A Cinderella story? Definitely not yet, but lets hope it will be. The Willem Pretorius Nature Reserve has loads of untapped potential – it reminds us of a long-lost heirloom that, rescued from a mouldy box in a dark attic, can be lovingly restored to the precious piece of jewellery it’s meant to be.
The reserve, easily accessible from the N1-highway 150km north of Bloemfontein, belongs to the Free State Provincial Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs and, from a conservation perspective, is well managed with healthy herds of game roaming over the 12,000 hectares of beautifully preserved grasslands, bushveld, koppies, kloofs and riverine areas. During our three day stay we encountered 90 species of birds and 25 species of mammals, including white rhinoceros, buffalo, southern and mountain reedbuck, giraffe, eland and sable antelope.
Aldam Estate is a privately operated resort on the northern shore of the Allemanskraal Dam, while the provincial authorities offer a resort on the southern shore. Both options offer quality accommodation, camping and dormitory-style overnight facilities and a host of associated amenities for guests to enjoy.
Unfortunately the rest of the reserves tourist facilities seem to have fallen into disrepair, with parts of the road network in poor state, picnic sites sadly neglected and cultural heritage sites such as the Ghoya ruins in dire need of upkeep. It’s the catch twenty-two situation many of our reserves find themselves in; tourists require well-maintained infrastructure before they’ll visit, but in the absence of adequate state funding these desperately needed facilities cannot be provided without a steady income from visitors.
That’s why we definitely encourage you to pay this undiscovered gem a visit next time you’re travelling past – the welcome at the reserve’s entrance gate will probably be one of the warmest you’ve ever received.