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Pilanesberg National Park is 50 000 hectares in size and is located in the North West Province of South Africa, 150 kilometre north west of the Gauteng metropolis (Pretoria, Johannesburg) and 60 kilometre north of Rustenburg.

Pilanesberg National Park

An old volcano crater

The Pilanesberg National Park borders on the entertainment complex of Sun City. The park is 55.000 hectares in extent. It is almost perfectly circular because it comprises the area of a 1200 million years old volcano crater with a small lake in the centre. This very scenic terrain lies in the transition zone between Kalahari and Lowveld, and both types of vegetation are found here.

Map of the Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa

The Pilanesberg National Park was opened in 1979. In the "Operation Genesis", the largest game resettlement project in the history of South Africa, in the early eighties more than 6,000 animals from other parks were settled here. In 1993 lions from the Etosha National Park (Namibia) were introduced to the park, despite grave concerns of the surrounding communities. Since, the lions have been thriving and nicely multiplying in the park. A similar action with cheetahs from Namibia unfortunately failed.

Giraffes and Zebras drinking in the Pilanesberg Park

The park boasts healthy populations of lion, leopard, black and white rhino, elephant and buffalo - Africa's "Big Five". A wide variety of rare and common species exist with endemic species like the nocturnal brown hyena, the fleet-footed cheetah, the majestic sable, as well as giraffe, zebra, hippo and crocodile, to mention but a few. Over 300 bird species are counted.

The history of Pilanesberg National Park is also unique amongst national parks in Africa. Pilanesberg National Park's special features of rugged landscape, well-watered valleys and attractive dwelling sites have made it a preferred site for human settlement for thousands of years.

Prior to its proclamation as a reserve in 1979, the Pilanesberg National Park Complex was degraded and depleted of indigenous game populations due to fairly intense settlement by commercial farmers. At considerable expense, the land has been restocked with game, the scars of human settlement were removed and tourism infrastructure was developed during the first 15 years (between 1979 and 1993). This constituted the largest and most expensive game stocking and land rehabilitation project ever undertaken in any African game reserve at the time.

A 110 kilometre peripheral Big Game fence was erected over some very rugged terrain, 188 kilometre of visitor roads have been developed and more than 6 000 head of game were introduced during the Operation Genesis game translocation programme. Thus, while wildlife resources are rapidly declining in most developing countries in Africa, Pilanesberg National Park is one of the few areas where this trend has been dramatically reversed.

Blue wildebeests (gnus) in the Pilanesberg Park

Geologically, the area is also world famous. Its structure, termed the "Pilanesberg National Park Alkaline Ring Complex" was formed by volcanic eruptions some 1 200 million years ago. Ancient, even by geological time scales this extinct volcano is the most perfect example of an alkaline ring complex. There are only two other alkaline volcanoes in the world, in Russia and in Greenland. Neither are as clearly defined as Pilanesberg National Park. A number of rare (but not necessarily economically important) minerals occur in Pilanesberg National Park. Pilanesberg National Park clearly rates high amongst the world's outstanding geological phenomena.


The most ambitious programme of its kind anywhere in the world