Amongst the Grasslands of Ezemvelo
Author of the popular adventure blog, The Daywalkers, Jacques Kok finds himself amongst wild animals on the scenic grasslands of Ezemvelo
Bronkhorstspruit – the once popular weekend getaway destination on the border between Gauteng and Mpumalanga, has recently fallen down the pecking order behind places such as Hartebeespoort, Parys, and Magaliesberg.
But with its rolling grass plains Ezemvelo Nature Reserve, a short drive outside Bronkhorstspruit, is now bidding to change the status quo. The reserve is located a mere 95 km from O.R. Tambo International Airport, just off the N4 on the R25. The road gets a bit bumpy for the last 20 kilometres as the tar leads onto a dirt road. Note, this gets very slippery when it rains so be extra careful.
What makes this lesser-known destination so unique is the fact that you can encounter wildlife in its true sense; in the untamed wild. All the animals on the nature reserve roam freely and the camps
are not contained or fenced in. It is the perfect way for the city-slicker to connect with nature.
Their claim to fame at Ezemvelo Nature Reserve is having one of the biggest unspoiled grasslands in South Africa. The reserve has some exceptional cliffs, river valleys, rocky outcrops, and astounding views. On the reserve you will get to experience 22 different plant communities, about 286 bird species and over 30 mammals, which include predators like leopards, brown hyenas and the African wild cat.
LOOKING OVER MY SHOULDER
As the host of the popular trail running challenge, the Aardwolf, it seemed a fitting setting for a wild trail run. You can choose between three trails, each with different challenges and attractions. The Ochna Trail is the shortest and easiest of the three, with a distance of 4 km. The Protea (14 km) and the Burkea (21 km) trails will give you more of an endurance test. They are perfect for running, hiking, and even mountain biking.
Running the trails, you can help but feel like an intruder in a foreign, hostile habitat. With the recent sightings of the leopard and knowing of the other predators around you, one cannot help but look over your shoulder. This was worsened after a few encounters with a snorting, uncomfortable wildebeest trying to stand its ground on route.
The breath-taking scenery and the intimate game viewing make this a truly unique experience. After a couple of kilometres you begin to feel more at ease and you start immersing yourself in this abundant environment. I was fortunate enough to see springbok, blesbok, zebra, jackal, wildebeest, waterbuck, and impala on the trail.
Whilst looking down you see a mix of wild antelope, jackal, and snake tracks and man-made tekkie tracks overlapping each other, reminding you that living in harmony with the wild is possible. This is truly a trail run with an edge.
THERE IS A WILDEBEEST IN OUR CAMP
We pitched our tents in one of the 50 campsites available in the reserve. The campsite has two ablution blocks and a small kitchen area. Each campsite has its
own braai facility, power outlet, and ample shade. There is a swimming pool for the children, but I do not recommend the difficult putt-putt course.
A small dam close to the campsite is ideal for some catch and release fishing. The shop has all the necessities with ample fire wood and ice available. The absence of trash cans at the campsites did complicate things a little, especially with monkeys doing their daily rounds around the camp.
As the bubbling commotion of the activity in the camp settles down you can hear the wild animal calls in the distance. Amongst the plethora of cries during the dead of night you can clearly identify the more prominent high-pitched bark of the zebra and haunting howls of the jackal – really the best lullaby one can ask for.
…But being woken up by the snort of a wildebeest is not as soothing.
The simple pleasure of a camp fire under a blanket of stars is pure bliss and something you forget to enjoy in the frantic city lifestyle. Kick back, relax, and take in everything this nature reserve has to offer.
The Bronkhorstspruit area does have a couple of attractions if you decide to venture further. You can get your feet wet at Bronkhorstspruit Dam with some water sports and recreational activities the resort has available. For the art lover the Anton Smit sculpture park overlooking the dam is well worth the visit.
For the culturally inclined you can go to Nan Hua Buddhist Temple, which is one of the largest Buddhist temples in the Southern Hemisphere. Stepping into this village you get transported into a whole different country and mind-set. The tranquillity and peace is matched by the true artistry and traditional architecture to give you an authentic taste of a different culture.
For more tips and advice on outdoor adventures, visit www.daywalkers.co.za.