The Pilanesberg

The Pilanesberg game reserve is situated on the remains of an extinct alkaline volcanic crater that was active a few thousand years ago.



The park's rare rock types and structures make it a unique geological feature. The park is also known as "The Volcano that gave birth to a game reserve".

It differs to Tanzania's Ngorongoro Crater in that its volcano walls have collapsed inward thereby making many small hills inside the park as opposed to Ngorongoro crater that still has its wall intact.

Is it a 'game reserve' or 'national park' I hear you asking? Well it's both! The park does not fall under the control of SANParks (South African National Parks), instead it is controlled by the North West provincial government.

So strictly speaking the park is not a national park but it is a big-five park and the third or fouth biggest park in South Africa and the North West government considers it a 'national park'. So if we keep politics out of it then the park is not just a game reserve but also a national park.



Lake Mankwe sits in the centre of the park and is the park's focal point.

When the summer rains fall the hills channel the water to the lake thereby keeping the lake full for most if not all the year.

This picture of the sun rising over Lake Mankwe shows some of the hills in the background…

Sunrise over Lake Mankwe, Pilanesberg



About the Pilanesberg

• The game reserve was founded in 1979 and has eight primary lodges:

- Bakgatla Resort (Golden Leopard)

- Bakubung Bush Lodge (Legacy Hotels)

- Ivory Tree Game Lodge (African Anthology)

- Kwa Maritane Bush Lodge (Legacy Hotels)

- Manyane Resort (Golden Leopard)

- Pilanesberg Private Lodge

- Shepherds Tree Game Lodge (African Anthology)

- Tshukudu Bush Lodge (Legacy Hotels)

Each lodge has a swimming pool, curio shop, and restaurant.

Petrol (gas) stations are found just outside the park near each gate.

You also have the option of staying at Sun City and visiting the park just for a morning or afternoon drive in which case you need to contact Gametrackers

Hot Air Balloon Safaris are offered by Airtrackers, which is a division of Gametrackers. These hot air balloon rides are superb and should be on all visitors bucket lists!

• Don’t be surprised when you see both Impala and Springbok as the Park contains animals found in both the Kruger and Kalahari. This is because it lies where the two vegetation zones meet

• It is a big-five Park and also has cheetah and wild dogs - the 'super seven'

• The Park is situated in the North West province of South Africa and is just a 2-hour drive from Johannesburg so it makes an ideal weekend destination

• The Park is situated in a malaria-free zone

• What we like about the Park is that animals that are difficult to see in other parks are easily seen here - animals such as white rhino, black rhino, eland, sable, tsessebe, brown hyena and red hartebeest

• Buffalo, which are common in the Kruger, tend to be a challenge here and we have had just two sightings of these elusive animals

• The park is also the ideal honeymoon destination as the famous Sun City / Lost City casino resorts are situated between Bakubung and Kwa Maritane resorts thus providing easy access to either the park or Sun City

The bird hides are very rewarding for wildlife photographers so you should make a point of spending a few hours at each hide, especially in the winter months of June to September.

Edward Peach was is a wildlife photographer and game ranger in the park and his interview makes very interesting reading.

• Noella Ballenger at Apogee Photo Magazine wrote a 2-part article containing on her advice on organizing a Small Group Photo Safari and her group experience while on safari in the Pilanesberg

• Click here to download a PDF article we wrote called 'Shooting Volcano-scapes in South Africa's Pilanesberg National Park'.


How well do you know the Park?

To find out, take our 20-question Pilanesberg Quiz





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"As a photographer and someone who has visited and taken photographs in the Pilanesberg National Park, I can safely say that with the knowledge gained from this eBook, your experiences and photographs will be much more memorable."
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