Okay more like giraffes, zebras, and Cheetahs! But you get the point!
Day 1 in South Africa was a jammed packed day of animal scouting at the Pilanesberg National Park. The dreamlike scenery of these animals’ natural habitat was more incredible than I could have ever imagined! A combination of lush green trees, tall grass, and various boulders provide the animals with many camouflage opportunities, but with our amazing tour guide Elvis, we were able to spot almost every animal that you would expect to see on Safari! From the moment we entered through the Manyane Gate, we were welcomed by a committee of giraffes and zebras who got up close and personal! The majesty of their beauty was breathtaking! As we trotted through the acres and acres of land, we continuously crossed paths with other animals such as elephants, hippos, rhinos, wildebeests, water bucks, kudos, cheetahs, and warthogs…just to name a few. As we spotted these animals our car would come to a stop and we had the opportunity to take in the animals going about their everyday lives and capture the moments with cameras if we chose to.
There were several companies offering guided tours of this park, and I am sure they are mostly equally as wonderful as the company that we chose, however I will walk you through our experience which I would HIGHLY recommend to any visitors of the South African area!
Throughout my travels, I have utilized an app/site called Get Your Guide which provides travelers with various experiences offered in the area, whether it is a guided tour or ticket sales for attractions or museums, and I have found that even if I don’t book through them, it is a great place to start when planning out activities! For this Safari we ended up purchasing through Get Your Guide after reading the outstanding reviews for the Unique Safari Company, and this ran about $200 USD per person! A little pricey, but worth every penny!
What is included in the price is as follows:
•Pick up from your accommodation in the Johannesburg area
•Park entrance and fees
•Lunch with a beverage at the Zebra Cafe
•The complete game tour experience with a guide
•Transportation back to Johannesburg at the end of the day
Items I would recommend bringing:
•Other snacks and drinks you will want throughout the day
•A quality camera (I do not have one since I have not begun to dabble in true photography, but highly recommend getting into this before you visit)
•Binoculars to spot animals in the distance
•Extra cash to tip your guide and purchase any miscellaneous items.
Your day will run about 12-13 hours long, so get a good nights rest before you go! Pick up time was at 6am with our driver Elvis, who was also our guide for the whole day! The transportation time from the Johannesburg area to the park will run about 2-3 hours depending on traffic, so be prepared for that. We did stop at a gas station along the way to pick up snacks and use the restroom which made the ride bearable. We were in an inclosed van style vehicle and picked up a couple who where with us for the day as well, giving us a total of 5 people in the van including our guide. The small group size is something I would highly consider when booking a game tour because if you have too many passengers you will have an obstructed view of the animals opposed to every person having their own window seat (windows were mostly opened, but could be closed if preferred). Originally, I had wanted to go with an open vehicle tour, however, after experiencing the tour in the van, I would assume that this is what I would prefer. Simply due to the dust and allergens, it was nice to close the window while the vehicle was in motion and then roll the windows down when you came to a viewing spot of the animals. We also went at the beginning of their winter, so the weather was not scorching, however if it was summer time I could imagine the air conditioning would be a nice feature to have accessibility to!
As we drove around, Elvis would point out animals that were further away and we were so grateful for this because we all would have missed out on about half the animals we spotted if it wasn’t for his impeccable eye! Truly a gifted soul! He had eyes like a hawk and informed us a little bit about each specie we come in contact with. When we got to the area where cheetahs had been spotted, Elvis was helpful when it came to adjusting our binoculars for us for a clearer image of this family of 4 ready to pounce on its prey! Such an amazing experience enhanced by having a skillful guide!
Overall, I would give this excursion a 10/10 and would recommend this company to anyone traveling to Johannesburg! Please note that these are wild animals and you are not guaranteed a sighting of any specific animal, but I can almost promise you that you will see enough that you will not be disappointed in the slightest! As our first real day in the South African area, I would say this was a perfect way to kick off our vacation! I hope you all get to experience this incredible opportunity one day! If you have any questions about the Safari or our African trip in general, do not hesitate to ask! I’d love to help be a part of any of your vacations!