Monday was yet another moving day as we packed up in Johannesburg to head for Pilanesberg National Park. Kruger National Park is probably the most famous safari destination for Johannesburg visitors and it’s certainly considerably bigger than Pilanesberg, but we chose the latter for three reasons. First, it was recommended by a former work colleague (thanks, G-Mac) who has been here a number of times. Second, it’s a much shorter drive from Johannesburg than Kruger. And third, it’s in a malaria-free zone. Well, there’s a fourth reason: it was much cheaper.
I had booked our safari package back in late October and, between the couple of Pilanesberg accommodation options that had been recommended to me, I chose Kwa Maritane Bush Lodge. Booking is direct through the Pilanesberg website, but you need to pay the full amount in advance. I had used the splendid Revolut option to pay via a bank transfer in ZAR. Four nights dinner bed and breakfast plus one game drive for both of us each day cost GBP 1,100. In the context of prices I had seen quoted for safaris, that seemed remarkably competitive. So competitive, in fact, that I was a little worried about what the standard of the place would be.
I needn’t have concerned myself. The Lodge is beautiful, set just inside the park. We arrived here around noon and our room wasn’t quite ready. No problem. We had left Johannesburg without breakfast, planning to stop somewhere nice on the road. Sadly, the road seemed mostly free from quaint stop-off points, punctuated instead by occasional strip malls where MacDonalds appeared to be the primary option for travellers. We went to the hotel restaurant and grabbed a light lunch and, just as we were finishing, a porter arrived to inform us our room was ready. We completed formalities at reception and moved in.
When I booked all those weeks ago, I had been asked to reserve when we wanted our game drives, so I had booked the afternoon slot for today. We were to congregate at 4:15 to be allocated our trucks and departure was scheduled for 4:30pm. The process was very efficient and we settled ourselves in our allocated truck at the appointed time and waited to discover what we would see on our first ever safari experience.
My advance reading on the topic had cautioned against expectation being too high. These drives can sometimes be disappointing. On this trip we saw….
Warthogs, Kudu, Impala, Eland, Zebra, White Rhinoceros, Elephants, Hippopotamus, Lions, Giraffes, Blue Wildebeest, Hyena, and Springbok. We were definitely NOT disappointed.
Here is a slideshow of a small selection of the photos from the drive…
We’ve managed to see three of the “Big Five” on our first day and we’re excited to find out what else we’ll see in our next three days here. Expect a lot more wildlife photography.