The Waterberg is 15 000 square kilometres of an unspoiled and little known corner of Africa recently declared a Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations. This area north-west of Gauteng, fringing the Botswana border, has always been a remote, inacessible wilderness which attracted adventurers, gunrunners, outlaws, runaways and hardy pioneers of old. The 1800′s saw big game hunters drawn to the plains that lie between the Waterberg for the abundant wildlife, lured by the promise of unlimited ivory and hunting trophies …
Spectacular rocks rise out of the bushveld lowlands, the Waterberg Massif stretching more than 150 kilometres from the Marakele National Park in the southwest, to the Masebe National Reserve in the northeast. An abundance of iron and manganese gives these sedimentary rocks of the cliffs and butresses their distinctive red, orange and purple hues which glow in the setting sun. The mountains of the Waterberg have not undergone the folding and buckling that has ocurred in the nearby Magaliesberg and Cape Fold mountains further south. This gives the rock faces their flat “layered cake” appearance.
The Waterberg-range, incorporating many rivers, streams and swamps, stretches for 150 km in a long arc from Thabazimbi in the West, past Nylstroom to Potgietersrus in the east. Apart from the spectacular scenery of the mountains, there are many game sanctuaries, nature reserves and farms with accommodation. The 75 mammal species encountered here include big game such as elephant, lion, white and black rhino, hippo, leopard and buffalo. African python and the Nile crocodile occur in the area. The Waterberg is a birdwatchers’ paradise with more than 300 bird species.
A fascinating feature of the rocky hillsides is the abundance of flora related to Cape fynbos found hundreds of kilometres away. The Cape fynbos constitutes a separate floral kingdom and is found almost exclusively in the western cape. It is fascinating to find similar plants growing on the slopes of the Waterberg so far north. The Cape Vulture used to be a common sight on Table Mountain, but now the most important breeding colony for these creatures lies on the Groothoek cliffs in the Marakele National Park here in the Waterberg. White Rhino were introduced into the area in 1972, Black Rhino in 1990, Hippos in 1985, Elephant and disease-free Buffalo in the early 1990′s and later lions in the late 1990′s.
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