2 PILANESBERG NATIONAL PARK
3 HOURS 15 MINUTES
Nestling in a volcanic crater 1.2bn years old, Pilanesburg National Park is a much-loved weekend getaway for Joburgers – so, if possible, go during the week when you can have a waterhole to yourself. The park is home to a wide variety of animals, including a full house of the Big Five: lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo. The density of species living in the park and its relatively small size make it perfect for a self-drive mini-safari. Simply pick up a route map from one of the entrance gates.
One of the best places to spot wildlife in the park is at the Mankwe Dam, where hippos burp and wallow in the cool water, springboks leap across the plains and dazzles of zebra munch on sun-bleached grass. The predators are most active at dawn and dusk, so plan accordingly to have the best chance of seeing a chase. There are six photography hides throughout the park for wildlife shots, but the landscape – the park sits between the dry Kalahari and the luscious Lowveld regions – is reason enough to pack a variety of lenses.
Or, for a bird’s-eye view, book an early-morning hot-air balloon ride (4,750 rand for an hour’s flight). To stay longer, bed down in the comfortable Tshukudu Bush Lodge (from 7,000 rand for a chalet-style room overlooking the park, with an open fireplace and sunken bath).