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3-Day Pilanesberg Safari Tours

Welcome to one of South Africa’s most accessible and best parks for wildlife. Yes, it can get busy because it’s so easy to get to and it’s right next to wildly popular Sun City. And no, it doesn’t really feel like a wilderness as a result. But this is a great place to see animals, including rhinos and elephants. You might even see the Big Five if you’re lucky. And it really does help that you don’t have to mount a major expedition to get here. When you add in some of the best volcanic scenery in northeastern South Africa, this is one park where I’d very happily spend 3 days or even longer.

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1-20 of 24 Pilanesberg Game Reserve 3-day trips, itineraries, holidays, packages & vacations

5 Questions About 3-Day Pilanesberg Safaris


5 Questions About 3-Day Pilanesberg Safaris

Answered by Anthony Ham

What kind of accommodation can I expect on a 3-day Pilanesberg safari?

“Apart from a very small number of exclusive lodges tucked away in remote corners of the park itself, most of Pilanesberg Game Reserve’s accommodation is just outside the park boundary, especially near Manyana or Bakubung gates. Most of these are in the midrange or top-end price categories, and are supremely comfortable. Many also have facilities that include a swimming pool, restaurant, bar and lounge area. They may also have an activities center where you can book excursions and game drives if they’re not already included in your safari package. You could also stay at neighboring Sun City, which has an incredible array of accommodation as well as restaurants, entertainment and other attractions. Remember, however, that to reach the park each morning, you’ll have to pass through Sun City’s access gates and Pilanesberg’s park gates, which some would consider a waste of valuable safari time.”


Which activities are available on a 3-day Pilanesberg safari?

“As with most safaris to South Africa’s national parks and reserves, the main activity is likely to be a guided game drive. This means that a driver and a guide will take you out to look for animals for a few hours inside the reserve. If you go with a vehicle organized by your safari tour operator, your game drive is likely to be in a 4WD safari vehicle with canvas roof, open sides and tiered seating. If it’s organized through the park or your accommodation, it will likely be in a large, crowded, open-topped vehicle high off the ground with a park guide speaking into a microphone. If you’re on a self-drive safari, you’ll get to be your own guide. It’s an easy park to find your way around: just pick up a map at the park entrance. Apart from driving around, there are a couple of bird or wildlife hides, as well as lookouts, where you can stretch your legs and enjoy the view from a sheltered vantage point.”


Will I be able to see the Big Five on a 3-day Pilanesberg safari?

“The simple answer to this question is that it is certainly possible to see the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino) while you’re in Pilanesberg. This is one of the reserves known for having the Big Five within its boundaries, and it may well be one of the most accessible in Africa where that’s possible. Giving yourself 3 days in the park is a good way of increasing your chances of being successful in this quest. That said, seeing the Big Five in Pilanesberg is by no means guaranteed. Elephant, rhino and buffalo are commonly seen, and very often right by the main track through the park. Lions are more elusive, but there’s still a good chance that you’ll see them in 3 days. Leopards are much harder to find: find one and you’ve hit the jackpot. Even if you don’t see the Big Five, remember that these are just the animals that hunters in the early 20th century decided were the most dangerous to hunt. Other wildlife highlights might include tsessebe, cheetah, brown hyena, African wild dog, and maybe even serval if you’re very lucky. The birding, too, is outstanding: some visitors see up to a hundred different species in a single Pilanesberg day.”


How do I get to Pilanesberg Game Reserve?

“Pilanesberg Game Reserve is an easy three-hour (roughly 200km) drive from Johannesburg along good roads, making it a really easy park to get to. The same applies if you’re arriving here from the northern Limpopo region or elsewhere in South Africa. The vehicle you’ll travel in to get here will most likely be a 4WD vehicle, or the tour operator may use a minibus or even a bigger bus for larger safari groups. It may also be possible to arrive here on a charter flight, but this would be expensive and only worthwhile if you’re in a big hurry. Some itineraries that include Pilanesberg also include a stop (even an overnight one) in Sun City, which makes sense given that they are so close to each other. Visiting both is like catching a glimpse of two fascinating extremes of South African life. At one you get to surround yourself with Africa’s amazing mega-fauna. At the other you enter a world of crowds and bright lights and endless entertainment options.”


How much does a 3-day Pilanesberg safari cost?

“Going on a 3-day Pilanesberg safari can be expensive, although a lot will depend on what sort of accommodation you choose to stay in. If you go for a five-star luxury experience, it will be very expensive when compared to something more modest. As a starting point, you can expect prices to begin at US$200 to US$300 per person per day, although they can go two or three times higher for a luxury experience. Things to consider when working out how much you’ll pay include the time of year that you’re planning on traveling. High season (with its higher prices) begins in October and continues through to April, although low season prices tend to be only a little cheaper. Other things that can affect the cost include the size of your group (if any), and whether you’re on a private, group or self-drive safari.”


Pilanesberg Reviews

3.9/5 91 Reviews
Philip Briggs  –  
South Africa ZA

Philip is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many guidebooks, including the Bradt guides to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.

The closest Big Five destination to Johannesburg

The main selling point of this malaria-free reserve, set within a collapsed volcanic crater two hours drive northwest of Johannesburg, is its proximity to South Africa’s largest city and most important international transport hub. I have...

Full Review

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

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

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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Patrick Winkel  –  
Netherlands NL
Reviewed: Oct 27, 2019
a beautiful day, and seen many animals

A day to never forget. Given everything we wanted to see. But also learned a lot about the animals. In short, a recommendation for anyone who wants to do a safari in a day.
Thanks to Susan, Glen and the driver Wiggie

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Sérgio Baumgratz  –  
Brazil BR
Reviewed: Nov 16, 2018
It was very cool.

I had luck seeing some of the 5 Big very close. The scenery and weather is very similar with some regions in Brazil, i.e, savanna (cerrado) covers a large area of the Brazilian territory and our climate is subtropical in the south. The...

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Lynn Chatman  –  
United States US
Reviewed: May 1, 2018

We spent three days in the area near Pilanesberg, and took three game rides in the Park. The Park guides made our rides memorable experiences with their knowledge and anecdotes about the animals in the Park. We had remarkable photo...

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