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17 May, 2011

Witsand Kalahari Nature Reserve – Attractions and Activities

As stated in the previous post about Witsand Kalahari Nature Reserve this resort in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa, provides tourists on a budget holiday with many attractions and activities to occupy their time for days on end. Besides the relaxing atmosphere of the reserve and the wildlife and birds visiting the camp, even adrenaline junkies will have their fix of sorts.

What Makes Witsand Kalahari Nature Reserve a Sought After Destination?

 Well, just look at what is on offer in and around the resort. You can:-
-  Go on a 36 km long 4x4 trail and traverse sand and mountain
– Take any of the numerous hiking trails in the reserve,
– bike your way through the meandering roads of the reserve,
– go game viewing and bird watching,
– visit the famous ‘Roaring Dunes’ of the Kalahari,
– go dune boarding down the red dunes of the Kalahari, 

Let’s start with the ones I personally did – ok I’m lying – physical activity is not really my style, but the rest of my family has no such qualms.

Dune Boarding at Witsand Kalahari Nature Reserve

Dune Boarding at Witsand Kalahari

If physical activity is your passion, you can take the kids and hire a dune board (currently R110-00 per board per day) from the reception office and scale one of the fairly high dunes in the reserve. From other dune boarders (remember I’m not one for exercise) I learned that it pays to wax the board thoroughly before embarking on the downward journey.

Even if you are not into the gliding down a dune at what feels like 100 km per hour with the wind in your hair, the climb to the top is still worthwhile. The view from atop the dune is spectacular and you have a panoramic vista over the roaring white dunes.

Visist the Roaring Dunes of Witsand Kalahari Reserve

'Brulsand' Viewpoint at Witsand Kalahari Reserve

From the viewpoint you have a wonderful view of the roaring sand of the Kalahari. This is probably the most well-known feature of the Witsand Kalahari Reserve and tourists are intrigued by the sound rising from the white dunes in warm and dry conditions.

The white of the roaring sand contrasts sharply with the rest of the red dunes and although the simple explanation for the difference in colour lies in the amount of oxidation around the sand, the white sand just lends a little more mystery to the dunes.

View from viewpoint of Roaring Dunes of Witsand Kalahari

Explore the 4x4 Trail at Witsand Kalahari Nature Reserve

This is one of my favourite activities at Witsand Reserve. Approximately 20 km away from the reserve, a 36 km – long 4x4 route takes drivers over some small to medium dunes and some mountainous terrain with breathtaking scenery. The route itself is not all that taxing on either driver or vehicle, but it sure is a lot of fun. Hurtling up a dune at almost full speed, or having a ‘windgat’ driver stop halfway up a rolling dune, tends to get the adrenaline pumping and lift everyone’s spirits.

One of the Dunes at 4x4 track Witsand
Dunes at 4x4 trail Witsand Kalahari
On the way to the route you’ll encounter signs like the one below which will put a premature smile on your face. For those not fluent in Afrikaans, roughly translated it means: treat all gates like your pants’ zip – zip it and close it. 


On the way to the route you can expect to see cori bustards, sociable weaver nests and if you keep your eyes open, various other semi-desert creatures.

With more than 170 bird species and various antelope and other desert creatures, combined with the exciting semi-desert vegetation, it should be clear by now, why your should take time to visit the Witsand Kalahari Nature Reserve.

03 May, 2011

Witsand Kalahari Nature Reserve – Location and Accommodation

Witsand Kalahari Nature Reserve in the Northern Cape provides tourists with a nice stopover between Gauteng and Namibia or the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. The word ‘stopover’ is, however, not completely appropriate. You could easily spend a couple of days, even a week, at the reserve and never be bored. This is a must-see destination in anyone’s budget holiday as the prices are reasonable (even cheap for camping).

We used the Witsand Kalahari Nature Reserve as a stopover in 2005 and stayed for only two days. In 2007 we rectified our mistake and spent a couple of days more at the resort.

Where is Witsand Kalahari Nature Reserve?

View Larger Map

From Gauteng you take the N14 towards Upington. Just after Olifantshoek, you will find a road sign indicating the turnoff to the reserve. From here it is a gravel road and depending on the season, the road can be a little hair-raising for tourists travelling with a small sedan or normal caravan. The turn-offs to the resort is well-marked and if you happen to miss the first turn-off from the N14, you will find another one a couple of kilometers further on. Their web site provides all the details one could require. 

Accommodation at Witsand Kalahari Nature Reserve

You can choose between camping and staying in self-catering chalets. The campground is well maintained and although shade is at a premium on some sites, especially during the hot summer months, overall camping at the reserve is a pleasant experience.

Be careful during the summer months as the resort is in the Kalahari region of South Africa and the temperatures can be scorching. During winter months, make sure you have adequate blankets because although the days are moderate and pleasant, the nights can be downright freezing.

During 2007 we elected to make use of the camping facilities and being December, we had quite a bit of rain (with the inevitable leaking nylon tents) and very hot temperatures. So, check where you pitch the tent so that you don’t end up in a river of water during the night.

The self-catering accommodation is more than adequate and comfortable. Fully equipped kitchens, lounges and crisp and clean bedrooms are the order of the day.

Witsand Kalahari Accommodation

Management of the reserve tried to cause as little disturbance to the vegetation as possible and natural bush surrounds all the chalets. You might even, like we did, get visits from Steenbuck and a variety of other animal life around the camp. They even provided a birdbath and drinking point for the animals at the chalets, so sitting on the porch and relaxing with a cold one, could be very rewarding in the early morning and early evening.

Birdbath Attracts Wildlife at Witsand Kalahari

With friendly staff, adequate accommodation and plenty to do and see, this is an ideal destination for any tourist travelling through the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. In the next post I will tell you what to do and see in the area. Trust me, if you are a nature lover, you don’t want to miss out on all the activities this wonderful resort has to offer. Even the off-road enthusiast will have a blast.

10 January, 2011

Gariep Dam/Lake Gariep: Facts and Information

The Gariep Dam, formerly known as the Hendrik Verwoerd Dam is the largest water reservoir in South Africa and is quickly becoming a sought after tourist destination. With several activities in the vicinity, a holiday at the Gariep Dam will never be boring.




Gariep Dam

Statistics of the Gariep Dam

1. According to the Department of Water Affairs, the Gariep Dam when full has the capacity to hold 5500 million cubic meters of water and the surface of the dam covers 370 square kilometers.

2. The hydro-powerplant through which water is released to the Vanderkloof Dam, consists of four generators each capable of producing 90 MW of electricity.

Gariep kragstasie
3. The dam wall is 88 meters high and 914 meters long and approximately 1.73 million cubic meters of concrete was used to construct the dam wall in a gorge at the entrance to the Ruigte Vallei. 

Gariep damwal

The Town Gariepdam / Lake Gariep Village

The small town of Gariepdam, yes it is actually a town, consists mostly of prefabricated houses, which in the past housed the personnel of Water Affairs. Nowadays the houses are privately owned and occupied by people of various ages. Due to the serenity of the area, many pensioners reside in the town and it is not uncommon to see several elderly people strolling through the streets.

With a fuel station, chemist and small general dealer, the town offers the basic necessities required by the permanent residents. There is however no medical doctor in the town, but hopefully the construction of a registered old age home in the town, will change that. No doubt the clean air and surroundings, warm climate and friendly people will attract many investors in the future.

Where to Stay at Gariep Dam/Lake Gariep

Tourists can choose between luxury hotel accommodation, self catering accommodation and camping when visiting Lake Gariep. With various levels of luxury, the accommodation at the Gariep Dam will suit anyone’s particular needs.

A few of the establishments offering accommodation are:
1. de Stijl Hotel;
2. Forever Resorts Gariep;
3. The Glasgow Pont Hotel;
and numerous other B&B’s.

With activities like gliding, sailing, mountain climbing, river rafting, hiking, mountain biking, fishing and many more, it’s no wonder that the popularity of this little town in the Middle Karoo grows by leaps and bounds.