Pilanesberg Game Reserve and National Park

I woke early in Johannesburg and was excited as I had booked a safari to Pilanesberg Game Reserve and National Park. It’s an early start but for what lay ahead that did not matter..

In the heart of South Africa, Pilanesberg National Park is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. With its breathtaking landscapes and diverse wildlife, this enchanting destination offers a true African safari experience like no other. In this complete guide, we will take you on a journey through the park, unravelling its unique wonders and revealing the best ways to explore its untamed beauty.

Home to the Big Five and over 7,000 species of plants, Pilanesberg National Park showcases the rich biodiversity that South Africa is renowned for. From thrilling game drives to guided walking safaris, there are plenty of opportunities to spot the awe-inspiring creatures that call this park their home.

Beyond its wildlife, Pilanesberg also boasts stunning scenery, including rugged mountains, tranquil lakes, and winding rivers. Explore the park’s hidden trails, enjoy picnics by the water, or simply soak in the serenity of nature’s masterpiece.

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zebras at Pilanesberg Game Reserve and National Park

Whether you’re a seasoned adventurer or a first-time visitor, Pilanesberg National Park offers an unforgettable experience that will leave you with treasured memories for a lifetime. Join us as we uncover the wonders of this unique destination and inspire your next South African safari adventure.

Location and geography of Pilanesberg National Park

Located in the North West Province of South Africa, Pilanesberg National Park is just a 2 hours or so drive from Johannesburg, making it an easily accessible destination for both locals and tourists. Spanning over 55,000 hectares, the park is situated within the crater of an extinct volcano, which erupted over a billion years ago. As a result, the landscape is characterized by rugged mountains, rolling hills, and open plains, providing a stunning backdrop for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

The diverse geography of the park also includes several man-made dams and lakes, such as Mankwe Dam and Lake Mankwe, which are not only picturesque but also attract a wide variety of bird species. The combination of natural and man-made features creates a diverse ecosystem that supports an impressive array of flora and fauna.

landscape and bush at Pilanesberg Game Reserve and National Park

Pilanesberg National Park is also adjacent to the famous Sun City resort, offering visitors the opportunity to combine a thrilling safari experience with world-class entertainment and luxury accommodations. With its convenient location and remarkable geography, Pilanesberg National Park is a true haven for adventure seekers and wildlife enthusiasts.

Wildlife and biodiversity in Pilanesberg National Park

As one of South Africa’s premier game reserves, Pilanesberg National Park is home to the iconic Big Five – lions, elephants, leopards, rhinoceros, and African buffalos. These majestic creatures roam freely within the park, providing visitors with unforgettable wildlife encounters. In addition to the Big Five, the park is also home to a wide range of other animals, including giraffes, zebras, hippos, cheetahs, and various antelope species.

One of the park’s highlights is the successful reintroduction of endangered species, such as the black and white rhinoceros. Thanks to conservation efforts, these magnificent creatures now thrive in their natural habitat, offering visitors a rare opportunity to see them up close.

Additionally, Pilanesberg National Park is a bird lover’s paradise, with over 360 bird species recorded within its borders. From vibrant kingfishers to majestic eagles, the park offers endless opportunities for birdwatching enthusiasts.

To fully appreciate the park’s wildlife and biodiversity, guided game drives are highly recommended. These expertly led tours allow visitors to explore the park’s vast expanse while knowledgeable guides share interesting facts about the animals and their habitats.

Walking safaris are also available for those seeking a more intimate and immersive wildlife experience. Whether you choose to embark on a thrilling game drive or a peaceful walking safari, Pilanesberg National Park promises unforgettable encounters with Africa’s most iconic creatures.

A few memories that will stay with me:

I found the Warthogs fascinating. A lot of them had piglets. Prosper stopped at a specific spot known for the salt in the soil. The Warthogs were having a field day, scratching at the soil enabling them to take in the minerals. The piglets decided that this was the perfect opportunity to have a little feed themselves.

warthogs at Pilanesberg

Zebra and Wildebeest were readily on view as were the Giraffes. We stopped by a watering hole and saw Hippopotamus; sadly they were reluctant to show themselves much above the waterline.

The Kudu with their young were quite incredible to see up close with the distinctive lines on their hide and the Mohican like spikes on their mane. Then of course there are the Springbok with that amazing dark brown flash on their hide and the Impala, the male identified by their lyre-shaped horns.

A bull Elephant was just across the watering hole from where we parked up. This guy is well known in the park and has quite a reputation for being aggressive. One of the tell tale signs is half of one of his tusks is missing. I’m told this is from a fight with another Elephant. Sadly he’s been ousted from the herd.

lone elephant at Pilanesberg Game Reserve and National Park

Popular activities and attractions in Pilanesberg National Park

In addition to game drives and walking safaris, Pilanesberg National Park offers a wide range of activities and attractions for visitors of all ages. For adrenaline junkies, hot air balloon rides provide a unique perspective of the park, offering breathtaking views of the landscape and its inhabitants from above. As you float gently in the air, you can witness the sunrise or sunset casting a golden glow over the vast plains, creating a truly magical experience.

For those seeking a more relaxed adventure, self-drive safaris are a popular choice. The park’s well-maintained roads and clearly marked trails allow visitors to explore at their own pace, giving them the freedom to stop and observe wildlife whenever they please. Picnic spots are scattered throughout the park, allowing visitors to enjoy a leisurely meal while taking in the stunning scenery.

For an immersive cultural experience, visitors can also visit the nearby traditional village of Manyane. Here, you can interact with local communities, learn about their traditions and customs, and even purchase unique handmade crafts as souvenirs. The village offers a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the region, adding a deeper layer of understanding to your visit.

Kudu with their young at Pilanesberg Game Reserve

Best time to visit Pilanesberg National Park

Pilanesberg National Park can be visited throughout the year, each season offering its own unique advantages. The dry winter months from May to September are considered the best time for game viewing, as the vegetation is sparse, making it easier to spot wildlife. During this time, animals tend to congregate around waterholes, providing excellent opportunities for close encounters.

The summer months from October to March bring refreshing rains, transforming the park into a lush and vibrant landscape. Although the dense vegetation can make it slightly more challenging to spot animals, the park comes alive with newborns and migratory birds, creating a dynamic and colourful atmosphere.

It’s important to note that the park can get quite busy during school holidays and long weekends. If you prefer a quieter and more secluded experience, it’s advisable to visit outside of these peak periods. Regardless of the time of year, Pilanesberg National Park promises an unforgettable safari experience, allowing you to immerse yourself in the wonders of nature.

male Impala at Pilanesberg Game Reserve and National Park

Accommodation options in and around Pilanesberg National Park

Pilanesberg National Park offers a variety of accommodation options to suit every budget and preference. From luxury lodges to cozy campsites, there is something for everyone. Many lodges within the park offer all-inclusive packages, providing accommodation, meals, and game drives, ensuring a hassle-free and immersive safari experience.

For those seeking a more budget-friendly option, camping facilities are available within the park. These well-equipped campsites provide basic amenities and allow visitors to be surrounded by nature throughout their stay. Some campsites even offer the option of staying in unique safari tents, providing a touch of luxury while still enjoying the camping experience.

If you prefer to stay outside of the park, nearby areas such as Sun City and Rustenburg offer a range of accommodation options, including hotels, guesthouses, and self-catering apartments. These options provide easy access to the park while also offering a wide range of additional amenities and entertainment.

giraffe in south africa reserve

Safety tips and guidelines for visiting Pilanesberg National Park

While Pilanesberg National Park is a safe destination for visitors, it’s important to adhere to certain safety guidelines to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. Firstly, it’s essential to follow the instructions of your guides and park rangers at all times. They have extensive knowledge of the park and its wildlife, and their guidance will help ensure your safety.

When on game drives or walking safaris, it’s important to remain inside the designated vehicles or stay close to your guide. This will minimize the risk of encountering dangerous animals and ensure a safe distance is maintained at all times. It’s also advisable to wear neutral-colored clothing, as bright colors can startle or attract animals.

Additionally, it’s crucial to respect the park’s rules and regulations. Littering, feeding the animals, and getting out of the designated areas are strictly prohibited and can result in fines or even expulsion from the park. By following these guidelines, you not only ensure your own safety but also contribute to the preservation of the park’s delicate ecosystem.

How to get to Pilanesberg National Park

Pilanesberg National Park is conveniently located approximately two and a half hours’ drive from Johannesburg. The most common way to reach the park is by car, either by self-driving or hiring a private transfer. The roads leading to the park are well-maintained, making the journey smooth and comfortable.

For those who prefer not to drive, several tour operators offer guided trips from Johannesburg to Pilanesberg National Park. These tours typically include transportation, accommodation, meals, and guided game drives, providing a stress-free and comprehensive safari experience.

Alternatively, if you prefer to fly, there are also several airstrips near the park that cater to private charters and small aircraft. This option allows for a quicker and more scenic journey, offering breathtaking aerial views of the landscape.

South Africa zebras

Nearby attractions and day trips from Pilanesberg National Park

Pilanesberg National Park’s proximity to other popular attractions makes it an ideal base for exploring the surrounding areas. One such attraction is the famous Sun City resort, located adjacent to the park. Offering a myriad of entertainment options, including casinos, golf courses, and water parks, Sun City provides a perfect balance between adventure and relaxation.

For history enthusiasts, a visit to the nearby Cradle of Humankind is a must. This World Heritage Site is home to some of the oldest hominid fossils ever discovered, offering a fascinating insight into human evolution. Take a guided tour of the Sterkfontein Caves or explore the interactive exhibits at the Maropeng Visitor Centre to unravel the mysteries of our ancient past.


Pilanesberg National Park, with its captivating landscapes, diverse wildlife, and range of activities, is a true gem in South Africa’s safari circuit. Whether you’re a seasoned wildlife enthusiast or a first-time visitor, the park offers an unforgettable experience that will leave you with treasured memories for a lifetime.

From thrilling game drives and walking safaris to hot air balloon rides and cultural interactions, Pilanesberg National Park caters to all interests and preferences. The park’s accessibility, combined with its stunning scenery and abundant wildlife, makes it a must-visit destination for anyone seeking an authentic African safari experience.

I will definitely head back here again, perhaps in the winter time. When it is drier and more animals are found at the watering holes.

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  1. Seraena Haberer says:

    I happened to be there two weeks ago and we had the most amazing time we saw elephant adults and babies, giraffe adult and babies , rinos adults and babies . Hippo, gnu, hienas, lion both male and females, servile, zebra adult and babies, impala, kudu, tortoise normal and a leopard. Baboon. Amongst others. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see leopard or cheetah they hid well. Overall an excellent experience. Excellent game driver Humbu. We stayed at the Ivory tree lodge.

  2. Pieter Jordaan says:

    Visited the park, during September 2021. Was on my bucket list, but what a surprise. The park is in need of maintenance. At the maingate, no toilets seats in the tiolels??? The roads are full of potholes, the picnic area and braai areas is delepadate or broken. Luckely I brought my Cadac slottel. The visit for me was not worth the efford. We traveled from Jeffreys Bay for the visit

  3. Your pictures are amazing. We’ve been putting together a travel plan for this year and I’ll have to put the game reserve on our list.

    1. Sheena Findlay says:

      Thank you Jen. I wonder if you managed to get to Pilansberg.

  4. Beautiful pictures! I especially like the Warthogs and the little piglets. What a moment.

    1. Sheena Findlay says:

      They were truly amazing Jessica. So lucky with our timing

  5. Adam @ Round the World we go says:

    Discovered your blog from searching about the Pilanesberg Game Reserve and National Park. – Thanks for the great info and your photos are outstanding! I cannot wait to travel around the world… especially to here!

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