06 February 2012

Pilansberg National Park - Enjoy the Wildlife near Sun City

Entry from Sun City - get the best of both worlds!
Loads of entertainment at Sun City and then the magic of the bush in Pilandsberg.

Growing up with only chickens and ostriches as the local wildlife, I have no clue where my love of wild African animals came from. Perhaps it's just in all of us who live in Africa. My ancestors may be British and Dutch, with some Irish thrown in just for good measure, but being born in South Africa one loves the wide open spaces, the sun and stars, the blue,blue skies and the need to escape to the bush at times even though we are city dwellers. Pilansberg is a wide expanse of rolling green hills, lush vegetation and, with many surprise encounters, it makes this game reserve a great place to wander. Day entry is permitted and the reserve is truly beautiful during the summer months when there is usually plenty of rainful to keep it looking green and lush. This does make game viewing a little more difficult but then it's all about the next surprise and the wonderful sightings that can happen if you keep your eyes peeled. You could also be disappointed and ride for many kilometers without seeing anything resembling a wild animal but that's the fun of game viewing! You never know what you will find around the next corner. Hopefully, not a huge ellie in the middle of the road!

Elephants have a special place in my heart so it's always a thrill to find an "ellie" looming large. Do be careful though - these are huge, wild animals and they could turn your car over within a second. However, this is not likely to happen unless you stress them out in some way by blocking their path, disturbing their young or if you happen upon an bull elephant in "musth"  When their testosterone levels are high, they may not show any fear and could become aggressive. Look and enjoy but stay clear!

Pilansberg was established in 1979 and declared a National Park in 1984. This area was originally farm land - the cattle kraals were removed, alien trees eradicated, windmills taken down and the area allowed to become at one with nature.

A number of private game lodges are close by, some with private concessions. Access is also easy from Sun City or Rustenberg, both in North West Province.

Bird life is prolific with at least 80 species of birds to be spotted.

We were lucky to be able to view wildebeest and zebra sitting side by side with their young in the road - fascinating to watch the interaction of the young zebras with their mothers. One young zebra had a nasty gash on his/her leg and one wonders if it has survived or whether it has already become lion food. The law of nature - survival of the fittest.

Giraffe are always a pleasure to wacth - they are so graceful despite their ernormous height!

We saw many giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, rhino, buffalo, waterbuck and impala plus the lone magnificent bull elephant. Our neighbours at Sun City saw a herd of elephants with many young so it's all about being in the right place at the right time. Often one minute later, the herd has vanished into dense bush and it is as if they were never there at all.

There is a fenced off picnic/braai area called "Fish Eagle" for those who wish to stretch their legs, enjoy a picnic or barbeque in tranquil surroundings with only bird calls to distrub the bush atmosphere. The restaurant was undergoing renovations at the time of our visit.

My fascination is with anaimal behaviour and animal eyes - the lashes of a giraffe are so long and beautiful, elephants have tiny eyes in relation to their bodies and rhino's even smaller, meaner looking eyes. A rhino charge will leave you battered and bruised and wishing you had been far away in the cosy comfort of your lounge. Unfortunately, these huge, great, lumbering beats are being poached to extinction in Africa and all for their tiny little horn. Watching aninmals inter-act can be a humbling experience even though it is the survival of the fittest. We humans sometimes are just beyond understanding in cruelty towards animals.

The liquid eyes of the impala are so expressive and they are always on the alert for the slightest hint of danger. With their large ears pricked up, they take off at the slightest hint of danger.

Watch the zebra resting his head on the zebra in front of him, watch the giraffe attempting a "kiss" Long necks entwined, they are enjoying a personal moment. See the little zebra with his gashed leg, trying to get more milk off his mother who is not budging despite his temper tantrum of shaking his head and stamping his hoofs. Watch the elephant uprooting a tree and enjoying the green branches with a look of bliss on his face!
It's all so fascinating and we enjoyed a wonderful day's outing in stunning surroundings with many game sightings to keep us alert and expectant. Don't be in a rush when game viewing- it's not just about the sighting, it's about being at one with nature in her own back yard.

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