Issue 26
Face the Facts
Getting to know the Pilansberg National Park in more bushwhacking detail
  ·  2016-06-28  ·   Source:

 

Bakubung Pilanesberg Boma Sunset (COURTESY OF PILANSBERG NATIONAL PARK)

Did you know that 1.4 kg of elephant dung can vanish within just two hours when 16,000 greedy dung beetles arrive at the scene to collect their piece of the pie? Or that buffalo are said to have killed more hunters in Africa than any other wild animal on earth? Then there's the 'I can't believe that's true' fact that elephants can hear one another's trumpeting calls from up to 8 km away.  

Nothing is more captivating than the African bush and with Legacy Hotels and Resorts' buffet of luxury game-viewing destinations tucked in the expanses of the malaria-free Pilanesberg National Park, you'll be amazed by some of the lesser known facts you'll learn whilst on safari. 

Kwa Maritane Elephant Game Drive

Fact attack

Well-known for their genuine wildlife experiences and quality field guides, we chatted to Kwa Maritane Bush Lodge's Head Guide, Juan Heydenrych (who accompanied Arnold Schwarzenegger during his recent well publicized meeting with a bull elephant), and Bakubung's Senior Guide, Lucy Mabaso, for 10 most fascinating facts on the bush that even South African's may not know. 

1. Pilanesberg is the only reserve set in an alkaline ring complex (of which there are only three in the world). An ancient alkaline volcano fashioned the very hills that Kwa Maritane stands on today, hence the Lodge's name, which literally means "Place of the Rock." Fortunately the volcano is long extinct, having erupted 1,200 million years back. 

2. In the Pilanesberg, traces of the Tswana people’s habitation are found, dating back to 1750 AD although many traces can be found in the Rustenberg area dating as far back as 1300 AD. Scattered throughout Pilansberg, are various sites that originate from the Iron Age and Stone Age and which show the presence of man in those periods in these areas. 

3. Then there is the ground-breaking Project Genesis - the largest game translocation undertaken in the world. In the early 1980s, more than 6,000 animals from other parks were settled in the Pilanesberg. A total of $97,000 was spent on the game fence surrounding the Park, while $116,000 was spent on the game itself. Today the area has virtually all animal species of southern Africa, including lions, elephants, buffaloes, leopards, zebras, hyenas, giraffes, hippos and crocodiles, not to mention more than 350 bird species. 

4. When it comes to the best time of the year to safari April, May and September come out tops. Wildlife is easier to spot because there is less vegetation and animals gather around rivers and waterholes. There's also less chance of being caught in a storm while in the middle of a game drive. Skies are clear and most days are sunny. There are also fewer critters and a lot less mosquitos to bug you while counting stars. 

 

Kwa Maritane Elephant Panoramic 

 5. Game viewing can be compared to fishing. You never know what fish you're going to catch but you can narrow the possibilities down a bit depending on what bait you put on the end of the hook. In this instance, rangers are the "hook." You'll see far more on a guided safari than in your own vehicle. Rangers have the advantage of knowing their park backwards. They know which animals stay in which areas and for how long they hang around. They're also a wealth of knowledge when it comes to all aspects of nature, including mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, plants, grasses, soils and trees. 

6. When it comes to successful hunts, the lion's share goes to the African wild dog. They are Africa’s most effective predators, boasting an 80 percent success rate with hunts; far higher than the 30 percent rate of lions. 

7. The average age of lions living in the Pilansberg is 12 years old. Ketimetsi, a male lion who lived in Kwa Maritane, made news headlines in May when he passed away at the astonishing age of 17. 

8. The best hotspots for a variety of game viewing including elephants, rhino, lion, crocodiles, birds, leguans and terrapins, is Mankwe hide, situated on the edge of the Mankwe dam (the largest body of water in the Pilanesberg), and Makuwani hide, but prepare to be patient as good things come to those who wait. 

9. While at Kwa Maritane Bush Lodge and Bakubung Bush Lodge you may inadvertently encounter the Ficus wasp - but because of its size (they're less than 2 mm long) you'll likely be unaware that the chance meeting even took place. What makes this wasp so ingenious is the way it pollinates figs. The female wasp crawls in through a tiny hole in the bottom of the fig and lays eggs before dying. After hatching the male fig wasp bites a hole through the flower wall and impregnates the hatching females. He then chops a tunnel for his pregnant pollen-dusted female to escape from the fig. You'll be surprised to learn that while the Ficus trees that grow in the Pilansberg are not as big as you'd expect them to be, some are more than 300 years old. 

10. The term "Big 5" has nothing to do with size because a giraffe is obviously bigger than a lion. It originally referred to the difficulty in hunting lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and African buffalo. These five large African mammal species were known to be dangerous and it was considered a feat by trophy hunters to bring them home. Contrary to popular belief, the Black rhino is part of the Big 5 and not the White rhino. Although much smaller than the white rhino (a ton or more lighter), the Black rhino is more dangerous due to its more curious nature, keen eyesight and feisty attitude. So we even have it wrong on the R10 note. 

The Pilanesberg Game Reserve is located in North West Province in South Africa, west of Pretoria. The park borders with the entertainment complex Sun City. The park is currently administered by the North West Parks and Tourism Board. 

Address: Bojanala, North West

Area: 572 square km

Phone: 014 555 1600  

Website: http://www.pilanesbergnationalpark.org/ 

Getting there: 

There are daily direct flights from Chinese mainland to Johannesburg with Air China. From there the Park is about  three hours’ drive away so we recommend you either hire a car or take one of the many shuttle services to the Park.  

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