Pilanesberg National Park

View over Mankwe Dam in the Pilanesberg National ParkBurchells ZebraBaby Nile CrocodileSunset in Pilanesberg National ParkSpringbok

Park Overview

Pilanesberg National Park is a 58 000 hectare game reserve located a mere 2, 5 hour drive outside of Johannesburg in South Africa.

The reserve is found within an extinct volcano. This gives a unique and photographic environment within the reserve boundaries. There are large rolling mountains and hills found throughout Pilanesberg, and a large dam known as Mankwe Dam situated within the centre of the game reserve. There are a number of other dams and viewpoints located in the park.

The park was established in 1979, and 6000 animals were reintroduced into the reserve. The introduction had to take place as many of the animals had been shot out and the land was being used as farmland, many remains farm buildings and still be found when exploring the park. 1993 saw the reintroduction of Lion into the reserve.



Pilanesberg Game Reserve is home to a large range of mammal, and bird species. There are also a number of reptile, amphibian and insect species. There is definitely something for anyone with an interest in the African bush.

The reserve boasts all member of the Big 5, however some of these species are extremely difficult to find. Personally I have never seen Buffalo in this reserve before, and have only seen Leopard very rarely. The Elephant, Rhino, and Lion populations are found in good numbers and are seen fairly often.

Other than the Big 5 the reserve offers predator species such as Wild Dog, Cheetah, Serval, Caracal, and Jackal. Spotted Hyena is not found in the reserve however Brown Hyena does naturally occur.

Other mammal species include general plains game, such as Burchell's Zebra, Giraffe, Impala, Blue Wildebeest, Springbok as well as many more. Rarer antelope species which can be found are Eland, Sable Antelope, Tsessebe, Gemsbok, and Red Hartebeest. Many of these antelope species are either difficult to find, or do not exist within Kruger National Park.

There are also over 364 bird species which can be found.


Great Areas for Game Sightings.

Wildlife can and is seen throughout the reserve but here are a few areas within the park that I have been quite lucky.

Mankwe Dam- The area and loops which surround Mankwe Dam seem to have quite a large bird and mammal density. Both general game as well as the bigger species is often spotted in this region. Cheetah, Lion, and Brown Hyena are often seen on the hippo loops. Hippo and crocodile can be found in the dam. There is also a birding hide located on the banks of the dam. This is a perfect spot for stretching your legs and relaxing in the tranquillity of nature.

It is also said that all four Lion pride territories overlap at this dam.

Mankwe Way- This is a road situated just behind Mankwe Dam. The road bends through open plains, and mountainous terrain. This gives a great opportunity to find all of the major predators. Cheetah, and Lion are often found in the plains. Leopards are more commonly found within the mountainous terrain.

Tlou Road- Yet again all major predators do occur in this region. There are a few dams in the area, and in the winter months Buffalo can be found coming down to the dams to drink when water is scares elsewhere.


All the usual game reserve activities are available, game drives, and bush walks. This reserve does offer the self-drive option which is more cost effective.

Hot air ballooning over the reserve is also available.


There are accommodation options available to suit all budgets.

Camping, and chalet accommodation is available at both the Manyane, and Bakgatla Complexe, and more luxurious accommodation is available through the reserves many private lodges.


In a Nut Shell

Pilanesberg National Park is a fantastic game reserve, with a large range of living creatures, activities, accommodation options and close proximity to Sun City, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Due to the smallish size of the reserve and the availability of restrooms, this reserve is a great option if you have children, as you are never much further than 30 minutes away from a rest stop.

One area for concern that I have found is the lack of maintenance on the dirt roads, and the picnic areas. The picnic areas could do with a major renovation. However having said that the hides seem to be kept quite nicely and the Pilanesberg Centre is the ideal spot for a breakfast or lunch spot.

Overall if you are looking for great relaxing holiday close to Johannesburg, then Pilanesberg will not disappoint.