Vaal Dam

Situated 56km south of Johannesburg on the Vaal River in Vanderbiljpark, the Vaal Dam is South Africa’s second biggest dam by area and fourth largest by volume. It has more than 800km of shoreline, spans three provinces - Gauteng, Free State and Mpumalanga - and is a favourite destination for water sport enthusiasts.

The Vaal River. Photo courtesy Gauteng Tourism Authority

Construction on the dam began in the depression and was completed in 1938. Its level was raised in the early 50s and again in the mid 80s, and it now has a full supply capacity of about 2 500 million ㎥  of the country’s cleanest water, which the dam receives from the Lesotho Highlands Water Project via the Wilge River.

Water sports include boating, skiing and swimming. The dam’s 5km island was once used as a secret meeting place by the apartheid government, but now hosts the annual Round the Island race, holder of the Guinness World Record for the largest inland yacht race. Other world class boating events on the dam include Keelboat Week and the Bayshore 200km jet ski race. Visitors also flock to the Bayshore Marina Vaal Dam Treasure Hunt.

The Vaal Dam. Photo courtesy Gauteng Tourism Authority


From Johannesburg, take the N3 highway to Durban. Continue until just before Heidelberg and take the first Heidelberg off-ramp, signposted Heidelberg North. At the top of the off-ramp, turn left, and left again just after you have crossed the highway. After about 5km you will reach Heidelberg central. Carry on until you see a Vaal Dam sign. Turn right and drive for about 45km until the dam comes into view.