As we have an obsession for the bush, and we have a 3 year old daughter as well as a newborn son, the only realistic option for some big game action close to our hometown (Pretoria) is Pilanesberg NP. We decided to book a unit at Bakgatla Camp for 5 nights, as there is a playground and swimming pool for our 3 year old! We were positively surprised by our visit.
Going on game drives with a newborn and a 3 year old could be quite a challenge...at times it feels wilder inside the vehicle than the bush surrounding us...but by self-driving that was part of the fun. We were surprised by the quality of the sightings, especially big cats. We had 4 lion sightings, and 3 leopard sightings! Our daughter particularly enjoyed the countless zebra and giraffe sightings.
The highlight of our stay was spending around an hour with a mother leopard and her cub. They were enjoying their impala kill in a tree on Mankwe Way. Our son had his first good leopard sighting, and he is only 1 month old! Hopefully the trend can continue! ;-)
On a birding front our definite highlight was getting decent photos of the elusive Coqui Francolin! They are more often heard than seen.
We really enjoyed our visit, and Pilanesberg NP is really worth a visit if you have kids. You are never too far from base, there is plenty activities for kids including playgrounds, swimming pools etc. The frequency of big game sightings, and the close proximity to Gauteng, as well as the fact that it is a malaria-free area makes it a winner. Yes, the park is busy, and there are a lot of vehicles, but if you stick to the small gravel roads there is a chance that you will have excellent sightings all for yourself.
Give Pilanesberg NP a try, especially midweek. Accommodation range from camping to luxury lodges, a fit for all.
The park is >50 000ha, and with almost 200km of self-drive game viewing routes available, it is a must visit. A stay of 3 nights or more would be optimal, but because it is less than 2 hours drive from Gauteng, even a day visit is possible.
Anton & Renate (and kids)