Kruger National Park versus Pilanesberg Game Reserve, Secret Cape Town

Both the Kruger National Park and the Pilanesberg Game Reserve offer a wide range of activities in an outstanding setting and promise visitors an incredible wildlife experience. 

Below the differences between the two wildlife experiences so that you can make an informed decision about the best one to suit your needs.

Pros and Cons of the Kruger National Park

Pros: 

  • The park has 507 recorded bird species 
  • Expanded across almost 2 million hectares of vast wilderness 
  • Extensive choice of accommodation
  • About 17 incredible biospheres 
  • Guided wilderness walking safaris 
  • Vast herds of elephants and buffalos 
  • Unfenced boundaries within the park 
  • 34 times bigger compared to the Pilanesberg Game Reserve

Cons

  • Risk of catching malaria (medium to high risk depending on the season) 
  • Daily rate charged for entrance into the park 
  • Massive poaching problem due to its proximity to Mozambique 
  • 5 hour travel from Johannesburg 
  • Outdated SANParks accommodation 
  • Overcrowded in the busy southern region 
  • You need to queue to view the herds of elephants and buffalos 
  • Sizes of herds are starting to deplete 

Pros and Cons of Pilanesberg Game Reserve 

Pros: 

  • Malaria free area 
  • Lower volume of tourists except during holiday seasons 
  • Limited poaching 
  • Easy to explore all the wildlife hotspots 
  • Once off entrance that is valid for 7 days 
  • Accommodation can suit all budgets, which includes safari resorts and big hotels. 
  • Perfect for a short stay or a day tour 
  • Sun City, Madikwe Game Reserve, and Black Rhino Game Reserve are in close proximity. 
  • 2 hour drive from Pretoria and Johannesburg 
  • Big 5 game reserve with an abundance of game and birdlife 

Cons: 

  • Some accommodations are below par 
  • No spotted hyenas 
  • Only 57, 250 hectares 
  • Only small prides, herds, and packs can be spotted 
  • No buffalos
  • Feels like your visiting a glorified zoo 
  • Overcrowded during special holidays 

More about The Kruger National Park 

The Kruger National Park is one of the best places to go on a safari in South Africa. It’s world renowned for its exceptional biodiversity. It is also one of the largest and most popular natural attractions in South Africa. The park is home to the big 5 which includes leopard, buffalo, rhino,  lion, and elephant. 

Another popular tourist attraction in the park, is the Kruger to Canyon Biosphere. This is an area that is designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as an International Biosphere reserve. 

The Kruger National Park is also one of the oldest national parks in South Africa. In 1962, it was named a protected wildlife sanctuary. The park is managed by the South African National Parks (SANParks), which is a governing body that is responsible for managing South Africa’s 21 national parks. 

How big is the Kruger National Park?

The Kruger National Park covers an area of almost 19, 485 Square Kilometers or 2 million hectares. It stretches across the province of Mpumalanga and Limpopo in the northeastern region of South Africa. From north to south it extends 360 km (220miles) and 65 km (40miles) from east to west. 

On the boundary of the northern region lies Zimbabwe, while on the eastern region lies Mozambique. There are no fences inside the park, just wide-open spaces where herds can roam freely between two areas of conservation. The Kruger National Park and the Greater Kruger National Parks is now part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, which is a peace park that links the Kruger National Park with Gonarezhou National Park found in Limpopo and Zimbabwe National Park in Mozambique. 

The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park is home to more than 85 different animals and 2000 species of plants. It’s formally one of the first established peace parks of South Africa. The foundation of Peace Parks sees the importance of developing and conserving the important conservation areas and keystone species. Their goal is to maintain the biodiversity and to conserve the site’s ecosystem. 

Kruger National Park History 

The Kruger National Park was formerly called the Sabie Game Reserve. The area in between the Crocodile and the Sabie Rivers was designated as a wildlife protected area. This meant hunting was not allowed. The uncontrolled hunting was causing a massive decrease in game numbers. Certain animal species faced extinction without state intervention. 

Transvaal Republic’s former president, Paul Kruger drove the urgency to provide a sanctuary for South Africa’s wildlife. But it took 12 years for the region to be proclaimed a protected wildlife area. This is why it is called the Kruger National Park, to honour Paul Kruger. 

In May 1962, the National Parks Act was proclaimed. The Shingwedzi Game Reserve and Sabie Game Reserve was then combined to become the Kruger National Park. The first warden was James Stevenson Hamilton. He made a significant impact on the management of South African wildlife and conservation. You can go and visit the Stevenson-Hamilton’s Memorial Library situated in the Skukuza Rest Camp. It houses old photographs and journals of the influential game ranger during his early days as a warden. 

Where is Kruger National Park Located? 

The Kruger National Park is located in the North Eastern part of South Africa, which is a 5-hour drive from Johannesburg. Most tourists fly into OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. add other travel options 

When is the Best Time to Visit Kruger National Park? 

The Kruger National Park and Lowveld area is subtropical, which means you can enjoy tours throughout the year with pleasant days and a good view of the game. 

However, if you do not want to be bothered by large crowds, then avoid booking accommodations during the busy holiday seasons and during the annual free access SANparks week in September. 

The Kruger National Park’s busiest time is when the rest camps are congested during school holidays. This includes, Easter holidays in March/April and the end of the year break in December/January. The best time to visit is during the cold winter months between May and September. 

The Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces experience bountiful summer rain. During the winter, the wooded thickets and grasslands are dry and not as thick compared to the summer months. It’s easier to spot herds during this time, especially at dams, rivers, and popular waterholes. The water holes are packed with game at sunrise and sunset.

You can expect the following weather conditions: 

  • September to March – Hot and humid days (Summer Months) 
  • September to May – Light showers in the morning and thunderstorms in the afternoon (rain season) 
  • September and October – Driest period (end of winter) 
  • May to September – Pleasant days but cold nights (winter season) 

Daily Conservation & Entry Fees at the Kruger National Park 

Daily Conservation Fee for 1 November 2018 to 31 October 2019
South African citizens and Residents (with ID):R93 per adult, per dayR47 per child, per day
SADC Nationals (with passport):R186 per adult, per dayR93 per child, per day
Standard Conservation Fee (Foreign Visitors):R372 per adult, per dayR186 per child, per day

Where is the Best Place to Stay in the Kruger National Park? 

There is a wide variety of accommodation options to choose from, with camps scattered across the reserve.  Here are some important reminders to take note of: 

  • You can contact reservations at the Kruger National Park, or book and pay for your accommodation online. 
  • All ablution, accommodations, and kitchen areas are cleaned regularly on a daily basis 
  • Adult is classified as 12 years and above 
  • Bedding is supplied at all accommodation options except camping sites. 

Basic Types of Accommodations at the Kruger National Park: 

  • Safari Tent – Permanent canvas tent bedrooms on permanent platforms. Some have communal ablution and kitchen facilities, while others are fully equipped and have more luxurious trimmings. 
  • Camping – Sites for tents or caravans. Most camping sites have power (except Punda Maria and Balule). Camping sites in lower Sabie have their own water taps and designated boundaries. 
  • Bungalow – Single unit bedrooms with a bathroom. Some bungalows have communal kitchens, while others have kitchenettes with basic equipment. Some have luxury status and others have river views. 
  • Hut – Single unit rooms with communal ablution and kitchen facilities
  • Cottage – Single unit rooms with living rooms, kitchens, and bathrooms
  • Luxury Lodges – Exclusive private lodges
  • Guest Cottage – Multiple unit bedrooms with at least 2 bedrooms and a fully equipped kitchen
  • Family Cottage – Multiple unit bedrooms with a kitchen, bathroom and living room
  • Guest House – Multiple bathroom and bedroom units with a lounge area and often with a bar facility and an exclusive view. 

More About Pilanesberg Game Reserve

The Pilanesberg Game Reserve is on the list of the most popular game reserves in South Africa. It’s located in a malaria-free area in South Africa’s North West Province, and it’s also very close to Pretoria and Johannesburg compared to the Kruger Park. It’s central location makes it the ideal destination for travellers who want to see the Big 5 while explorating South Africa. 

The Pilanesberg Game Reserve is also next door to the Sun City Entertainment and Casino Resort as well as exclusive safari areas like the Black Rhino Game Reserve and Madikwe Game Reserve. There’s a wide variety of accommodation options in the area, which ranges from self-catering chalets to permanent safari tents, and upmarket luxury resorts. Independent operators manage the upmarket luxury resorts and their service is exceptional. 

How big is the Pilanesberg Game Reserve? 

The Pilanesberg Game Reserve is the fourth largest game reserve in South Africa. It covers an area of 572 Square Kilometers (55,000 hectares), which means it can fit into a small corner of the Kruger National Park. The Pilanesberg game Reserve may be a lot smaller than the Kruger National Park, but it sure does pack a huge punch. 

As part of a long term plan to establish a well protected wilderness corridor between the Pilanesberg Game Reserve and the Madikwe Game Reserve, 20 Square Kilometers of land has been added to the north western side of Pilanesberg. Plans are currently under review to drop the fences between several privately owned neighbouring game farms, which will dramatically increase the size and value of the game reserve. 

The Pilanesberg Game Reserve History 

In the late 1820’s the peaceful existence of the Tswana tribe was shattered when Mzilikazi took over the region. The Mzilikazi sought refuge in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve from his rebel Zulu warriors who had fled the wrath of the Zulu king, Shaka. They destroyed all the Tswana villages and crops. 

The Tswana people were forced to live under the rule of the Ndebele for a period of time. Missionaries were considered the first European settlers in the area. They established a mission station in the northwestern part on a farm called Driefontein, which was jammed in between a large section of land traditionally owned by the Bakgatla Tribe. 

The southern part of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve was originally an agricultural land, which was sold to farmers by the Transvaal Government during the 1860s. The farmers were in need of a permanent water source, so they built a Mankwe dam, which is the reserve’s biggest water reservoir. 

In the 1960’s the farms were bought back by the government and members of the Bakubung tribe were resettled on the land. After reclaiming the land, it was then given to the Bophuthatswana, which was made a large Bantustan or Homeland that was established under the South African apartheid government. In 1979, the Pilanesberg was eventually reclaimed as a wildlife reserve by the Bophuthatswana authorities after initiating a project that re-introduced wildlife to the region. 

Where is the Pilanesberg Game Reserve Located? 

The Pilanesberg Game Reserve can be found in the North West Province of South Africa. It lies on the southern border of Botswana and is fringed by the Kalahari Desert. It’s a comfortable 2 hour drive away from Johannesburg, which makes it the ideal spot for a day tour or a short stay. 

When is the Best Time to Visit the Pilanesberg Game Reserve? 

The weather in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve is similar to that of the Kruger National Park. The North West Province also has a subtropical climate, although its proximity to the southern Kalahari Desert means the temperature during winter nights are a lot colder compared to the Kruger Park. 

You can expect the following weather conditions: 

  • September to March – Hot days (summer months) 
  • September to May  – Light showers in the morning and thunderstorms in the afternoon (rain season) 
  • September to October – Driest period (end of winter) 
  • May to August – Pleasant days but cold nights (winter months)

Rates and Time Schedule at the Pilanesberg Game Reserve

Entrance Rates: Pilanesberg Tariffs are per vehicle and per person. Citizens of South Africa also need to show proof of identification to substantiate citizenship. 

AdultsR80
Adults Foreign NationalsR110
Children (6 – 12 years old)R30
Pensioners (SA only)R40
Vehicles (Sedan/SUV/LDV)R40

Gate Times: 

March and April6h00-18h30
May to September6h30-18h00
September to October6h00-18h30
November to February5h30-19h00

Where is the Best Place to stay in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve? 

The accommodation options at the Pilanesberg Game Reserve are as varied as the park itself. The reserve offers a variety of options, ranging from safari tents, resorts, and bush lodges to chalets and self-catering. Visitors can enjoy the exclusive lodges in the private Black Rhino Reserve, which was recently added to the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. 

Budget travellers and families will find a variety of accommodation options to suit every budget, including self catering, bed and breakfast, and chalet options. 

Basic Types of Accommodations at the Pilanesberg Game Reserve: 

  • Chalets and Safari Tents 
  • Self Catering Accommodation 
  • Bed and Breakfast 
  • Mid Range Lodges 
  • Luxury Accommodation
  • Child Friendly Accommodation 
  • Conferences and Large Groups 
  • Exclusive use Accommodation