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BBirding in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve is an exciting experience because of the wide variety of habitats that shelter over 360 bird species.
Good roads, affordable accommodation and plenty of opportunities to get out of your vehicle and stretch your legs make Pilanesberg a popular, rewarding destination for birders.
Choose any of the roads that criss-cross the park and have your binoculars ready. Look for secretary birds in the grasslands – they are regular breeding residents. Listen for the flappet lark clapping its wings in the air, as grassveld pipits dart about the ground.
Endemics in the woodlands and bushveld include the southern yellow-billed hornbill, Swainson's spurfowl, the southern black tit and the white-backed mousebird. During summer you can also spot up to 15 species of shrike, including the dazzlingly beautiful crimson-breasted shrike.
YYou'll find short-toed rock-thrushes in rocky terrain and keep an eye out overhead for raptors, including the black-chested snake eagle, the brown snake eagle, the martial and Verreaux's eagles and the white-backed vulture.
Mankwe Dam attracts many water birds (as well as hippos and all sorts of game), including blacksmith lapwings, grey, black-headed and Goliath herons, great white egrets, Egyptian geese and white-faced whistling ducks.
Make yourself comfortable in the big hide and prepare to witness an extraordinary passing show of birds and animals.
You'll see huge crocodiles dozing on the banks as herds of antelope graze nearby. If it's early morning or evening, you may even find a breeding herd of elephants, a pride of lions or a leopard coming to drink.
As you leave the dam, look out for that most attractive of all waxbills – the violet-eared as well as the black-faced waxbill - foraging low down in the undergrowth.
At the gate to Manyane Camp, look out for the locally common endemic southern pied babblers – a Pilanesberg special.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Pilanesberg Game Reserve
Phone: +27 (0) 14 555 1600
North West Parks Board
Tel: +27 (0) 18 397 1500
How to get here
From Johannesburg/Pretoria take the N1 north towards Polokwane. Take the N4 Rustenburg split. Follow the Pilanesberg signs to the left on route 91.
Best time to visit
Dry winter season in Pilanesberg is May to September, the rainy season is October to April which is summer. Summer time is best for birders because all the migrant birds are back from winter vacation. Gate times are as follows: March and April 6am to 6.30pm; May to September 6.30am to 6pm; September and October 6am to 6.30pm; November to February 5.30am to 7pm.
Things to do
You can organise any number of guided game drives or a guided birding walk. You can also take a balloon ride over the reserve.
The entertainment mecca that is Sun City lies adjacent to the Pilanesberg Game Reserve.
What to pack
In summer it is essential you pack plenty of sunscreen and a hat. For those who plan to do a lot of walking, sturdy yet comfy shoes or boots are a must. And don't forget your bird books and binoculars.
Where to stay
There are various accommodation options available within the reserve, ranging from basic self-catering camps to luxury lodges.