The Free State is home to a myriad of bird species, wide open spaces, cold and clean waterways and formidable mountain ranges. This makes the Free State an ideal location to enjoy hiking, birding, fishing and camping without breaking the bank.
The Sandveld Nature Reserve lies 200 kilometres from Bloemfontein and roughly three and a half hours’ drive from Johannesburg. It is a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life.
The Sandveld Nature Reserve is a true twitchers haven and is known as one of South Africa’s top birding spots. It combines endless vistas with 295 species of birds naturally occurring in the area and a wide range of mammals including the rare sable and roan antelope.
The landscape here is populated with Camelthorn trees, Karoo scrub, sweet-thorn savannah and is home to massive colonies of sociable weavers, crimson-breasted shrikes, waxbills, cuckoos and larks, each with fascinating habits and exquisite song.
Of the rarer species, bird watchers will have the pleasure of spotting special treats such as the great crested grebe, the rare pygmy falcon, desert cisticola and fulvous duck.
The dam also offers numerous water bird species, including the South African shelduck, white-faced duck, Cape teal, Southern pochard, grey heron and goliath heron. The reserve is a fascinating eco-system with abundant game including giraffe, buffalo, eland, gemsbok, blue wildebeest and rhino.
Fly-fishing for yellowfish on a catch-and-release basis does not get any better than it does here. There is an enthusiastic fishing fraternity and besides yellowfish, the dam is brimming over with common carp and catfish. Over weekends visitors use the waterways in their powerboats but the dam never feels inundated with visitors.
There is even the F1 powerboat race that has been held here a number of times. In general, however, it is a tranquil, quiet place of serenity to explore and experience wildlife in an unspoiled environment.
Birders, anglers and tourists are offered basic but clean camping and self-catering chalet facilities at the reserve. The Sandveld Nature Reserve does not have fancy restaurants or luxury accommodation, but what it lacks in bustling city basics it more than makes up for with night game drives, organised walks and picnic sites along the shoreline of the dam for day visitors.