When I was planning a quick weekend getaway for our milestone tenth wedding anniversary, I was looking for a destination we’ve not visited before, within easy driving distance of Pretoria in case Joubert still had to attend classes in the morning, and that Marilize would never guess as I wanted it to be a surprise. Dinokeng Game Reserve fitted the bill perfectly, but even now I still can’t believe just how much this place exceeded my every expectation!
As promised, we’ll give a bit of an overview of the reserve and share some of what we saw and experienced during our first visit to Dinokeng. Having been used as farmlands for so long before the reserve’s founding, I expected there to be little left of the pristine natural vegetation that would have occurred here centuries ago, but I couldn’t have been further off the mark. The reserve’s vegetation is typical varied bushveld (savanna) on a flat to gently undulating landscape, drained by three large streams and their tributaries. The Tswana name “Dinokeng” translates to “a place of rivers” in English, and obviously the name is well deserved.
For a relatively newly established reserve, the list of recorded bird species found at Dinokeng, already over 350 species strong, is phenomenal! We managed to connect with 74 kinds of birds during our weekend visit and have no doubt that more proficient birders would have had an even longer list at the end of theirs.
Dinokeng’s mammalian inhabitants are obviously flourishing. Of the “Big 5” we only managed to see White Rhinos, though we found ample evidence of the reserve’s three Lion prides in the remains of their kills. The Lions, Elephants, Buffaloes and Leopards will have to wait for our next visit then. Sightings of Impala, Kudu, Warthog, Plains Zebra, Blesbok and Blue Wildebeest were numerous, with rarer glimpses of Cheetah, Tsessebe, Eland, Waterbuck, Nyala, Springbok, Grey Duiker, Giraffe, Banded Moongoose, Black-backed Jackal and Vervet Monkey adding variety to our game drives.
Dinokeng Game Reserve boasts more than 30 different accommodation providers, ranging from rustic camping areas to luxury, full-service lodges. For our first visit to the reserve we had the pleasure of staying at OuKlip Game Lodge, deep inside the reserve, where eight fully self-contained safari tents (rated 4-stars) provide very comfortably for two to four guests each. We were immediately taken in by the great facilities in the tents and camp as a whole, not forgetting the warm hospitality of the owners and staff, and have already decided that OuKlip will be our preferred base for future visits to Dinokeng as well. I think what I will most remember about our tent, number one, was the two magnificent sunsets we enjoyed from the veranda! Contact Marilize if you’d like to make reservations at OuKlip; it is sure to be one of Dinokeng’s most popular retreats.
The Dinokeng Game Reserve was officially opened in September 2011, following the amalgamation of 200 private properties, and is managed co-operatively with the provincial government. Visitors to Dinokeng should remember that this is still a developing reserve and that there remains a lot of work to do to remove old farming infrastructure, derelict buildings and fences, and that a few public roads, with associated traffic, crosses through the reserve. It is the only game reserve with free-roaming populations of the “Big 5” in Gauteng Province, South Africa’s economic hub. Today it covers 185km², with plans for further expansion. The Self-Drive Route covers large areas of the reserve, and most of the over 100km of track is good enough to traverse in a sedan. Along the way visitors will find picnic sites (with toilets), hides and viewpoints, and several restaurants (we can honestly recommend the Kingfisher Restaurant at Mongena). Overnight guests and day visitors can also join guided drives and walks from many of the reserve’s private lodges. Other exhilarating activities available inside the reserve includes cultural tours, hot air ballooning and microlight flights, fishing, clay-pigeon shooting, boat cruises and spas. The “Safari Mall” stocks basic groceries and baked goods and also offers a fuel station and bottle store.
Dinokeng Game Reserve is easily accessed from the Hammanskraal offramp from the N1-highway heading north, around half-an-hour from Pretoria.