South Africa, Pilanesburg National Park

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Dec 11th, 2011, 09:07 AM
  #1
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South Africa, Pilanesburg National Park

Just outside of Sun City which is about a two hour drive from Johannesburg is Pilanesburg National Park. For about under US$10 admission fee you can enter the park and set off on your own self exploration of some of South Africa's natural wild life.

With a nice map and guide book purchased at the entrance, I am driving along a gravel road into the park. It is not long before antelopes and wildebeest are spotted grazing in the fields not too far away. Going around a corner the road crosses a small stream and I can see huge gray masses moving against the bushy landscape.

Slowing my approach and eventually coming to a stop, I watch as a pair of rhinos walk less than one hundred feet from me. A quick look at my reference guide and I discover that these are white rhinos. Fortunately, I don't have to get any closer to tell this as a view through my camera lenses shows a distinct square nostril compared to the pointed snout of a black rhino.

Moving down the road, I encounter an animal that is familiar to most of us, Pumbaa! He has come down to a small stream for a drink. What a handsome dude.

I know the black and white stripes act as a camouflage for zebras but a group of them that are standing around in an open field is not too hard to spot. I even have a close encounter with a few of them including a mother and her calf that crosses the road right in front of the car.

One of the nice things about doing a self-drive safari is being able to move at your own pace to enjoy seeing the animals. Another is having the discretion to explore many of the side roads off the beaten path.

Parked in one area, I silently watch as heads appear above some tall trees in the distance. A family of giraffes followed by some playful zebras are slowly taking a walk towards a lake apparently for an afternoon drink. An almost surreal scenery to watch. Looking towards the lake there are even ostriches along the shoreline.

Weighing a few tons can make it very difficult to hide but one elephant seems to be doing this behind a densely covered tree. However, his huge ears and hanging trunk gives him away. Eventually, he gives up and comes out in the open. Since elephants tend to be very social and travel in groups this one must be an outcast. A park ranger is nearby and seems to be studying his movements.

In different locations of the park there are well protected hides built around areas where the animals tend to congregate during different times of the day. These hides some with electric fences and barriers, offers protection for visitors while they view the animals in their natural habitat.

At one such hide a group of us watch a hippo laying around a watering hole. Every few minutes it's head goes below the surface of the water and remains submerge for about five to seven minutes.

From others in the hide I am told I just missed a pair of rhino visitors. Meeting others touring the park is helpful as we are all eager to share our animal spotting stories. I am fortunate here to meet some Brits who have spotted “The King” not too far away from here.

Approaching the prized viewing of the day, others have already gathered at the spot. Parked I cannot see anything but trees. However, I can hear the distinct panting of the big cat. It is eerie that he is breathing so loud and that I am so close to hear but not see him. Soon a car leaves and I am able to get a better spot where I can see two lioness resting in the shade. In the distant valley below a herd of antelopes are grazing without a care in the world. I have a feeling that may change later on in the day.

Turning to the left I have a sense that I am being watched. This is confirmed as I am soon steering eye to eye with “The King Of The Jungle”. Having the protection of glass and metal removes some of my fears but not my goose bumps.

It is by no means a stare down but from his prospective he seems to be telling me welcome to the jungle, stick around we can have some fun and games. Your Highness, I think I'll decline the offer. I retreat a bit into my car as he gets up and seems to be walking towards me.

I am relieved when I discover he is just going over to join the lioness. What is striking to me is that they are not as orange colored as I expected and “The King's” mane seems a bit short. Is there such a thing as lion male pattern baldness?

Leaving the park a light rain is falling and I get to witness a migration of a different sort. Stopped at a pedestrian crossing I sit and watch as a group of school children race across the street to their waiting buses.

I hope they have enjoyed Pilanesburg as much as I did!


Video:
http://youtu.be/OasWhOHJ8Ks
DMBTraveler is offline  
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Dec 11th, 2011, 09:55 AM
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Thanks DMBT. I have friends in England that like to go to Pilanesburg NP and self drive for about a week. Where do you (or anyone) recommend staying/lodging there or near there?

regards - tom
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Dec 11th, 2011, 03:25 PM
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cary999,

I went out to Sun City area the night before and the only rooms they had available was in the US$200 per night range and up. A bit expensive for my budget

I stayed at Sun Down Ranch a few miles away for about US$60 per night. It was adequate for a night's accommodations but I am not sure I could recommend it.

I did see online that there are some lodges that were reasonably priced with advance booking. Unfortunately, most of my travel plans are like the wind.

I hope others that have visited the area more extensively will post better input
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Dec 12th, 2011, 04:21 PM
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It appears you have shared your first lion sighting with us. How exciting, especially since you were in the driver's seat.
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Dec 12th, 2011, 04:31 PM
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Oh DMBT, I am sooo envious...lucky you. I am hopeful for SA in 2012.
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Dec 12th, 2011, 06:00 PM
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My friends last visit (Sep(?) 2011) stayed at Manyane Resort which I think is just outside of the reserve.

regards - tom
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Dec 12th, 2011, 08:17 PM
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We went the last year when I was on a airline layover on Pretoria during the World Cup-loved the park and did it as a day trip from Pretoria. The animals were amazing and I loved driving around the terrain seeing the different wildlife.Hippos lounging in the water ;giraffes staring at me taking TONS of pics and a rhino deciding if we were friends while our car was parked-saw all of the big five and was so happy we went!
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Dec 13th, 2011, 08:38 AM
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atravelynn,

I think hearing him breathe and not being able to see him was probably the most exciting part of the experience. Spooky!

Neuman605,

I hope you do and please plan on visiting some of the other nearby countries like Botswana, Mozambique or Swaziland. You'll love it! Don't forget your Yellow Fever shot and Malarone

cary999,

There are a few lodges like "Black Rhino" inside or near the edge of the park. I think staying at one of them would be a nice experience.

dutyfree,

Glad to hear you adventure out on your layovers, nice
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Dec 13th, 2011, 03:16 PM
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DMBT,
YEoow fever is still current...prefer Doxy to Malarone if Doxy is effective for those areas. Our local pharmacies provide free antibiotics, used them for Kenya.
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Dec 15th, 2011, 11:20 AM
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Neuman605,

Malarone was expensive here $230 (without insurance) for a 30 day supply but most people think it is the best anti-malaria pill.

Might try Doxy next time
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Dec 15th, 2011, 01:34 PM
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DMBT,
Need to take Doxy longer and beware of sun exposure but if I am watching for mozzies I am doing that anyway. Couldn't beat the free price comapred to cost of Malarone. Only have two more year on my Yellow Fever...got to get moving!
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Dec 15th, 2011, 02:27 PM
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Neuman605,

Thanks for the Doxy info. No need to be in a hurry with your YFever.. A little shot in the arm and your good for another ten years
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Dec 15th, 2011, 02:45 PM
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I've been using doxycycline past four safaris, no problems. Another thing I "like" about it is that it is tetracycline that could help prevent other bacterial infections.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000563/

regards - tom
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