Weekend Getaways from Johannesburg: Pilanesberg National Park

About two and a half hours out of Johannesberg lies the delightful Pilanesberg National Park, named so after a Tswana chief. It is a lovely place for a weekend getaway, with the option of guided game drives and hot air balloon trips, alongside a variety of on-site accommodation, it’s the perfect place to get close to nature. 

About the park

Pilanesberg National Park is a relatively small park, and at only 550km2, you shouldn’t have much trouble spotting the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and buffalo), along with all the other resident wildlife. However, there are no guarantees and on the day we visited, the big cats seemed to be in hiding. We did spot some rhino, elephants, and springbok, along with a myriad of birds whose names I could only guess at.  There is also a lovely little dam, with a covered hide to spot birds from. On a clear day, the reflections in the water are mesmerising and we found it to be a lovely place to sit quietly and admire the surroundings. 

Some of the roads in the park are tarred, but to get into the heart of the park you’ll need to navigate through the gravel roads that make up the bulk of the pathways. A normal car can navigate these with relative ease, but it would be much easier in a 4×4. The road leading up to the park is also quite riddled with potholes, so pay particular care, especially if you’re arriving at night. 

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A map of the park from the guidebook

At the entry gate, maps and DVDs are for sale, and for around R100, it makes a good souvenir for your trip. The DVD wasn’t really useful, but the map was extremely helpful, giving tips and information about what animals reside in which sections of the park and descriptions of their specific habitats. It also features a table that helps to plan your trip, with the approximate distances between various sites shown alongside the time that it would take to travel between the sites.

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The guidebook and accompanying DVD
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Some of the helpful information from the guidebook

Where to stay

In terms of accommodation, there are a few styles to choose from, such as chalets, tents, self-catering, bed & breakfast, mid-range, luxury, child friendly, and exclusive. We stayed in a self catering chalet at Bakubang Bush Lodge, but there are also hotel rooms and accessible rooms on site. There were two bedrooms with double beds, and en-suite bathrooms, along with a small lounge and galley kitchen. The best part was the outdoor veranda, equipped with a built-in braai and a six-seater table overlooking a fenced-off area of the park. We frequently spotted elephants grazing within, and fellow guests told us that on one of the evenings lion came out to spy on some guys having a braai. Can’t vouch for that one, but the elephants were perpetual neighbours. Despite ‘bakubang’ meaning place of the hippos, we didn’t see any on our short stay. 

There is also a lovely pool area to relax in, and on hot summer afternoons, it is a most welcome respite from the heat. There are also tennis and volleyball courts, a children’s play area, a spa, and on-site restaurants, but nothing halaal so we packed our own food. 

The resort is quiet and peaceful, and is best enjoyed with good company or a good book!

Weekend getaways from joburg

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