Far from the madding crowd

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Do you need to trade the city crowds for a quiet nature experience, but not sure where to recharge? René de Klerk found the ideal spot…

Know before you go

Travel: The reserve is 65km out of town. Kimberley has an airport; alternatively, the drive from Johannesburg takes about five hours.

Remember: The area can be extremely cold in winter and scorching in summer. Accommodation is self-catering, and firewood is supplied.

Stay: I stayed in the Box Cottage Chalet, which can accommodate four people. The historic chalet is decorated with antique furniture and offers a comfortable stay.

Bookings: Contact Cindy Carls on +27 53 839 4455 or email reservations@debeersgroup.com

Where in the world

Rooipoort Nature Reserve is one of three private reserves owned by De Beers Group of Companies in the Northern Cape province. The reserve is situated approximately 65km from Kimberley.

If you are looking for manicured picnic spots, shops, restaurants, viewpoints, bird hides and wildlife posing for photos, Rooipoort Nature Reserve may not be quite for you. But if you want to escape from the crowds and enjoy nature, think about adding this untamed wilderness destination to your bucket list.

Rooipoort scenery

This private reserve has an interesting history dating back to 1893. It belongs to the De Beers Group of Companies and is part of their stable of properties set aside to conserve nature. Cecil John Rhodes and his men set it up as a spot for sustainable hunting. The historic Shooting Box, built in 1899, was shipped over from England to Cape Town in kit form, and transported to Rooipoort by ox wagon. It still offers accommodation today.

Rooipoort conservation manager Dayne Knight confirmed that the reserve is no longer open for hunting. These days, revenue is mainly generated from game breeding and occasional visitors. Unfortunately, most of the wildlife is skittish and not yet habituated to vehicles. You will not find lion and other dangerous game at Rooipoort, but the reserve is home to zebra, giraffe and 14 species of antelope, including black wildebeest and red hartebeest.

In fact, Rooipoort played a crucial role in the survival of black wildebeest and red hartebeest in South Africa. At the turn of the century, the latter’s numbers were extremely low outside the Kalahari, with the exception of the Rooipoort herd. Most reserves are therefore stocked with this bloodline. Black wildebeest were once threatened with extinction due to excessive hunting, but due to the reserve’s contribution to conservation efforts they are now in the clear.

Conservation manager Dayne Knight.

We also spotted ostrich and Knight explained their conservation value: they are the only genuine and recognised pure flock in South Africa. Most other ostriches were mixed with individuals from West Africa during the feather boom in the late 1800s.

 

Rock etchings at Bushman’s Fountain

Those with an interest in cultural heritage will love a trip to Bushman’s Fountain. The rocky outcrops and fountain provide an oasis in the middle of this arid region, offering water all year round, even in the driest months. Knight showed us some rock engravings, of which there are well over 4 000. These petroglyphs also depict game that historically roamed the area and include elephant, lion and hippo.

The only other tourists we encountered were a group of fishermen who came to relax for the weekend. The reserve protects 32km of intact riverine vegetation along the Vaal River, with some beautiful spots for angling.

 

Box Cottage

In terms of accommodation, the Garden Cottage and Box Cottage can accommodate four guests each. The famous Shooting Box is ideal for groups of up to 12 people. There are also eight safari tents, accommodating two people each. Both the Shooting Box and safari tents share communal kitchen and bathroom facilities.

Rooipoort offers guided game drives, and although not advisable, those who are really keen could explore this 42 500-hectare reserve with an off-road vehicle. If you do, you will receive a two-way radio
for safety.

I loved the red sand, yellow swaying grass and wide-open spaces, and really did not want to leave. On my way to the gate, I stopped at a waterhole, got out of my vehicle and sat under a large tree nearby. I just wanted one last photo, featuring an animal. After 10 minutes of enjoying the birdsong, a lone springbok approached, but it soon sensed my presence and left in a hurry. After 40 minutes, a large herd of eland cautiously made their way to the water, looking around carefully – straight at me. After a long pause, the largest in the herd started drinking, as if to say it is okay, and the group followed. This experience was mine to enjoy, with not a soul in sight to spoil it.

Don’t miss

Rock etchings: It is one of the richest sites in South Africa when
it comes to rock art.

History: Historic buildings such as the Shooting Box (built under instruction of Cecil John Rhodes), and the old cooler. There are also old dams that were built by Italian prisoners of war.

Birding: Situated at the meeting place of the Karoo, the Kalahari and the Grasslands ecosystems, Rooipoort boasts more than 240 bird species. On the Vaal River alone you can expect to see four different
species of kingfisher.

Game viewing: The reserve is home to many antelope species, including sable. There are a few individuals in a camp at the Shooting Box complex.

Sunsets: Pour a sundowner and enjoy the picture-perfect sunsets.

A herd of eland at the waterhole

Written and photos by René de Klerk.

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