If you’re planning a safari in South Africa you probably don’t point your binoculars at Pilanesberg.
This game reserve near Sun City is often overlooked, or viewed as a sorry alternative for those with no time to visit the Kruger. What nonsense!
Ranger Danie Fourie of Black Rhino Game Lodge has worked in both, and far prefers Pilanesberg. Me too, now that I know it has exactly the same creatures — and creature comforts — in a more compact and manageable space.
With only 18 suites you’re soon on first-name terms with the friendly staff. Guests stay in spacious thatched suites with private verandas, king-size beds, indoor and outdoor showers, bath, and lounge areas with a coffee station, TV and minibar.
It’s a typical upmarket lodge with ample facilities to be comfortable, but not so over-the-top that you forget you’re in the bush.
The main building has a couple of lounges, a dining area on the terrace, two spacious decks with soft settees, free Wi-Fi and large tables if you need to work. But switch off and stroll to the hide overlooking the waterhole to see what drops by for a drink.
The food is three-star rather than top notch, with most meals served buffet-style. The desserts were delicious but the braai (barbecue) in the boma had some tough meat and too little light to see what we were eating. Besides, I didn’t need romantic candlelight when I was dining with my 82-year-old mother!
The three small swimming pools dotted around the grounds are ideal for an afternoon dunk before you climb into the Land Cruiser for your sundowner safari.
Pilanesberg sits in volcanic crater surrounded by spectacular mountains. The Big Five are here, and it’s large enough to offer a real safari, yet small enough to almost guarantee good sightings.
Fourie and the other Black Rhino rangers are excellent. Lions passing right in front of our vehicle, wild dogs on the hunt and a giraffe in the process of giving birth – which Fourie himself had never seen before – were the highlights.