Kamberg Nature Reserve

Talk about South Africa’s most scenic natural attractions, and the Drakensberg mountain range is sure to feature in the conversation. The Kamberg is a distinctive mountain, reminiscent of a comb (“kam” in Afrikaans, “berg” meaning mountain), in the foothills of the Drakensberg. The Kamberg Nature Reserve was originally proclaimed in 1951, covering only 2,232 hectares. Today it forms an integral part of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park‘s expansive 243,000 hectares of protected mountain paradise, recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site of natural and cultural significance. Grasslands predominate, though forested sections exist in the sheltered valleys and extensive reedbeds and wetlands can be found along the Mooi (“pretty”) River, which forms a focal point for the reserve.

Whatever your energy levels, there’s ample opportunities to enjoy the refreshing mountain air at Kamberg. The reserve is well known in fly-fishing circles, with the Mooi River and two dams stocked with (admittedly exotic) trout. There’s three small, but well maintained, picnic sites – one in a copse of trees at the gate, one on the banks of Eland Dam, and one next to the river. Of course there are several trails leading down into the valleys and up into the mountains that may be explored on foot or mountain bike. And there’s a jungle gym and swings to keep the younger generation entertained within shouting distance of the chalets up at the camp.

The tiny camp at Kamberg, managed by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, is heaven-on-earth to any weary city dweller searching for peace and quiet, as there’s only 5 two-bedded chalets and one six-sleeper cottage at the camp. Eight kilometers from the main resort, the rustic and isolated Stillerust (Afrikaans for “quiet rest”) Farm House provides accommodation for ten guests. There’s a very limited selection of cooldrinks and sweets on sale at reception, and guests should bring along all their own provisions, firewood included. Just behind the camp, at the reception office, is the Kamberg San Rock Art Interpretive Centre where educational films on the San rock art of the Drakensberg are shown and from where the guided walks to the Game Pass Shelter departs. It’s a three-hour round trip to the internationally renowned cave, where high quality San paintings that were instrumental in deciphering the meaning behind the images left by these hunter-gatherers on rock faces across Southern Africa, can be appreciated. Unfortunately the prevailing weather conditions kept us from visiting the cave on this trip, but that’s reason enough in itself to return soon! For guests staying longer, Kamberg is also an ideal base from which to explore other destinations in the Drakensberg, such as nearby Giant’s Castle, and Midlands attractions like Midmar Dam, Karkloof Conservancy, Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve and Queen Elizabeth Park.

During our visit, the local wildlife mostly remained well hidden in the long, flowing grasslands through the day, except for a water mongoose that flashed across the trail next to Erskine Dam, a troop of baboons that sauntered through the camp one afternoon and a distant herd of black wildebeest we saw on the plains near Stillerust. At night however literally dozens of antelope; reedbuck, grey rhebuck and grey duiker, and hares and rabbits would come out to graze on the lawns between the chalets at the camp.

The Drakensberg is home to an amazingly diverse birdlife, with several rare and endemic species occurring at Kamberg. We were thrilled to see several pairs of grey crowned cranes in the wetlands, but absolutely overjoyed by our first ever sighting in the wild of the highly endangered  wattled cranes, even if the breeding pair was quite far off in the distance and our photograph nothing more than proof of the sighting 😉

Speaking of cranes, we paid a quick visit to the Hlatikulu Crane Sanctuary on the nearby property of the Entabeni Education Centre where they take care of injured and orphaned blue, crowned and wattled cranes and do more than their share to preserve these special and endangered birds for South Africa’s future generations.

From Pretoria, it’s a drive of approximately 540km to Kamberg, following the N3 southwards to Mooi River. The road to the reserve turns off the R103 at Rosetta, between the Midlands towns of Mooi River and Howick. The 40km (30km tar and 10km gravel) stretch between Rosetta and Kamberg is a very scenic drive through green farmlands and the foothills that constitute the “Little ‘Berg”,  and should not be rushed (the road is not in a good enough condition to travel on at speed in any case).

Kamberg Map

Pretoria to Kamberg (drawn from Google Maps)

Our first visit to Kamberg over a long weekend early in May 2015 opened only a tiny window onto the rich cultural and natural treasures protected there. We’ll be back for sure; there’s still so much to explore, experience and appreciate at this little known gem of “the ‘Berg”.

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37 thoughts on “Kamberg Nature Reserve

  1. Pingback: Our 2015 in pictures | de Wets Wild

  2. iAMsafari.com

    Great scenery again Dries – we’ve always crossed this part of SA in rainy or foggy conditions and therefore never stayed; thanks to your report we see this there’s another raison to go back! As there’ll be a conference near Winterton in November…

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Now that’s an excellent excuse for a visit to the Drakensberg and Golden Gate Maurice!

      Yes, the weather in the mountains can be very unpredictable and changes extremely quickly, but it is beautiful no matter the conditions, and every season has its special allure.

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      1. iAMsafari.com

        Fingers crossed we’ll go to this one – we honestly experienced fog and bucketing rain in the area a few times with sunny conditions and clear blue skies in Ladysmith.

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        1. de Wets Wild Post author

          I know exactly what you mean Maurice! So many of SA’s biggest rivers have their sources in the Drakensberg, thanks to the abundant rain it receives. Being the longest and highest range in the country it has a profound impact on our weather patterns.

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  3. joannesisco

    As usual, stunning photos – especially the first one … the lighting and reflection in the water is perfection! … but the leaping trout is pretty impressive. Great timing 🙂

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  4. scrapydotwo

    Die pad loop al saam met die Trek geskiedenis. Het 4 keer die roete met skoolkinders gedoen en dan by Umdloti oor gebly vir n paar see en sand aande voordat ons weer terug gery het. (Van Hennopsrivier af met hele skool volle 75 – 80 kinders!)

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  5. M.Winter

    Wow! How do you know all the names of these amazing creatures? I have a hard time identifying the birds in our back garden – throw me a name, I wouldn’t even know it if it hit me on the head!
    Love the Kramberg by moonlight. Look at all the stars! Sigh. I could only imagine…

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Thank you so much Maida! Kamberg’s a beautiful place for sure. Getting to know the names took many years, and we’re still learning. I guess they stick because of our intense need to spend us much time in their company as we can. You should see my eyes glaze over when people start talking about their phones or computers… 😉

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  6. maamej

    Beautiful, especially those landscapes up top. Looking at your pics in my little urban flat, I long to be outdoors. I also like the second one of the swamp hen in the reeds, we have very similar birds along the river near where I live.

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  7. Rosemarie

    Wish I could include this when I vacation in August. Oh, well, can’t do everything. I love the shot of the leaping trout. How long did you have to wait for that one? Rosemarie

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Long enough to ensure I had a stiff arm by the time I finally got the shot Rosemarie 😉 . I ended up deleting many, many, many shots that showed only a splash of water… Thank goodness for digital photography!

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