Bloenek Pass (Pilanesberg Nature Reserve)

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Book a lovely lodge inside the reserve Book a lovely lodge inside the reserve - Photo: PilanesbergNatureReserve.co.za

This beautiful little pass has nothing special about it in terms of length or altitude gain, except for one thing – it is situated inside the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. Nestled within the crater of an extinct volcano, Pilanesberg is an area of great scenic splendour and richly diverse wildlife, with a history extending way back prior to the Iron Age. The pass is located in the south of the park on the tarred road which dissects the reserve from north to south, called Kubu Drive. The road surface has deteriorated a little over the past few years, but it is safe and straightforward, and suitable for all vehicles.

Scroll down to view the map & video. It is recommended to watch this video in HD. (Click on the "quality" button on the lower taskbar of the video screen and select 720HD.)



[Video footage submitted by Mike Leicester / Video cover photo by PilanesbergNatureReserve.co.za]

FULL-SCREEN MODE: Click PLAY, then pass your mouse over the bottom right corner of the video screen. The outline of a square will appear. Clicking on it will toggle Full Screen Mode. Press ESC to return to the original format.

Note: Google Earth software reads the actual topography and ignores roads, cuttings, tunnels, bridges and excavations. The Google Earth vertical-profile animation generates a number of parallax errors, so the profile is only a general guide of what to expect in terms of gradients, distance and elevation. The graph may present some impossible and improbably sharp spikes, which should be ignored.



Digging into the details:

Getting there:
From Johannesburg or Pretoria, head in a north-westerly direction along the N4 towards Rustenburg. Take the R556 offramp (S25.729842 E27.666767), which is clearly signposted as “Sun City”, and turn right. After travelling along the R556 for approximately 75.4 kms, you will reach the entrance to the Sun City entertainment complex at S25.360704 E27.107367. Continue straight along the R556 for another 4.6 kms until you reach an intersection at S25.375577 E27.065140. There is a signboard here, but it is very obscure. Turn right, and follow this road for 4.2 kms until you reach Bakubung Gate at S25.339928 E27.063669.

Once through the gate, continue straight ahead on Kubu Drive for 2.7 kms past Lengau Dam on your left to reach the southern start of the pass at S25.318559 E27.056599. Alternatively, you can enter the reserve at any of the other three gates, which are Kwa Maritane (S25.344163 E27.150459), Manyane (S25.257902 E27.230429) or Bakgatla (S25.187582  E27.145773). In this case you will approach the pass from the north, reaching the start point on Kubu Drive at S25.293659 E27.088490, which is exactly 5.7 kms from the Pilanesberg Visitors Centre. Our video of the pass has been filmed in this direction (north to south) to take advantage of the lighting conditions, so if you do approach Bloenek from the south, please invert the description and the coordinates.

GiraffeGiraffe inside the reserve / WikipediaFrom the start of the pass, the road travels in a south-westerly direction and ascends gradually at a fairly mild gradient of 1:20 to reach the summit after just 800 metres. Once over the summit, the road continues in a generally south-westerly direction through a wide arc, down a long descent of 3.7 kms at an average gradient of 1:33. If you look to your right during the latter part of the descent, you will have expansive views over a wide open area called Cheetah Plains – you have an excellent chance of spotting a rhino here, or if you are really lucky, perhaps a cheetah or two. There is a fairly steep hillside to your left, often frequented by zebra, giraffe, and various antelope species. After reaching the end of the pass, you will approach Lengau Dam on your right, where you are most likely to see a variety of birds and animals, including darters, cormorants, ibises, and hippo.

Please note that as Bloenek falls within the boundaries of a game reserve, you will not be permitted to traverse this pass on a motorcycle.

Pilanesberg Game Reserve plays host to a huge variety of birds and animals, including all of the “Big 5”, cheetah and wild dog. The reserve is the fourth largest of all of the big parks in South Africa, covering an area of some 550 square kilometres, and is currently the most popular game reserve in the country.

African elephantAfrican elephant / Photo by Amazonaws.comPilanesberg is named after Pilane, chief of the Bakgatla tribe, who ruled over this clan from 1825 to 1850. Just as he took power, the Ndebele warlord, Mzilikaze, swept into the region. He brought turbulence and terror, subduing Pilane’s people, imposing taxes and forcing them to look after his cattle. As missionaries and settlers began to move into the area, Mzilikaze refused to tolerate their presence, except for Robert Moffat, whom he regarded as a friend and even a brother. Mzilikaze’s reign of terror lasted until a combined force of Tswana, Griqua and European settlers drove him out, and the Ndebele fled to southern Zimbabwe to settle themselves near Bulawayo.

Towards the end of the 1800s, European settlers had established themselves permanently, and had assumed control of the region. Then a new force, the army of the British Empire, arrived to challenge the power of the Boers. Although the second Boer War (1899 – 1902) did not directly affect Pilanesberg, the whole region was influenced economically, politically and environmentally.

As the 20th century progressed, the most dramatic effect on the environment came from mechanised agriculture, large herds of domestic stock, and huge hunting expeditions. Prior to its proclamation in 1979, the Pilanesberg Game Reserve was degraded and depleted of indigenous game populations due to fairly intense activity by commercial farmers. At considerable expense, the land was restocked with game, the scars of human settlement were removed, and tourism infrastructure was developed during the first 15 years (1979 to 1993). A 110 kilometre peripheral Big Game fence was erected over some very rugged terrain, 188 kilometres of visitor roads were developed, and more than 6000 head of game were introduced during the Operation Genesis game translocation program.

One of the Big 5You'll find the big 5 in the reserve / Photo: SAPlacesTours.comDue to a misunderstanding of the social structure of elephant herds, and because they were easier to transport, a number of young elephants were introduced to the reserve, without adult elephant supervision. As these elephants matured,
they started to display aggressive tendencies, and a number of incidents involving other animal species as well as visitors to the park occurred. This died down after adult elephants were introduced to the park to control the youngsters, but there have been sporadic occurrences of elephant aggression over the past few years.

The reserve offers a variety of accommodation options, ranging from camping and self-catering units to luxury lodges. There are also a number of adventure activities available, including guided game drives, self-drive safaris, hot air ballooning (highly recommended), rhino tracking, and walking safaris. The Sun City entertainment complex lies within an enclave of the reserve.

A word of caution. If you stop at the Pilanesberg Visitors Centre for refreshments, be aware that a number of Vervet monkeys frequent this establishment, and have over time become habituated and bold. They will literally steal food from out of your hands, and if thwarted, could well resort to biting you. Do not feed or encourage them, as this will ultimately result in them having to be euthanized. This obviously also applies to any other animals or birds in the park.

Vervet monkeysVervet Monkeys can steal food near the visitor centre / Do not feed them - Photo: a-z-animals.comPlease obey the speed limit of 40 kph. You are in the park to enjoy the animals and the scenery , and there is no reason to be in a rush. There have been a number of instances recently where animals have been run over in this park by speeding vehicles – we implore you not to add to this sad tally.

Written, photographed and filmed by Mike Leicester for Mountain Passes South Africa.


Fact File:

GPS START 

S25.293659 E27.088490

GPS SUMMIT

S25.298593 E27.083133

GPS END 

S25.318559 E27.056599

AVE GRADIENT

1:40

MAX GRADIENT

1:10

ELEVATION START

1241m

ELEVATION SUMMIT

1282m

ELEVATION END

1169m

HEIGHT GAIN/LOSS

113m

DISTANCE

4,5 km

DIRECTION - TRAVEL

South

TIME REQUIRED

8 minutes

SPEED LIMIT

40 kph

SURFACE

Tar

DATE FILMED

13.09.2015

TEMPERATURE

25C

NEAREST TOWN

Rustenburg (54 km)


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Mountain Passes South Africa

Mountain Passes South Africa is a website dedicated to the research, documentation, photographing and filming of the mountain passes of South Africa.
 

Passes are classified according to provinces and feature a text description, Fact File including GPS data, a fully interactive dual-view map and a narrated YouTube video.
 

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