Pilanesberg is one of the most fascinating national parks in South Africa as it boasts a rich geological area (volcanic crater anyone?) and is the backdrop to numerous Stone and Iron Age sites. It has a fascinating history, intertwined with cultural, tribal and historical issues of South Africa, as well as an abundance of wildlife. What makes the Pilanesberg attractive to many visitors, locals and foreigners alike, is its accessibility from Johannesburg (a mere 2 hours), its wildlife, including the Big 5, its array of accommodation options, suiting the luxurious and budget conscious traveler, and that it is a malaria free zone. Of course, experienced visitors will let you know straight off the bat, you are unlikely to spot all of the Big 5 here. Leopards are incredibly elusive, and in this particular park, buffalo sightings are just as rare. Do not let this deter you though! While many locals will tell you it is worth the time and money to visit the Kruger National Park, the more world-renowned game reserve in South Africa, Pilanesberg is just as exciting and wonderful, if you do not have enough time or are on more of a budget.
I will be posting a more in depth review of the Pilanesberg to assist future travelers to the park, but for now, I have posted all of my favorite spots and routes in the Pilanesberg. These areas are where I have had the most wildlife spotting success as well as my favorite scenic points in the park. Everyone is different and everyone has different experiences, but these areas have also been successful for me. If you want to find out more information about doing your own safari, check out my Do It Yourself Safari Guide.
Favorite Spots, Hides & Look Out Points
Mankwe Dam Hide
This is probably the most popular spot in the Pilanesberg. It is a hide on the water of the Mankwe Dam, and has an incredible view. I have seen some great sightings here, including watching a massive crocodile swim beneath me. It's a great spot for bird watching, giraffe, zebra, warthog and other antelope. While you should be quiet in the hide, the parking area offers a sneaky opportunity to ask fellow visitors if they have spotted anything worthwhile that day (Exclusive Traveling Ginger tip right there).
Fish Eagle Picnic Spot
The Fish Eagle Picnic Spot overlooks the dam and is settled on a koppie (hill). It offers a resting spot to have or make food, and to look out over the park. I love it here, especially because you can find areas to sit that are away from other visitors. On a quiet day in the park, it is a great spot to sit and relax and take in the view.
Guaranteed to see zebra, wildebeest or warthog here. It's centrally located in the park and is a great spot to take a break from driving. They have been upgrading this area consistently for what seems the past 10 years, so I have seen it undergo all sorts of changes. The last time I was there (July 2013), you could get coffee and have food. They also had a small souvenir shop as well.
The hides & look out points on Moloto Drive
This trip is a little bit further west and a little bit more out the way then the other roads in the park. But I really love this section of the park. It is a lot quieter and several of the look out points are really stunning. I also had one of my favorite photos of myself taken on this route!
BEST ROADS AND ROUTES IN THE PILANESBERG
This road is, without a doubt, where I have seen my most memorable sightings. On my birthday, I saw wild dog attempt to take down wildebeest on this road - one of the most incredible wildlife encounters of my life. Apparently, the wild dog pack lives in the area from Bakgatla along the Dithabaneng road to Manyane. I have seen black rhino, baboons, elephants, all kinds of gazelles and lion. The most fantastic lion sighting here was a pride of lions munching on a giraffe - we found this kill as a result of a game ranger Mankwe Dam conversation (basically, I am reiterating my exclusive Traveling Ginger safari travel tip). Another great thing about this road, apart from its abundance of wildlife and opportunity, is that is it just outside of the Manyane camp. Take your first right when leaving the camp and you're on it. When I was much younger, we also saw cheetah on this road. Cheetah, unfortunately, is not as common to see anymore, as a result of the species decline in Southern Africa.
Roads around Mankwe Dam and Twin Dam
I really enjoy the winding roads in this area. The Hippo loop is great. You always see animals in this area because of the dam. Giraffes, zebra, warthog, waterbuck etc are abundant here. Mankwe drive and Tshepe are also great.
Visitors often speak of seeing animals here, and it is a nice route to travel as well.