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Reader Travel: Pilanesberg National Park

Words & Pictures by Chantal Pretorius

We were so keen to get to the Pilanesberg National Park that we didn’t even stop once after heading out of the city – not even for something to eat or drink. We entered through the Bakgatla gate at the north of the park, and immediately noticed the many round huts on the mountains, near trees behind the huge fences. At the office we paid for our weekend visit, and headed in.

We weren’t far into the park before we were passed by a tour bus, then a few more – the drivers and passengers greeting us with warm smiles, and waving. We were heading towards the Manyane Resort, and were glad that we had our Pilanesberg official map and park guide-book with us so that we could go off the main roads and not feel lost. First, we decided, we’d head down to the Mankwe Dam (a drinking hole for the animals) in search of some wildlife. The dam is just four kilometres from the office on the main north-south road.

This was the fifth time that we’d been to the National Park, so we knew that most animals were to be spotted either at the dam or rivers, or in the grass and woodlands which provide food and shade for them.

Just after taking a turn down a small rocky road, I saw some blue apes on a tree branch. As we slowed down, they came close enough for us to see that they were very cute and that their fur is apparently velvety-soft. After taking our first photos of the morning, we decided to head on to the resort.

Manyane is our favourite complex, because it has many ablution blocks, there are playgrounds near the campsites, it has private showers, and is clean. Also important is that the outside electricity sockets are kept in working order, and there is enough private space for a tent and caravan. We chose to set up our gazebo and tent on a cosy campsite near to both a big tree and an ablution block.

The resort is a great spot for animal lovers, who can expect to spot bushpigs, springbok and impala in abundance in the surrounding veld. The next day, we headed out again and soon saw two small jackals running alongside the road. It is apparently very rare to see them so close to people, so we were lucky to be able to get some memorable pictures of them.

Pilanesberg National Park Images

We had hoped to see brown hyenas and wild dogs, but, sadly, none made an appearance. We did, however, spot waterbuck, giraffes and zebras; and the scenery in Pilanesberg is enchanting with its red-brown hills and its old trees such as the African-wattle and buffalo-thorn.

We spent the entire day driving around the park, on the lookout for more game. From the Thutlwa and Tlou Drives, we went on to the Pilanesberg Centre in the middle of the park. Inside the centre are curio shops and restaurants, and (as no picnicking is allowed in the parking area or in your vehicle) we just had a quick bite to eat, and fruit juice, and drove off again.

On the Tshwene Drive, we finally took the opportunity to explore the Hippo Loop, and saw many wildebeest. A bit further on, we were thrilled to see a baby kudu in the road. It watched us for a while and then loped off to join its mother, just two metres away.

We headed south east onto the Tshukudu eNtsho Drive, where we spotted many zebra and buffalo, as well as Muscovy ducks on the dam. It is very quiet here, with its high mountains, shallow pans and streams; and the plant life includes velvet bushwillow pods, rock figs, and Bushveld red-balloon and marula trees.

After a couple of hours on the road, we headed for the Bakgatla Resort. There are safe children’s playgrounds here, as well as bush braais, a sparkling swimming pool, toilets, a café and tidy campsites. It was good to notice no litter in Pilanesberg.

On Sunday, we headed for the glorious mountains of Pilanesberg. The view was breathtaking. I took photos as we stood there appreciating our last day in the national park while enjoying the fresh air, appreciating the blue skies and hearing the birds chirping in the background. We spent another two hours on the road before heading home. It had been a wonderful weekend!


Pilanesberg National Park Information

General Information

No. of stands: 46

Cottages: 2

Electricity: Yes

Braai: Freestanding braais (with wheels)

Water: Shared taps

Pets: Not allowed

Ablution: Yes

Laundry facilities: Washing & drying machines

Access road: Tarred


Normal rate: Site fee R90 + R80 per person per night

High Season (5 Dec – 20 Jan & Easter Weekend): Site fee R140 + R90 per person per night

A minimum stay of 10 nights is required over the December/ January high season

Caravan storage: R200 per month


Game watching

Bird watching

Game drives

Game walks


Credit-card Facility

Swimming Pool



Mini Golf

Bar (Pub/Ladies bar)

Braai Facilities

Firewood on sale

Baby-sitting by security

Washing Line

Laundromat on site, and ironing

Contact Details

Reservations: Chris or Ria Bennett

Phone, Fax: (021) 789 1225

Physical Address: Main Road, Noordhoek

Postal Address: P.O. Box 345, Noordhoek, 7979

GPS: S34° 06′.025″, E18° 22′.814″


Distance & Travel Times

Manyane to Pilanesberg Centre – 11 km: 33 mins

Bakgatla to Pilanesberg Centre – 8 km: 24 mins

Kwa Maritane to Manyane – 23 km: 1 hr 9 mins

Bakubang to Pilanesberg Centre – 15 km: 45 mins

Pilanesberg Centre round trip – 40 km: 2 hrs

Park Gates Open

Nov – Feb: 05:30 – 19:00

Mar – Apr: 06:00 – 18:30

May – Aug: 06:30 – 18:00

Sep – Oct : 06:00 – 18:30

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