One of the closest regions from Johannesburg for game viewing, the Pilanesberg National Park is bordered by the Sun City Resort, making it an ideal location to explore as a day trip from the complex. The park is 55,000 hectares in extent and is almost perfectly circular because it comprises the area of a 1200 million years old volcano crater with a small lake in the centre. This very scenic terrain lies in the transition zone between the Kalahari Desert and the Lowveld, and both types of vegetation are found here.
The Pilanesberg National Park was opened in 1979. In the “Operation Genesis”, the largest game resettlement project in the history of South Africa, in the early eighties more than 6,000 animals from other parks were settled here. In 1993 lions from the Etosha National Park (Namibia) were introduced to the park, despite grave concerns of the surrounding communities. Since then, the lions have been thriving and nicely multiplying in the park.
In the Pilanesberg National Park today live virtually all the animal species of southern Africa, including, lions, elephants, white and black rhinos, buffaloes, leopards, zebras, hyenas, giraffes, hippos and crocodiles. Over 300 bird species have been counted.
For something a bit special you can arrange a hot-air balloon safari to view the game.
In our opinion, not the best safari experience in South Africa, but great if you only have a short time in the country and are staying at Sun City.
Further north west however is the Madikwe Game Reserve. About 2 hours drive from Sun City or a short hop by light aircraft, Madikwe is in the North West Province on the border with Botswana. Home to Africa’s Big 5 and thriving populations of Black rhino, cheetah and wild dog, game viewing is every bit as good as its more famous rival, the Kruger. There are some indigenous species of antelope found here, that aren’t found in the Kruger, we highly recommend this as an alternative safari holiday destination.
With the “Operation Phoenix” which began in 1993, more than 8,000 heads of game were brought into the park. In 1996, predators were introduced in Madikwe, first cheetahs, wild dogs and hyenas, later also lions from the Etosha National Park (Namibia) and the neighbouring Pilanesberg National Park. 180 elephants came from the Gonarezhou Game Reserve in Zimbabwe which had been hit by a disastrous drought. The resettlement of the elephants was a great success and their population in Madikwe has grown to 250 animals.
The reserve has a number of superb lodges and safari accommodation standards in Madikwe are extremely high. The area has the added bonus of being malaria-free, making it an ideal location for a family safari holiday.
Speak to one of our Madikwe safari experts on +44 208 249 5919 (UK) or +65 919 412 56 (Asia). They will be happy to advise on safari lodges, what you can expect to see, and the best time to go on safari in Madikwe.
You can view some of our top Madikwe Safari Lodge accommodation suggestions here.
Madikwe Safari Lodges
Read our reviews of the best safari lodges in the Madikwe Private Game Reserve in of South Africa including family-friendly safari stays. Madikwe is malaria free and 2 hours drive from Sun City and the Pilanesberg National Park.
Sun City Golf
Sun City is located next to the Pilanesberg National Park and a 2 hour drive from Madikwe, making it ideal for a 2 centre, safari and golf holiday combination. There are 2 stunning golf courses at Sun City.
Everything you need to know about going on a safari holiday in South Africa including the best time to visit the Madikwe or Pilanesberg Reserves. Find out about the weather in South Africa, what to take and the top safari lodges.