Pilansberg National Park


Normally, it’s the other way round.  But where animals usually lose land to us greedy humans, the opposite took place at Pilanesberg back in 1979.  Mankind, settled there since the Stone Age, was controversially kicked out and a new wilderness declared instead.  Part of the rationale was the land’s unrivalled ecological variety: Pilanesberg occupies the crater of a long-extinct rare alkaline volcano, which enables it to support a veritable Noah’s Ark of animals – the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, black rhino), plus everything else from aardvark to zebra – successfully re-introduced three decades back.  It also makes for some of the most sensational scenery in all of Africa.  The clincher for safari-goers seeking a Kruger alternative?  Pilanesberg is malaria-free.


Pilanesberg is studded with luxury lodges, including in the recently-inaugurated Black Rhino Game Reserve.  At these, the daily jeep excursions include thrilling after-dark adventures.   Self-driving is also possible, but your chances are far better in knowledgeable company.  The best sightings normally occur along Lake Mankwe, where walk-in hides afford a quirky viewing option.  Along with game drives, hiking and hot-air ballooning are also possible, as are trips to inspect Stone and Iron Age sites and excellent birdwatching – with over 360 species recorded.

Getting There

Found in North West Province, Pilanesberg is a 2-3 hour drive from Johannesburg.  Pilanesberg International Airport is no longer receiving commercial flights.  You’ll need a couple of days to do the park justice.

Best Time To Visit

While game viewing is good year-round, summer’s dense green bush allows animals to hide more easily, and abundant water means they don’t need to head to rivers as often – making spotting them trickier than during dry winter (June-September) months.  Winter mornings and evenings can be chilly in, with summer unsurprisingly milder.


The Best of South Africa Travel map displays the locations of the destinations and accommodation that we have selected and visited; for each item, hovering over or clicking the marker will display a short summary and photo of that place or hotel, and hotel pricing. Follow the links in the info box to the full page listing which has much more information.

Note that the online map offers both a satellite view (click satellite in the top right) and, for some locations, a street level view (Drag the person in the top left onto the map). These let you explore the country; and when you wish to explore in person, or if you have any questions about the places you see, give our staff a call, or request a quote. Our staff regularly visit the places and accommodation that we feature.

When you book a holiday with us we will provide full driving instructions for reaching your accommodation, where necessary; these can be used by yourself, or you could enjoy the luxury of a driver. Alternatively we will arrange private (car rather than coach) transfers for you; helicopter transfers are also possible for some destinations.


Pakamisa Private Game Reserve

How to make the most of every moment?

Local knowledge makes a huge difference! When I asked Ash at Best of South Africa to give me some guidance on how to make the most of our trip to Cape Town and Franschhoek wine valley, I felt sure she would be able to send me in the right direction. It never occurred  to me that she would organise our …

J Ross

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