Referred to by locals as “Harties”, the Hartbeespoort Dam and its surrounding attractions are easily accessible from Johannesburg or Pretoria and offer plenty of activities and attractions.
Hartbeespoort’s soul and centre is not the pretty village climbing up the hills, the ancient mountains encircling the town, or even the leisure developments that have mushroomed across the area, it is the Hartbeespoort Dam, where you can find plenty to do, places to stay and lots of fun to be had.
The dam was built in 1923 – take note of the lovely old bridge and gatehouse as you drive over the dam wall. The dam stretches over 20km and is fed by the Crocodile and Magalies Rivers.
Harties, “the Playground of Gauteng”, is a perfect place to take time off after a business trip, or just to enjoy a day out. There is a wealth of attractions in the area – natural, cultural, sporting, water sports (the venerable Transvaal Yacht Club has been here since 1923), hiking, dining, art galleries, flea markets and adventure.
The Elephant Sanctuary (www.elephantsanctuary.co.za) is a delightful way to meet, greet and begin to understand these mighty pachyderms. Take a morning or afternoon trip or stay overnight.
Bush Babies Monkey Sanctuary (www.monkeysanctuary.co.za) is a sanctuary for rescued monkeys where you can stroll along elevated walkways through a forest and watch monkeys cavort freely in their natural habitat.
If you want to see cheetahs, then don’t miss the world-renowned Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre (www.dewildt.co.za), where these gorgeous animals have been bred and studied for decades. To see the king cheetah – the rarest and most beautiful of all cheetahs – is a particularly memorable experience. Watch a cheetah run at high speed, go on a guided drive in an open game vehicle into the wild dog enclosure, and stay overnight in the De Wildt Cheetah Lodge, tucked away in the foothills of the Magaliesberg mountains.
If you need to pump up your adrenaline, then harness your paddle power and go river rafting. Or try a zip-line adventure. And not too far away in the town of Brits you can even try a crocodile cage-diving experience (www.southernpalaceadventures.co.za). On the dam itself there’s everything from jet-skiing, sailing and tubing to a champagne breakfast on a leisurely cruise.
Prefer your feet on the ground? Why not sleep in an original restored ox-wagon, such as the old Voortrekkers used, after dining on the sumptuous Sunday “Boere (farmers’) Buffet” (oxwagonlodge.co.za)?
Go hot air ballooning – Harties is one of the best spots in South Africa (also internationally renowned) – play a round of golf, or go quad biking, horse riding, paragliding, hang-gliding, fishing or mountain biking. The list of things to do is almost endless.
There are some classy art galleries in the area, and Welwitschia Country Market (www.countrymarket.co.za), which lines the main road near the dam, is the place to buy your curios, from birds and animals fashioned out of scrap metal and wooden carvings, to handmade baskets, furniture, ceramics and glassware.
Hungry? Choose between funky bistros or smart country clubs, takeaways places or steak houses.
There are also some day spas in the area where you can unwind and be pampered amid beautiful scenery.