Among Southern Africa’s game reserves, Pilanesberg National Park (also known as Pilanesberg Game Reserve) is one of the most fascinating and accessible. Situated in the transition zone between the Kalahari Desert and the Lowveld region, this vast area offers thrilling big game viewing in a malaria free environment. The setting is actually the crater of a 1300 million-year-old volcanic complex, and the volcanic formations make the scenery especially striking. Pilansberg is home to a great diversity of plants and animals, including the Big 5, wild dogs and 360 species of birds.
Day 1 – Travel to Pilanesberg and Game Drive
Your flight from Cape Town arrives in the morning and from Johannesburg you start the short drive to the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. After stopping for lunch, the drive lasts about two and a half hours through impressive African landscapes. The Bakgatla Resort where you will stay lies at the foot of the Garamoga Hills. You will have lunch en route to the game park and upon arrival you will check into your chalets. The chalets can hold up to five people each with a double bed in the main bedroom and three single beds in a loft. The chalets have private patios and BBQ areas that provide an ideal space to relax outdoors.
Optional: If desired, you could add a visit to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg before leaving on safari. The Apartheid Museum opened in 2001 and is acknowledged as the pre-eminent museum in the world dealing with 20th century South Africa, at the heart of which is the apartheid story. The Apartheid Museum, the first of its kind, illustrates the rise and fall of apartheid. An architectural consortium, comprising several leading architectural firms, conceptualized the design of the building on a seven-hectare stand. The museum is a superb example of design, space and landscape offering the international community a unique South African experience. A series of 22 individual exhibition areas take you through a dramatic emotional journey that tells a story of a state-sanctioned system based on racial discrimination and the struggle of the majority to overthrow this tyranny.
You will meet before sunset in the reception area and get comfortable in 4X4 game-viewing vehicles for your first game drive! You then head off in search of the elusive Big 5 (“Big 5” is used to refer to the 5 biggest game animals: lion, African elephant, leopard, Cape buffalo and rhinoceros). This and other game drives will last an average of 2.5 hours.
Upon returning to camp, you will enjoy a buffet-style traditional bush braai dinner to fill your stomach before some well-deserved sleep.
Note: During your safari days, you will be accompanied by trained game guides in addition to your Program Leader.
This morning you will wake up very early and go on another game drive into the park to search for more animals. Today you will explore the Mankwe Dam and take in some of the most beautiful scenery in the entire park. The dam is the largest body of water in the game reserve and it makes the perfect place to spot a wide variety of animals. Water-buck, wildebeest, zebra and impala are among the herd animals that make a stopover on the grassland bordering the dam. For bird lovers, there is a bird hide very close to the water’s edge. You will make sure to take note of the fish eagles, kingfishers and cormorants circling the dam. All of these places provide many fantastic opportunities to photograph the plentiful array of fauna and flora.
When you arrive back at camp, you will enjoy a filling South African breakfast. Then, during the remainder of the morning you will have some down time to rest after your early morning. You will have lunch at the park restaurant and in the afternoon you will get the chance to swim in the Olympic size swimming pool, watch birds around the lodge with your Program Leader, and rest before your final game drive. On your evening game drive, you will see if you can spot even more animals that you might have missed previously! Finally, when you return to the lodge you will have another delicious African buffet-style meal.
Day 3 – Lesedi Cultural Center, Johannesburg and International Flight Home
After a leisurely breakfast you will check out of your lodge and start the drive back to Johannesburg. You will have lunch en route at the Lesedi Cultural Center where we will learn about the history and culture of the native tribes of South Africa and partake in cultural dancing and singing performances. You may also get to participate in interactive drumming or a slingshot shooting competition.
Once back to Johannesburg, you will stop at a local craft market where you can bargain for some African curios. In the late afternoon you will check in at the Johannesburg airport for your flight home.
Today the group arrives home.