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LOCAL TIME: 12:16 am | Thursday, 24 September
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Camping at Bakgatla in the Pilanesberg

Not too long ago, we and a few of our friends headed for a weekend to Bakgatla camp, located on the North Eastern side of the Pilanesberg National Park. We had a smooth drive from Rustenburg, which took us just under an hour before we entered Bakgatla gates.

Pilanesberg sunset

Sunset over the beautiful Pilanesberg

The Bakgatla camp caters for all sorts of travellers of whom many are overseas tourists.  You can choose from tent camping sites without electricity to comfortable chalets. We booked two tent camping sites with electricity for R130 per site per night, which in my book is free, mahala, verniet!

We setup camp close to one of the many ablution facilities to ensure the ladies don’t have to walk too far to keep up their appearances, and close enough to a play area where the kids can play to their hearts content.

The Bakgatla camp has the following facilities:
  • Conference facilities, when you want to work in a beautiful setting;
  • Restaurant and Bar that serves delicious milkshakes and something stronger for those in need to dust-off the thirst with a cold one;
  • Tuck shop that has everything you need but forgotten at home;
  • Large clean swimming pool to cool off after a hot day of safari; and
  • Play areas for the kids.

After unpacking and setting up camp, everyone went for a relaxing swim. Back at camp, the men started a wood fire, each with a cold beer in the hand reflecting on the wonders and joys of life.  The women chatted in their ‘outdoor kitchen’ while they prepared the first meal for the weekend.

We talked and laughed until late in the night around the camp fire, even so that, the security guards politely requested us to turn down the volume. We only realised then that it was way past midnight! We laughed a little more and went to bed, with rain starting to fall on the tents.

The next morning there was a bit of chaos in the camp after heavy rains during the night left us with mud everywhere. To add to it, Monkeys raided some of our food supplies during the early morning and left us without our normal supply of Smarties, peanuts and marshmallows.

Zebra-PilanesbergWe decided to leave the camp in its state of despair and head for the Pilanesberg National Park in search of the Big Five. We paid entrance fees at the Bakgatla Gate that was quite reasonable and valid for the rest of the weekend. We saw many wonderful animals on our first drive including Elephant, Rhino, Kudus, Zebras, Impala and Wildebeest. The day turned out wonderful with the sun drying out the camp and on our return, we all went for milkshakes at the restaurant and enjoyed the beautiful nature setting.

The Sunday, after we had breakfast, we started to pack. We wanted to stop for lunch, at a picnic spot overlooking the Mankwe dam, close to the centre of Pilanesberg National Park.  It was blazing hot when we reached the picnic spot and found the shade cool and relaxing. We heard hippos in Mankwe dam snorting and on closer inspection we found a huge Hippo cow and her beautiful calf close to the banks of the dam.

Elephant-PilanesbergAfter lunch we headed for the south gate, Bakubung. On our way, we were met with the sight of a huge elephant bull walking downhill towards us in the middle of the road.  The cars in front backed up into a side dirt road to avoid being crushed by the elephant. Our friends in front of us, with their tent-trailer, were the only wall between us and the elephant. The elephant shaking his head and flapping his ears looked a bit irritated by the slow progress one of our friends made with his trailer, as it continued towards us. My friend had to manoeuvre the trail that constantly wanted to go in the opposite direction that he wanted to go with his car. Luckily, when it seemed to be the end of our friends’ trip, the elephant saw a juicy tree on his left and stepped of the tar road into the bush. It was with great relief that we continued our journey to the south of the park.

We ended our trip with cocktails at the Bakubung lodge before we headed back to Rustenburg, reliving the encounter with the elephant bull. Something we will never forget!

What you will need to experience a wonderful camping weekend in the Pilanesberg:
  • Friends;
  • Tent;
  • Bedding;
  • Comfortable clothes, swim-suit and walking shoes:
  • Towels and toiletries;
  • Food and drinks;
  • Camping chairs;
  • Table for outdoor kitchen;
  • Sealable crates to safeguard food against monkeys;
  • Outdoor lights and torches;
  • Cooler or cool bag to keep drinks cool;
  • Hat and sunblock; and
  • Camera and binoculars.

Hope you will enjoy it as much as we did. Happy travels.

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