Pilanesberg National Park – home of BIG 5

Pilanesberg National Park is one of the leading wildlife destinations in South Africa. This SAN Park is located in the Northern west part of Johannesburg which is approximately 150kms drive from the city. This national Park is habitat to BIG 5 including varieties of mammals like Kudu, Zebra, Blue Wildebeest, Waterbuck, Springbok, Impala, Eland, Baboons, Brown Hyena and the list goes on.


The beautiful SAN Park….Mankwe dam….Group of Springbok busy in their own world

Apart from the National Park, Pilanesberg is also famous for its geological history. It is one of the only three alkaline volcanoes in the world. The Geologists describe this SAN Park as Pilanesberg Alkaline Ring Complex. What we see today is the crater of long extinct volcano which offers abundant wild life.



For the tallest living animal …..its only takes couple of steps to cross the road ☺

We have been to Pilanesberg many times as it’s the nearest National Park we can visit anytime from Joburg. It was a long weekend and we planned to visit the Park again this year. We stayed in a resort which was 4km away from the SAN Park’s Manyane Gate. We reached the night before our day trip to the park, did some Braai for dinner and slept early.


Zebra Crossing……

Next day morning we left around 7am in the morning, got our entry tickets and the Pilnesberg map which is very important and helpful to plan your day trip inside the park. Just after driving for few minutes we encountered with a Black Rhino-it was big and was busy bushing around – our first tick for the BIG 5 was done – happy We.



The Black Rhino …..bushing around

On way  to the Tilodi dam we got to see the tallest living animal on Earth – yes, its the Giraffe. A lovely species with long neck, golden patches all around and innocent eyes. Enjoyed watching them as they were in group and after sometime a Rhino with a baby Rhino and Blue Wildebeest joined then in the same screen – it was amazingly beautiful.


Giraffe and Blue Wildebeest …… captured in the same frame


The Black Rhino with baby Rhino, Blue Wildebeest and Giraffe ….. in one frame  ☺

Next we reached the biggest dam inside the Park – the Mankwe Dam. And guess what we saw one Elephant down the road busy eating trees – Yes, another BIG 5 ticked ☺


The Gentle Giant Tusker….. out for a walk

In between the day we saw many more animals like Baboon, Springbok, Zebra, Kudu, Impala and few amazingly beautiful birds. The dams inside the park like Mankwe dam, Tilodi dam, Malatse dam , Lengau dam attracts many animals and water birds like African Spoonbill, Black headed Heron , Great white Egret and many more whose names I am not aware of.


Southern Masked Weaver


African Fish Eagle


Black Headed Heron



Black Headed Heron…. On flying mode

Half of the day was done and we needed a break – had some sandwiches in the Pilanesberg Centre which has lovely restaurant and shops for little hopping n shopping ☺. Then we headed to Makorwane dam which is very near to the Pilanesberg Centre. Just after we reached the dam, we went to the Hide from where we can view the dam and also if any animal around the dam. And what we saw was unbelievable!!! There was a herd of Elephant at one side of the dam and three Cheetahs chilling at other side of the dam – just amazing!!!!  something we had never ever seen before.


Cheeetah  bhi  peeta  hai”


Herd of Elephant ….. in search of water

After few minutes, there was a Buffalo in the picture. The Elephant group was chasing the Buffalo and then the Cheetahs too – we captured this moment in our camera as well as in our memory for life time – ahhh such a bliss!!!!


Buffalo chased away by Elephants….


That unbelievable moment …… Cheetahs and Elephant sharing the frame ☺

While leaving this spot , we got to see Hippo in group – busy playing around in water and few were on the land…. ☺




Lion and Lioness ….. Couple shot

On our way to the Manyane Gate for exit we were fortunate enough to tick our last BIG 5 of the day – yes it was the Leopard☺. There were 3 Leopards sitting under a bush, but we got to see and capture only one which was clearly visible.


The Leopard…. Captured from a distance

Even  though it is not as big as Kruger which is celebrated with much fanfare all over the world. But this SAN Park is the unsung hero of the same diversity, much closer to the international airport of Johannesburg with equal historical heritage. We would love to visit this park again n again simply because of its sightings and the probability of encountering almost all the BIG FIVES.

Happy … WE   ☺

Author : Sushmita Chatterjee (Sush)  & Dibyajyoti Chatterjee (Dj)

FB: https://facebook.com/sushdjphotography/