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Pilanesberg Luxury Safari Tours

Pilanesberg Game Reserve offers a variety of luxury safari tours. The reserve is one of South Africa’s most encouraging conservation success stories. Set in a collapsed volcanic crater, the reserve has gone from a tract of unloved low-yield farmland to one of the region’s premier safari destinations. The 550km2 / 212mi2 malaria-free reserve was created in the late 1970s. It was restocked with lion, buffalo, elephant, giraffe, white and black rhino and various antelope in a program named Operation Genesis. Today, Pilanesberg has several luxury lodges that offer a full-on Big Five experience, though large predator sightings are unpredictable compared to Sabi Sands and Kruger.

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1-20 of 42 luxury tours, packages and holidays to Pilanesberg Game Reserve

6 Questions About Pilanesberg Luxury Safari Tours


6 Questions About Pilanesberg Luxury Safari Tours

Answered by Philip Briggs

What makes Pilanesberg convenient for a luxury safari?

“Pilanesberg is unique in several respects. It is the closest Big Five safari destination to Johannesburg and Pretoria, at only two hours’ drive north from either city. It is also one of the few major African reserves to be entirely free of malaria. Both these factors are big selling points for business travelers from Johannesburg seeking a quick malaria-free, luxury, weekend safari fix. These factors also make Pilanesberg an attractive destination for families wanting to incorporate a short safari break into a more general South African holiday. In terms of the Big Five, Pilanesberg is strong on elephant, rhino and buffalo, and offers a fair chance of spotting lion and leopards. The attraction for more seasoned safari-goers is the possibility of encountering brown hyena, aardwolf and genet on night drives. Another drawcard is the visibility of some gorgeous Kalahari birdlife, such as crimson-breasted shrike, violet-eared waxbill, shaft-tailed whydah and pied babbler. Other attractions include thrilling early morning balloon safaris and, rather incongruously, the proximity of the legendary Sun City. This glitzy entertainment complex provides a welcome distraction for easily bored children.”


What is included in a Pilanesberg luxury safari?

“The price quoted by an operator for an all-inclusive Pilanesberg luxury safari package usually includes all accommodation and meals. Guided game drives in open 4x4s, and the return flight or road transfer from Johannesburg are also typically included. Some lodges might include laundry and non-premium drinks, such as tea, coffee, soft drinks, local beer and house wine. You had best check on this in advance. Tips are not included and can add up on an all-inclusive package. Check with your operator about expectations for tips and bring enough cash with you to last the journey.”


How long do I need in Pilanesberg?

“Two or three nights would be a great amount of time for a safari in Pilanesberg. It would allow good odds of encountering most, or all, of the Big Five: elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard. However, if you are short on time, a two-day, one-night safari in Pilanesberg could be realistically considered. Pilanesberg is a compact reserve and is only a two-hour road trip from Johannesburg. This shorter time would require an early start and might feel a bit rushed though. Keen wildlife enthusiasts, birdwatchers and photographers could easily dedicate a week to Pilanesberg. For this length of time, consider extending the trip to include a few nights at nearby Madikwe Game Reserve. Madikwe is an exceptional malaria-free Big Five destination that lies a bit further from Johannesburg and caters specifically to the luxury safari market.”


How does a typical day unfold on a luxury trip in Pilanesberg?

“The typical routine on safari is to wake shortly before sunrise, then to head out on a morning game drive at the earliest permitted hour. You would then likely return to the lodge at mid-morning for a brunch or late breakfast. An extended lunch break allows you time for a nap or a visit to the swimming pool, before setting off on an afternoon drive at around 3 PM. It is worth joining at least one night-drive to increase your chances of seeing leopard, brown hyena and other creatures that are active at night. Then it’s back to the lodge for dinner and an early night in preparation for another pre-dawn start. A typical day is designed to take advantage of the finest wildlife-viewing hours, the first hour or two after sunrise and the last hour or two before sunset. This is when lion, leopard and most other animals are at their most active. Unlike in Sabi Sands and other private reserves, it is forbidden to be out and about between sunset and sunrise unless you join an official night drive.”


What type of accommodation can I expect?

“The upmarket options are quite variable. The Sun City complex has a number of luxurious and modern five-star hotels associated with it. There is also a handful of more modest bush lodges set within, or on the boundaries of, the wildlife reserve. Generally, these lodges are very comfortable and well-run. They possess an attractive bush style, in keeping with the wilderness setting. Pilanesberg lodges also tend to be larger and more impersonal than their counterparts in Sabi Sands or Madikwe. This is because a large share of the accommodation market comprises relatively budget-conscious weekenders from Johannesburg and Pretoria. ”


How much will this safari cost?

“Most all-inclusive packages fall within the range of US$250 to US$400 per person per night sharing. Pilanesberg’s proximity to Johannesburg and a less prestigious reputation than a reserve such as Sabi Sands means that it is a relatively affordable destination for a luxury safari. The price of a Pilanesberg luxury safari departing from Johannesburg will depend on the type of accommodation you choose and whether you fly up or join a driving tour. It will also depend, to some extent, on season. It will work out cheaper, however, to book into a luxury lodge directly and to self-drive from Johannesburg. Rates tend to be lower on weekdays. At weekends Pilanesberg and Sun City become a popular retreat for the residents of Johannesburg and Pretoria. ”


Pilanesberg Reviews

3.9/5 100 Reviews
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

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

Anthony Ham  –  
Australia AU

Anthony is a photographer and writer for travel magazines and Lonely Planet, including the guides to Kenya and Botswana & Namibia.

Pilanesberg: Busy & Beautiful

Pilanesberg is so easily reached that my first experience of the park was the antithesis of everything I love about the African wild – paved roads, traffic jams, and tour guides with loud microphones. The fact that there were rhinos, both...

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...

Full Review

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....

Full Review

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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