Monday, 11 November 2013

Day Safari to Pilanesburg

Heading North on the N1 from Pretoria, armed with binoculars, food, drink, maps and animal/bird identifying books we drove for 2 hours to Pilanesberg National Park. Since our last visit in February, a fuel stop has opened on the N4 after the first toll and apart from a fuel stop and small complex of shops at Sun City, a few miles from Pilanesberg, there are no other stops on route. All that lies in between are mines to the right and the view of the Magaliesberg Mountains to the left.

Our first stop is at the Manyane Gate for breakfast and toilets. There is a camp site here which we'll explore one day, a small under stocked gift shop, another reminder to take everything you need with you. You can also book night drives from here should you stay over. There are several other sites offering accommodation in and around the park.

Entrance to the National Park is R20 per car and R65 per person, concessions for pensioners and children is R20 each and you certainly get more than your monies worth. You'll be asked to if you are carrying any weapons and I never tire of adding 'why? do I need one?'

The guide book is priced at R30 and as well as a map, it contains information on the animals and birds you'll see there as well as the history of the park. Pilanesberg is an extinct volcano, one of only 3 alkaline ones in the world and at its original height of 7000 meters it was a rival for Kilimanjaro. There is evidence of the Middle Stone Age, the Iron Age and more recently a court house after it's town and people were relocated in the 1980's and 6000 animals (22 species) were released into the newly formed park.

Pilanesberg is the nearest National Park to Pretoria where you can guarantee to spot the Big 5. Elephant, Rhino, Leopard, Cape Buffalo and Lion. I've yet to see them all though in one trip.

The speed limit for the Park is 40km but to view the best game a speed of 20km is recommended, so don't expect to cover the whole park in one visit.

Having made our way from the easy gate we head towards the Zebra Crossing, a recently refurbished rest stop, with restaurant, shop and souvenir stalls and toilets. We meander on the tarmac roads and off road routes, plotting our drive from one watering hole to the other. We drive a 4x4 but see people in small cars, but I'd not recommend leaving the Tarmac without a 4x4. In my opinion October/November is the best time of year for viewing game. The rains haven't really started yet and you can see so much further without the dense green grass, bushes and trees, however spotting lion and antelopes with their camouflage is a tricky job. At this time of year with water being so scarce, the animals are more likely to locate nearer the watering holes and this time of year they have their young.

At all the hides there is running water and flushing toilets and these facilities are also offered at numerous picnic sites in the park.

We picnic at Fish Eye which is elevated offering spectacular views of the park. The concrete benches and braai areas are nestled under the trees, providing shade and drinking water from stand pipes is on offer.

We then slowly make our way to the south gate, making sure we arrive back before the park closes. I did get locked in once and had to wait an hour to get out.

Every time we visit we see something new. This visit was a check point to search vehicles for signs of rhino poaching. 


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