Pilanesberg National Park
Veld Condition in Pilanesberg National Park
Please note that I miss updating a month or a year sometime - I just don't have enough time.
With the exception of the normal rains end Jan, it has been a real dry year. That was till the last week in April; I think it is the 1st time ever I saw campers packing up & leaving on a Saturday morning. It seems the masses of water just got soaked up. Ruighoek dam is at the lowest level ever for this month of the year, and I wouldn't be surprised if it dries up totally by August - that will be a 1st. This will mean those hippo will move probably to Bathlako, so there will be a rumble in the jungle between the 2 bulls on offer soon. The veld that was in such good condition is fast going the opposite way, so expect controlled burns from mid May. Everything points to a very cold and dry winter.
Controlled burn in the east from 18 - 20 May, The whole east, so west & south of Dithabaneng, east of Korwe & north of Tshwene, and then Between Nkakane, Tshepe and Tshwene. New growth already showing, so lots of animals will move there. Even though just about no rain in the last 3 months, all dams except Ruighoek are fuller than normal. Because of the lack of veldwater, the buffalo are seen on ave 5 days a week!
16th - Have had some serious rain beginning of the month. Just as the dams started showing a drop they filled up again. I believed the rain was over, but apparently not. It rained right through last night, at least 50 mm.....so the runoff will be substantial. Think back to last year wher the rain carried on for a month longer than normal, and it rained till mid May! Mornings are coolish, and the blankets are out for the open vehicles. The grass is higher the roof high, and lions are scarce. There are 2 male elephant bulls in musth at the moment, so stay further away.
5th - 2010 was an extremely wet year, and we've had great rains in the last 2 weeks. Ruighoek is the only large dam not full. More than half the Park burned in 2010, so currently there is excellent grazing & viewing. 3900 Zebra, Wildebeest and Impala were swopped for 38 Rhino last year, and I don't think I have ever seen so much meat on the hoof/day as I do currently. And all in top condition! And I believe it's also the most number of lions the Park has been able to carry...
26th - Rained hard last week Monday night, and intermittantly since then, it's even raining raining right now. All dams are full, and it's the 1st time in 9 years I saw Ruighoeks' run off. At Mankwe dam also 2 things I haven't ever seen, water standing up to the Mankwe bridge, and that the dam stretches onto the gravel on Hippo loop... About 1/4 of the gravel roads have been closed with most reopening, but all have damage, so go slow. Even slower if you can't see what's coming. The grass is Kombi roof high already at some places in the north.
3rd - All dams are as full as I've ever seen them. The grass is incredibly head high at places & you will waste your time going in a sedan. The animals are there but seem to disappear. Some roads are a bit washed away. Unlike last year the rain didn't come soft and frequently, but hard and fast. The viewpoint was closed as the Park was fixing the road. Sightingwise the elephant breeding herds have been scarce, and you can easily pass them if you go too fast. 2 Bulls in musth, and dangerous. People also as thick as bricks - a sedan was overturned in January as they were parked in by others. 1 woman ran into the veld just before and the other to a car behind them. I've had a couple of uncomfortable ele experiences this year as well, tx to dense people and a green tour operator winding them up.....give space space space! And ff sakes shut off your diesel engine & aircon. The frequency of a diesel engine interferes with the elephants language frequency. Then petrol engines & aircons...when will people realise if you keep it running, you can't hear nature? Must I throw eggs at your windscreen like one of the guides in Kruger when you spoil our viewing or what? A last word on running your engine. If you park behind me wanting to make an ele sandwich out of me I will without hesitation ram your car when you endanger our lives. Ele's that get upset charges the 1st car, not the one making the noise....and lots of times that's me! O, and I have a spare just outside the Park - I don't think you do :) This goes for Michael Schumakers' cousins from Jo'burg as well...I've nearly had 2 wipeouts by yuppies doing at least 80km's /h iso 40.
12th - Only a couple of thunderstorm with lightning and very little rain. This is the best condition I've seen the Park in, in the last 7 years. If you want to see Buffalo and the last 6 Sable this year, you will have to go in the next week before the rains come....
Amazingly the Park had not only had good rain in winter, but was also warm....so the effect is that all the burnt areas has turned green at least a month before it normally does. However the water are scarcer, and the male hippo has been having territorial fights, with 2 seperate deaths in the last 2 weeks. Saw more hippo on Tshepe where I've never seen them before. The Park will look fantastic in the next 3 months. even the next 7.
The lions are exactly the colour of the grass, but this is the grass that is left. There has been a 2nd and 3 fire going through the Park that came from outside when the local yokels burn their rubbish and the fire jumps. So grazing is not great, but the dams are still in good nick, thanks to great rainfall earlier in the year. Tilodi dam is a bit low, but you could have knocked me over with a feather when I saw a hippo in Dithabaneng pan last week. It's dry along Nare, so look for the Sable around there. There is also a different bull in Musth.
6th - Rained the night of the 1st, but some dams are running low. The level of Tilodi, the Tau link waterhole, Sable dam have all dropped significantly. Twin dams are just about dry. However, Makorwane, Mankwe & Malatse is as full as they can be. The grass is incredibly long, especially in the north, so drive slow especially if you don't have a line of sight - I had 3 incidents of yahoo cowboys speeding form the front & nearly hitting me. The roads have just about all been worked on and are in the best ever condition except for Kubu, that is still full of potholes even though they fixed most. The early morning is now freezing....no more shorts :) Animalwise the ele's have been exceptionally scarce, but then the 5th I found 6 breeding herds, so they are back. Take care as there is at least 1 Bull in Musth.
12 Feb - Raining hard at the moment, and has been raining lots during the last month. All dams except are full, and Mankwe the fullest I've seen since 2000. We only had 30 minutes sunshine in 3 days end Jan. Elephants have totally disappeared for the last 25 days, but you might find the occasional male. If you really want to see them try the Moloto road but only if you have a 4x4, otherwise go extremely slow in the southern section. Open vehicle drives are cold, so take your jackets. The veld is lush, and lion sightings difficult - I only had 3 out of 5 so far this year
3 Nov - The rains have just started, but the ground just soaks it up! The is the best condition I've ever seen the Park in. The water level at Ratlhogo is really low, so expect it to dry up. Sable twice on Nare, but no buffalo - did see them twice in Oct. Lilac breasted rollers nesting and feeding youngsters, and look out for the blue headed Agama. Also look at the waterbuck wanting to mate, as well as the young hartebeest and tsessebe. Then look for the Impala that will drop any day, as well as the wildebeest later in November. Don't miss the Park in the next 2 weeks if you can help it!!
This is the warmest winter we have had in my memory. Elephants are already splashing in the mud, much earlier than normal. Absolutely no rain and no puddles, but the dams are incredibly full. The only dam that had a visible drop in a week is Tilodi dam, near Manyane - it should be the 1st one to run low/dry. There is still seepage at the salt spring on Dithabaneng, as well as on my indicator rock near Ratlhogo, so forget about seeing the buffalo this year. I did however see sable last month on Nare, so just maybe there is hope as they indicate very little water in the west and northwest. The Makorwane hide is no more, taken by a fire, and today (18th), Kwa Maritane Lodge had some serious fire as well and has closed till further notice as well. The grass at the burnt areas are much much greener than normal - mid August looks like end September. I expect the next couple of months to give incredible sightings - I've never seen the veld in such top condition.
This is the fullest I've ever seen all the dams in early winter. Some light rain in the 1st week of June. There are still some signs of a few little puddles from heights, but from the roads it looks bone dry. There has been some fires, with some regrowth, but it is getting a bit cold for it to sustain. Have seen frost twice already, so some of the mornings are bitterly cold. But then the days are just fantastic. For the animals this will be a great winter. For us the chances of seeing buffalo and sable will be even less than normal.
Have spend 3 days in the last 10 in the Park. The Mankwe dam is finally as full as it was 3 years ago, but can still take some water. Most days are partially cloudy, with a bit of rain here and there. I could see the water level drop in some dams in the space of a week. The elephants are back in full force from the Wilderness area. From not seeing any on the 1 day, we saw 70 in the space of a couple of hours. The grass is extremely long and starting to seed, and the Park is extremely busy. Many people are travelling too fast around blind corners, so take it easy. Some places even 4x4's are covered by the grass. The Impalas were late giving birth last year, and their rutting season is also starting late. Look out for the males taking each other on in the next 2 months.
More rains, and mist some mornings. The veld is looking fantastic. Mankwe dam still empty but fuller than in Dec, with all other dams full.
More rains, but totally weird. Though Weather SA has no recorded rainfall for PB, there has been small falls nearly every 2nd We had huge hail friday 23rd, half the size of apricots. Several car windscreens and tents in Manyane was wrecked. More hail Saturday 24th as well. Huge mist over the centre and surrounds that only lifted 10am. The main dam stays empty but the others fullish, except Ratlhogo, where the hippo left. Saw the 1st Impala arrival wednesday 21 Nov but no signs of any others - was in the park 18 - 25th open to close. Growth is lush, as there is a bit of regular rain. Spotting is already extremely difficult, so go extra slow for the next 5 months. Also saw young tsessebe& red hartebeest, and signs of a steenbok born that day, but didn't see the youngster. Springbok and wildebeest should be there any day! Beware of 2 irritated male ele's in musth. Though both in 1st phase stay 30m away from any big ele's for the next 6 months. They will charge - 10 m in 0,9 seconds!
More rains till mid month with no rain the last week till 23rd, so most water in the veld has dried up. Dams as below with Ratlhogo also pretty full. Hippo in Ratlhogo for the 1st time in 5 years, probably a young male. Park is looking awesome with lots of food. Start looking out for animals on their own early morning - calving season is just about here!
Unnatural rains since end Sept, so there are huge pools of water everywhere. All marked dams except the main Mankwe dam are full to the brim (didn't see Ratlhogo). In fact I can't remember when last the dams were this full, very weird for Pilanesberg, especially for Sept. The Park has started to turn green and the next 2 months it will turn into a lush paradise. As 2/3 of the Park has been burned (not planned, nature), it will make for excellent viewing. Forget about seeing the sable and buffalo again till dry season next year. Go really slow from end Sept, the bush will be thick.
Even more dry, but we had some rain the night of 18 Sep, about 5 min, just to scare us! There was very little sign of it the next day, totally soaked up. The only side where it was still bone dry was the south western side. Will give the veld a small kickstart, but we need at least 2 more light falls like this before monthend for it to have any effect. The veld on the south side east of Kubu had a burn on the 19th, so this will be a good area to view in the next 2 weeks. Viewing continues to be awesome, I'll try post pics. Getting warm, crocs and hippo are disappearing, but ele's went into the water 1st time since winter. Go slow, and you have a chance of finding black rhino (2/last5)
The Park has never been so dry ever! Though the Park doesn't look like much, not very eye-catching, the sightings have been absolutely awesome. Have had incredible sightings the last 5 months, but believe me it was not easy. Right now there's been like 5 days in a row where no one saw lions or elephants. I would say the animals are not behaving normally. The Ratlhogo pump has been running just about every time I was there since May. Had some more Sable coming from nowhere - seen 12 on 1 day. Out of the last 10 days I was in the Park I saw Eland and Buffalo 3 times, and Caracal an unbelievable 5 times! Saw the 2 lion cubs everyone though got wasted in June. Do yourself I favour - you don't have to come with me but you HAVE to go to Pilanesberg in the next 10 weeks!
Good rain Su night 8 April & sporadic bits of rain the next week. Got hail at Manyane when driving out Fr 13th. You can clearly see the grass starting to grow at most burnt places and it should look awesome in the weeks to come. Still warm and actually much warmer in the morning than 1 month ago; so we will get at least 1 month of good growth. Absolute excellent sightings - saw 9 sable(the only ones in the Park) as they are out their normal area, about 12 steenbok with half of them mating thanks to no grass where they can hide, kudu mating, waterbuck trying to mate, herds of elephants and brown hyena 3 times, the elusive eland quite close. Dam levels as below. The only downside of the fire is that the 2 lion cubs got taken out by the buffalo. The buffalo are back in the wilderness area though thanks to the rain.
Have done about 15 days in the Park before the fire that just ravaged half of the Park just now. Was there Saturday 17 March when it started, drove through it Monday 19th & still saw smoldering bits on Sunday 25, a week later. The water level in all dams except the full Dithabaneng is the lowest I've ever seen it. Half the Park burned down, but I expected worse. Though the Park looks pretty bad in general the next 2 months will be an excellent opportunity to view game. The long grass is missing in half the Park, enabling everyone to view steenbok & similar game with ease. There is nothing so easy as seeing a leopard cross a blackened bit of earth. The grass next to the roads are already growing again, thanks to the heat - saw the green shoots next to Tau link. All we need is a bit of rain and the Park will look absolutely amazing, like in spring. If you are considering not going to the Park think again. Saw lion & steenbok each 3 times on Sunday, giraffe eating still nutritious dead leaves, my 1st ever Abdim's Stork out of about 250 full days. And there was no grass stalks in the way messing my focus up, only the ever present 4x4 diesel idiots that still doesn't know that their key can also turn their engines off..... Most the western side is burned, and half of the north eastern quarter.
Though there has been constant rain, levels are still low. Believe there will be a serious water problem by Aug 2007. Bush is thickening. Hailstorm just after Xmas & incredibly hot.
30 Oct 06
Most dams are at the lowest level I have seen. Only 49 mm was recorded for Oct and most were soaked right up by the soil. The short previously burned grass looked pretty bad till the rain in the last week. The advantage is unusual sightings like 8 steenbok on 1 day but buffalo sightings are still rare. So are eland, sable and oryx. Rhino are everywhere. Several sightings of small predators like serval & caracal points to an increase in their numbers. I also had the privilege to see a magnificent pair of African Hawk Eagles on the 30th.
1 Aug 06
A huge part of the southern part of the Park caught fire. NW Parks were doing controlled fire breaks on 31 July with no wind on the menu. The wind however came up from nowhere and it was out of control in a flash. The wind died overnight but at about 10am on 2 Aug it was howling again. Thankfully about 2pm the whole area got lots of rain (not normal) and the fire basically died out. So just about the whole southern side of the Park between Kwa and Bakubung has been burned. Of the rest of the Park about 1/3 has been burned as well and has short green grass giving excellent viewing opportunities for steenbok and all others. The dams were all emptier than normal except Ratlhogo and Malatse that was pretty full for this time of the year. I 'll have to check the level after the rain as I left thanks to the wind & rain. Don't even think of doing an open vehicle drive in the next week - you WILL turn into a block of ice!
Mid May 06
The color has radically changed from 3 weeks ago, the grass is already yellow. Water is already scarcer and a few of the smaller waterholes have already dried up. Already cold enough for the hippo to come out in the day but the crocs are still in the water. The Ellies have been scarce but are starting to come out. Already had the 1st fire, the area/block on the Pilanesberg Center side. Note the Pilanesberg Canter burned down beginning of April and the incidents are not related. Another successful BEE initiative.....
Mid March 06:
Rainfall in Feb was 183mm, so the last 2 months provided 2/3 of the ave yearly rainfall. Just note that it is the same in Kruger - both Parks are flourishing grass & plantwise. There is still a lot of water all over the Park and the grass is even longer than 3 weeks ago - didn't believe it was possible. If you are "brave" enough to go don't even think of going faster than 20km's /h - saw a Toyota Hi Ace that was charged by a hippo in a rest area - the holes in the body are bigger than my thumbs and the jawspan marks on the body was between 60 & 70 cm. Also be extremely careful not to run into a moody male elephant. There is one that took out a BMW about 4 weeks back. If you don't know what you are doing, rather if you are not qualified or experienced, avoid going for the next 2 months.
25 Feb 06:
Heavy rainfall is evident and is not stopping. I won't be surprised if we have floods in Mozambique in March. Don't even bother going if you are going in a sedan; the grass is the longest I have seen it. We had an excellent lion sighting 7 m from the road, but no one other than Kombis, 4x4's and trucks could see it. So don't throw your toys out your cot if you drive a sedan, you won't see it anyway. And remember, 1st sighter has right of sight. All dams are pretty full except Ruighoek and Manwke; that is still quite empty. Animals are scarce; or rather not visible. Surprisingly the roads are in good shape for volume of rain, with only a couple of potholes.
14 Feb 06:
The Jan rainfall was 181mm, more then double the ave, and on 14 Feb we already had the ave Feb rainfall. I even ran into severe hail in Jan. The strange thing is that most dams are not as full as they should be; there were lots of soft rain. Spotting is extremely difficult, grass is long & lush. Most elephant breeding groups have moved off to the Wilderness area - if they are around you probably won't see them. If you drive yourself be extremely careful & don't speed. If you want to do a walk rather not - they had to shoot a charging black rhino 2 weeks ago....
- 21 Nov 05:
Just had some good rain all over the Park but the dams are still low. Better than average chance to see buffalo than normal - 12th time of 200. Fewer animals around the dams than before as there are some puddles in the veld. Very warm from 11am
- 24 Oct 05 -the Veld Condition was:
2/3 the Park burned, extremely dry, extremely hot; with no rain yet for the last months. The 1mm that was measured over last weekend fell on the edge in the south and covered very little of the Park. Temperatures are already 32 and 34C, above the average. No chance of rain in the next week. There is only a 20 % chance of 5mm+ total in the week thereafter. Even 2mm now will transform the Park within 3 days. It is not every day where you can actually see the water levels drop visibly, i.e. Ratlhogo last week - should be nearly dry by now, will check again tomorrow.. Then Tilodi dam had a 2m diameter left in the morning of 21 Oct, by afternoon there was only mud left. Also the Mankwe level is the lowest I can remember it, but this is probably as there is a leak in the dam wall that is getting worse! We have already seen young Red Hartebeest(1 Month old), Springbok(1w & 3w), Tsessebe(1w), and though anytime; elephant(3 days old, now 13 days).
What is amazing is that the animal behavior is changing & adapting & I have seen more weird and exiting sightings over the last 2 weeks ( 7 days in the Park) than I normally see in a year. We've seen:
3 Grey Rhebok - there has only been 5 reported sightings over the last 5 years
Common Reedbuck twice - also never seen them in the Park before.
2 Bushbuck 8 m away - only 2 sightings before.
Caracal 6 m away- only 1 sighting before
34+ Buffalo 70 m away - with 8 of 9 previous sightings they were > 500m away
4 Klipspringer together - this just doesn't happen; always 2, occasionally 3.
4 white rhino charging and chasing a breeding herd of 12 elephant for more than 80m, I 've never heard of any guide that has seen this.
Kudu barking on 2 occasions
Steenbok 3 times on 1 day
Sable twice - 7 2 weeks ago and 6 last thursday, 1 youngster was eaten - there are now only 14 total left.
So right now is the time to go; there is some real unusual activity afoot!!
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