My bush cravings were getting serious after months of lockdown and being confined to our province, so on Women’s Day, I dragged my reluctant husband to Dinokeng Game Reserve , since it’s the only Big 5 Game Reserve in our province, Gauteng and the closest game reserve to Johannesburg.
We got there at 11:30 am, admittedly not a great time to spot wildlife. Our GPS took us to Ndlovu Gate where the security guard told us that there was a 90-minute wait to get in, as it would take that amount of time for the ticket office to process all the people waiting there.
He advised us to go to Tau Gate, about 3 km away. There was a queue there too, but we decided to wait. We waited for 35 minutes. During this time, a staff member gave us forms to complete and took our temperatures. When we got to the ticket office, our details were captured on the system and our tickets and map issued, which took about 5 minutes. We were charged R80 per person for conservation fees and R250 for a 1-day self-drive permit, a total of R410. The pricing is not clear on their website, nor is it posted at the entrance, and I was surprised when I was charged this amount.
We entered the reserve and, although I wasn’t expecting a mini Kruger National Park, I was surprised to see a main road with a school and a shopping centre inside. We drove around for about 2.5 hours. Some of the roads were very narrow and bumpy and there were many instances where we had to struggle to get past other cars. We gained a few scratches on our car from the thorn bushes too. (Tip - do not go there with a new or low-suspension car).
The map provided is not completely accurate but we managed to find our way. Several roads were marked private and we saw many farm-like houses - some with cattle - and even a cemetery. These factors intruded upon the “being in the wild” experience.
We drove past several dry waterholes then we approached one a dam near the Dula Nokeng picnic site where I saw another strange sight – for a Big 5 game reserve. Boerie rolls were being made and sold from a lapa. Other passengers were alighting from their cars and walking around. I wondered how safe all this was especially since I’ve heard of incidents of lions killing people here.
North of Pretoria, about an hour away from Johannesburg, Dinokeng Game Reserve was opened in 2011. It was established as part of a Gauteng Government project to create a premier tourism destination close to urban Gauteng. Incorporating approximately 281 000 hectares of rural land, the reserve was formed when landowners dismantled fences around their individual properties, which were then combined to allow game to move freely.
Dinokeng is unique in that it is a Big 5 game reserve located within the boundaries of a metro city and half an hour away from the city centre. Meaning “a place of rivers”, it markets itself as the first and only game reserve in Gauteng with free-roaming Big Five - although we didn’t see any of them. Neither did the other people we spoke to - even those that came early. As we passed people on the road during our self-drive, we’d greet them and ask them what they saw. The overall response was “nothing”.
Although we didn’t see “nothing”, we didn’t see any of the Big Five. Even though you never know what to expect on a safari, I thought that I would see at least some of them. We saw zebras, giraffes, wildebeest, impalas, kudu, red hartebeest and monkeys, instead. Most of them were in the bushes at a distance though. At first, I thought that it was just our luck, but judging by the majority of the reserve's Tripadvisor reviews, this is not the case.
So here are the pros and cons of visiting Dinokeng Game Reserve, to help you decide whether it is worth a visit or not.
For more information about the lodges there, visit Dinokeng Game Reserve .
Have you been to Dinokeng Game Reserve ? What was your experience like?