Short on time and eager to set your eyes upon Africa’s big 5? Well, you can greatly increase your odds in Pilanesberg National park, a densely populated 550km² reserve just a couple hours outside of Pretoria and Johannesburg. Situated in the crater of a volcano which erupted 1.2 million years ago, the rich ecological environment is now complimented by a man made lake and the Mankwe Dam.
After a successful reintroduction project in 1979, and years of natural development, the area is currently home to over 7000 animals and 300 species of birds. More then 200km of road has been constructed and can be utilized via self drives or with various safari operators. Visitors can also enjoy bush walks or scenic balloon rides which create unique wildlife viewing experiences outside the confinement of a vehicle. Accommodations range from tented camps to private five star luxury resorts to please any budget.
While the area is stunning and provides scenic photographic opportunities around every corner, the downside of being situated inside a crater is the surrounding landscape blocks the sun during “the golden hour” in a lot of the area. This shouldn’t affect the majority of visitors, but those looking to capture incredible animal encounters with appropriate lighting might suffer.
Neighbouring Pilanesberg is Sun City, one of Africa’s largest entertainment complexes and a great transitional hub for those visiting the park. With the incredible proximity to some of South Africa’s major city centres, it isn’t unreasonable to plan weekend getaways or even single nights for special occasions to the park. The location of Pilanesberg, in combination with breathtaking landscapes, and it’s unique ecological inheritance (which drastically increases your animal viewing) makes this national park a must visit in South Africa.
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