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Pilanesberg Safari Tours & Holidays

Nestled in an ancient volcanic crater up to three hours’ drive from Johannesburg, Pilanesberg Game Reserve is a top-notch 572km²/221mi² game reserve set in the wilds of North West Province. Home to all the Big Five, it makes for a great all-round safari destination, and as the closest major park to Johannesburg, it is particularly suited to business travelers wanting a short bush break. Pilanesberg lies in a malaria-free area, so families with young children often find it preferable to the better-known Kruger National Park. Pilanesberg is also often visited in combination with Sun City, a glitzy but family-friendly resort complete with luxury hotels, casinos, golf courses and a water park that stands right outside the park boundary.

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1-20 of 65 trips, packages and vacations to Pilanesberg Game Reserve

6 Questions About Pilanesberg Safaris

 
 

6 Questions About Pilanesberg Safaris

Answered by Philip Briggs

How can I find a reliable tour operator for a Pilanesberg safari?

“You can do your online research on SafariBookings, searching on a selection of existing Pilanesberg safari packages to find something that suits your needs and time frame. If you prefer to make customized arrangements, SafariBookings maintains profiles of numerous recommended operators specializing in Pilanesberg safaris. These profiles include customer ratings and detailed reviews to help you evaluate which operator is right for you. On the left-hand column of each operator’s page there is an orange button you can press to get a free quote for a custom tour. Another possibility if coming from Johannesburg and surrounds is to look for an operator locally. Most hotels and lodges in Gauteng (the province that incorporates Johannesburg) will be able to recommend an operator or operators they work with on a regular basis.”

1

What can I expect from a Pilanesberg tour?

“If you’ve not experienced the African bush before, or even if you have, expect to be blown away by the plentiful wildlife that roams through the scenic wilderness of Pilanesberg. When it comes to more logistical concerns, much will depend on exactly which tour you book. But you can get a good idea of what to expect from your trip by reading carefully through the day-to-day itinerary. Since there are no longer scheduled flights to Pilanesberg, most tours travel by road from Johannesburg or elsewhere in Gauteng. Some tours include a chauffeured transfer to the park, while others require you to self-drive. Either way, although the driving time is often given as two hours, we recommend that you allow up to three hours, and aim for the earliest possible start. Once there, guided game drives will generally be undertaken in customized open 4x4s. These specialized safari vehicles offer a good elevated view into the bush and offer superior photography opportunities compared to closed cars. Consider your accommodation expectations before you book a tour. Pilanesberg is serviced by a budget rest camp with campsites, standing tents and hutted accommodation. Several mid-range and upmarket hotels stand outside the park, and there are also private five-star lodges and camps situated within it. If your budget allows, stay at an exclusive lodge or camp within the park, partly for the absorbing bush feel, but also because it allows you to head out early, before the day visitors arrive.”

2

How long do I need in Pilanesberg?

“The optimum duration of a Pilanesberg safari is probably 3 or 4 days, but shorter and longer tours are available too. In our experience 3 or 4 days will offer you a good chance of seeing most or all of the Big Five, without becoming too repetitive in terms of repeating game-drive circuits. Three or 4 days will also be a lot more relaxing than a shorter safari, and will give you an opportunity to really connect with the African bush. This is especially so if you are driving up from Johannesburg or elsewhere in Gauteng, as opposed to flying. Not everybody will have 3 or 4 spare days to allocate to a Pilanesberg safari. If you are pushed for time, 1- and 2-day Pilanesberg packages are available, and are also thoroughly worthwhile. A 1-day safari in particular might feel a bit rushed by comparison to a longer tour, but you should still see enough wildlife to justify going. Few people would dedicate more than 4 days to Pilanesberg, as it is a relatively small reserve compared to, for example, Kruger National Park. Longer holiday packages incorporating Pilanesberg typically visit several destinations and seldom spend more than 3 days in the park.”

3

Which animals can I expect to see?

“You can expect to see a good variety of African wildlife on a Pilanesberg safari. Animals you are very likely to see on a safari of any duration include elephant, white rhino, hippo, zebra, warthog and a variety of antelope including impala, greater kudu and wildebeest. The likelihood of seeing big cats (lion, leopard and cheetah) is highest if you stay within the park and improves over a multinight stay. Buffalo, black rhino and African wild dog are relatively scarce, so you’d be lucky to see them. A popular feature of Pilanesberg are guided night drives that quite often throw up sightings of secretive nocturnal carnivores, such as brown hyena, aardwolf and genet. Pilanesberg is also an excellent bird-watching destination. Dams and waterholes attract large numbers of waders and other aquatic birds, and several are overlooked by photographic hides. Pilanesberg is also one of the closest places to Johannesburg where you can still see large raptors, such as African fish eagle, brown snake eagle and white-backed vulture. In a South African context, the park is one of the most easterly places where you can see western dry-country specials, such as crimson-breasted shrike, southern pied babbler, violet-eared waxbill and shaft-tailed whydah.”

4

Is a Pilanesberg tour safe?

“We regard Pilanesberg to be a very safe place for a safari. Crime is not an issue within the park, and the absence of malaria removes the single greatest health risk associated with many other African parks. Wildlife is not generally a threat to people traveling in vehicles, but Pilanesberg’s elephants do have a reputation for being a bit temperamental and should be treated with respect. Don’t approach elephants too closely, allow them the right of way when they’re on the road or close to it, and avoid creating a situation where they become boxed in by cars. It is forbidden to disembark from your car to get closer to wildlife except at designated picnic sites, lookout points and rest camps, and for very good reason.”

5

How much will a Pilanesberg safari cost?

“The cost of a Pilanesberg safari package will depend greatly on its duration and the quality of accommodation, but prices start at US$120 per person per day. Safaris at this lower end of the scale will most likely stay outside the park and divide their time between Pilanesberg and the adjacent Sun City complex, so check the itinerary before booking. For a safari based in an upmarket lodge or camp situated within Pilanesberg, you’re looking at around US$250 to US$350 per person per day. The above prices are applicable to safaris that include a road transfer or self-drive from Johannesburg or elsewhere in Gauteng. Due to the lack of scheduled flights to Pilanesberg, fly-in trips from Gauteng are considerably more expensive, typically working out at around US$1,000 per person per day.”

6

Pilanesberg Safari Reviews

3.9/5 100 Reviews
Expert
Lizzie Williams  –  
South Africa ZA

Lizzie is a reputed guidebook writer and author of the Footprint guides to South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

A Big Five destination just a few hours’ drive from Johannesburg
4/5

Pilanesberg is instantly likeable, and with its savannah grasslands surrounded by an attractive ring of hills broken by wooded valleys, it’s hard to imagine that it started life as manmade reserve (it opened in the 1970s as an...

Full Review

Expert
Lucy Corne  –  
United Kingdom UK

Lucy is travel writer for a range of publications, including Lonely Planet's guides to Africa, Southern Africa and South Africa.

Family Friendly Wildlife Viewing in Easy Reach of Johannesburg
4/5

The main reason you would visit the Pilanesberg is for its proximity to Johannesburg – it’s an easy three-hour drive. Those with more time might be better heading to the Kruger or the Kgalagadi for a wilder safari experience, but...

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Francine  –  
United States US
Reviewed: Feb 8, 2024
Amazing Days and Nights
5/5

Since we were staying in and flying out of Johannesburg, we chose the closer Pilanesberg over Kruger NP so we would have more time viewing animals and less time driving in the two days we had for the safari. It did not disappoint us at all....

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Aurelia kelly  –  
South Africa ZA
Reviewed: Nov 2, 2023
Breathtaking, absolutely love it there, it's so peaceful and calm, so much to see.
5/5

I absolutely loved this place, great get away with my family, amazing wildlife, I'm not a early morning person but getting up for the the game drives was worth it........ we had the best time!!! Would def do it again

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Tracey Skagias  –  
Greece GR
Reviewed: Jun 8, 2023
4/5

I have been around many game parks in my life - I was born and raised in Kenya. I know you have to be lucky to see certain animals. I did find the tarmac road through the park rather unusual, and although I understand the why, I found...

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Alan  –  
South Africa ZA
Reviewed: Jul 14, 2021
Game feast in a beautiful mountain ringed crator with expansive views extending kilometres.
4/5

I have travelled Kruger and Pilanesberg extensively. The rhino have disappeared from Kruger. Although the vistas have limits in Pilanesberg you can access 5 hides with many more opportunities of alighting from your vehicle. All hides have...

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