TRAVEL

Unforgettable Pilanesberg

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While scouting the internet for a quick winter break-away, we checked out the Pilanesberg National Park website and stumbled upon a winter special deal at the 5-star Ivory Tree Lodge, situated at the Bagatla Gate in the north of the park.

 

Blown away by the beautiful images and amazing TripAdvisor rating (“4,5  - excellent”) online, we were sold on spending our holiday in the Pilanesberg National Park, one of the largest volcanic complexes of its kind in the world. Here the early presence of man can be seen in the numerous stone and iron age sites that are scattered throughout the park.

Of all Southern Africa’s amazing game reserves, the Pilanesberg National Park, the fourth largest park in South Africa, is possibly the most accessible. Situated in the ecologically rich transition zone between the Kalahari and the Lowveld, this vast area promises thrilling big game viewing in a malaria-free environment. A wide variety of accommodation is available to suit all needs.

It is ideal for wildlife lovers who are visiting Johannesburg and have a few days to spare, but not enough time to travel to the Kruger National Park. This Big 5 park in the North West Province near Rustenburg is only a few of hours drive from Johannesburg.

Although only a 230 kilometre journey, it took us more than three hours to get there. We left Johannesburg on the Friday at 15h00 and only arrived at 18h30.  

The road to the lodge, via the M4 and past Rustenburg, leaves a lot to be desired, with potholes and extreme speed humps. However, once we arrived at our destination, vivid images of our busy city life, and the frustration of the road, were quickly forgotten.

The Ivory Tree Lodge deal included three meals and two game drives a day within the park as well as a dedicated guide with extensive knowledge of the fauna and flora.

Nested in the crater of an extinct volcano in the north-eastern part of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve (which existed 1 500 million years ago), Ivory Tree Game Lodge is equipped with every amenity needed to make for an unforgettable trip. The lodge is beautifully set against the hills that surround the park, with the main section housing the reception area, a dining room and a bar with a large TV.

 

Accommodation

The air conditioned chalets are set back from the main building with golf carts on hand to ferry guests and their luggage to the accommodation. Each chalet is tastefully furnished with a large double bed with all the mod cons befitting a 5-star establishment. A veranda with breathtaking views of the park is situated at the front of the chalet. A large bathroom with an outdoor shower completes the accommodation. Superb meals are served in the main dining room or in the boma.

On the Saturday our dedicated guide called at 6h00 to ask if we would like to join her on a game drive. We joined nine other guests on the game viewing vehicle, equipped with blankets (to ward off the early morning cold). It was about four  degrees when we left the lodge and headed off on our game drive.

With all of the game vehicles on the road equipped with radios, it was easy to find animals, however on that morning the animals must have been having a lay in. After travelling for an hour and a half we only saw impala, wildebeest and zebra. Then via a radio message, we were alerted that some lions have been spotted not too far away.

We immediately headed to the Dithabeneng Dam, where we found a magnificent pride of lions, doing what lions do, sleeping in the mainly dry dam. We were also privileged to see a number of African spoonbills feeding around the edge of the dam. Following this sighting, we made our way to a waterhole for coffee before returning to a scrumptious breakfast at the lodge.

After a breakfast we headed back into the park on our own game drive, spending  the rest of the day exploring the park. The Big 5 were clearly taking the day off, as we did not come across any. We did, however, enjoy the wide variety of plains animals, including viewing a herd of giraffe drinking at the Morawane Dam in the centre of the park. On our way back to the lodge we stopped off at the Pilanesberg Centre, which has an outdoor restaurant, as well as a well-stocked store with vendors offering a wide variety of curios.

Back at the lodge a game drive was offered in the afternoon, but we decided not to participate, and spent the rest of the day relaxing around the pool.

Guests at Ivory Tree Lodge can also opt to enjoy the stunning African sunsets from their very own private patio, walk around the lodge and follow the ancient elephant trails surrounding the property, do some big game and bird watching, participate in archery, airgun shooting and drumming to mention but a few.

After our lazy poolside afternoon, we spent the evening enjoying a delicious buffet in the dining room.

The next day before we returned to Johannesburg, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and spent the rest of the morning exploring the park. On our travels, we were told that Pilanesberg is the only reserve set in an alkaline ring complex (of which there are only three in the world).

After leaving Ivory Tree Lodge, we decided not to travel on the inward bound road and travelled south on the main road, stopping at the Dithabeneng Dam, hoping to see the pride again, but alas they had moved on. We travelled along the Korwe Link to Tshwene, where we were privileged to see three huge white rhinos on the side of the road. The magnificent animals moved past us, not even 10 metres away from the car, giving us the perfect opportunity to photograph them at close range. Following Tshwene, we travelled towards the Pilanesberg Centre and the Mankwe Dam (the largest body of water in the park). Here we saw wildebeest, zebra and a huge pod of hippo on the banks of the dam. After coffee at the Pilanesberg Centre, we travelled south and took Tshukudu Drive towards Makorwane Dam, where we saw the giraffe drinking the previous day. As we travelled past the dam over the bridge at the beginning of the dam, we came across a huge leopard sitting on the rocks overlooking the river. This magnificent specimen allowed us to watch him for a long time, before we decided to move on to allow other visitors the opportunity to view him as well.

Carrying along Tlou Dive and to the Ruighok Dam, we came across a breeding herd of elephants feeding next to the road. They were accompanied by a group of youngsters playing in the road.

Further on at the dam we were excited to come across a herd of Tsessebe and Red Hartebeest, both rare antelope. We then joined the main road and headed back to Johannesburg through Bakubang Gate via Rustenburg and Magaliesberg. The road was certainly better than the outward road, but still needs quite a bit of maintenance.

All on all, a most enjoyable wildlife experience with excellent 5-star accommodation.

 

John Elford

 

FOR THE BUSINESS TRAVELLER

With its selection of state-of-the-art conference and function venues, Pilanesberg Game Reserve is geared to meet even the most demanding event requirements.

Pilanesberg’s conferencing venues are well-equipped with the latest amenities and offer a pick of accommodation options – from deluxe lodges to charming self-catering resorts.

The park’s first-rate venue facilities, exceptional Big 5 game viewing, the range of fun outdoor activities, and effortless access to the legendary leisure Sun City resort, ensure that Pilanesberg National Park is the unequivocal choice for a conference that’s a cut above the rest. If you’re looking for a world-class conferencing destination for conventions, workshops, corporate team-building events, or wedding functions, look no further!”

 

(Source: pilanesberggamereserve.co.za)

 

OTHER ACCOMMODATION

  • Bakubung Bush Lodge: Explore the stunning beauty of the Pilanesberg National Park from this exquisite property.
  • Buffalo Thorn Lodge: This exclusive self-catering lodge is ideal for an intimate bushveld breakaway.
  • Black Rhino Lodge: Make this intimate luxury lodge your go-to destination for a relaxing Pilanesberg getaway.
  • Finfoot Lake Reserve: Experience Africa in a one-of-a-kind way by booking your stay at the Finfoot Lake Reserve.
  • Kwa Maritane Bush Lodge: Stay on the slopes of an ancient volcano in the heart of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve.
  • Lush Private Lodge: The property is set on Black Rhino Game Reserve – a private concession within the park.
  • Morokolo Game Lodge: This boutique lodge offers guests eight elegant thatch and glass chalets.
  • Nkala Safari Lodge: If you’re looking for the ultimate in upmarket, self-catering accommodation, this is it.
  • Shepherd's Tree Lodge: This exclusive Lodge offers visitors a secluded base from which to experience the best of the park.
  • Tambuti Private Lodge: This property, recently incorporated into the Pilanesberg National Park, is nested within the Black Rhino Reserve.
  • Bakgatla Resort:  With its rustic canvas tented chalets the resort ideal for an adventure-filled family or group getaway.
  • Manyane Resort lies alongside Manyane Gateway of the reserve and is geared for family and friends looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Manyane is also an excellent venue to host special events like weddings and workshops.

 

FAST FACTS

Best Time to Visit: The dry winter season in Pilanesberg is from May to September. The rainy season is from October to April (summer). Visitors to Pilanesberg enjoy the park all year round.

  • Views to die for: Some of the most beautiful scenery within the park can be viewed from the Mankwe Dam region.
  • Operation Genesis: The project was launched in 1979 to reinforce the homegrown game population. About 110 kilometres of game fence was put up, 188 kilometres of roads were built and 6 000 animals were introduced. Today, there are over 7 000 animals, 360 bird species, and more than 200 kilometres of roads.
  • The Pilanesberg Centre: The venue is well worth a pit stop during a long game drive. Before the park was opened in 1981, the historic building was used as a magistrate’s court and home affairs office for local residents. Today, the centre offers a gift shop and a restaurant .
  • Longevity: The average age of lions living in the Pilanesberg is 12 years.  Ketimetsi, a male lion who lived in Kwa Maritane, made news headlines recently when he passed away at the astonishing age of 17.
  • The park covers 55 000 hectares in the transition zone between dry Kalahari thornveld and lowveld bush.
  • There are more than 350 tree species and 70 grass species supporting the Big 5 as well as a huge variety of other game species.
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