Pilanesberg National Park (map) is located 150km from Johannesburg. It is the fourth largest game reserve in South Africa. It features an extinct alkaline volcano, which is also referred to as an alkaline ring complex. There are just three in the world, with the other two being in the former Soviet Union and Greenland.
Approximately 1200 million years ago, there was a gigantic volcano that towered 7000 metres (which is much higher than Mount Kilimanjaro, Kenya, today’s highest point in Africa) that overshadowed the surrounding bushveld’s featureless plains. Eventually the enormous volcano collapsed on itself. Four concentric rings emerged and rose to 700 metres over the plains. This represented only a tenth of the original height of the volcano. The rocks that formed the hills come from magma pipe remains, which formerly fed the volcano from the depths of its summit. This is an perfect example of those natural phenomena, which makes it the ideal safari destination and rivals Tanzania’s majestic Ngorongoro crater.
With 55,000 hectares (550 square km) available to explore, you will find a vast landscape where you can find impressive wildlife within their natural habitat. Ranging from the
“Small 5” to the “Big Five,” there is tremendous opportunity. It is definitely not a chance that you will want to miss, given that is so near to the Gauteng metropolis.
Pilanesberg National Park is very diverse, featuring numerous kinds of vegetation and landscapes. As the reserve changes from wet Lowveld vegetation into dry Kalahari, you will see many bird, tree and game species that are never found cohabitating in other areas. Here the species are unique and incredibly varies compared to other Southern Africa reserves.
Pilanesberg National Park is geologically speaking critically important due to its material’s alkalinity as well as there being a significant amount of unique and rare minerals. It is very interesting to find throughout the Park Green, White and Red Uranium Tuff, Flourite, Kimberlite, Nepheline Syenite and Ledig Foyaite.
Part of the considerable charm offered by Pilanesberg National Park is its stunning landscape – rolling hills, ravines and an enormous lake in the center named Mankew, which must have been the center of where the volcano formerly was. There are lakes, wetlands, rocky areas, hillsides and grassland areas. Having all of these habitats available means that a broad variety of animals and plants are supported by the park. In addition to the Big 5, there is also Eland, Tsessebe, Sable, Giraffe, Hippo, Wild Dogs (Cape Hunting), Cheetah, Caracal, Serval and Brown Hyaena. That is only the mammals! There are also plenty of invertebrates (animals that neither possess nor develop a vertebral column, derived from the notochord) and a number of different amphibian and reptile species.
With more than 300 bird species, you are bound to see a number of different ones on a game drive. On grassy hill slopes, you will especially want to look out for Gymnogene,
Rufousnaped Lark and Crimson Breasted Shrike. On the grasslands you can also hope to see the amazing Blackshouldered Kite, Pin-tailed Whydah and Lilac-breasted Roller. Soaring above everything, you will spy the Verreaux’s Eagle, African Hawk Eagles and Black-breasted Snake Eagles.
In the thickly wooded areas there are species such as the delightful and small firefinches (in particular the Redbilled and Jameson’s), Chinspot Batis, the Marico Flycatcher, various hornbills and the Arrowmarked Babbler. Listen for the Blackheaded Oriole’s fluid and harmonious sounds, in addition to the call of Arica from the Africa Fish Eagles in the Mankwe dam area. In particular, the camps are quite bird friendly, and you can see numerous Hornbills, Crimson Breasted Shrikes, Grey Louries, Crested Barbets and Glossy Starlings. Just be sure to watch out for the Baboons and Vervet Monkeys. In the camps they are well-known troublemakers.
One of Pilanesberg’s major attractions is that it is free of malaria and so it isn’t necessary to take any precautionary prophylactics. However, throughout the rainy season, the grass is full of ticks and mosquitoes, so it is advisable to have insect repellent.