27 February 2014 by Kate Turkington

High summer in the Pilanesberg

I first visited the Pilanesberg almost 30 years ago when it was still in its infancy as a potential game reserve.

It's crucial for a baby zebra to imprint its mother's stripes

However, even then, rusting fences, overgrazed farmland and derelict kraals (homesteads) couldn’t hide the sheer beauty of the area, tucked away in the caldera of an ancient volcano – one of only three alkaline volcanoes in the world.

A family of warthogs

Today, the Pilanesberg Game Reserve, with its concentric ring of mountains, is one of South Africa’s most visited tourist destinations. And because of the variety of habitats, it is teeming with game and birds.

February is high summer and it’s good to see that many of the babies born in the Pilanesberg before Christmas have avoided becoming predator takeaways and are doing well.

I’m up just before dawn, and am first into the Kwa Maritane gate at 5.30am.

As the sun rises, my first family sighting is of a baby zebra and mum. Mother has to ensure that when junior is born, he or she must see only her stripes so that her unique pattern is imprinted on the youngster. That way it never gets lost.

Today, the Pilanesberg, with its concentric ring of mountains, is one of South Africa’s most visited tourist destinations.

Just round the next corner is a baby giraffe and mother, and as the morning progresses, I see young wildebeest, comical baby warthogs, a tiny baby white rhino, and as I stop the car to let a breeding herd of elephants go past, the tiniest baby elephant in the world – surely not more than a couple of days old.

Do you know which is South Africa’s fastest antelope? Many people don’t, but it’s the odd-looking tsessebe. One obligingly poses beside the road for an early-morning photograph.

Africa's fastest antelope – the odd-looking tsessebe

A balloon drifts overhead, a Sabota lark vies with a rufous-naped lark for the loudest song of the morning, doves are cooing softly, and I’m in a perfect cocoon of serenity.

The marula trees are laden with fruit that plop down along the roads – favourite food of elephants, baboons and warthog. And if you’ve tasted one of South Africa’s favourite drinks – Amarula – you’ll know why the fruit, loaded with Vitamin C, is so popular.

Dawn breaks in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve

Category: Wildlife


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