On a trip to Johannesburg it was quickly realized that the highlight of the trip would be a safari in Pilanesberg National Park. Maybe the post should be called, “Johannesburg gone wild.” The city itself doesn’t have a fun or safe reputation so we headed to the nearby national park of Pilanesberg.
There, we had an awesome self-drive safari experience. And the proof should be in the photos we were able to snag.
Kruger was a bit far away seeing as we were in South Africa a total of four days. Plus, we haven’t had any malaria or yellow fever shots, and apparently there is a larger chance of malaria toward Kruger.
Pilanesberg National Park was quickly the park recommended as an alternative to Kruger. The InterContinental tried to sell us on a tour claiming it was 40 minutes away. Turns out it’s 2.5 hours away. We also asked about renting a car and we were told “it’s not possible”.
That is a big joke. The car rental and the park were super easy to tackle. The roads were (mostly) paved and all. But I can do a separate post on that.
To prove how awesome a “self drive” safari is/was… well the proof is the animals we saw. I had no idea a park that near to the big city would be so abundant with wildlife.
Cost: For two of us and the map, we spent $17 to get into the park for the entire day.
Rent a car or truck. I’ll do an entire post on doing a self-drive to save money. But I’ll say that a 4×4 isn’t necessary for 90% of the roads. Perhaps if it were flooding, but the day before we went it was raining and it was totally dry by the time we got there.
Get there real early. The best times for us were in the morning and evening.
Spend the night. You can camp there for relatively cheap or stay at the expensive park hotels. There are hotels in the town right outside, “Sun City”. There are hotels for $80 to $900.
So Sun City is a pretty great spot to spend the night. We were using points and thus stayed in Jo-burg, but it would have been pretty cool not to have to rush out (because we had to return the car by 8:30 pm (because of a generous agent)). But it’s totally worth the extra day of car rental and paying for a hotel 1 night.
Again, dawn and dusk were especially good. Animals were out and playing especially in the evening. Yet, we drove around all day and saw plenty of animals. Since we left a little early and the sun rose quickly, most of these pictures are “mid day”. So you’ll be fine either way.
Watering holes are where we saw the most animal activity. In fact, when you look at the map they give you, you notice bodies of water, partly along the main road, running from west to east right through the center. That line through the center was by far the best for us. We drove all around but those were the best spots for us.
- Tshepe Drive from the south east entrance (Kwa Maritane) was a highlight of the day. The north side of this drive is where we saw the lions. We came in this entrance in the morning and it was kind of dead. But in the evening, when the road was in the shade (as it’s to the east of Magare peak), it was alive with all kinds of Rhinos, Elephants, Kodus, and more of the common Zebras and Wildebeest.
- Mankwe Dam in the very center of the park. Just on the North East side of this dam (just on Motlobo Drive) we saw Elephants, Rhinos, Ostriches, Kodus and all kinds of things.
- Tshwene Drive by Dithabaneng peak was incredible for seeing Giraffes. Very large groups of them were roaming around all day.
- Makorwane Dam was where we saw a ton of elephants. Two very large groups with babies. And there were other animals in the area, like Rhinos.
What Animals Do You See At Pilanesberg National Park?
Well I’ll tell you what we for sure saw and then I’ll just read the list of what is in the book.
What we saw….
Giraffe, Black Rhino, White Rhino, Kodu, Zebra, Hippo, Lion, Blue Wildebeest, Warthog, Elephant, Impala, Ostrich.
What there was left to see..
Duiker, Klispringer, Buffalo, Eland, Waterbuck, Leopard, Red Hartebeest, Mountain Reeduck, Cheetah, Caracal, Tsessebe, Black-backed Jackal, Springbok, Brown Hytena, Banded Mongoose, Chacma Baboons, Vervet Monkey.
And I don’t have the energy to type out all the birds…
But I want to say that we had a question mark next to any deer like thing… because we saw so many and can’t always tell the difference between them all.
Our experience in Pilanesberg National Park was so incredible that it’s inspired two things. 1) Always do self-drive safaris. And 2) We need to explore Africa. This is the only habited continent that we haven’t really explored or traveled.
The rest of the photos:
Thanks for reading friends!