Clients often ask when the best time of the year is for game viewing, which is a difficult question to answer because each season holds its own beauty - but winter is definitely one of the more spectacular times to visit the beautiful Pilanesberg National Park.
Game viewing is remarkable this time of the year. Wildlife tends to stay active for longer periods on cooler days. As water becomes harder to find, different species tend to gather around the same waterholes, often making interesting interactions between them. Elusive species such as leopards are easier to spot on cool winter days. For those who visit the park often, you would know that the buffalo are rare to see. In the winter they move out of the wilderness and are often seen around popular waterholes such as Makorwane dam.
With winter being a quiet time in the park, you have the rare chance to enjoy more private game drives, with sightings that are never too crowded - this is something that a lot of safari-goers crave.
I have personally always preferred the winter months over the busy, hot and sometimes rainy summer months, having had some of my most special sightings during that time. Leopards and lions, strolling down the roads in the golden light of early sunrise. Spectacular elephant sightings at the waterholes on warmer afternoons and buffalo-lion interactions there too.
One cold winter, the buffalo herd was being seen every day around Makorwane. I returned day after day with guests to meet the buffalo drinking at 7 am every morning. One particular morning, I arrived at the dam with my guests, but the buffalo were nowhere to be seen. Feeling rather disappointed, we continued our game drive. Just around a bend, a magnificent scene unfolded in front of us. A family of lions had just pulled down a buffalo next to the road! We spent about an hour watching them feeding, without any disturbance from other vehicles.
Rain and her cubs
One morning, after returning from a game drive with guests, the unmistakable silhouette of a cheetah caught my eye. It was sitting straight up like a beacon on the plains in front of the lodge. I stopped to look with my binoculars and quickly noticed that it was the cheetah called Rain. Next to her were four tiny bundles! Her little cubs had only been seen twice before this day and were still very nervous around vehicles. I quietly drove towards them, and there they were. Shiny coats in the morning winter sun, lying in the golden grass, snuggled up next to their beautiful mother. We watched them for quite some time before I advised my guests that it would be best to leave them be, not wanting to overstay our welcome with this beautiful family. While the guests were having breakfast, they could still see them from the balcony upstairs. Later they disappeared into the golden plains around the lodge.
Written by Jann-Rick Louw, Game Ranger at Tshukudu Bush Lodge.
Image by Jann-Rick Louw