Pilanesberg Game Reserve – Where it all began…

A brand new blog that was ready a couple of months ago and that just required a first post. I knew what I wanted the first blog post to be about, but I just did not get around to write it!
I suppose it will be appropriate if the blog’s first post is about the place where it all began – Pilanesberg Game Reserve in the North West Province of South Africa.
I actually planned a much more detailed first post about Pilanesberg, but decided not to bore you with too many words the first time around…
Sunrise over Mankwe dam from the hide


Described by geologists as the “Pilanesberg Alkaline Ring Complex”, the Pilanesberg is one of only 3 alkaline volcanoes in the world and is exceptionally old – The formation occurred about 2,000 million years ago. At its zenith, the volcano towered to 7,000 meters in height, rivaling Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro! The end result of various eruptions over time is several “onion rings” of rock of different ages. Erosion over millions of years eventually resulted in the “mountain” rising about only 700 meters from the valley.
Pilanesberg Game Reserve is sometimes referred to as “Pilanesberg National Park”, but it is not actually a national park. You won’t for example find it on the National Parks’ website as it does not form part of South African National Parks Board (SANPARKS) – last mentioned has confused many people, without any of them coming up with an answer. Even the official map that is purchased at the gates refers to “Pilanesberg National Park”! I think it will be appropriate to refer to Pilanesberg as a national park once it forms part of SANPARKS – I once posted an image taken in Pilanesberg on the facebook page of Wild Card Magazine, and a firm message from the latter’s administrator followed stating that Pilanesberg does not form part of SANPARKS and as such also not of Wild Card Magazine…

Pilanesberg was actually owned by 3 local tribes, and now by the North West Parks Board. With erstwhile Bophuthatswana (where the park is situated) having been an independent homeland, the park was proclaimed by the then local black government. 52 Farmers were bought out and moved.  The town of Pilanesberg was flattened and all that remains is the old Magistrate’s Court – now called the Pilanesberg Centre. The only other remains is the small graveyard not visible except for a very short time about 1 in 3 years after controlled burning.
The park was seen as the National Park of Bophuthatswana and of course called Pilanesberg National Park. With the forceful reoccupation by the old government and the ANC, President Lucas Mangope was deposed by a coup and Bophuthatswana reincorporated with SA. Pilanesberg is one of the few names in SA  that won’t change as it is named after Chief Pilane, a very powerful chief that owns vast land outside the park. Chief Pilane’s grandfather fought with the British against the Boers and had the reputation of being invisible.


Lions mating near Ruighoek dam
In 1979 6,000 animals were relocated in the park with Operation Genesis. As the purpose of the park was a feeder for other parks no lion or cheetah were brought in. However leopard was naturally present as was brown hyena and mountain reedbuck. Also brought into the park was a family of elephant. As no mature bulls was brought in (they were too large), the young bulls caused a bit of havoc and killed 17 rhino before the problem was identified. The reason for this was there was no parental care and the young bulls came into musth at too you an age. Eventually transport techniques improved and 6 older bulls were brought in from the Kruger National Park, which suppressed the musth problem of the younger bulls. The young culprits were all shot but by that time 40 rhino have been killed..



In 1991 Nelson Mandela was released from prison and all of a sudden tourism took off. In 1993 the focus changed and predators were brought in. Camps and lodges were built on the perimeter and it became a destination. At present there are about 50 lion, 3 cheetah, 210 elephant, one pack of wild dogs and plenty of  black rhino and white rhino, 100 eland, 170 buffalo, and scores of other species. The animals are currently TB free as opposed to the animals of the Kruger National Park.
Map obtained from http://www.sa-venues.com


My personal journey in the Pilanesberg commenced when I was still a youngster and when my parents used to go there mostly for day visits and over new year. During or about 2004 we visited the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. We came across an impala ewe that was lazily grazing away and on route directly towards a cheetah that was patiently lying in the grass and waiting – It was high noon and lunch was on its way! Needless to say, the cheetah had no choice and had to do what was neccessary! It did so quickly with almost no “classic chase” at all – If the cheetah did not make lunch of the impala, the latter would have boasted to her friends that evening about how she walked right over a cheetah and still lives to tell the story! It was my first cheetah kill that I witnessed, but… I did not have a camera with me!

I eventually got that camera I so longed for during the aforementioned cheetah sighting. During the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010 I became more serious about photography.

We live in Pretoria, so Pilanesberg’s Manyane-gate is about 130km from home, so you will notice from my website and posts on other forums that most of my images were created in Pilanesberg up to date hereof, especially my avian images.
“Fearsome Hippo Baby” – Ruighoek Dam
So what is my favourite site in the Pilansberg? Undoubtedly Mankwe hide at the western side of Mankwe dam. Here I could (and still do) practise my photographic skills and especially my birds in flight skills…
Mankwe hide viewed from the western side
“Winter at Mankwe”
“Mankwe in Gold”
We have had some amazing times and sightings in the park over the last few years, which include lions mating and a cheetah killing a young blue wildebeest – I have a whole series on the cheetah kill which can be viewed on the website here.
You can read more about the Pilanesberg on their website at www.PilanesbergNationalPark.org.
I will post more on the blog in the near future about the various places to stay in the park, other nitty gritty and of course… a whole blog post about Mankwe will follow!
So, this was my first blog post! Hope you have enjoyed the post and please visit in the future! I will leave you with one or two more images taken in this magical destination…
“Seeking Greens”
“Early morning male”
“Mankwe PK”
“Pilanesberg Cheetah Kill”


“Baby Ellie”


“Sunrise Lion”
Bibliography:-  Pilanesberg National Park Map & Guide Book, North West Parks and Tourism Board;
                    Adventure Travel Africa;
                    Map obtained from www.sa-venues.com.
  • LauraAugust 17, 2012 - 05:50 - Good luck on the blog! Still love that baby ele photo, great stuff. ReplyCancel

  • Alain Jacquet (Big Chief)August 17, 2012 - 09:24 - Nice going….. Looking forward to seeing more of your photos up here, and hearing how you progress.

  • Photo JohnAugust 18, 2012 - 19:01 - Hi Rudi,
    These are all excellent pics – Good show!!ReplyCancel

  • Color Correction | Space Light DigitalAugust 23, 2012 - 01:49 - Thank you for sharing these photos i am really impressed with your work. Capturing this wild animals and going in the wild is really a fulfilling experience to every photographer. ReplyCancel

  • Rudi van den HeeverSeptember 17, 2012 - 12:18 - Thanks for all the positive feedback everyone… Will try my best to keep things interesting!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousNovember 8, 2012 - 12:07 - Hey ouboet, jou website lyk nice. Baie interessante Pilanesberg storie. ReplyCancel

  • linruphoto@gmail.comJanuary 9, 2013 - 08:18 - Dankie jongboet!ReplyCancel