South Africa is known for its vastly different landscapes and the Pilanesberg region in the North West is definitely one of the jewels in the Rainbow Nation’s crown! TravelGround exchanged Cape Town and the south-eastern wind for a wild weekend in the north, where winter was indeed not coming any time soon.

At 55000 hectare, it’s not only the fourth largest park in South Africa, but it’s also home to more than 7000 animals of which there are about 360 different bird species to admire.

The Pilanesberg National Park borders both the Kalahari and Lowveld regions and is centred around a 1300 million year old volcanic crater that now serves as a huge dam called Mankwe, providing much-needed water for the animals in this arid landscape. At 55000 hectare, it’s not only the fourth largest park in South Africa, but it’s also home to more than 7000 animals of which there are about 360 different bird species to admire. The park prides itself on a lot of things, but one of those are the specifically-designed photographic hides of which there are six all throughout the park.

All of the Big 5 can be found in the park.

The park is home to various privately-owned lodges that range from family-friendly to ultra luxurious, and we were fortunate enough to spend the night at Legacy Hotels’ Kwa Maritane Lodge, which ended up being the cherry on top of an already wonderful experience.

The Lovely Lodge

Our gorgeous room for the night.

Kwa Maritane is one of a few lodges in the park owned and operated by the Legacy Hotel Group. It radiates luxury and relaxation and after being shown to our room for the night, it was clear that they truly put their energy into guests’ comfort and pay attention to all of the small details that distinguish them from the rest of the lodges in their midst.

We were surprised by a cheese platter in our room!

Wandile, their Guest Relations Manager, welcomed us with open arms and the welcoming basket in our room was a wonderful surprise! Perfectly situated right across from the sparkling swimming pool, we indulged in our cheese platter and sipped on a lovely glass of ice cold white wine while listening to the children splashing around.

With a beautiful swimming pool, a rock-climbing wall, tennis courts and putt-putt, there’s more than enough to do.

Kwa Maritane is extremely family-friendly and apart from the swimming pools, they also offer tennis and volleyball courts, an internet lounge and a tailored Junior Rangers program to keep the young ones entertained. This program focuses on educating children about the environment and the wild by participating in fun learning activities like, among other things, guided bush walks, game drives and picnics. The program is available at a minimal extra fee.

We loved having our treatments at the on-site spa.

While Harry and Sally are learning about animal footprints and conservation, mom can enjoy a relaxing day at the spa and dad can practice his putting before the whole family embarks on an afternoon game drive with one of the very experienced and knowledgeable game rangers. We just couldn’t resist visiting the spa ourselves!

We were lucky and all of the animals came out looking for puddles to drink from.

The sunset drive is an absolute must and if you’re as lucky as we were to have some rainfall, you will see even more animals as they come out to drink from the puddles that formed on the road. One of the main reasons why the Pilanesberg National Park is such a favourite for both South Africans and overseas tourists, is because of the fact that you are almost guaranteed to see most, if not all, of the Big 5 when doing guided game drives. You also get the opportunity to enjoy a complimentary sundowner and snack midway through the drive.

We drove right into a pride of lions while on our sunset drive. | Photo: Bishan Ruder

Another major treat was the Bush Boma Dinner that’s hosted every Wednesday and Saturday evening (weather depending). This was a true South African experience and after receiving our locally-made ginger beer welcoming drink, we were shown to our table which was dimly lit by lanterns and the starry African sky.

Lanterns and the starry night set the scene in the bush boma.

The sounds of traditional drums echoed through the night and a buffet of braaied meats like boerewors, chops, sosaties and chicken were perfectly complemented by krummelpap, corn on the cob, soetpatat and flavoured rice.

We indulged in the traditional South African cuisine and listened to the African sounds.

Just when we thought we could eat no more, the dessert buffet consisting of chocolate mousse, cheesecake and milk tart convinced us to at least try a little bite of everything!

The dessert table truly was to die for.

After having a fabulous night’s rest, we ended our trip by spending our last few hours on the restaurant’s lookout deck, having pizza and admiring the animals drinking water just a few meters from us.

Enjoying a last treat before heading back home.

It’s obvious that Kwa Maritane deserves its resident spot within the Pilanesberg National Park and they are a true example of the fact that tourism and conservation can indeed go hand in hand. The lodge radiates character and, as we all know, no establishment can thrive without dedicated and passionate staff running the day-to-day duties. I was delighted to hear that Kwa Maritane’s General Manager, Patrick, had received Legacy Hotel’s Manager of the year award before, but I was by no means surprised.

We bid farewell to the bush.

Pilanesberg National Park and Kwa Maritane definitely managed to make it onto my I’m-coming-back list!

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Thank you to Legacy Hotels and specifically Gavin Curtis for all of his help with the arrangements to make this trip happen.

Thank you to Wandile for his hospitality and wonderful service.

Thank you to Bishan Ruder for the use of his photos. 

Feature image and all images not specified: Hesté Nortier and TravelGround.


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