Pilansberg: our first proper South African safari

I realise that for many people who have been to South Africa, or other bloggers that live here, what I am about to describe will be pretty tame stuff. There is so much to do and see here, and so many people writing about it and photographing it, that you have to do more than just describe a trip to see some fairly commonly spotted animals at an easily accessible gamepark to get noticed.

But I don’t care.Β  I don’t profess to be some big travel blogger trying to make a name for myself. I’m not hoping to get my pictures picked up by National Geographic, or shared on some viral travel site. I just want to describe a brilliant day where we saw some beautiful and magnificant animals in their natural habitat and which led to my youngest daughter laughing with such delight that she just forgot, for a moment, that she really doesn’t want to be here.

Pilansberg is the closest “proper” park to Pretoria – ie one that is a full day out of game-spotting, that has lodges and such attached should you so wish to stay close enough for those early-morning drives. If you have seen the film Blended, this is the park they visited.

Our day started at some ungodly hour – 5.30am or something horrendous. Coffee was downed as we bundled the girls into their warm clothes (it’s winter here remember and although the days are bright and sunny, it gets pretty damn cold at night!) and set off through the still-sleeping city. Thanks to the lack of traffic we were on the motorway out of town pretty quickly and watched the sun rise behind us as we sped past the little settlements scattered along the side of the road.


(Note: as well as being a fantastic opportunity to see wildlife, getting out of our little expat bubble world in Pretoria gave the children a chance to see a bit more about what life is like for the average South African. I am sure I will write more about this another time.)

When we finally arrived at the park gate, we found a rather long queue outside the ticket office – which seemed to be moving verrrrrry slowly.. When we finally got to the front, we realised this was because every car coming in had to have their numberplate noted and phone number of the occupants taken. I guess this is because they need to check that everyone has actually left the park at sundown…yup, we’re not in Disneyworld now…..

Anyway, we finally bought our tickets, got back into the car and off we went…

Only to meet by the side of the road just a few minutes in:


Yes it’s a rhino! Ok it’s not the best picture of a rhino but he/she would insist on hiding behind a bush. And I wanted to include it because it was the first “proper” siting of the day….

But things only got better because just around the corner from this rhino was….


Yes, he was in the road. And yes, he did start walking towards us flapping his ears….luckily he then decided to take a turn off the edge of the road and strode past our car just metres away. My youngest daughter, who had professed that elephants were what she wanted to see most in South Africa, laughed with complete delight. It absolutely made the whole hassle of getting here worthwhile.

Anyway we spent around 7 hours in the park in total and saw a huge number of animals, including lions (hard to spot but for the throng of cars and safari trucks by the edge of the road), warthogs, monkeys, lots more elephants, giraffes, zebras, lots of “antelopey things”, more rhinos (including a mum and her calf), hippos, a fish eagle, hornbills, loads of birds we couldn’t identify (that will have to wait until granny and grandpa are here!). wildebeest…..Anyway, here are a few of the highlights:

DSC_0102 DSC_0110 DSC_0146 DSC_0197 DSC_0173

I have more pictures but I realise that I will probably be boring you if I put up too many! I am very conscious that we will be seeing a lot of wildlife over the next couple of years and I don’t want to be that person who everyone moans about – oh no, not ANOTHER picture of a flipping elephant! But this was our first and it was a fabulous Welcome to SA so I thought I would share it with you. There’s still plenty more to see (cheetahs, leopards, closer views of lions, chameleons, dung beetles, bushbabies, meercats, all the creatures of the sea like the whalesharks and the manta rays….) so I am sure I will post some more pictures from time to time. But for now, I will enjoy the memories of our first South African Safari.

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32 thoughts on “Pilansberg: our first proper South African safari

  1. Are you kidding!? Bring on the flipping elephant and hippos! I love looking at those huge, cute animals. I am so happy your daughter was happy–boy, a happy child just really sets the tone, doesn’t it? I am excited there will be more, Clara. Bring it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I know I am no professional but we have the perfect opportunity here to get better πŸ™‚ We did go to the centre but it was heaving with people (I assume being the long weekend). We’ll go again and hopefully spend a bit more time there next time. The girls loved the monkeys!

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  2. I was in South Africa this past summer and visited Pilansberg for an overnight safari. I loved every minute of it. There is something special about seeing animals out in the wild like that! Good luck getting settled into your new home.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m in awe of your ability to blog in these early days in SA, you are a super woman! Don’t hold back on the animal pics, they’re great! I’ll never forget going on safari in Kenya and being a bit “meh” before I went thinking what was all the fuss and being blown away on actually seeing the animals. One thing I remember was the smell of a pride of lions which just made it soooo real. Glad to hear your kids are happy.


  4. Ha ha – we call antelopy things ‘brown jumpy things’, glad we’re not the only ones who do this! Lovely to read about your day, certainly sounds like the early start was worthwhile. #mondayescapes

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  5. Wow, my daughter would explode with excitement at seeing this. My only safari experience has been in South Africa too, and it was incredible, the chance to see the animals in the wild is amazing. Thanks for linking up to #mondayescapes

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think this is the very point of blogging– to share snippets of your life because they mean something to you. I just blogged about one of my favorite places in Taiwan, a place the Lonely Planet said was just “alright”. Who cares?! What matters is how we experience our moments, not how someone else does. But personally, I think there is probably something wrong with a person who cannot put themselves in your shoes and get totally giddy at the fact you went on a safari in Africa!!

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  7. Pingback: Show Your Word – round up 12: New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Switzerland, Australia and China! | Tiny Expats

  8. don’t hold back, post away, i’m still writing up blog posts of various safaris from when we lived there. Pilanesburg was my favourite place to visit and for when guests came, but i’d always recommend having 2 drivers. I did it a few times as the only driving and being out and driving for 11 hours isn’t always a good idea. As for seeing too many elephants etc, it’s just not possible to go over board, they are always doing something different every time. you will find though, that after a while you’ll stop looking at the antelopes and know the names of the birds off by heart

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  9. That looks like an amazing experience – I am sure that you can never get too much of those animals. I would love to do a proper safari like that one day. My sister is in your neck of the woods in a few weeks and I am rather envious.

    Did you ever make it to the Jos safari when you were in Nigeria? It was certainly an experience but nothing like the one you had here.


  10. I am with Phoebe, your pictures are great and HIPPOS – you’ve given me hippos. Does happy hippos dance around the front room! Can you tell I like hippos? I also love the zebra picture as on first glance they look like a bar code! Thank you so much for adding this post to #AnimalTales and I am hoping you have more hippos to come!

    Liked by 1 person

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