Mountains to Crater


This route forms the gateway to the region being close to Johannesburg and Pretoria, incorporates the Magaliesberg, Pilanesberg, Borakalolo areas and offers birders a wide range of habitat types and species within a relatively small area. The region offers 3 excellent game reserves all set in unique habitats. Most roads are in good condition and the reserves are easily accessible. At least 7 – 10 days would be needed to explore this region thoroughly.

Magaliesberg Area

The Magaliesberg forms a major component of the Mountains to Crater Eco route area in North West and is ideally placed, being approximately 60 km from Johannesburg and 60 km from Pretoria. This registered Important Bird Area (IBA025) is steeped in rich cultural and biological history. Naturalists have explored this region since the earliest times and must have stood in awe of such a beautiful area. It is here that the first Sable was discovered and documented in 1836. This mountain and its surroundings is endowed with some of the best bird habitats in the country (450 species) and is also home to a number of special species like the Cape Vulture, Black Stork, as well as White-backed Night Heron, African Finfoot and African Black Duck. There are some special features in the greater Magaliesberg region such as the Hartbeespoort Dam, the Olifantsnek and Buffelspoort Dam.

Some great birding sites in this area are:

Hartebeespoort Dam

hartebeespoortAs you come over Sartjies Nek and drop down towards the dam you will be rewarded with magnificent scenery especially at sunset. First port of call is the Ring Oxwagon Lodge. [GPS: 25° 45' 521" S by 27°55' 561" E] on your right hand side and up the hill. From the lodge one can look out over the valley below. The lodge also has a short walking trail. Watch out for Mocking Cliff-Chat around the Thatched central areas, as well as Black and White-bellied Sunbird and a large variety of seed eaters especially when the grasses are seeding. The Birds of the Magaliesberg checklist is available from the lodge. From here continue your drive down the hill stopping adjacent to the Xanadu Eco Park. Here you will find the Swartspruit dammed up and this area is often home to a number of fish eating birds including White-breasted and Reed Cormorant, Pied and Malachite Kingfisher, African Darter and African Fish Eagle. Once viewing is complete go back a short way back and turn Right to Jasmyn Centre with its indigenous gardens, wetlands and ponds. Excellent stopping point for fresh fruit and refreshments [GPS: 25°45'255" S by 27°54' 586" E]

The next stop is to continue to the West to the Meerhof picnic grounds. [GPS: 25° 45' 631" S by 27°53' 567" E] This area offers good views of the dam and opportunities to see a number of the dam's birds including the ever present Little Egret will be found along the shoreline. The trees in this resort also provide refuge for a wide variety of bushveld birds. On leaving this area keep left crossing the Swartspruit river [GPS: 25°45' 084" S by 27°54' 121" E] This area is the Meerhof\Ifafi Conservancy

To the left is a protected no public access area set aside for breeding birds including Fish Eagle and Grass Owl. The area of water Hyacinth to the East is often frequented by African Jacana and Black Crake. Continue up the hill past Birdwood estate, at the T junction turn right and at the main R511 turn left and continue straight past Sediba Plaza on your left across the 4 way stop into Schoemansville.

Continue along this road to the Hartbeespoort dam wall. [GPS: 25° 43' 530" S by 27°50' 873" E]. Parking is available on the far side once through the tunnel. Walk back along the wall and look for various swift species, black eagle and other birds frequenting these rocky areas. (Please note: Be careful of hawkers at the parking area)

From here continue along the road to a 4 way stop. Turn left going over Kommando Nek. Follow this road going past Kosmos and turn left and cross the dam once again. Park on the far side and walk back onto the bridge [GPS: 25° 45' 917" S 27°48' 559" E] On a quiet day one can see a wide variety of birds including White-faced Duck and Comb Duck.

Do a U turn and drive back towards the mountain turning left at the T junction. Continue past Magalies park and stopping opposite Leopard Lodge [GPS: 25° 45' 774" S by 27°46' 240" E] Park off the road and scan the cliffs above for the over 280 pairs of Red Data Cape Vulture nesting there. Also look out for Black Stork and Rock Kestrel.

Coming out from Leopard Lodge turn right. One of the more easily accessible hiking trails Vergenoeg [GPS: 25° 45' 444" S by 27°48' 559" E] is found on the right hand side(see info on trails of the region ) Vergenoeg Nature Reserve Trails – On slopes of the Magaliesberg This reserve overlooks the Hartebeespoort Dam. Trails include the Protea trail which leads to a white rock and is approximately 3km walking distance, while the scenic return journey via the Leopard trail is approximately 4km. These trails provide a privileged view of the endangered Cape Vulture as they launch themselves from the cliffs into the thermals. More than 200 bird species and more than 50 indigenous trees have been identified on this route to date. For more Information, contact Vergenoeg Nature Reserve, Jan Pretorius: Tel: +27 (0)12 207 1007

Passing Vergenoeg continue along to Van Gaalen Cheese farm [GPS: 25° 47' 307" S by 27°48' 559" E] for excellent refreshments and home-made cheese. The farm offers picnic baskets and self-guided walks. Look out for Half-collared Kingfisher, White-backed Night Heron and African Finfoot along the waterways. The Birds of the Magaliesberg Checklist is also available at the farm. A bird guide is available at Van Gaalens.

From here take the road opposite the cheese farm heading back to the dam. Once again watch out for a number of seed eaters and Lapwings like Wattled and Blacksmith. On passing Peacanwood estate turn left before the shopping centre and follow the road along the southern side of the dam. You drive through mixed bushveld, riverine woodland and past grassy areas until you reach Oberon [GPS: 25°45'919" S by 27°52' 696" E] which is a picnic/camping resort. It is worth paying to go in a view the wide variety of birds in this area. Often large flocks of Egyptian geese are seen grazing on the shores. There are also magnificent views of the dam.

To get some good views of birds on the dam it is worthwhile to take an early morning or late afternoon cruise on the Hartbeespoort Animal and Snake park [GPS: 25°43'768" S by 27°51' 530" E] pleasure boat. Many of the open water species can be seen such as Great crested Grebe. If you are fortunate you may witness the magnificent Fish Eagle doing some fishing. This park also has a fine collection of indigenous bird species including raptors. The gardens house a wide variety of birds as well, including nesting Grey and Black –headed Herons in the tall Blue Gum trees surrounding the park.

Vulture rehabilitation and research centre. Near Hartbeespoort town centre at foot of the mountain to the East. See the excellent work being done by this group to ensure the survival of especially the Cape Vulture. To make an appointment phone Keri Wolter on +27 (0)82 808 5113.

The Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy lies south of the Schurveberg where the Jukskei, Crocodile and Hennops Rivers meet. It is one of the largest conservancies in the region at 10 000ha and its varied landscapes including rivers, ridges, mountain, bushveld and grasslands support rich wildlife and more than 300 species of birds. There are two private game farms - the Oori and the Roodekrans Game Farm. A good starting point is from the centrally placed Waaigras guest house [GPS: 25°53' 537" S 27°58' 351" E] situated amongst the rolling hills and endangered Egoli Grasslands with approx 9 km of trails. Using this area as a base one can spend a day or two exploring this conservancy and its stunning natural beauty. Some special birds recorded in the area include Goliath Heron, Long-crested Eagle, Red-winged Francolin, Blue Crane, Short–toed Rock-Thrush, Cuckoo Finch, Yellow Wagtail, Bat Hawk, Half-collared Kingfisher, and African Finfoot. For more information, visit


Cape Vulture, African Hawk-Eagle, Bat Hawk, Half-collared Kingfisher, White-backed Night-Heron and African Finfoot.


Take the R 511 (William Nicol Drive) off the N1 South from Johannesburg and follow the signs to Hartbeesport dam. Be careful to turn left at [GPS: 25° 53' 279" S 28°1' 643" E] following the R511 to the dam

GPS Co-ordinates

Location Latitude Longitude
Hartbeespoort Dam Wall S 25° 43' 530" E 27° 50' 873"

Kgaswane Mountain Reserve

Kgaswane Mountain Reserve adjacent to the town of Rustenburg can be very rewarding as it gives one the opportunity to drive up into the mountainous areas. This 4257 ha reserve is set in the bio diverse habitats of the northern slopes of the Magaliesberg mountains. Habitats vary from quartzite peaks to Protea belts, wetlands and rolling grasslands. The principal wetland which forms the central area of the reserve is the catchment area for the Hex River.

Of the over 450 bird species recorded for the Magaliesberg, 320 have been recorded in the reserve. There are two trails in the reserve. A day trail, Peglerae, which self-guided trail and the Summit trail which is a challenging, two-day backpacking trail, covering a distance of 25 km, taking one to waterfalls, striking rock formations, gorge forests and areas with magnificent vistas of the valleys below.


Cape Vulture, Martial Eagle, Black-chested Snake Eagle, Brown Snake Eagle, Cape Vulture, Verreauxs' Eagle, Cape Eagle Owl, Eurasian Hobby, Black Cuckooshrike and Short-toed Rock-Thrush.


The reserve is situated on the outskirts of the town of Rustenburg.

GPS Co-ordinates

Location Latitude Longitude
Kgaswane Mountain Reserve S 25° 56' 31.79" E 27° 36' 33.13"

Rustenburg Area - Vlaklaagte Route

The Vlaklaagte Route is one of the most productive birding areas in the Rustenburg area. The open grassland on either side of the road is good for Northern Black Korhaan. Scan the Eskom poles for Amur Falcon, Lesser Kestrel, Carmine, White Fronted and European Bee-eaters in summer. The road crosses the Eland's River. Stop here to check for African Finfoot, Half-Collared Kingfisher and on the banks on the right hand side for breeding White Fronted Bee-eater. Once over the bridge check the open grassland for Wattled Lapwing and Cape Long Claw. Turn left into the Vlakfontein road. This stretch of road is extremely good for woodland species such as Pied Babbler, Marico Sunbird, Ashy Tit, Brown-backed Honeybird, Red Crested Korhaan, Magpie Shrike, Waxbills, Hornbills and Francolins also occur along this stretch. Check both sides of the road which is thick bushveld for Lilac-breasted Roller and Pied Babbler. Check the power lines continuously for Kestrels, Bee-eaters and Rollers. Pass the Matooster turn-off, turn right into the Vlaklaagte road. [GPS reading: S 25' 23.969 and E 26' 52.778]. Open grassland on the left is good for Pallid Harrier in summer.

Alternative Route: Carry on straight with the Brakkloof road, cross the Eland's River, continue on to the Lindleyspoort tarred road-check for Cuckoo Finch along the way. Check the Pylons for Cape and White-Backed Vultures.

Recommended Route: Aprox 12km from Vlakfontein, turn right into the Vlaklaagte road, drive for 2km, check pylons for Raptors, in summer. Check lands on the right hand side for Yellow Throated Sandgrouse. This section of the road is very good for Raptors and Vultures. After 4km, the road bends to the left, drive for approx 50meters, stop under power lines, and check again for Vultures, White Backed and Cape. Drive for approx 2km, check water points on both sides of the road for Waxbills, Lark-like Bunting, Great Sparrow and Scaly Feathered Finch. See Termite mounds where ant-eating Chats have been spotted. After 5km of open land one arrives at an exotic woodland which is good for Little Sparrow Hawk, Black-Breasted Snake Eagle, Pale Chanting Goshawk. Check bushveld for Barred Wren-Babbler, Bru Bru, Wattled Starling and Pied Babbler. Be careful whilst driving this road in wet conditions. After ± 15km from Vlaklaagte road, one joins the tarred road. At the T-junction take the Mabaalstad road. Alternative Route: Turn left to Beestekraal which leads to the Lindleyspoort road.

Recommended Route: After 2km turn left into Vlaklaagte road, check the open grassland for Sectretarybird and in summer check lines for Amur Falcon and European Rollers. Drive for 9km and at the T-junction turn left to Lindleyspoort on the tarred road. Check the lines on both side of the road for Blue- Cheeked Bee-eaters. The road then crosses the Eland's River again look out for Green Backed Heron and Half Collared Kingfisher. At the T-junction, turn right to Riekert's Dam (Lindleyspoort Dam) [GPS reading: S 25' 28.672 by E 26' 42.923]. Drive for aprox 2km and turn left through the gate [S 25' 28.902 by E 26' 41.862] This new gate opens from 07:00-16:00 on weekdays and could be closed on weekends. If so contact Shaun: +27 (0)83 702 1462.

Check opposite Caretakers house for Grey-Backed Camaroptera and Black Cuckooshrike. Stop at the picnic spot at the dam and check for Rock Kestrels. At the wall, Pied Wagtail, Rock Martin, Mocking Chat, Green Pigeon and Half Collared Kingfisher can be seen. Left of the picnic spot at the edge of the dam, check for Emerald Wood Dove, Striped Cuckoo, Horus Swift can be seen in the summer time. Take the tarred road back to Boshoek.

Alternative Route: Turn right into Vlaklaagte road, on the tarred road one will pass the first turn-off to Vlaklaagte from Lindleyspoort on the left hand side, which was the alternative route mentioned previously. The road now crosses a river and then passes the 2nd turn-off to Vlaklaagte on the left. At this point one has now completed a circular route. Opposite the first turn-off from Boshoek, take Vlaklaagte road to the right and follow it to the N4 and turn left back to Rustenburg, where many of the birds previously mentioned can be seen.


Cuckoo Finch, Pallid Harrier, Carmine Bee-eater, Half-collared Kingfisher, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Cape Vulture, Pied Babbler


Take the R104 to Phokeng. Nelson Mandela Drive on the way to Swartruggens. After ± 5km turn right on R565 to Sun City passing the new Royal Bafokeng Stadium on the right hand side. Travel on through Boshoek. Take the Lindleyspoort turn off to the left and drive for ±11kms, then turn right into the Vlaklaagte road

Additional Information

For enquiries re this area contact Shaun McGillewie, Birdlife Rustenburg:

Koster Area and surrounds

Koster is approx a 2 hour drive from Joburg and Pretoria Follow route to Hartbeespoort dam. Take route past Van Gaalens Cheese farm (R560) Continue the length of the valley turn left on the R24 towards the town of Magaliesburg. At this point take the R509 to Koster. Koster is ±75km from Magaliesburg. The road and railway line forms the dividing line between the Grasslands of the Highveld to the South and the Middleveld/Bushveld to the North.


Vetpan is situated ± 37km from Koster on the road to Lichtenburg. It is a large pan but it is unfortunately prone to drying up in dry years. When the pan is full it is a bird paradise. Visiting this pan is by appointment only.

From Koster, follow the R52 to Lichtenburg for ± 15 km. [GPS: S 25'57.273 E26'46.432]. Turn left on the Vetpad road ( Sand road ). Follow this road and be on the lookout for your typical grassland birds such as widows, larks, korhaan and lapwings. After ±10 km to the left is also a special pan worth looking at. [Mervyn's pan: S26'02.548 E 26'47.202]. This pan is not seasonal so provides opportunities for birding throughout the year except in years of extreme drought. This pan provides refuge to a large variety of waterbirds. A rarity for this region, Pygmy Goose has been seen here on a number of occasions. This pan is next to the road enabling one to make observations from your vehicle.

The farm can be visited by appointment and guided by Estie van der Merwe +27 (0)82 688 3644. There are Blue Cranes on the farm on the odd occasion. Other birds include the typical highveld birds like Orange River Francolin, Eastern Clapper Lark and in November a major influx of Black-winged Pratincole. From Mervyn's pan, follow the road another ± 2.5km and Vetpan is to your right [GPS: S 26'03.634 E 26'47.212].

Koster area

Between Koster and Derby is another dam offering high potential for interesting bird sightings. A visit to this farm can be arranged under the guidance once again of Estie van der Merwe +27 (0)82 688 3644. Some of the birds recorded here are Pectoral Sandpiper, Blue Crane, Orange R Francolin, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Cuckoo Finch, Common Quail, Blackwinged Pratincole[Late Nov-Des], Whitebacked Mousebird, Secretary Bird, Moccoa Duck(Large numbers) Lesser Flamingos, Yellowbilled Stork, Melodious Lark and other typical Highveld grassland birdsek word.

Another route where one could have the opportunity to see Kori Bustard is – Follow the R509 to Swartruggens. After about 5.5 km turn right on the Enkelbospad (Sand Road) [S 25'50.648 E 26'50.991]. After± 8.5 km there is a 90 degree bend to the left. Look out for Buffy Pipits on both sides of the road. At the T junction, turn right to Blokkloof [S 25'45.967 E 26'49.883]. Scan the trees carefully for raptors like Gabar Goshawk and Gymnogene.

From the T-Junction after ± 4km there are extensive grasslands to the left. Look out for Kori Bustards and Secretary Birds. At the area where the Power lines and trees start look out for African Hawk-Eagle and other raptors. Continue with this road to the T junction [ S25'40.875 E26'49.190 ] Turn right to Steenbokfontein. After appoox 2km the Blokkloof Gorge area starts. This is a magnificent well wooded with hundreds of Aloe Marlothii in growing on the slopes. This area also has a number of mountain streams and rock pools making it an ideal habitat for many of the typical bushveld birds. From here follow the road to another T junction. Turn right back towards Koster (Tar road) Continue another [±16km] to a T junction. Turn right and follow the road for about 2.5km bringing you back to the town of Koster.


Kori Bustard, Black-winged Pratincole, African Pygmy Goose, African Hawk-Eagle, Maccoa Duck, Namaqua Sandgrouse


As above

GPS Coordinates

As above

Additional Information

Guide required to enter farms - Estie van der Merwe +27 (0)82 688 3644

Mountain Sanctuary Park

Mountain Sanctuary Park is a private nature reserve in the Magaliesberg mountains, five hundred feet above the Grootfontein valley. The reserve is primarily a hiking reserve and visitors have access to approximately 1000 hectares of land. You will not be restricted to set routes and will have the freedom to walk around as you like, either on-trail or off. Walking times and routes can vary anywhere between fifteen minutes and eight hours. On your hikes you will encounter lovely crystal clear mountain pools which contain the purest mineral water that is suitable for both drinking and swimming.

Over the 35 years that the sanctuary has been open to visitors, it has built up the reputation as being one of the most peaceful and quiet places In South Africa. This has been achieved through Mountain Sanctuary's no nonsense rule that absolutely no radios may be used and no excessive noise be created. This rule is strictly enforced by Mountain Sanctuary's right to reserve admission into the nature reserve.

Accommodation, available on the reserve, ranges from camping sites to chalets and log cabins, both of which are fitted with heaters for those cozy winter nights.


African Hawk Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Wahlberg's Eagle, Lappet-faced Vulture and Cuckoohawk. Mountain specials include Short-toed Rock Thrush, Cape Rock Thrush, Cape Bunting and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting


The reserve is approximately 120 km west of Johannesburg and 90 km west of Pretoria.

Recommended Route from Johannesburg (Tar for all but the last 2.5 km):

  • Take the R512 (past Lanseria).
  • At the Broederstroom T-junction turn LEFT.
  • After Pecanwood turn RIGHT at the SUN-CITY / BRITS turn-off.
  • At the T-junction turn RIGHT towards BRITS / SUN CITY.
  • At the 4-way stop (ENGEN on right) turn LEFT towards SUN CITY.
  • Follow this road for about 38km past Majakaneng, Mooinooi and Buffelspoort.
  • After Buffelspoort turn LEFT at the 3-way stop.
  • After about 10km turn LEFT towards MAANHAARRAND.

GPS Co-ordinates

Location Latitude Longitude
Mountain Sanctuary Park S 25° 50' 10.38" E 27° 28' 33.84"


Accommodation Bookings: (014) 534-0114 (08H00 - 17H00, 7 Days a week)
Information about the reserve ONLY (not bookings): 082-707-5538 / 082-371-6146 (Office hours only - 08h00 - 17h00)

Eastern Areas

Towards the east of the Magaliesberg, there are large tracts of Bushveld hosting many unique bird and plant species. This area consists of the Rooikoppies dam and Vaalkop Dam reserves as well as the Pilanesberg National Park in the North East with Borakolalo Game reserve in the East with the adjoining Koma Koma wetland areas.

Some great birding sites in this area are:

Rooikoppies Dam

Rooikoppies Dam is next to Kameeldrift Wes and is located in Bojanala Platinum District Municipality, North-West, South Africa. Rooikoppies Dam has a length of 45.76 kilometres. The dam is a long narrow stretch of water surrounded by mainly farmland and patches of mixed acacia woodland close to the main road.


From Johannesburg take the N1 north. Take the exit onto the N4 towards Rustenburg. Then take the exit towards the R511 / Brits, turn right. Continue for 34 km then turn left towards Rooikoppies Dam and after 2,3 km turn right.

GPS: -25.4448000, 27.6095000

Vaalkopdam Nature Reserve

The 3996 hectare reserve lies adjacent to the Vaalkop Dam. The vegetation is generally typically bushveld consisting of mixed Acacia thornveld and broadleaf woodland with all the associated bird species, with the bonus of the dam for waterbirds and waders. Over 340 bird species have been recorded. An 800 hectare section has been set aside as a bird sanctuary and can only be accessed by appointment. The dam reserve and dam wall are undergoing construction so please check before visiting.


Vaalkop lies 50 km north of Brits & northeast of Rustenburg. Take the R511 continue for 35 km to the Beesterkraal sign. At the sign turn left and continue for 4 km to the Vaalkop Dam sign. Continue another 11km to the entrance.

When travelling back towards the Magaliesberg take the dirt roads which takes one through grasslands, hills and mixed bushveld, giving one an opportunity to see a large variety of birds especially in the summer months from the comfort of your car.


Office: +27 (0)12 277 1670
Gate: +27 (0)12 277 2498
Cell: +27 (0)73 991 0310

Borakalalo Game Reserve

borakalaloHabitat consists of broad-leafed and Acasia woodland together with riverine forest along the banks of the Moretele River. The Klipvoor Dam is situated within the Park. Bird watching is exceptional with recordings of African Finfoot and White-backed Night- Heron. It is also home to 35 species of mammals including Giraffe, White Rhino, Leopard and a wide variety of antelope. Best areas for walking are the picnic and camping areas, along the river and dam shoreline. Drives are easily negotiated on the extensive road network, accessible to all vehicles. There are a number of different loops and drives which are summarised below.

Tholo Loop: From the bird hides you may see Painted Snipe, Dwarf Bittern and a number of more common waders. Picnic area & hillsides : Waxbills, Pipits, Woodpeckers, Short-toed Rock-Thrush. Riverwalk: Start at the Moretele camp and walk along the river and Acacia woodland. Here you can see Black-cheeked Waxbill, Grey Tit-Flycatcher, White-throated Robin-Chat, Grey-backed Camaroptera. Pitjane Campsite: Frequented by fishermen but still a good spot to stop and walk. Green-winged Pytilia, Kalahari- & White-browed Scrub-Robin, African Wren-Warbler, Great Sparrow etc can be seen. Watch over the dam for White-winged Tern. The Phuduphudu camp lies in broadleaf woodland: Pale Flycatcher, Bennett's Woodpecker, Coqui Francolin, Bushveld Pipit etc. The southern-most Audi Drive follows the edge of the dam where herons, cormorants and waders can be seen. The road passes through patches of thicker bush and Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler, Cape Penduline -Tit and Burnt-necked Eremomela can be found. The site is good all year round but best in summer. For more detailed birding information go to and click on Birding Spots.


Directions from OR Tambo International Airport

Take the R21-North to Pretoria. Shortly before Pretoria, turn onto the N1-North towards Polokwane and then later the N4-West towards Rustenburg. Pass through the Pelindaba tollgate and turn off at the R511 Pelindaba/Hartebeespoort Dam off-ramp. Follow the signs to Brits. Just after the Caltex garage on the left- (before reaching Brits), turn right at the first 4-way intersection. Travel on the R566 towards Rosslyn. Pass the Brits abattoir and turn left at the sign to Lethlabile. Follow the signs towards Lethlabile until you get into Jerico. Turn right at the T-junction and almost immediately left towards Legonyane. Continue for 23km and follow the signs to Borakalalo NR. Turn left at the Borakalalo sign and continue on this dirt road until you reach the entrance gate. Please watch out for speed traps, speed humps, stray animals, potholes and pedestrians. It is approximately 2hours and 30 minutes to the site.

GPS Co-ordinates

Location Latitude Longitude
Borakalalo Game Reserve S 25° 9' 33.00" E 27°48' 21.00"


Park Manager: Kwape Poloko Modise

Information Tel: +27 (0)71 301 3354/5
Tel/Fax: (012) 729 4014
Fax: 086 540 8330
E-mail: or

Accommodation Tel: +27 (012) 729 4101/2/3

Postal Address: PO Box 240, Jericho, 1089, South Africa

Entry Fee: Vehicle R10
Day visitors: Adults R25

Gate opening and closing times
Open: 05h00 06H00
Close: 19h00 18H00

Pilansburg National Park

Pilanesberg National Park lies 160 km north-west of Johannesburg, and is the fourth-largest protected area in South Africa. The park covers a wide range of habitats, including vleis, lakes, streams, thick bush, broadleaved and Acacia woodland, koppies, open grasslands and former farmlands. The park encompasses the Pilanesberg mountains and is a malaria-free region. The resulting structure is a ring-complex of concentric koppies, the highest being 1,669 m, interspersed in a matrix of low-lying plains. Much of this 27 km diameter circular park is accessible from the 200 km network of good roads either on a self drive basis or on guided game drives.

Owing to the extensive range of habitats and the fact that the park is situated on the transitional zone between the dry western and moister eastern parts of the country has resulted in the park listing over 350 bird species and a large variety of other wildlife including the " Big Five". To aid viewing experiences, a number of hides have been built at key spots especially a very popular one at Mankwe dam. Other highlights are the number of excellent viewing points eg Lenong and Makorwane Dam, picnic sites like Fish Eagle as well as the self-guided trail at Manyane camp.

pilansbergThe park is a registered Important Bird Area (SA023) and provides refuge to a number of globally and nationally threatened species including Cape Vulture, African Finfoot, Bateleur and Grass Owl. This park provides birders with many opportunities to enjoy the typical birds of the bushveld with a number of Kalahari specials thrown in as well and to add to the challenge a large number of larger and smaller raptors are present throughout the year. One raptor of special interest is a melanistic Gabar Goshawk. This bird has nested in the Manyane Camp for some time, pairing up with a normal grey-form partner. It has been recorded throughout the Park at different stages. Other birds of particular interest are Southern Pied Babbler with their very contrasting white plumage, Crimson-breasted Shrike often seen as a flash of brilliant red moving through the trees emitting their characteristic telephone like call, large numbers of colourful waxbills including the Violet-eared and Black-faced Waxbill, striking flocks of Violet-backed Starlings, Kori Bustards and Secretary birds often seen in pairs strutting over the grassy plains, the rare Osprey is often seen at Mankwe Dam. Great Spotted Cuckoo is seen occasionally, in amongst the Red-chested, Black, Diderick's and Klaas' Cuckoos that call constantly in summer. Although a rarity to these parts, Pennant-winged Nightjar was recorded in 2007 and 2008, and all the sightings are focused around the roads in the vicinity of Mankwe Dam. Also worth keeping an eye open for is White-backed Night Heron that are occasionally seen around Makorwane Dam and down the river towards Mankwe Dam. The best times for finding these birds are when they are most active in early morning and late afternoon. The parks gates open from 6.00am to 6.30 pm from April to August and then 5.30 am to 7.00 pm from September to March.


Of special interest in the area was a discovery of Yellow-throated Sandgrouse in March 2008. The waterhole utilized by the birds is literally a stone's throw from Sun City's main gate, and is fairly accessible. Best time for viewing is in the afternoon, generally between 16:00 and 17:00. This is completely opposite to what most Field Guides say about the drinking habits. Sightings are very good during the autumn and winter months, due to a general lack of water in the area, but the Sandgrouse sightings decrease as the summer rains start. The experience of watching large flocks of Yellow-throated Sandgrouse arriving to drink, at times over 80 – 100 birds each shouting their unique call, is not to be missed! If you are willing to sit a while, you will also be rewarded with great sightings of Double-banded Sandgrouse as they arrive to drink as it gets dark.

Keep a lookout on the Birdnets for updates, or contact Stuart Groom on or +27 (0)83 258 5751 for directions and a more up to date report.


From Johannesburg take the N1 north. Take the exit onto the N4 towards Rustenburg. Then take the exit towards the R556 / Bapong / Modderspruit, turn right. Continue for 50 km then turn right onto the R510. Continue for another 30 km and then turn left towards Pilansberg National Park.

Alternatively continue with the N4 towards Rustenburg then take the exit towards Howick Ave, turn right, then left onto Nelson Mandela Street after 3,5 km. Continue onto the Swartruggens Road (R104) for 5.7 km. Then turn right onto the R565 (go through 1 roundabout) and continue for 32 km before turning right onto the R556. The Park is about 60 km north of Rustenburg.

GPS Co-ordinates

Location Latitude Longitude
Main Gate S 25°22.671' E 27°05.984'

Additional Information

There is a wide variety of accommodation available to suit all tastes from upmarket lodges, chalets to caravan and camping facilities. The two best known reserve camps are Manyane and Bakgatla a mere 15 km apart.


Tel: + 27 (0)14 555 1600
Fax: +27 (0)14 555 5525