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zahn@africanparksandsafaris.co.za

     
 
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Pilanesberg National Park

The Pilanesberg National Park was established in 1979, and is the fourth largest park in South Africa. It is malaria free, located in the Bojanala region of the North West Province and is just a two hour drive from Johannesburg. It is home to the Big Five. Pilanesberg is named after a Tswana chief, “Pilane” and the Pilanesberg Alkaline Ring Complex is the park’s primary geological feature. This vast circular geological feature is ancient even by geological standards, as it is the crater of a long extinct volcano – the result of eruptions some 1 200 million years ago. It is one of the largest volcanic complexes of its kind in the world, with a number of rare minerals that occur in the park. The Pilanesberg rates high amongst the world’s outstanding geological phenomena. The presence of early man can be felt in the various Iron and Stone Age sites throughout the park. An abundance of wildlife proliferates in 55 000 hectares of diverse and arresting bushveld terrain.

One can travel through the park in a standard road vehicle, as although most of the 188km of track are not yet surfaced, they are well maintained. The three main tarred roads are Kgabo, Kubu and Tswene. There are several camps serving the park from the outside, such as Bakgatla and Manyane, with several private lodges situated within the park itself. Towards the centre of the park is an artificially constructed lake called the Mankwe Dam, and Thabayadiotse, which means “the proud mountain”. The scenic terrain lies in the transition zone between Lowveld and Kalahari, and both types of vegetation are found here. As a result of the park being on a transition zone, there are overlaps in birds, mammals and vegetation. There are over 300 species of birds that have been recorded. Though some are migrants, most other birds are permanent inhabitants. There is a self guided trail in the Walking Area at Manyane, which offers environmental education whilst game viewing and bird watching on foot. There is also a walk-in aviary at Manyane with over 80 species of indigenous birds.

The park hosts almost every large mammal of southern Africa, including the Big Five – lion, elephant, buffalo, rhinoceros (white and black) and leopard. The only indigenous southern African mammals that are not found in the park are bontebok, blesbok, spotted hyena, nyala and Roan antelope. Springbok, brown hyena, the red eyed bulbul and camel thorn trees usually found in arid areas are found cohabitation with moist-area-limited impala, black eyed bulbul and Cape chestnut trees. Other mammals that are found in the park include zebra, hyena, giraffe, hippo, wild dog, crocodiles and a host of antelope species. As of December 2006 the total count of animals was approximately 6 000 including 35 lions, 12 cheetahs, 167 elephants, 90 black rhinoceros, 300 white rhinoceros, 8 sable antelopes and 150 African buffaloes. Other cats such as caracal and leopard are also found in the park.

 
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