It is hard to imagine a more peaceful mountain retreat than Kgaswane, especially so close to the maddening cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria.
Located in the western Magaliesberg mountain range, the Kgaswane Mountain Reserve forms an integral part of the Magaliesberg Protected Environment, an inspiring collaboration between private and state land owners and agencies to protect this beautiful ecosystem from exploitation. Proclaimed in 1967 as the Rustenburg Nature Reserve, incorporating the farm Rietvallei that once belonged to Paul Kruger (legendary president of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek), Kgaswane today covers an area of 5,300 hectares and is managed by the North West Parks and Tourism Board.
The reserve is a popular hiking destination, with two overnight hikes; the Summit Route of 25km and the Baviaanskrans Route of 20km, each trail with two overnight hutted camps accommodating twelve hikers at a time. For day visitors, the 5km Peglerae Trail and 2km Vlei Ramble (which incorporates a bird-viewing hut overlooking the marshlands below the main visitor centre) is an excellent introduction to Kgaswane’s varied topography and habitats, with wonderfully shaded picnic sites available at the visitor centre. While the road network may be limited, it is tarred and in good condition, allowing for easy game and bird-viewing from vehicles and mountain bikes. There’s three spectacular viewing points along the way into the mountains from the entrance gate. Joubert and I spent a night on one of the twenty-two spacious camping sites and found the ablution facilities well maintained and entirely adequate (just remember to bring your own bath and sink plugs). There are no powerpoints at the camping sites but each site has a braai (barbeque) stand and picnic table and there’s a communal freezer available in the scullery. Best of all, there’s little to no cellphone reception in the camping area so no telemarketers can interfere with your rest and relaxation! Accommodation is also available in a self-catering cottage and two rondavels that sleep a combined 14 people and a group camp that can house up to 50 people in dormitory-style.
The Magaliesberg dominates the scenery at Kgaswane with rocky ridges, stacked boulders and deep ravines. The vlei (marsh) on the plateau is the largest in the Magaliesberg, and an important catchment area.
The reserve hosts good, though skittish, populations of a variety of game animals; we encountered black-backed jackal, baboon, warthog, eland, red hartebeest, plains zebra, oribi, reedbuck, blesbok, impala, kudu and waterbuck. The reserve’s birdlife is even more diverse, with 320 species recorded, including a breeding colony of endangered Cape vultures. Kgaswane’s most prized residents are the herds of the magnificent and rare sable antelope. It was here in the Magaliesberg that these regal animals first came to the attention of the scientific community, thanks to explorer Major Sir William Cornwallis Harris, in the 1830’s. But unlike Harris, we were not lucky enough to find the sable on our first visit to Kgaswane. And that’s just one of the excuses we’ll use to visit again, soon…
Kgaswane Mountain Reserve lies on the outskirts of the city of Rustenburg, in the North West Province, an easy 3km from the R24 offramp on the N4 highway and 134km from our home in Pretoria.