Pilanesberg National Park Self Drive Safari

Pilanesberg National Park was about a 3 hour drive north of my accommodation near the Johannesburg, South Africa airport. I had been in Jo-burg for 2 days and my hosts strongly recommended that I spend a day doing Pilanesberg National Park self drive safari. This was perfect for my first visit to Africa and I had great ambition for more safari adventures. Indeed, I had a few days to kill and a Pilanesberg self drive safari was a perfect warm up for my extended stay in South Africa.

I got an early start because the drive to the park was a bit complex plus I was still a bit shaky about being on the left side of the road. Nonetheless, after some morning jitters I managed to enjoy a full day self drive safari tour – it was fantastic.

Pilanesberg Self Drive Safari is a Great Warm Up

It was my first real safari and Pilanesberg was a great warm for for my safari ambitions in Africa. This was a perfect practice run to help prepare for more extensive trips such as Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, Etosha and Maputo Elephant Reserve (to name a few).

The park area is about 550 sq kilometers and it is very accessible from Johannesburg. I was visiting at the end of the summer months October-March which means it was the wet season (dry season is from April- September).

white rhino
Large white rhino grazes in Pilanesberg National Park South Africa
elephant pilanesberg national park
Large male elephant that I encountered at the end of the day.
photo common wart hogs
Small family of common wart hogs.

Mankwe Dam in Pilanesberg National Park

This is the largest body of water in Pilanesberg National Park. There is a bird hide here where you can spot the water birds that live in the park. These birds include the kingfishers, fish eagles and cormorants. The lake was full as I was visiting during the wet season.

bird hide Mankwe dam pilansberg national park
Photo of the bird hide at Mankwe Dam.
photo kingfishers mankwe dam pilansberg national park
Pair of kingfishers scan the water for fish at Mankwe Dam.
photo turtles mankwe dam pilansberg national park
Pair of turtles near the bird hide at Mankwe Dam.


Johannesburg is a very big, fast moving city and I especially enjoyed Pilanesberg National Park. I was looking forward to my drive over to Ramsgate in KwaZulu-Natal the next day. There are fantastic beaches over there and world class surfing opportunities. Plus, there was the safari at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park that I was really looking forward to. 

sunset pilansberg national park
The sun sets over the park as I drive back to Johannesburg.