Looking back at all the places we stayed in while exploring South Africa’s wild places in 2019!
About time we started telling you about our autumn holidays in the mountains in detail, isn’t it!?
Our first stop was an old and familiar favourite: Golden Gate Highlands National Park in the eastern Free State Province, with scenery so unique that photos from there are instantly recognisable. Here in the foothills of the Maluti and Drakensberg ranges, rugged rocks, hillsides green with waving grass and crystal-clear streams of fresh water all beckon to be explored, and the de Wets just can’t resist!
Walking around Golden Gate is the best way to experience the variety of beautiful wildflowers adorning this special place.
And then while taking in the floral splendour you are bound to notice the astounding diversity of insects, amphibians and reptiles that have made this highland habitat home.
Golden Gate also boasts with a wonderful array of birds, many kinds of which are hard to find elsewhere in the country. During the 4 days we spent in the Park we identified 56 species of bird, just a small slice of the 180 kinds that have been recorded here since the Park was proclaimed over 50 years ago.
Golden Gate’s also home to a selection of mammals, both big and small, that are well adapted to the sometimes harsh climatic conditions of a mountainous abode, and these are often encountered while exploring the Park on foot, horseback or the comfort of a vehicle.
Glen Reenen is one of six SANParks-managed establishments offering accommodation to visitors at Golden Gate. On this trip we spent four nights in cottage 27, which has a lovely view from its veranda of the Mushroom Rocks and the glen from which the camp takes its name.
Golden Gate lies about 400km south of Pretoria. Our favourite route to the Park is over Sasolburg, Heilbron, Bethlehem and Clarens, though the quickest option is probably via Harrismith and the N3-highway.
From Golden Gate we made our way to Royal Natal National Park in the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park, and we’ll be sharing some pictures from there in following posts.
The three of us spent a bit of time today exploring another one of the hiking trails that radiate from Glen Reenen in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. This must be one of the most beautiful pieces of South Africa!
It’s the first day of our two-week autumn breakaway, and this is the view we’re enjoying this evening from the veranda of cottage 27 at Glen Reenen Rest Camp in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park…
Glen Reenen Rest Camp is one of our favoured options for an overnight stay when visiting Golden Gate Highlands National Park. The camp has an amazing setting surrounded by the magnificent mountains, with two crystal clear mountain streams flowing past and converging at one end, and is frequented by an equally impressive diversity of wildlife – we showed you the antics of the baboons yesterday, as well as the ground woodpeckers that call Glen Reenen home – just one of many kinds of birds that you’ll find there, and at night you may be lucky to see a jackal or various kinds of antelope roaming between the huts and campsites. It is also a fantastic base from which to explore the Park, be it on foot, horseback or in your own vehicle.
Glen Reenen, and Golden Gate Highlands National Park, is managed by the South African National Parks and is an easy 350 to 400km drive from Johannesburg and Pretoria.
People will always find the primates entertaining, and the baboon troops in Golden Gate Highlands National Park is no exception. However, when they come foraging between the accommodation units and in the camping site at Glen Reenen Rest Camp they can really cause havoc. They’ll inspect every open window to see what’s inside a car, tent or hut, and will help themselves to whatever they find that even vaguely resembles food, while the naughty little ones can cause quite a lot of damage to property and structures with their rough-and-tumble play.
Glen Reenen Rest Camp in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park is one of the best places in the country to go searching for the Ground Woodpecker, a bird that occupies open, rocky hillsides in arid scrubland, fynbos and grasslands and occurs only in upland parts of South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho.
With a length of 30cm and a weight up to 130g, this is the largest woodpecker in South Africa. They can usually be found in pairs or small family groups, and unlike other, more well-known, woodpeckers search for food (mostly ants) on the ground and among rocks rather than in trees. They are always to be found near water, and usually very conspicuous thanks to their load calls and habit of using high vantage points to watch for danger. Most breeding takes place in early spring, when 3 eggs are laid in nesting chambers at the end of tunnels excavated in vertical soil banks. Some of these tunnels are occupied year-round and not only during the nesting season.
Ground Woodpeckers are common over most of their range and not currently considered to be under any threat to their survival, as their preferred habitat is mostly inaccessible and largely unsuited to human habitation or agriculture.