The Waterberg is a chain of blue-tinged mountains that stretch all the way from Thabazimbi to Lapalala River in Limpopo, just three hours’ drive from Johannesburg. The world’s only savanna biosphere reserve the Waterberg is a geological treasure. Its base is derived from rock that dates back 2.7 billion years, and its cliffs a multihued delight of exposed coloured sandstone that sheltered early humans.
With surrounds that include rolling grasslands, semi-deciduous forest, cliffside caves, a collection of rivers that cut through the mountains, national parks, wilderness areas and private game reserves, the Waterberg is an obvious downtime destination.
You visit for the experience of the bushveld, the chance to visit the once overgrazed, now restored land that is again home to rhino, leopard, buffalo and elephants, hippo, giraffe and antelope.
You visit for the ease of space, for the ever-present series of mountains, and to restore yourself…
COMMUNE WITH ELEPHANTS
This encounter is way more than simply feeding and touching elephants. It is an elephant experience that not only offers a steep learning curve on how best to interact with these immense beasts, but also offers elephant-back safaris, swims and starlight safaris. The elephants live in a beautiful 300 hectare wildlife reserve and the family who runs the facility just outside Bela Bela has worked with elephants since 1988. (More info here)
TASTE CRAFT BEER AT L’ABRI FOUNTAIN BREWERY
Challenge your ideas about beer and beer drinking with a visit to this farm pub craft brewery with a difference. L’abri promises to have at least six unique draft beers consistently on tap (they’ve been known to have as many as 25 from seven different breweries). If you think beer starts and ends with commercially produced lagers, think again. This 45L brewery is the second biggest brewery in Limpopo. Sample malts, smell hops and stay for a slow food meal. (More info here)
VISIT A PEDI HOME
Four dynamic, elderly ladies from a farm in the Waterberg make their homes available to visitors who come to see how they cook, live, explore their traditions , décor, songs, dance and history. Martha Mosima, Anna Mojadibodu, Miriam Moabi and Sophia Mokau take the tours themselves, moving through their village via the community créche, with an optional, traditionally cooked lunch. (More info here)
VISIT THE PALALA RHINO SANCTUARY
Palala is a sanctuary for rhinos, a place where they can live without fear of poaching. The people who run the reserve appreciate that there is no ‘single silver bullet’ to stop the ongoing slaughter of these precious beasts, but they believe that by offering their rhinos a safe space and supporting them with public education they can prevent the extinction of the rhino in our lifetime. (More info here)
Pot making in the Waterberg goes back hundreds of years – an ancient craft performed by women as part of their domestic life. Anna Moshede makes pots from scratch. She’s known simply as the Pedi Potter, but actually ceramicists from all over the world come to see her work (don’t let her age and demeanour fool you). In her colourful headscarves, 80 year old Anna uses natural clay to mold her pots, which she decorates and fires in a ground oven next door to her Pedi home. Meet Anna, and buy a pot from her selection. (More info here)
RIDE HORSES THROUGH THE SAVANNA
A savanna is characterised by enough space between the trees of a grassland that the canopy does not close. Ride on a guided safari amongst African wildlife through a savanna landscape rich with rivers, grasslands, plains and rocky escarpments, with views to match, in groups of no more than four riders at a time. (More info here)
HIKE THE STAMVRUG TRAILS
Choose from a series of trails through the Bateleur Nature Reserve. One of these is a two-day backpacking trail with an overnight at the Stamvrug hut. But there are day trails to choose from too with routes for all levels of fitness, and access to some of the most beautiful scenery and vegetation, including river pools and rocks for climbing. (More info here)
DRIVE THE WATERBERG MEANDER
The Waterberg Meander is far more than a list of coffee and local craft shops. It is instead a collection of social upliftment projects that include the Pedi Potters and Beadle crafts (for beaded sandals), a series of ancient archaelogical sites, and malaria-free game reserves for wildlife. There is little on this route that isn’t of interest to the average visitor. (More info here)
TOUR A DAIRY GOAT FARM
Tour Geluksfontein, a dairy goat farm in Melkrivier. This authentic cheese farm makes goats cheese the traditional way, using milk produced by the Swiss-type goats reared on the farm. Watch the goats being milked, the cheese making and then indulge (why wouldn’t you?) by tasting the cheeses at the Goatino pub and grill. Enjoy the peace and tranquility of a country goat farm. (More info here)
VISIT ST JOHN CHURCH
Designed by Sir Herbert Baker, this church is a beautiful stone and thatch building completed in 1902 in Vaalwater that has been used for years by the people of the town and is full of history. (More info here)