Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve

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Sunset at Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve. Photo courtesy hyper7pro

An hour’s drive from Johannesburg, near the town of Heidelberg, lies the 11 595-hectare Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve. The Reserve gets its name from the Transvaal suikerbos or sugarbush that is found in abundance.

The dominant mountain range, valleys and grassy plains together with the extensive flora and fauna makes the reserve an excellent destination for hiking, cycling and picnicking. Just some of the wildlife which can be spotted include Zebra, Black Wildebeest, Red Hartebeest and Brown Hyena. Approximately 200 birds have made the reserve their home which has made Suikerbosrand a firm favourite with the birders.

An hour’s drive from Johannesburg, near the town of Heidelberg, the 11 595ha Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve is one of the best places in Gauteng for cycling, hiking or picnicking among magnificent fauna and flora. The reserve takes its name from the Transvaal suikerbos or sugarbush (Protea caffra) that outnumbers all plants and vegetation in the reserve.

The Suikerbosrand mountain range varies in height from 1 545m to1,917m and forms the backbone of the reserve. The flora is surprisingly varied and includes a large number of grass species. Trees include the white stinkwood (Celtis africana), highveld cabbage tree (Cussonia paniculata), ouhout (Leucosidea sericea), sweet thorn (Acacia karroo), Protea kaffra after which the reserve is named, and the common guarrie (Euclea undulata).

Wild flowers include the agapanthus (Agapanthus campanulatus), disseldoring (Berkeya seminivea), wild sweet pea (Sphenostylis angustifolia), Orange River lily (Crinum bulbispernum) and the large witchweed (Striga elegans). The fairly extensive list of mammals found in the reserve is quite long and includes eland, zebra, black wildebeest, red hartebeest, brown hyena, mountain reedbuck, common duiker, steenbok, grey duiker, baboon, oribi, blesbok, springbok, kudu and cheetah.

Sentinel Rock-Thrush at Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve. Photo courtesy Jo Mur

Open grassland, wooded gorge, acacia woodland, marshland, fynbos and rare Bankenveld grassland are all part of the reserve’s dense vegetation. A network of 66km backpacking hiking trails have been established, plus a short, 4km interpretive trail (Cheetah Trail) and a 17km (10km shorter option, Bokmakierie) day visitor trail. There is also a 60km motor vehicle tourist route.

The geology of the region consists of two systems, the Ventersdorp and the Witwatersrand. The Ventersdorp system consists of igneous rock, called basalt, which formed millions of years ago from molten rock. The Witwatersrand system is mainly sedimentary sandstone deposited in horizontal layers. Proteas are largely found in this system.

You can explore Suikerbosrand on foot, mountain bike or by vehicle. There is a 66km network of hiking trails criss-crossing the reserve. You can in fact hike for six days without retracing your steps! There are also shorter, day hikes and a 60km tourist route for motor vehicles or cyclists with a picnic spot half way. The reserve has overnight hiking huts, but these are currently closed for maintenance until further notice.

Activity options:

• Cycling the Tourist Route This is a tarred road, with Holhoek picnic site situated halfway along the route, where there are picnic and braai facilities, running water and toilets. • The interpretative Cheetah Trail Close to the visitors centre it takes about two hours to complete. It is not an endurance trail and gives you the time and opportunity to find out more about the environment.

Overnight accommodation is available at the Protea Hotel or the Kareekloof Resort. The reserve has overnight hiking huts, with solar lighting and geysers, beds with mattresses, and braai areas.

Admission is adults R20, children and pensioners R10. It is open Monday to Friday 07h15 to 16h00, weekends and public holidays 07h00 to 17h00.

Directions

From Johannesburg, take the N3 highway towards Heidelberg. Take the R550/Alberton Road off-ramp and turn right, across the highway. Turn left to the reserve.

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