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Pilanesberg Day Trips

Pilanesberg Game Reserve is one of South Africa’s most popular safari destinations. And justifiably so. It may be smaller and less famous than Kruger National Park, but this 572km²/221mi² park supports all the Big Five, along with a host of other safari favorites. Scenically it’s very attractive, studded with craggy relicts of an ancient volcanic crater, and centered on a beautiful lake where hippos and birds abound. Logistically, important considerations for families and business travelers are that Pilanesberg is totally malaria-free and makes a feasible goal for a day trip from Johannesburg. In short, if you have limited time in South Africa and want a quick taste of the African bush, a 1-day Pilanesberg safari fits the bill perfectly.

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1-12 of 12 one day tours and day trips to Pilanesberg Game Reserve

5 Questions About Pilanesberg Day Trips


5 Questions About Pilanesberg Day Trips

Answered by Philip Briggs

How can I find a reliable tour operator for a 1-day Pilanesberg safari?

“Pilanesberg is a popular tour destination out of Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city, so plenty of different operators can arrange safaris there. We think the best place to start looking is the specialist Pilanesberg operator listings on You will find profiles of dozens of operators that offer custom Pilanesberg trips, customer ratings and reviews to help you make an evaluation, as well as a button you can click to request a quote on each operator’s page. Alternatively you could just search our tours pages for existing Pilanesberg trips, using the variables on the left to narrow down your budget and time frame. Finally if you are already in Johannesburg, or elsewhere in Gauteng Province, ask your hotel to recommend an operator they work with on a regular basis.”


What can I expect from a day trip to the reserve?

“One thing that’s certain is you’re going to have a great experience on a day trip to Pilanesberg. Simply being out in the African bush is thrilling in itself. Factor in the unpredictability of not knowing what animal might lie around the next corner, and you’re in for an exciting and memorable day. Logistically most 1-day Pilanesberg safaris follow a similar itinerary. Almost all trips drive to the park from Gauteng, a densely populated province that incorporates the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria, as well as O.R. Tambo International Airport, the busiest air hub in southern Africa. You’ll want to get the earliest possible start, because it’s a two- to three-hour drive to Pilanesberg, depending on where exactly in Gauteng you start. Once you arrive at Pilanesberg, you’ll most likely transfer to an open Land Cruiser, Land Rover or similarly rugged 4x4 for a guided game drive. With luck, wildlife viewing will start almost as soon as you enter the park gate, and continue through to midday, when you’ll stop for lunch in the park or at a hotel outside it. After lunch you will go on an afternoon game drive and hopefully add to your wildlife tally with some species you missed out on in the morning. After that, you’ll transfer back to the car you arrived in, and drive back to Gauteng to arrive in the evening and reflect on everything you’ve seen in your action-packed day.”


Is a day trip to Pilanesberg worth it?

“Absolutely. A well-organized day trip to Pilanesberg should incorporate two full game drives, which allow you plenty of opportunity to get a feel for the park and see a reasonable selection of its wildlife. Coming from Johannesburg or elsewhere in Gauteng, a day safari to Pilanesberg will be a bit of a rushed affair, as the drive there and back will take up to three hours in either direction. But we are confident that when you’re finished, you’ll agree it was worth it, just to spend those magical few hours in the African bush. Having said that, while a day trip to Pilanesberg is infinitely preferable to not going at all, it’s definitely worth considering a longer safari if possible. This will allow you to spend at least 1 night in the bush, a unique and thrilling experience in itself. An overnight stay will also greatly improve your odds of seeing a greater variety of wildlife, particularly lions, leopards and other carnivores. This is because carnivores are most active from dusk to dawn, so you’re far more likely to see them on a night drive or in the early morning than you will if arriving midmorning from Gauteng.”


Which animals can I expect to see on a 1-day Pilanesberg safari?

“Pilanesberg is home to a great variety of wildlife, and while you can’t realistically expect to see everything on a 1-day safari, you can be confident of seeing the more conspicuous creatures. Animals that fall into the category of almost certain include hippo, zebra, giraffe, warthog, impala, greater kudu, tsessebe, wildebeest, crocodile and probably white rhino and elephant. You might also see lions on a 1-day Pilanesberg safari, but because you will miss out on early morning and night drives, you’re unlikely to see nocturnal hunters such as leopard and brown hyena. Other wildlife you might see includes cheetah, African wild dog, black rhino and buffalo, but these are all less than likely on a 1-day safari. A notable feature of Pilanesberg is the varied birdlife, which includes such charismatic species as ostrich, African fish eagle, crested barbet and crimson-breasted shrike.”


Is a day trip to Pilanesberg safe?

“Pilanesberg is widely regarded to be a safe safari destination. Statistically the most dangerous part of a Pilanesberg safari is probably the drive there and back from Gauteng! Within the park, one potential danger are elephants, which are generally very relaxed around cars, but can occasionally be temperamental. On a guided safari, your guide will have plenty of experience dealing with elephants, and know to treat them with respect and let them have the right of way. You don’t need to worry about malaria, as Pilanesberg is in a part of the country free of this disease. Crime is not normally a concern within the park. However, we do urge you to heed the rule forbidding visitors from disembarking from the car, except at picnic sites, lookout points and rest camps.”


Pilanesberg Reviews

3.9/5 101 Reviews
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...

Full Review

Nittaya  –  
Thailand TH
Reviewed: May 17, 2024

From the game, we found many animals, but for big 5 we found only 3 (Leopard, Elephant, Rhino). However, our driver, Lethabo, he is an experienced driver with lot of knowledge. He tried very hard to find the places where we might see Lion...

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

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.

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

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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