Any game drive is a thrilling one, but why not take an aerial safari and go hot-air ballooning over the Pilanesberg? Only a couple of hours drive from Johannesburg, Pilanesberg Game Reserve, situated in the bowl of an extinct volcano, is one of South Africa's largest game parks.

Did you know?

The Pilanesberg balloon company Airtrackers has over 30 years and 7 000 hours combined flying experience.

If you're visiting the Pilanesberg Game Reserve, right next door to Sun City, why not take the opportunity to do something different and go hot-air ballooning over the Pilanesberg?

The Pilanesberg Game Reserve, situated in the caldera of a 1.3-million-year-old extinct volcano, is a wonderfully scenic reserve replete with mountains, valleys, plains, rocky outcrops and a huge dam.

Only three decades ago this 55 000ha game reserve was nothing more than overused and abandoned farmland. Then, in 1979, along came Operation Genesis – at the time one of the most ambitious rehabilitation and game-stocking programmes in the world. Today over 7 000 animals (including the Big Five) roam the reserve's diverse ecosystems.

Pilanesberg is also home to hundreds of bird species and you may well find yourself eye-to-eye with a Verreaux's or tawny eagle as your hot-air balloon floats high over the surrounding countryside.

Depending on wind and weather conditions, you'll fly at anything from treetop height to just over 1 800m.

You'll see lots of game on this aerial safari – herds of antelope, grazing white rhino (the Pilanesberg is one of the best places in the world to see white rhino), stately giraffe, scampering zebra, browsing elephants, herds of buffalo, and, if you’re lucky, lions and maybe even a leopard.

But ballooning is not just about game-spotting. No longer earth-bound, just soak up the tranquillity, shed your stress, and watch Africa's majesty drift slowly beneath you.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Airtrackers
Tel: +27 (0)14 552 5020
Email: balloon@gametrac.co.za

Bill Harrop's 'Original' Balloon Safaris
Tel: +27 (0)11 705 3201
Email: office@balloon.co.za

How to get here

Take the N4 north from Johannesburg towards Polokwane. Take the N4 Rustenburg split and follow the Pilanesberg Game Reserve signs on route 91.

Best time to visit

Any time of year is good, but remember to wrap up warmly in winter. Balloons fly every day of the week at sunrise (depending on weather conditions).

Around the area

Shake off the wild for a while and try your luck at the Sun City Casino, catch a tan and a wave at Sun City's Valley of the Waves, or see a show at the Sun City theatres.

Tours to do

Pilanesberg Game Reserve offers guided game drives throughout the day, as well as night drives.

What will it cost

Approximately R1 500 to R2 000 per person.

What to pack

Binoculars, camera and a warm jacket (even in summer).

Where to stay

Pilanesberg Game Reserve has plenty of accommodation options ranging from luxury lodges to self-catering chalets and camp sites. Alternatively you can stay at Sun City, right next door to the reserve.

What to eat

Breakfast is often included as part of your aerial safari package.