Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa

Pilanesberg National Park is located in the transition zone between the Kalahari Desert and the wet savannah. This rich area attracts an incredible variety of wildlife, flora and fauna that are not often found together, living side by side with each other. Here you can find almost all kinds of animals that live in southern Africa. The territory of the park is bordered by three concentric rings of hills. The Pilanesberg Salt Ring Complex is the main geological feature of the park. It is ancient even by geological standards, as it is the crater of a long-extinct volcano and the results of its eruptions, which occurred about 1200 million years ago. This is one of the largest volcanic complexes of its type in the world, rare types of rocks and formations make it a unique geological object. Besides, a number of rare minerals are found in the park. Pilanesberg occupies a high position among the most outstanding geological phenomena in the world.

Flora and fauna


Pilanesberg is surrounded by scenic landscape in the transition zone between the Kalahari Desert and the savanna where both types of vegetation can be found. Today, Pilanesberg is home to almost every large mammal in southern Africa.

Also in Pilanesberg there are various plant communities that can be described as follows:

  • Savannah of hills looking north. These slopes receive more sunlight and are therefore drier than south facing hills. The dominant tree here is spiky combretum (red combretum).
  • Savannah of hills looking south. This area is characterized by trees senegalia caffra (similar to acacia), beech, the so-called South African wild pear (not really related to a pear) and jujube spiky. The absence of elephants in the system for more than 140 years has allowed cussonia spicata (aka “cabbage tree”) to spread throughout the Pilanesberg. These trees and aloes are highly sought after by elephants and are now confined to the highest hills.
  • Savannah at the foot of the hills. At the foot is an underground layer of accumulated hard sheets of iron oxide. This interferes with the growth of trees and promotes the formation of open grasslands.
  • Valley savannah. The savannah of this type is dominated by karru locust, black locust, sumac Rhus lancea, lead tree, African spirostachis and jujube.
  • Valley thickets. On brackish soils in the valleys, thickets of acacia karru and senegalia mellifera (similar to acacia) appear.
  • Thickets on rock outcrops. Outcrops of red syenite, exposed to various atmospheric influences, turned into a mixture of red-brown boulders, on which thickets were formed, in which Croton dominates the most pleasant and large-leaved ficus (Ficus abutilifolia).


The park is home to a wide variety of South African wildlife, including all of the Big Five. Today, the park is home to most species of southern African animals, including the Transvaal lion, bush elephant, southwestern black rhinoceros, southern white rhinoceros, African buffalo, African leopard, South African cheetah, Hartmann’s mountain zebra, South African giraffe, hippopotamus and crocodile. The South African wild dog in the park has been extirpated, but recent efforts have been made to reintroduce the species, the outcome of which is still unknown.

Pilanesberg is located in a place where the representatives of the “Big Five” do not live in their natural environment, but they were relocated here, to 550 square meters. km of African bushland.

As of December 2010, the total number of large mammals was approximately 10,000, including:

  • 50 lions
  • 30 leopards
  • 12 cheetahs
  • 220 elephants
  • black rhinos
  • white rhinos
  • 5 black antelope
  • 220 African buffaloes
  • 600 kudu
  • 1700 zebras
  • 3000 impalas

There are also other felines, such as caracals.

The only South African mammals not found in Pilanesberg are the bontbok and its subspecies, the spotted hyena, the nyala and the horse antelope.


The variety of birds is amazing – more than 360 species have been recorded in the park. Some of them are migrants, but most of them are permanent residents of the park. Their food sources differ – some feed on carrion, some catch their own prey, others eat seeds, fruits or tiny aquatic organisms.

There is a hiking trail in the Manyane complex in the east that offers walking safaris and bird watching. Also in this area there is an aviary where people are allowed in, with more than 80 species of native birds.

Did you know?

  • The latest surveys by the South African Tourism Board show that Pilanesberg is currently the most popular nature reserve in the country.
  • Pilanesberg was formerly known as Pilandsberg, and is often misspelled. Here are some common misspellings: Pilansburg, Pilanesburg, Pilansburg.

Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa