You’ll find excellent game-viewing destinations in the North West province, along with other attractions that offer fabulous short breaks for the city slickers of Johannesburg and Pretoria.
The majority of its activities are clustered along its eastern side, where you’ll find most of its game reserves, and most of its human population too. The western stretches are mostly uninhabited.
The beauty of Pilanesberg Nature Reserve is in its size. It has all members of the Big Five and is contained by a ring of mountains formed from ancient volcanic eruptions. You’re pretty likely to see everything in a day, but the scenery is genuine safari. It’s a brilliant place for an early morning hot air balloon trip too.
Right next to Pilanesberg is Sun City, originally built as a casino resort. Gambling is still a big drawcard, but now there are numerous attractions which make it idea for a family holiday. The Valley of the Waves has a man-made beach with a wave machine and water slides. There’s also a cinema, games arcade, a petting zoo, a crocodile farm, horse riding, quad biking, Butterfly World, boat rides, parasailing and jet skiing. The resort runs supervised programmes for kids, while adults get the casino, a gym, a spa and two golf courses.
Hartbeespoort Dam is a popular day trip or weekend away for Joburgers. You can catch a cable car up into the Magaliesberg mountains for some delightful views. The dam is busy with boats, windsurfers, water skiers and jet skiers. Some local tour operators offer quad biking in the hillsides, as well as rock climbing and abseiling.
Up by the border with Botswana is Madikwe Game Reserve, one of South Africa’s best Big Five and malaria-free game reserves. It was created when struggling cattle farms were turned over to the more profitable idea of tourism. Operation Phoenix was launched in 1991 and by 1997 more than 8 000 animals had been introduced in the world’s largest ever game translocation. It worked brilliantly and Madikwe boasts several high-class lodges, as well as more affordable accommodation, staffed by people drawn from the local communities.