The creation of the Pilanesberg National Park is considered one of the most ambitious programmes of its kind to be undertaken anywhere in the world.
Thanks to Operation Genesis in 1979, which involved the game-fencing of the park and the re-introduction of many long-vanished species, Pilanesberg now has in excess of 7,000 animals including 24 of the larger species.
Pilanesberg is situated in the Bojanala Region of the North West Province, adjacent to Sun City – just 2 hours away from Johannesburg or Pretoria. An abundance of wild life proliferate in some 580km² of diverse and interesting bushveld terrain.
Pilanesberg accommodates virtually every mammal of southern Africa and is also home to healthy populations of lion, leopard, black and white rhino, elephant and buffalo – Africa’s Big Five.
A wide variety of rare and common species exist here, like the nocturnal brown hyaena, the fleet-footed cheetah, the majestic sable, as well as giraffe, zebra, hippo and crocodile, to mention but a few.
Springbok, brown hyena, the red eyed bulbul, and camel thorn trees usually found in arid areas are found in cohabitation with moist-area-limited impala, black eyed bulbul and Cape chestnut trees.
Birdlife at Pilanesberg
Bird watching is excellent with over 350 species recorded. Some are migrants, others permanent inhabitants; some eat carrion or live prey, others eat seeds, fruit or tiny water organisms.
Visitors are offered many opportunities to experience the wonders of Pilanesberg. There are nearly 200 kilometres of roads for either self-drives or guided drives, and professional guides who operate within the park.
Numerous hides and scenic picnic sites enable the tourist to experience “out-of-car” experiences as well. A self-guided trail in the walking area at the Manyane Complex offers environmental education whilst enjoying game viewing and bird watching on foot. Also at Manyane is a walk-in aviary with over 80 species of indigenous birds.
The crater of a long extinct volcano is the setting of Pilanesberg – a fascinating alkaline complex produced by volcanic eruptions some 1300 million years ago. It is one of the largest volcanic complexes of its kind in the world. Its rare rock types and structure make it a unique geological feature.
The area is fringed by three concentric ridges or rings of hills – the formation rises from the surrounding plains like a bubble. The structure of the park is termed the “Pilanesberg Alkaline Ring Complex”.
Ancient, even by geological time scales, this extinct volcano is the most perfect example of an alkaline ring complex. A number of rare (but not necessarily economically important) minerals occur in the park. Pilanesberg rates high amongst the world’s outstanding geological phenomena.
Pilanesberg has survived ages of erosion and stands high above the surrounding bushveld plains. The early presence of man can be seen in the numerous Stone and Iron Age sites that are scattered throughout the park.
The park exists within the transition zone between the dry Kalahari and wetter Lowveld vegetation, commonly referred to as “Bushveld”. Unlike any other large park, unique overlaps of mammals, birds and vegetation occur because of this transition zone. Over time, wind and water have carved a spectacular landscape.
There is a varying and fascinating combination of geology, landscape and rainfall which give rise to different patterns of vegetation – wide open grasslands, steep hill slopes, rocky outcrops, wooded valleys, thickets and thickly wooded gorges. There are over 132 species of trees and at least 68 species of grasses.
The colourful hues, varied habitats and panoramas will delight photographers and visitors. The very topography makes the area a feast for the eye – the syenite koppies, thickly forested ravines, typical bushveld, rolling grasslands and lightly wooded areas.
Off the centre of the park is Thabayadiotso, “the Proud Mountain”. The Park covers an area of 55,000 hectare and ranks among the larger of the parks in South Africa. The beauty of Pilanesberg is reflected in a large central lake, the Mankwe Dam.
Beyond Pilanesberg, heading north, is a pristine conservation area – Madikwe Game Reserve. Madikwe offers a full safari experience in one of the more remote wilderness areas of South Africa.