Dinosaur nesting sites, Clarens
Did you know?
The Massospondylus nests – which were close to a river – were probably covered in sand or mud after flooding or a sandstorm, creating intact fossils over time.
Eggs found at dinosaur nesting sites near Clarens, several of which still have embryos inside, are the oldest eggs in the world.
These eggs, 190-million to 200-million years old, belong to Massospondylus, a 4m- to 5m-long herbivorous dinosaur that roamed the Golden Gate area near Clarens, where a number of nests containing eggs have been found.
These dinosaur nesting sites in the Free State were discovered some time ago by the legendary South African palaeontologist, Professor James Kitching, but it wasn’t until 2005 that the eggs were examined closely with modern technology, revealing fossilised embryos inside.
These nests and eggs have since been removed and some are held at the Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research at Wits University in Johannesburg.
But you will be able to see Massospondylus eggs at the Clarens Dinosaur Tours centre. Here, a dinosaur adventure awaits you, with guide David Groenewald leading you back in time.
'We have an extensive fossil collection at the centre dating from 260-million years to 190-million ago, and we start our tour here with a talk about the fossils and the geology of the area, which, up until about 200-million years ago, resembled the Okavango Swamps, with plenty of rivers and lakes.
'From about 200-million years ago it started drying up and becoming more desert-like,' he explains.
After the talk Groenewald leads visitors to a river about 15km from Clarens where his geologist father, Dr Gideon Groenewald, discovered Massospondylus footprints in 2007.
Alternatively, he leads visitors to the dinosaur nesting sites of Massospondylus in the Golden Gate area.
'You can still clearly see where the nesting sites were,' he says. 'What is also interesting is that the nests were found in layers, indicating that these dinosaurs returned to the same nesting place.
'There is so much more we need to find out about them, but visitors get a real sense of the Jurassic period out here, and often comment that they will never look at rocks in the same way again.'
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Clarens Dinosaur Tours
David Groenewald – tour leader
Cell: +27 (0)83 469 4696
Tel: +27 (0)58 256 1314
Tel: +27 (0)58 256 1542