THE SCARLET back of a southern red bishop is the most striking naturally occurring colour on Earth.
I realised this on a balmy afternoon at Manyane Resort- Pilanesberg National Park as a gentle breeze swayed the bird’s perch.
We visited the lodge as guests, and one must indicate it’s been ages since yours truly set his foot inside the park, whereupon arrival the usual suspect: kudus, impalas were roaming freely in jubilation at our sight.
In all directions, rugged mountains rise from the archetypal African earth, second in its redness only to the bauble bishop. These are the slopes of the Pilanesberg and they give the park a romance you won’t find anywhere closer to Africa’s economic hub.
Two-and-a-half hours northwest of Johannesburg, this place is like an idyllic island among the mine lands and depressing dorps of the North West province.
As we meander in the latest Mercedes Benz C300 coupe along the R556, we pass industrial towers and mounds of dumped dirt, but by the time I’m surrounded by the Pilanesberg’s ridges, all thoughts of the harsh realities of industrial capitalism vanish.
The mountains (which took their name from Pilane, a Tswana chief who ruled the area in the 1800s) have a sense of impenetrability, rising 700 metres in four concentric circles.
Our Chalet (four-sleeper) consisted of a kitchen, flat screen TV set, one bathroom, a room with a double bed downstairs and two single beds in the upstairs loft area, air-conditioning, a private patio and a braai area and refrigerators.
For those who want to strike the balance between a more authentic experience and comfort, Safari Tents are equipped with electricity, refrigerators, coffee & tea-making facilities, and proper beds. It’s a 3-graded star for keen outdoor enthusiasts.
According to an affable marketing manager at Golden Leopards Resort Merriam Phalatse- who has been with the resort for ages- both Manyane and its sister lodge Bakgatla, they experience an overwhelming bookings from international visitors, especially in winter.
Rustenburg is one hot area in winter and tourists tend to take advantage of it, she continues “this time of the season it’s the busiest”.
The only snag: during our stay there was electricity failure in the evening but was restored in the morning, in time for breakfast that was a hive of activity teeming with international tourists, who were off to a game drive.
Pilanesberg is famous for Big Fives and Malaria free– a draw card for many.
The resort also has a swimming pool, playgrounds, a restaurant, a superette and centrally situated ablution facilities.
The illusion of paradise somewhat shattered, I’m reminded that mzansis temple to kitsch, Sun City, is right at the foot of the reserve, drawing high-rollers from around the world.
Amongst other luxuries is Health & Beauty Spa located on site.
With school holidays having kicked in the lodge is a fav with kids.
For more information on booking options and rates go to: www.goldenleopards.co.za