Jackal in Dinokeng

A Quick Visit to the Dinokeng Game Reserve

I recently went to the Dinokeng Game Reserve for a quick, one-night media visit. Dinokeng opened officially in 2011 — pieced together from a bunch of private farms — and is the only free-roaming Big 5 game reserve in Gauteng province. (The Big 5 are lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo, and rhino.)

Sunset in DinokengSunset in Dinokeng Game Reserve.

The most remarkable thing about Dinokeng — which means “place of rivers” in Tswana — is how close it is to Gauteng’s main city centers. It’s less than 90 minutes from central Joburg and less than 30 minutes (even as few as 15-20) from Pretoria. People are always asking me to suggest quick weekend getaways from Joburg; Dinokeng is one.

One Night in Dinokeng

Chris Pieterse, our guide for the Dinokeng media visit, owns the Chameleon Bush Lodge. My colleague Marie-Lais and I loved our night at the Chameleon and found ourselves wishing we could stay longer.

Chameleon Bush Lodge signFun branding for the Chameleon Bush Lodge.

Room at Chameleon Bush LodgeMarie-Lais’ room — each has a different color scheme, mimicking the changing colors of a chameleon.

Dinokeng is still new and doesn’t yet have the established feel of a park like the Kruger or even the Pilanesberg. While we had quite a few nice game sightings — wildebeest, waterbuck, zebra, eland, ostrich, jackal, etc. — we didn’t see any Big 5 during our visit. (Not that I really care — I’m a strong proponent of never expecting anything when I go on a game drive and being happy with whatever I see.)

Jackal in DinokengA jackal spotted during our self-drive. (Note: There are is an extensive self-drive route in Dinokeng but we found the map impossible to interpret. We just bumbled around for an hour or two until we found our way back to the main road, which worked fine for us.)

Ostrich in DinokengOstrich, seen during the guided game drive we took from Mongena Game Lodge.  

Eland in DinokengEland, the largest antelope in South Africa.

Red Hartebeest in DinokengRed Hartebeest, a fairly rare antelope sighting.

Big 5 or not, Dinokeng is a lovely place to visit and I think it will get better and better as the herds grow and integrate more fully with their surroundings.

In addition to the Chameleon, Dinokeng has lots of accommodation of all sorts — B&Bs, guesthouses, larger lodges with conference facilities, etc. We visited a couple of good restaurants and a brewery, and I hear there is a great American-style barbecue restaurant in the reserve.

I’d definitely recommend Dinokeng to those looking for a quick trip to the bush from Joburg or Pretoria. Dinokeng is also very close to Cullinan, a great day trip in itself. The whole area makes for a nice weekend getaway. I especially recommend the Chameleon, a lovely, affordable, self-catering guesthouse with tons of character.

Aloes at the Chameleon Guest House in DinokengWinter aloes bloom outside my room at the Chameleon.

My visit to Dinokeng was complimentary. Opinions expressed are mine.

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7 Comments

  • Reply autumnashbough June 28, 2018 at 9:30 pm

    What a great recommendation for a quick getaway.

    So cheetahs aren’t part of the Big Five?

    • Reply 2summers June 29, 2018 at 6:51 am

      Nope, they aren’t. Apparently the Big 5 honor was originally awarded way back when to the five animals considered to be the hardest to hunt/kill. Charming, right?

  • Reply MapleAndMarula June 29, 2018 at 6:56 am

    I’m glad you enjoyed it! I wasn’t a fan when we went (we didn’t stay there- we just went for the day). Like you, we found the road layout to be somewhat lacking, and there wasn’t a lot of choice to take different roads. I can’t see myself going back- we frequently go to Pilanesberg (it’s an easy day trip from Pretoria), and if we’re looking for something closer, we even find Rietvlei to be a much nicer visit than Dinokeng.

    They don’t have all the big five there (we usually see rhino, and I think there are buffalo there, but we’ve never see them. To see lions you need to book a private tour, but we like just driving through the main park better). The roads are laid out nicely, and there’s a great place for an outdoor lunch.

    That being said, maybe we just had an off day at Dinokeng. But it was definitely like a fart on a first date.

    • Reply 2summers June 29, 2018 at 7:05 am

      Interesting…I’ve been to the dam at Rietvlei but didn’t know they have rhinos! Are the lions there confined in some way – is that why you have to book to see them?

      • Reply MapleAndMarula June 29, 2018 at 11:00 am

        Yep- they definitely have rhinos! And the viewing opportunities are incredible. I haven’t seen the cheetahs there before, but a lot of people so see them.

        The lions are kept in a separate large enclosure (not like a zoo), and they don’t offer interactions or breed them, these are rescue animals. They main park isn’t large enough to have them free roaming and hunting (something about laws), so they’re kept separate. You have to get in a safari vehicle to go see them. I just read though that 2 of the 4 were poisoned last year. Not sure if they’re still letting the public see the ones who are left.

        • Reply 2summers June 29, 2018 at 11:11 am

          Oh wow, that’s sad.

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