us, and a few impala, kudu and warthog wandering around the camp, the city life suddenly seemed so far away, especially with the park and the camps so free of other tourists.

Over the course of the following days, between more game drives, we went rhino tracking (you can read about this here), spent a bit of time in Sun City and braaied religiously every night. Sadly, temperamental wind meant that we didn’t manage to get on a hot air balloon safari. But if anything, this was just a good excuse to get back to Pilanesberg again soon.

Back in the office in Cape Town, it’s actually just the latest edition to an already long list of things that will draw me back to this unfailingly fun park again and again.

Watch this space for the videos from this trip . . .