Updated: Sep 3, 2019 @

how successful was our big 5 african safari land

One of the experiences we were looking forward to on our recent trip to Johannesburg in South Africa was a chance to see animals up close and personal in their natural habitat. That of course meant a safari! Due to a lack of time, we were not able to do a really long one, as in 3 days. We opted for a day safari at Pilanesberg  National Park, located in the North West Province of South Africa, close to Pretoria, about a two hour drive from Johannesburg.

Big Game Hunting in Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa

pilanesburg park entrance on our big 5 african safari

The Park entrance. One of several, so it was not packed at all.

A friend of ours, Nadine had recently visited South Africa, used a small tour company called Felleng Tours and had nothing but positive things to say about the experience. I had previously been researching another company until l remembered her post. I quickly abandoned the big company l had been contemplating, not just because they were slow to respond, but they had so many trips, they couldn’t even figure out which one l was talking about or explain the bait and switch pricing on their website. Moved a few things around, and we were able to arrange our safari with Agnes, who runs Felleng Tours with her husband, Rudie.

The advantage of going with Felleng Tours included :

  • Getting picked up directly from our hotel as opposed to a central hotel with other companies. This meant we were able to sleep some more and save a trip to a pickup place.
  • Breakfast sandwiches and snacks provision
  • Water. You do get mighty thirsty
  • Comfortable ride. We were picked up in a sturdy 4 wheel drive SUV. None of that open top crap for me. Any big game that wants a piece of me is going to have to work for it! ;-) .
  • Coziness. It was just the three of us, so no awkward conversation. We had a great time with a local

Agnes picked us up promptly from the hotel at 6.30 and we were on our way. Luckily there was little traffic, and before you know it we were on our hunt for the Big 5!

Pilanesberg National Park History:

Prior to becoming  designated a game reserve in 1979, the grounds were inhabited by the Tswane tribes. Their ruler’s name was Pilane (hence the park name). They were a farming tribe and were relocated and all traces of farming removed. The Pilanesberg town was destroyed and over 6,000 animals were relocated to the 552 square kilometer area. The park is nestled in the crater of an extinct volcano and is close to the Kalahari desert. Artifacts have been found to confirm that human beings were in the area as far back as 200,000 years back in the Stone Age.

It was quite a contrast to what one is used to seeing on television like in National Geographic where the forest is lushly green and there are watering holes aplenty. Unfortunately, we saw dusty, orange caked landscape. It hadn’t rained in forever and all the watering holes had dried up. Literally dried up, save for some where we saw the rhinoceros.

The African Safari Big 5 Game:

  • Lion
  • Leopard
  • Rhinoceros
  • Elephant
  • Buffalo

Big 5 Safari: Our success


how successful was our big 5 african safari search lions

Why do a safari in South Africa? To see wonderful animals like this in their natural settings of course. About as close as l would ever want to be though.


pilanesberg park lions African safari big 5 search

Lions nesting at Pilanesberg National Park Johannesbug in South Africa.

Success!!! We found them! I absolutely didn’t think we’d see any, so l didn’t get my hopes up. It ended up being the first of the Big 5 that we saw. Agnes, as she drove would slow down to chat with other drivers and because she knew her way around the park drove us to the exact spot where someone had spotted some. It was quite thrilling to see them just laying about. Being a Leo, l was proud as a peacock to see them.


No luck there, go figure. That was the one animal l thought we’d see plenty of. I wasn’t disappointed though, we saw plenty of them in India. Maybe next time. There are not sighted often according to the park.

Big 5 animals: Leopard:

Another fail! As you might know, leopards are nocturnal animals, so l had absolutely no hopes of seeing one. I also couldn’t be bothered to come to the park in darkness just to spot them. We will have to save that for the big time safari.


how successful was our big 5 african safari rhino

Magnificent beast! We spotted her first.


mother and baby rhino grazing pilanesberg on our big 5 south african safari

To protect them from poachers, you are not allowed to disclose on the park data if you see them. With the other animals you can so other visitors can find them easier.

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Success!!!! We saw quite a few, all White Rhinos. The Black ones are very rare to spot.  Another advantage of being a small group was the fact that Agnes could quickly manouver the vehicle to get us a good vantage point. She also had the most amazing eagle eye too. She spotted every animal way before we did, even with me and binoculars :-) . She was always spot on and would drive quickly towards wherever they were heading because she knew the park like the back of her hand. At various times, we spotted a herd, but this mother/baby duo was our favorite. They were so happy go lucky grazing.


pilanesberg park elephant our biggest find on our big 5 african safari search

Up close and personal with an elephant.

Success!!! I was really happy we saw some. The first go round, Agnes spotted a herd of them but they were so faraway, l was disappointed, even though l was still going to count it as a win. Just after lunch as we resumed the safari, she stopped short and boom! less than 200 feet away from us was a rogue elephant. It was not in a good mood.

Yeah.. I was terrified and told Agnes to hightail it out of there :-) . She was quite calm, kept the car running, ready to move if we had to. It was on one side of the street and looking pretty pissed. We waited for him to cross. It took him about half an hour :-) . He trumpeted, gave himself a sand bath and finally lumbered across the road. I kept thinking it was going to turn towards us and charge, but it never did, thank goodness. I’ve seen pictures of elephants sitting on the cars of  idiots who get too close.

How successful was our search for the Big 5 on this safari?

Our total score was 3 out of 5! I call that a successful safari. In addition to these beasts, we saw plenty of other animals. The Pilanesberg National Park is home to over 300 species of birds and 65 species of reptiles (thank god we didn’t see any of those!) as well as the bigger animals. We saw quite a few other animals throughout the day, including Bush Pig, Warthogs and even dung beetles.

We also encountered Wildebeest:

pilanesburg park wildebeest see on our african big 5 safari hunt

Kind of ugly and cute at the same time..


pilanesberg wildebeest herd

Lots of Pilanesberg Park Wildebeest. One of the few places that had a minute amount of water. The animals were skinny.

So many Zebras

pilaneberg park zebra crossing

Would this be a Zebra crossing ;-) ?

pilanesberg park lone zebra

Such beautiful animals. Zebra at Pilanesberg in Johannesburg.


giraffe pilanesberg park

After not finding any all morning, these two just came wandering by the restaurant..yeah!


They were later joined by these two.. very playful.

They were later joined by these two Kudu.. very playful.


Forget the name of these (not deer) but they call them the McDonalds for lions because their rump has an M :-)

Forget the name of these (not deer) but they call them the McDonalds for lions because their rump has an M :-)


pilanesberg park hippo

We even spotted a hippo, but it wouldn’t come fully out of the water. Must have been shy! I also think it should count as one of the Big 5! ;-)

pilaneberg park watering hole in our big 5 african safari

A lot of the watering holes were very dry in Pilanesburg.

We absolutely loved our safari day with Felleng Tours. Very highly recommended. The price was just about $160 per person and it was well worth it for the convenience and personal touch. It has left us wanting more safari adventures. Not just in S. Africa, but in Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania. You name it! :-) .  I hope we get to revisit this lovely place soon. After the somewhat emotional day at the museum, this was a nice way to end our trip.

felleng tours johannesburg agnes

A long day spent in the company of Agnes. Totally worth it!

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Big 5 Africa Safari:

Things to remember on a safari: African Safari Tips

  • Don’t be a schmuck! Give the animals wide berth, you are in their territory.
  • Don’t leave your vehicle except for designated areas
  • Keep to the speed limit.
  • No littering
  • Take plenty of water
  • Wear a hat and sunscreen if it’s hot
  • Keep noise to a minimum

Pin it for later:

pilanesburg park elephant sand bath

Sand bath anyone? Rogue elephant at Pilanesburg Park

Pilanesberg National Park Safari #Johannesburg #Southafrica #joburg #safari #africansafari #biggamehunting #big5africa

Have  you ever been on a safari? If yes, did you enjoy it as much as we did. If not, is it something that you would like to do at some point?