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Best Johannesburg Safaris Day Trip 2023

Greetings, Internet Stranger, and welcome to a Johannesburg safaris day trip. If you have time for a longer safari trip from Johannesburg, you have more options, but if you want just a Johannesburg safaris day trip, Pilanesberg National Park is the way to do it.

Want to cut right to the chase, Internet Stranger? The best activity in Johannesburg is this wonderful safari day trip right here with tons of five-star reviews.

Or if you want to explore all the best activities in Johannesburg, check this search engine right here to find the best deals!

At Pilanesberg National Park, you’ll find a knowledgeable guide, ethically treated animals living in the wild, and more natural beauty than you can shake an elephant at. The easiest way to take a Johannesburg safaris day trip is to book a group tour, and I recommend the one from this excellent tour company, which is what I chose.

Book this fantastic tour by clicking here.

Let’s not waste any more time! The circle of life awaits!

one day safari from johannesburg

Johannesburg safaris day trip

Where to Stay?

It’s always important to choose the location of your hotel carefully when you travel, especially if you are a solo traveler, like I am. And this is especially important if you’re enjoying a Johannesburg safaris day trip because your bus will come to pick you up early in the morning, and you’ll want them to be able to meet you in a convenient location.

That’s why I recommend staying at the @sandton Hotel when you are in Johannesburg. The facilities are new and stylish, there’s an extremely helpful 24 hour staff, and the location of the hotel is excellent. No matter where you are going in Johannesburg, you’ll be able to have an Uber come to meet you here. (And Uber in South Africa is very affordable.)

If you want to book a stay at this hotel, just click here. And if you want to find an equally lovely place to stay during your time in Johannesburg, click here. This search engine will help you find the perfect place to stay for your one day in Johannesburg itinerary. With plenty of options to choose from, I’m sure you’ll find something for your schedule and budget.

one day safari from johannesburg

Johannesburg safaris day trip

Morning: Pilanesberg National Park

You’re going to have to wake up very early in the morning to head off on your Johannesburg safaris day trip, but that’s just the price you pay for getting to become BFF with a baby elephant.

The tour company will give you a time frame for pickup; I was told to be ready between 5:15 and 5:30 in the AM. They might even come early, but do not worry! If they show up before the scheduled time, they will wait for you.

I strongly recommend this tour because the driver was so professional in the face of some very difficult behavior from a fellow guest, but more about that anon. Plus, our guide, whom I shall call Charlize, was so interesting and informative, and willing to go the extra mile to help us see and learn about the animals.

Check rates and availability by going right here.

And now that the preliminaries are out of the way, let’s get to the fun part with…

Three Fun Facts: Johannesburg safaris day trip

one day safari from johannesburg
1) Is It Difficult To Get to Pilanesberg?

It’s a long drive from Johannesburg to Pilanesberg, but don’t worry! It’s a scenic experience, and how often are you going to get to make this exact drive in South Africa? If you are coming from the United States, like I am, the answer is, “Not too often, sadly.”

You’ll make a comfort stop along the way so you can go to the restroom and buy something for breakfast. I ended up getting what I thought was a bun but turned out to be a sausage roll because there is literally no food South Africans will not sneak meat into. But it was much tastier than any comfort stop sausage roll had any right to be.

The driver was very friendly and helpful–if you need to make an extra comfort stop, just ask him.

one day safari from johannesburg
2) How Many Animals Will We See?

That really depends on the day! This is not a zoo, it’s a national park, and there’s no way to predict exactly how the animals will behave on a given day. One day you might see a pride of lions cavorting their way through “Hakuna Matata” and the next, merely one stray dog singing “Why Should I Worry?” to a lonely kitten. Any safari that tells you they can guarantee that you see a particular animal probably isn’t that ethical anyway.

But that’s why you came to see animals in the wild, right? You don’t want to see a bunch of trained and abused circus animals? You don’t want to force scared and frightened creatures to sit in your lap? And in my experience, you’re likely to see plenty of creatures on the safari, even if there isn’t a guarantee.

One of the guests on our tour, whom I shall call Emma, kept complaining that she had seen more animals at an animal encounter place where she got to pet an elephant. But I think the national park safari is so much better than petting a poor captured beast.

one day safari from johannesburg
3) What was the coolest animal sighting?

I personally think it was the elephant because seriously, look how cute it is. And yes, we really were this close. But don’t worry! We were still far enough away from the elephant that it was safe, comfortable, and still in the wild. Charlize told us that elephants do have amazing memories; it’s not just a cliche. That’s why a group of elephants is called a memory of elephants.

She also explained that there are two main kinds of elephants: African and Asia. No points for guessing which kind lives in South Africa! But you can tell the difference because African elephants have ears shaped like the map of Africa. So if you see elephants in a zoo, this way you’ll be able to tell the difference easily.

one day safari from johannesburg

Plus, elephants have cute butts. I hate to see him go, but I love to watch him leave. (Baby got back.)

one day safari from johannesburg

Johannesburg safaris day trip

Afternoon: Keep on Safarying!

OK, so probably safarying is not a real word, but let’s try using it and see if it catches on. On this all-day tour, you’ll have two drives in Pilanesberg National Park. The first one is before lunch and the second one after lunch.

Maybe you’ll see more animals in the morning drive, maybe you’ll see them on the afternoon, who can say? Only the elephant knows, and he’s not telling.

What I can show you is an idea of the types of animals you can expect to encounter on the morning and afternoon drives, and I can also give you some suggestions for lunch. And with those preliminaries out of the way, let’s get started with…

Approximately Top 5: Johannesburg safaris day trip

one day safari from johannesburg
1) Lunch

We’ll get a lunch break where you can choose from several different options, and they do have vegetarian choices. If you like meat, I suggest getting the boerewors roll because it’s the most local selection to South Africa. Boerewors is a kind of South African sausage, and I have to admit that this version was better than the secretly sausage roll I had at the comfort stop earlier that way.

It was hard to relax during the lunch, though, because Emma kept freaking out because she needed to fly home to Germany that evening, but she hadn’t booked her flight yet. This seemed like poor planning on her part; do you need to be a professional travel blogger to know you should book flights before the day you actually need to use them? I certainly hope not!

Also, she seemed distressed to learn that her cell phone wasn’t getting any reception in Pilanesberg National Park, but I again I feel like this was highly predictable.

It was really hard for me to not yell at her for her naivete or at least roll my eyes in her direction, but I refrained. Fortunately for her, the lunch stop had wifi for a small fee, so she was able to book her flight. But sadly, this is not the last we will hear of Emma and her travel woes.

Johannesburg safaris day trip
2) Zebras

So even though I said I can’t guarantee what you’ll find on your one day safari, I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll find zebras. They were everywhere. Zebras are to Pilanesberg what squirrels are to Central Park. Hmmm, I wonder if South Africans call zebras rats with stripes like we call squirrels rats in fancy outfits?

Charlize said that zebras are camouflaged, but they don’t fade into the background. It’s just that their predators see in black and white, so if a whole group of zebras are flocked up together, it’s hard for the predators to make an individual out. It’s like they’re nature’s Magic Eye Puzzle.

one day safari from johannesburg
3) Giraffes!

Seeing a giraffe was definitely a highlight of our Johannesburg safaris day trip. Charlize said that giraffes actually have the same number of vertebrae in their necks as humans do, but theirs are just stretched out more. I’ll say! She said they also have to work harder to pump blood up to their brain because their necks are so long.

That seems like a lot of work to me. I think I’ll stick with having a human-sized neck.

one day safari from johannesburg
4) Kudu

So this beauty here is a kudu, which is a kind of antelope, and Charlize said they can jump over cars. But can it jump over a fence?

Charlize told us that they do have fences in South African national parks to keep the animals in and to keep poachers out. If the animals get out, they can destroy the farms outside the national parks, which is devastating for the small farmers. But the good news is that the fences do seem to be working against the rhino poachers, since rhino poaching goes down year after year! Yay, rhinos!

one day safari from johannesburg
5) Zazu

OK, so this bird isn’t really named Zazu, but Charlize said it was like the Zazu bird from The Lion King. She said the male birds in this species like to go looking for female birds who have already mated with a different male who has abandoned them. Then the second guy will cozy up to the single mom and become a kind of stepdad to her chicks. This way he has a partner for next mating season.

That is a surprising amount of planning ahead for a bird. I can think of quite a few human males who could learn a thing or two from this bird brain.

24 Hour Tip

Those are all the secrets of the safari that I can share with you for now. You’ll have to go ahead and book this fantastic safari for yourself right here if you want to experience all these animals in person.

one day safari from johannesburg

Johannesburg safaris day trip

Evening: Dinner at Saint

We had a very exhausting end to our Johannesburg safaris day trip because it turned out that Emma had bought a flight ticket for 6 PM even though the safari company had told her she’d be back at her hotel at 6 PM, not that they could get her to the airport at 6.

The driver tried to point out that it can be hard to get to the airport because of traffic, but he would do the best he could under short notice. Emma just kept screaming “Scheiße” at him as he frantically drove us to the airport. The rest of us all agreed to get dropped off at our hotel later just to stop Emma from screaming. (Side note! I do not think Emma was a very nice person.)

Anyway, the driver actually did get Emma to the airport on time, which is how you know this safari provides top notch service.

one day safari from johannesburg

I suggest having dinner at a lovely restaurant called Saint. If your hotel is in Sandton, like I suggested, this is right in the area. You’ll probably be tired after that all day safari, so it makes sense that you wouldn’t want to go far for dinner. Plus, Saint offers great cocktails, like the negroni that I enjoyed, so you’ll be able to unwind ASAP.

For the appetizer, I chose a beautiful tomato and mozzarella salad. However, the real excitement was saved for my main course.

Best Johannesburg Safaris Day Trip 2023 1

Just look at that beautiful pizza! I’m from New York City, but I don’t require all restaurants around the globe to serve NYC style pizza. This isn’t New York style, but it is still fresh and yummy. This pizza was topped with sirloin and pumpkin pesto, neither of which I would ever have thought to put on a pizza. However, I found the combination to be sweet, savory, and satisfying.

Best Johannesburg Safaris Day Trip 2023 2

Johannesburg safaris day trip

Tools For Travel

  • A portable cell charger so that your phone won’t die a miserable death during your one day in Johannesburg itinerary
  • The best international travel adapter because if you’re American like I am, you’ll need one to be able to plug in electronics during your one day in Johannesburg itinerary
  • My favorite travel guide to South Africa, including Johannesburg
  • The most reliable travel umbrella that is small enough to fit in my purse, but strong enough to stand up to powerful winds.
  • These great TSA approved clear toiletries bags, so I can always keep spare toothpaste and travel sized toiletries in any carry-on.
  • My book Get Lost, that I wrote myself with all my best travel tips. This book will show you how travel can take your life from blah to AMAZING!
one day safari from johannesburg

Johannesburg safaris day trip

How To Get There

Now, I wish I knew where you lived, Internet Stranger, because I could send you a beautiful box of South African wine. But sadly, I do not, and so I can’t tell you how to get from your home to Johannesburg

But I can tell you that I used a lovely airplane to get from my hometown NYC to Johannesburg. (Of course we had a layover in London.) I recommend Expedia for the best way to find the cheapest flight to South Africa at the best time of day. It’s really easy to see all your options for flights by using their website.

Just click here to start looking for the best possible deals on your flight, so you can head out to your Johannesburg safaris day trip

one day safari from johannesburg

That’s a Perfect Johannesburg safaris day trip

What would you do on a Johannesburg safaris day trip? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Johannesburg right now? And what are your thoughts about Emma? (If you are actually Emma, please don’t answer that question.) The rest of you, email me at and let me know!

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY have a one day safari from Johannesburg. If you want another Johannesburg itinerary, just click here.

Best Johannesburg Safaris Day Trip 2023 3