Named after the Tswana chief who went by the name “Pilane”, the Pilanesberg National Park has a rich and diverse history that dates back millions of years. Snuggled in the south of South Africa’s North West province, the 550km² park is the fourth largest in the country.
A long-extinct volcanic complex, the Pilanesberg National Park’s topography, is diverse. It provides sanctuary to a remarkable range of species and offers a unique safari experience. More than 7 000 animal species, including the Big Five and 360 bird species, live in this malaria-free park.
Five public gates and 200km of roadways make the park ideal for self-drive or guided game drives.
The dry winter months from April to September are the most popular times to visit, with the wet season flooding the plains in the summer from October to March.
The park is a 2.5-hour drive (200km) from Johannesburg. Most visitors fly into OR Tambo International Airport and hire a car. Visitors can also fly into Pilanesberg International Airport, serviced by South African Airways, and then make the 20-minute drive to the park.
Sandwiched between the dry Kalahari and wet vegetation of the Lowveld, the Pilanesberg shelters a variety of plant and animal life that wouldn’t usually be found together. The small size of the park, coupled with this diverse flora and fauna, greatly increases the chance of Big Five and other sightings.
Some of the most beautiful scenery in the entire park can be found in the Mankwe Dam region, which houses the largest dam in the park. There is also a popular bird hide close to the dam, where birdwatchers can spot fish eagles, kingfishers and cormorants.
What to do in the Pilanesberg National Park
Pilanesberg National Park’s wealth of experiences are, unsurprisingly, centred around the park’s unique ecological setting. Locals who are passionate about the area and park give visitors an in-depth, immersive experience if you don’t opt for a self-drive game drive. Here are some other things to do in the area:
Where to stay in the Pilanesberg National Park
Where to eat in the Pilanesberg National Park