Banish all your preconceived notions about the North West appealing exclusively to bush babies and birdwatchers. There’s a wealth of experiences for adrenaline junkies and adventure seekers, ranging from activities at Sun City to the adventure playgrounds that are Hartbeespoort Dam and the Crocodile and Hennops Rivers.
Pilanesberg National Park
Why you should visit: Nestled in a long-extinct volcano crater, the Pilanesberg National Park’s diverse topography provides sanctuary to a remarkable range of species and offers a unique safari experience for even the most discerning safari enthusiast. Over 7 000 animal species, including the Big Five, can be viewed in this malaria-free park.
How to get there: It’s a 2.5-hour drive from Johannesburg/Pretoria via the R512 and R556
How much does it cost: Entrance is R80 for locals (R30 for children) and R110 for international visitors.
Madikwe Game Reserve
Why you should visit: One of South Africa’s lesser known parks, the malaria-free Madikwe Game Reserve, bordering Botswana, is one of South Africa’s hidden safari gems. No day visitors are allowed so those who choose to stay in one of the park’s exclusive lodges are treated to uncrowded game sightings. The reserve is famous for its population of African Wild Dogs, South Africa’s most endangered carnivore, with between 3 000 and 5 000 estimated to be left in the world.
How to get there: It’s about a 3.5-hour drive from Johannesburg/Pretoria.
Adventures in and around Hartbeespoort Dam
Why you should visit: For landlocked Johannesburg and Pretoria locals, Harties in the North West is the water “park” of choice for all manner of water sports and adrenaline-pumping adventures. It’s easily accessible from Johannesburg or Pretoria, for a day trip or weekend break.
Adrenaline junkies can take their pick from parasailing, windsurfing and jet skiing on the dam, to paragliding and hang-gliding.
For those seeking a more relaxing way to appreciate Harties, tick off a hot-air balloon experience or climb onboard a pontoon boat cruise. On land, there is quad biking, abseiling and more.
How to get there: The dam is about an hour’s drive from Pretoria on the N4 and about an hour and 30 minutes’ drive from Johannesburg. If you’re travelling for the weekend, prepare for traffic as many others may have the same brilliant idea as you.
How much does it cost: It depends on the activity of choice. Your best bet is to contact the Harties Cableway Adventure Centre for prices. www.hartiescableway.co.za
Hartbeespoort Aerial Cableway
Why you should visit: Appreciate the sheer scale of Harties Dam when you ascend the Magaliesberg for a bird’s eye view. The Hartbeespoort Aerial Cableway is a great family-friendly option to take in the incredible views of the surrounds. At the top of the cableway, there’s a 1km Dassie Loop walkway, restaurants and kids’ play area.
How to get there: Find the Cableway at Plot 3, Melodie, Agricultural Holdings, Hartbeespoort, North West.
How much does it cost: R210 for a return trip per adult, R130 for kids 14 and older. Children under four-years-old ride for free.
Valley of the Waves, Sun City
Why you should visit: Unleash your inner child in Sun City’s Valley of the Waves and tackle the Roaring Lagoon Waves (every 90 seconds a two-metre high wave is unleashed). Man up and take the 70-metre plunge down the Temple of Courage or grab one of the tubes or body slides. For the more sedate, kick back and tube down the Lazy River watching the world go by.
How to get there: Sun City is a 2.5-hour drive from Johannesburg.
How much does it cost: Guests staying at any of the Sun City hotels have free access to the Valley of the Waves. Peak rates for adults are R395 and R290 for children over two-years-old.
White water rafting in the Crocodile River
Why you should visit: Don’t let its name scare you. You won’t find any crocs in the paddling section of the river. A 5km white-water rafting adventure with the family (kids 12 years and older) is a must when visiting the North West. The rapids range from class 1 to 3 (sometimes 4 after heavy rains). Prepare to get soaked and you’ll have a great time.
How to get there: There are a few operators to choose from. Paddle Power Adventures, for example, is based in Broederstroom, a 24-minute drive from Harties Dam.
How much does it cost: R460 per person in groups of two to seven, and R410 per person in groups of eight and above.
Why you should visit: Tackle a land-based mountain biking, off-roading, or hiking adventure with Hennops Trails. The three hiking trails will take visitors along an unspoiled area of the Hennops River, while the mountain bike trails (there are a few routes from which to choose) are suited to all levels of expertise.
How to get there: Both the hiking and mountain bike trails start from Hennops Trails’ Hadeda Camp, an hour’s drive from Johannesburg.
How much does it cost: Prices of all activities available on www.hennopstrails.co.za