The glory of the Pilanesberg, North West Province
Words & Photos: Chantal Pretorius. Article from the DO IT NOW Online Magazine.
We didn’t stop on the way to eat or drink as we were in too much of a hurry to get to Bakgatla Resort and indulge in a weekend of nature’s glorious splendour, as well as leisurely pursuits like hiking, swimming and exciting excursions in and around the malaria-free Pilanesberg National Park.
Entering at Bakgatla Gate, we immediately noticed how clean and well maintained the resort was.
Even though this was our fifth visit to the park, it still continues to delight and impress.
We love camping at Manyane because it offers great ablutions, private showers and so much more.
Manyane campsite offers a number of activities to keep kids entertained, such as outdoor chess, a trampoline and Olympic-size, salt-water swimming pool.
Bakgatla Resort boasts more than 300 bird species and is a bird’s paradise.
Set at the foot of Garamoga Hill in the Pilanesberg and surrounded by rolling grasslands, sub-tropical woodland and forested ravines, Bakgatla Resort lies in a reserve that’s home to more than 300 bird species, 35 species of mammals and the sought-after big five.
Entering at Bakgatla Gate, we made our way to reception and immediately noticed how clean and well maintained the resort was, and the warm and friendly welcome we received from the staff all made for a wonderful start to the weekend. And an affordable one at that, too. *The cost to camp here is R400 per night and this included our vehicle, one pensioner, an adult and child.
Armed with a map of the reserve and the park’s guide book, we set off for Mankwe Dam, a large, central dam that attracts a number of species to it for water and grass. As we were driving along a small, rocky road named Ruthleng, I noticed some monkeys sitting on a tree branch. As we got closer, more of these brazen but cute and furry creatures appeared, just as curious about us as we were about them. After taking our first photos of nature, we set off once again in search of more animals, with the call of doves, Cape glossy starling and grey louries filling the warm, sweet air.
Passing an abundance of bush pigs, springbok and impala, we arrived at the dam a short while later and settled back to watch the playful antics of the animals at the water’s edge, while others enjoyed resting in the shade of the trees close by.
Even though this was our fifth visit to the park, it still continues to delight and impress and we were looking forward to camping at Manyane that evening. Manyane is our favourite campsite because it has great ablutions and private showers, which are kept spotlessly clean. Each campsite also has access to electricity and are big enough so that you don’t feel crowded by your neighbours.
Choosing a cosy campsite near a big tree, we set-up camp, got the fire going and enjoyed watching our son playing in the playground, safe and happy. What’s also nice about this campsite is that there are a number of other activities to keep kids entertained, such as outdoor chess, a trampoline and Olympic-size, salt-water swimming pool.
However, I must add that all the accommodation facilities available in the reserve are amazing and range from self-catering and timeshare chalets to fully-electrified caravan parks and camping sites.
There is no lack of facilities and activities either, with golf, chess, game rooms, jungle gyms, curio shops, restaurant, and a superette available to all who stay in the park. Just bear in mind though that each accommodation option offers different facilities and activities.
Early the next morning we went in search of more game. Not long into the drive, we came across two small jackals running alongside the road. What a special sighting this was, which we captured with lots and lots of photos.
Excited and enchanted by the beauty of nature around us, we continued once more, hoping to see the illusive brown hyenas and wild dogs. Sadly, none made their appearance, however we were treated to sightings of water bucks, giraffes and zebras grazing peacefully on the plains. But it was not just the animals that had me clicking the camera madly.
The landscape that stretched before us, the rocky hills, gurgling rivers and age-old African-wattle and buffalo-thorn trees that stand majestically over all like proud sentries, were equally captivating.
Cruising along, and keeping under the park’s rule of not exceeding the speed limit of 40 kph, we arrived at the Pilanesberg Centre. Inside, you’ll find some curio shops and restaurants, but they are quiet expensive so we had a quick bite to eat and a juice before heading out, this time to explore the Hippo Loop (known as the biggest dam in the centre of Pilanesberg). Here, we saw about 20 or so blue wildebeest quietly grazing, oblivious to our existence.
Just as we were leaving, we came cross a baby kudu that was blocking the road. It watched us for a few seconds before bounding off into the bush to join his mother, standing a couple of metres away.
A squirrel enjoying a mealie.
Nearing the Tshukudu Entsho Road, we passed more zebras and a herd of buffalos before spotting some geese and Muscoda ducks gliding across a dam. This dam has a thriving plant life, boasting lush and abundant velvet bushwillow pods, rock figs and bushveld red-balloon (they really look like small red balloons) and marula trees. Rock hyrax, cheetah, blue monkeys and steenbok are known to frequent this peaceful dam, but they unfortunately remained out of sight while we were there.
After a delicious picnic in the car, as you are not allowed to leave your car in the park for safety reasons, and hours of driving around, we wearily returned to our campsite. Our intention was to spend a lazy afternoon relaxing around the pool, finished off with a braai for dinner and an early night.
On Sunday morning we decided to head to the Pilanesberg Mountains. The views from up high are simply breathtaking and we could see Mankwe Dam, all the roads, dams and waterholes. This is nature at its most spectacular! We stood there for a while, just enjoying what lay before us and appreciating our special time in the park. Filling our lungs with the fresh, clean air, the sky never seemed so blue and the songs of the birds circling overhead never sounded so sweet.
Our time at Bakgatla had come to an end and as we drove out the gate, we felt re-energised and ready to return to the real world. It had been a memorable, fascinating and, of course, exciting weekend. So if you love getting away, the outdoors and wildlife, creating special memories and meeting new people, then add Bakgatla to your bucket list, you won’t be disappointed.
• Chalets (air conditioned, private patio, braai area, kitchen, lounge, bedroom, loft bedroom, bathroom en-suite)
• Executive Safari Tent (electrified, wooden deck, small bar fridge and exclusive bathroom area, with either bed and breakfast or dinner, bed and breakfast)
• Camp sites (electrified and non-electrified, central ablutions and access to superette, pool and playgrounds)
• Caravans (electrified, grassed, central ablutions and access to superette, pool and playgrounds)
• Hiking trails
• Game drives & bush braai
• Bird watching
• Balloon safaris
• Pilanesberg day tours
• Olympic-sized swimming pool
• Outdoor chess
For more information or to book, visit their website.