Posted by: Caroline | February 11, 2010

Safari in Pilanesberg

A million thank yous to Amy Rogers, who suggested Pilanesberg based on a friend’s recommendation. Although Kruger is the gold standard for a South African safari, we wanted something a bit closer to Johannesburg. Pilanesburg, situated in a long-dormant volcano 100km from Johannesburg, seemed perfect. Our charismatic tour guide, KG, picked us up in a 4×4 for our tour — with no other tourists along, which was a lovely surprise.

Even when the animals weren’t around, the landscape was enough to keep us captivated.

(Finally — the elusive eland!)

Unfortunately we could not get any closer to these white rhinos.

KG bet me 20 Rands to dip my toes in the water next to the hippos. Since I am here writing this blog, I think you all know whether I took him up on the offer …


One of the main reasons I was so excited about the safari was a bonus trip to the lion park nearby. The online description of the tour indicated that we would go around lunchtime, when the heat is so unbearable that the safari animals seek the shade and are harder to spot. So when our guide dropped Alex and me off at some picnic tables inside the park, I began to get a bit worried that I had misread the web site. When we got back into the 4×4, I asked if the lion park visit was a component of our tour. “No, that’s a different tour,” he said. “350 Rand.” I tried not to show my disappointment, but apparently it was visible because he asked, “Oh, no! That’s not why you booked the tour, is it?”

He told us he needed to get some lunch for himself before returning for the next round of wildlife watching, so we drove several miles outside of the park. I was trying not to mope too much. Then, all of a sudden, I saw signs reading LION PARK. I thought maybe it was just a mistake. But the massive lion statue in front of the park was too obvious. It turns out our tour guide is quite the trickster. He said he likes for the visit to be a surprise. It worked; I was far more excited than I was before!

The park serves as a rehabilitation center for abandoned cubs. They are bottle-fed, taught to hunt, and eventually reintroduced to the wild.

You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for hours afterward. I never thought I would hold a lion!

Just when we thought our day was over, we got a great send-off from this lion in the wild, too!

Even though we’re not normally bird-watchers, the multitudes of vibrantly-colored birds in the park were intriguing to watch.

We were really lucky to see so much wildlife during “off-peak” sunshine hours.


  1. Ohhhh, how I love this adventure you are enjoying to the fullest!!!

    A long way from our frozen north, just magnificant!
    May all your travels be full of good people and great wonder Alex and Caroline.


  2. OH YEEEAA!! I’m SO glad you went and enjoyed it!!! It’s SO much fun reading your blog!!!

  3. Hi Caroline,

    I just received a note from your Mom. Wow what an adventure. Good for you! You will never regret this trek. BTW I have been to South Africa twice the last time Feb. 2009. Your photos were super. I could live in SA. Enjpy Malawi, be sure to snorkle swim in the Lake. Please give your Mom and Dad my warmerst regards,

    Don Yates

  4. I love to see smiling Caroline next to ferocious lions!

    I feel like you always end up with the best tour guides on all your trips.

  5. Lion is like a giant version of Willie 🙂
    So amazing!

  6. Bring a baby lion back home (even though it’s illegal)! I’ll take full responsibility if your caught.


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