A big-five African safari is a dream holiday for many people and the bottom-line is that whether you are a tourist from another continent or a local visiting the Pilanesberg game reserve in South Africa, you want to return home having enjoyed the safari experience.
Think of this article as your unofficial advisor, providing tips to make your trip more exciting and memorable!
Here are our top-ten things to do when visiting the Pilanesberg:
1. Guided safari – all the lodges and resorts in the Pilanesberg offer morning and afternoon guided game drives. In the morning the guide brings coffee and rusks and in the afternoon there are cool drinks and beer/wine for sun-downers, depending on which lodge you are staying at.
2. Self-drive safari – we prefer self-drive as you get to decide when you go, which route you take and how long you stay at a sighting.
3. Guided Bush walk – most of the lodges offer guided bush walks. These are really exciting as they provide you with a whole new outlook on nature. You could come face-to-face with a rhino or buffalo, but these walks are more about the smaller things that you would miss when driving around the park.
4. Self-guided Camp walk – Manyane lodge has a huge enclosed area where zebras, tsessebe, ostriches, wildebeest, impala and warthog roam freely. You don’t need to book and maps are available at the information centre. We love this walk as you get to experience closeness with the animals. In summer you should take a hat, comfortable walking boots, a flask with water and a camera of course!
5. Picnic on the hills – there are five picnic spots located throughout the park. Three of them are great as you are high-up on hills and you have magnificent views of the plains or lake below. The one is Fish Eagle picnic spot overlooking Mankwe dam and the other two are located on Baile Drive. All the picnic spots have braai (barbeque) facilities, water, shade, toilets and are fenced.
6. Sit at bird hides – there are seven hides distributed through the park. To us the Pilanesberg is all about sitting at these bird hides instead of driving around the park for hours. You can get some great photos if you visit these hides at the right time of day – the hides that face west have good photographic lighting in the mornings (Rathlogo and Mankwe) and the hides that face east are great in the afternoons (Mankwe, Ruighoek and Malatse). All the hides are safely fenced and have toilets.
7. Elephant back safari – this is an exciting adventure! You have a choice of a morning or sunset safari that lasts three hours – one hour riding on the back of an elephant and the rest of the time is spent getting to know the elephants and having a light champagne breakfast or sundowners with snacks. Imagine photographing game from the back of an elephant!
8. Hot air balloon – this is another great adventure! The balloon takes off from Mankwe Dam before the sun rises and then you spend an hour floating above the Pilanesberg. This is a great opportunity to photograph Africa’s ‘super-seven’ (the big-5 plus cheetah and wild dogs) from the air – and when you land the table is set for a lovely champagne breakfast in the veld!
9. Sun City – this famous resort forms part of the Pilanesberg crater complex and it has everything in terms of entertainment, from restaurants, the valley of waves water park, a cinema, health spa, golf course, live shows, casino, various sports from tennis to quad-biking and of course daily guided game drives into the Pilanesberg game reserve.
10. Walk-in aviary – there is one at the Manyane complex and another one at Sun City. This is a great opportunity for you to photograph bird species, such as kingfishers, without needing a long lens.