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The Pilanesberg Game Reserve

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Editorial Note: The malaria-free Pilanesberg Game Reserve lies in the heart of South Africa’s North West Province.

An Overview of the Pilanesberg

Read More:
Accommodation Options | Choosing the Season | Making Your Booking | Getting There | Getting In | What to See and Do
Shopping
| Safari Dining | Keeping You Safe

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Choice of Accommodation

The Pilanesberg has 9 lodges and each lodge has a swimming pool, shop, and restaurant. You also have the option of staying at Sun City and visiting the park just for a morning or afternoon drive.

Only Manyane and Bakgatla camps have camping sites where you can camp with your tent and /or caravan.

Bakgatla Campsite, Pilanesberg

Bakgatla Camp Site, Pilanesberg Game Reserve

Both camps are time-share, self catering resorts but you don't have to own time-share to stay there. The brick style chalets at Manyane sleep 4 while the studio rooms sleep 2.

Pilanesberg Manyane Bungalow

Manyane Bungalow, Pilanesberg Game Reserve

The Bakgatla chalets are double story and sleep up to 5 people.

Pilansberg Bakgatal Bungalow

Bakgatla Bungalow

There is one bedroom downstairs and one upstairs with a lounge and kitchen downstairs.

Bakgatla Chalet Bedroom

Bakgatla Chalet Bedroom (above)

Bakgatla Chalet Lounge, Pilanesberg

Bakgatla Chalet Lounge and Kitchen

Manyane has simple safari tents while Bakgatla has executive camping tents, which are raised on a wooden platform.

Bakgatla Tent

Bakgatla Executive Camping Tent

Manyane has a sand pit, Jungle-gym, restaurant, swings, trampoline, mini golf course and walk-in bird aviary with different species of indigenous birds. Manyane also has a lovely walk that the whole family can do inside the fenced camp. The buffet breakfast is included in the accommodation price at both camps.

Kwa Maritane and Bakubung are also time-share, self-catering resorts but more up-market than Manyane and Bakgatla. Again you don't need to own time share to stay there anyone can book. They also have braai (barbeque) areas at the chalets, so you can self-cater or eat at the restaurants. Bakubung has its own waterhole while Kwa Maritane has an underground hide that is within the camp and there is a tennis court and volleyball court.

Bakubung Cottage

Bakubung Cottage, Pilanesberg Game Reserve

Tshukudu Lodge or “Place of the Rhino”, is situated on an isolated rocky outcrop overlooking a waterhole in the Pilanesberg. The 6 Luxury Cottages have a double bed, a single bed, open plan lounge with fireplace, sunken bath overlooking the plains, shower over bath and all are equipped with everything you could possibly need from mini bar, hairdryers, books and magazines as well as a tea & coffee station. Guided game drives or walk are on offer or you can take it easy and view the animals as they visit the water hole from the privacy of your own balcony.

Ivory Tree Game Lodge is situated in the north eastern region of the Pilanesberg National Park, right next to the Bakgatla Gate. The lodge has 59 suites, all with air conditioners, en-suite bathroom and outside shower, covered patios and tea and coffee stations. The 4 Luxury suites have a plunge pool and Lounge. The central area has a feature pool, two lounges, a bar and cocktail lounge, a multi-tiered dining room, the conference facility with open air boma and a curio shop. You can relax at the Amani African Spa a or enjoy an early morning or late afternoon  guided game drive.

Shepherds Tree Game Lodge is a lodge concession awarded by the North West Parks and Tourism Board within the existing Pilanesberg Game Reserve. The entire lodge lies in an exclusive-use zone in the south-western portion of the reserve. Guests will enjoy both private traversing and access to all the Reserve’s public roads. The lodge is superbly positioned adjacent to the Wilderness Area thus offering the opportunity of walking trails in this untouched environment. Shepherds Tree has 13 family suites and 4 spacious executive suites and each suite is designed to ensures privacy and uninterrupted views. The family suites offer two en-suite master bedrooms with a shared lounge and patio. The executive suites offer one en-suite master bedroom with a lounge and patio. The lodge has a health and beauty spa, curio shop and daily game drive or walks.

The Pilanesberg Private Lodge is uniquely positioned in a part of the Pilanesberg National Park wilderness area that has previously not been accessible to any visitors. The lodge was designed to incorporate views to ensure that even when you are not on game drives, you stand the chance to see any of the animals from the lodge. There are 5 sleeping units each of which has an extra length king size bed with white linen, en-suite bathroom with rock bath, double rock basins with indoor and outdoor showers, air-conditioners, ceiling fan, bar fridge, hairdryers, kettle, mini safe and a Private patio. The chalets are connected by paved pathways and bridges to the communal area, which has a Lounge, Dining room, Library, TV Lounge, Bar, Kitchen, Pool deck, Jacuzzi, Covered patio, Boma, Viewing Deck, Fireplace and Air Conditioning. You also have a self catering option if you book out the entire lodge or dinners, light lunches & breakfasts can be prepared for you. There are two daily guided game drives.

Buffalo Thorn Lodge  is part of the Black Rhino Game Reserve and it is situated on the North Western boundary of the Pilanesberg. It is the first extension that was incorporated into the Pilanesberg National Park and the lodge provides five star luxury thatched chalets. The main entertainment area comprises a Dining room, TV Lounge, Reading Lounge, Games Area and a fully equipped Kitchen. The chalets are stand alone units with a bedroom, en-suite bathroom, lounge and private deck with sun chairs. Each unit has a king size bed (or two singles should they be required), a Jacuzzi bath as well as an indoor and outdoor shower. Only 10 people will be accommodated (children included). Enjoy morning or afternoon game drives in an open vehicle as your ranger shows you the large and small species of the African bushveld, or game view from the comfort of loungers around the pool.

All of the lodges have swimming pools.

Swimming Pool at Manyane Camp

Swimming Pool at Manyane Camp

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Choosing the Season

Summer (December – Feb) Mornings are cool but getting very hot by 10h00 and sweltering by 13h00 with maximums in the high 40 degrees, with the nights being hot.

Autumn / Fall (March – May) This is a very pleasant time to visit the park as the temperatures are mild but the grass does tend to be long.

Winter (June – August) during the day it warms up but night time and early mornings can get very cold. The one year we had frost on our windows so please dress warm!

Spring (September – November) Days can be warm to hot with cool - warm evenings.

Our best time in the park is between August and October when the grass is short and the days are cool with no rain.

Once you know which season you will be travelling in you can decide what clothing to pack. We do suggest that you pack light as you can always wash some cloths when you are there.

Making Your Booking

For Manyane or Bakgatla resorts please contact Golden Leopard reservations at email:
reservations@goldenleopardresorts.co.za, or phone them on 014 555 1000

For Kwa Maritane, Bakubung and Tshukudu lodges contact Legacy central reservations
Ivory Tree Game Lodge ,  Shepherds Tree Game Lodge (Cradle Hotels),  Pilanesberg Private Lodge or Buffalo Thorn Lodge.

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Getting There

Flying
From Johannesburg International Airport: The Golden Leopard resorts website will provide directions and a map or fly directly to Pilanesberg International Airport near Sun City and hire a car from there. This airport is situated on the eastern side of Pilanesberg a couple of km's from Kwa Maritane with Sun City only 14 minutes away. There are flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg 6 days a week.

Traveling by Road
This is a short road trip from Johannesburg going toward Sun City and it only takes about 1 ½ to 2 hours to get there. It is a lovely road that goes past the Hartebeespoort Dam and a number of curio, plant, food and farm stalls as well as restaurants along the way.

Getting In

The Pilanesberg has 4 entry gates to the park; they are Manyane, Bakgatla, Bakubung and Kwa Maritane. 

Bakgatla Gate

Bakgatla Gate - Pilansberg Game Reserve

The  park charges a daily entrance/conservation fee. This charge is per person and per vehicle. The prices vary between locals and foreign visitors and the fees go up every year.

Check in times
The check in time at Pilanesberg is after 14h00 and check out time is before 10h00. Please make sure you have all your booking forms and payment confirmation papers with you in case of computer problems.

Gate opening and closing times

Months

Opens

Closes

November - February 05:30 19:00
March, April, September, October 06:00 18:30
May - August 06:30 18:00

Pilanesberg Gat Hours

Pilanesberg Gate Hours

All the self-drive Pilanesberg camps and lodges are outside the park hence there are only park gate times and not camp gate times.

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What to See and Do

Nature Photography

If you are a Wildlife Photographer what can you expect to photograph in the Pilanesberg

Game viewing and wildlife photography in the Pilanesberg are best towards the end of winter (September/October) when the grass is at its shortest and the veld fires have thinned out the grass providing large open areas to enable you to see the animals better. The winter months are also the best times to sit at the Bird Hides and watch the animals come down to drink.

Rhinos are very common sightings, especially the white rhino.

Chhetah standing on a sign post at Pilanesberg Game Resrve

Buffalo, leopard, and cheetahs,  which are relatively easy to spot in the Kruger, are very rare sightings in the Pilanesberg.

 

Photo (left):
Cheetah standing on a sign post at Pilanesberg Game Reserve

 

Conversely, brown hyena, sable and eland, which are rare sightings in the Kruger, tend to be easy to see in the Pilanesberg.

Look out for Impala and Springbok, they are both found in the Pilanesberg as the area is a transition zone between the arid west that suits springbok and the wetter east that suits impala.

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

We suggest you bring the longest lens you have - sometimes the animals will be close to you but in most cases they will be far away and a super telephoto lens will be a necessity for quality photographs. At least a 300mm f4 with 1.4X teleconverter would be the minimum required.

If you are a Landscape Photographer what can you expect to photograph in the Plianesberg

The Pilanesberg game reserve has many hills that provide a pleasing backdrop to photographs so keep this in mind when photographing animals. In addition there are great views from picnic sites and view-points on the hills that provide nice scenery potential. Some of the bird hides also provide good landscape potential - it all depends on the light and the subject.

Pilanesberg - lightening

Pilanesberg Lightning over Malatse Dam

If you are a Macro Photographer what can you expect to photograph in the Pilanesberg

Macro photography can be good in the Pilanesberg, especially the summer months. All the camps have indigenous trees and bushes between the bungalows and Manyane has a walk that could take you up to two hours to do. When you stop at the picnic sites don't forget to look around - we always tend to find scorpions, grass-hoppers and unusual flowers to photograph.

Pilanesberg scorpion

Scorpion - Pilanesberg Game reserve

If you are a Bird Photographer what can you expect to photograph in the Pilanesberg

The Pilanesberg is good for bushveld birding with over 350 species being recorded. When we first started visiting the Pilanesberg we used to see raptors but during the last few years raptors and vulture sightings have been scarce. The park is superb for its water birds.

Giant Kingfisher photographed at Pilanesberg

Giant Kingfisher

There are a few bird hides that have been constructed on the edges of waterholes and dams that provide excellent game and bird photography opportunities. Lake Mankwe, for example, is a prime spot where you can photograph Kingfishers (malachite, giant, pied), cormorants, spoonbills, herons, fish eagles and a host of other water bird species. Birding is very good in the camps where you stand a better chance of seeing some birds, such as the crimson-breasted shrike

Other Activities
Pilanesberg has lovely bird hides throughout the park where you can take your cup of coffee in the morning or your sundowners in the afternoon and watch the animals coming and going.

Lake Mankwe Hide - Pilanesberg

Lake Mankwe Hide

Kwa Maritane has an underground hide, you walk through a long tunnel in the Kwa Maritane complex to get to the hide.

If you want to stay in the park all day then you may want to use the picnic sites for your breakfasts and lunches or you could have lunch at one of the camps and return to the park for the afternoon.

Moloto Picnic Site

Moloto Picnic Site

Pilanesberg also offers the opportunity to go up in a hot air balloon or take an elephant-back safari into the bush (children must be at least 5 years old).

Balloon Flight over Pilanesberg

A Hot Air Balloon Flight at Pilanesberg Game Reserve

The Pilanesberg also has Sun City right on its door step  you can have  fun at Sun City's valley of the waves or go to the Crocodile farm.

Both Bakubung and Kwa Maritane Bush Lodges offer a 'Junior Rangers Program'. This program has unique, educational and fun activities that are geared around natural resource protection, environmental education and responsible recreation, offering a special opportunity to explore the Pilanesberg National Park. The activities are appropriate for children between the ages of 6 to 12 years old and aim to encourage an appreciation for nature, conservation and natural resources.

All the lodges offer Sunrise an sundowner Game drives, bush braais and guided bush walks.

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Shopping

There is a Shop in Bakgatla Camp next to the swimming pool, but they don't have a good variety of fresh foods. They have the general stuff like firewood, charcoal, potato chips, ice-creams, bread, water, cool drinks, beers, wine, a few tinned foods, tea, coffee, but no meat, fresh fruit or vegetables.

Manyane Camp also two poorly-stocked shops, one situated next to the day visitors’ area and the other next to the bar and restaurant.

Pilanesberg Manyane Shop

The Manyane Shop

I would buy what I need in Johannesburg and take it with me but if we do forget something and the camp shops don’t have it we go to the Spar that is situated next to the Sun City entrance. This shop is about 7 kilometers from the Bakubung gate and is easily accessible from any camp.

If you are looking for curios then try at Bakubung and Manyane Gates as they have people selling at these gates and they have such lovely goodies like wooden carvings and tablecloths.

Pilanesberg Centre has a curio shop which also sells a few snack items.

Petrol (Gas) Stations and breakdown stations

There are no petrol stations in the park or camps. There is a petrol station just before the turn off to Manyane and Bakgatla camps and one just next to the Sun City complex between Kwa Maritane and Bakubung gates. I would suggest you fill up before going into the park.

Please ask at your camp when you check in about car breakdowns or any car problem you may have, they will advise you where you can get help.

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Safari Dining at Pilanesberg

Restaurants

There are 9 lodges, seven of which have restaurants.

Manyane offers restaurant facilities that can do both A La Carte and buffet meals daily and a regular Sunday lunch buffet. The inside of the restaurant is lovely with paintings of the big-five animals on the walls. You can also sit outside in the courtyard under thatched umbrellas. The swimming pool is just next to the restaurant with a play area for the kids. Food and service can be a little slow but overall it is a very good experience.

Manyane Restaurant

The Restaurant at Manyane


Bakgatla restaurant – the food is usually good here. The buffet breakfast is included in the price and the choice and quantity of food is always great.

Kwa Maritane has a lovely restaurant that looks onto the park and has an eating area under thatch overlooking the swimming pool with lovely palm trees all around the pool. The food and service were good. They serve breakfast and evening buffets and you can choose an a la carte lunch.

Bakubung This camp has a luxurious restaurant with tables inside and outside, all overlooking a waterhole. We have eaten lunch and dinner there and the food was good but service was a tad slow.

Bakubung Terrace

Bakubung Terrace - Outside the Restaurant

Ivory Tree all your meals are served in the main dining room. The food and service were good but expensive for what we got. The staff members that we encountered were helpful and friendly and they made our stay enjoyable.

Tshukudu Lodge This restaurant has international cuisine with an African influence, and wonderful South African wines. Seating is around a dining table or outside on a covered deck. Brunch, high tea, and 5-course dinners are served daily. All meals, wine with meals, beverages and wine tasting are included in the room rate. The lodge also offers braais / barbecues under the stars, weather permitting.

Shepherds Tree Game Lodge has a gourmet restaurant and an outdoor boma. All meals, tea and coffee plus 2 daily activities are included in the price. They also have a Lounge and bar area.

Braais (barbeques)

 Manyane, the private courtyard layout and view from the braai area outside the bungalow is great. Some units have the Weber braais that you can wheel  out into the open but most have the fixed braais that swivel.

Bakgatla, the braais are fixed to the wall on the patio of each bungalow.  We also enjoy braaing here but there is not much in the way of night life and we don't stay for long periods - only one of two nights - so a meal at the restaurant can be nice.

Bakgatla Camp Braai (Barbeque)

Bakgatla Camp Braai / Barbeque

The Pilanesberg Private Lodge has Self catering or meals are prepared for you but you must book out the whole lodge. There is a dining area with Kitchen plus an open fire and gas braai.

Buffalo Thorn Lodge has a dining area plus a open fire barbeque and gas barbeque. In addition there is a fully equipped kitchen with a gas stove and electric oven.

Kwa Maritane and Bakubung, both these camps have self catering chalets with braai areas just off an enclosed patio or private garden. The braais all overlook the bush which is great for watching the night life.

We have not discussed braaing at  the private lodges as they provide all meals. Manyane, Bakgatla, Kwa Maritane and Bakubung are time-share and self-catering resorts so you can decide whether to eat in the restaurants or braai at your chalet or camping spot.

Pilanesberg Centre

The Pilanesberg Centre is in the centre of the park and is a good place to stop and have something to eat for either lunch or breakfast. It has a restaurant, bar and curio shop all overlooking a waterhole.

All the Pilanesberg picnic spots offer braai facilities (wooden benches, wooden tables, metal braais and rubbish bins), water, shade and toilets. These are all safely fenced. They do not have takeaways or shops so again please take your own food and cooking equipment with you.

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Keeping You Safe

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Link to Kruger 2 Kalahari Website
Everything you need to know, from Wildlife Photography techniques to the best Southern African safari destinations of Kruger Park, Kgalagadi, Pilanesberg & Etosha.

http://www.kruger-2-kalahari.com/

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