Only 20 minutes by road from Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport, Modderfontein Nature Reserve is an oasis of natural beauty smack-bang in the middle of an urban setting. Environmentally and user-friendly, you can choose to hike, cycle or just wander through a bird-rich landscape of hills, grasslands and dams.

Did you know?

The stately Blue crane is South Africa's national bird.

Modderfontein Nature Reserve was born when the world’s largest gold deposits were found on the Witwatersrand in the late 1880s and underground mining began in a big way.

The burgeoning mining industry needed dynamite, and so the Modderfontein Dynamite Factory was built – far enough away from the centre of the new city of Johannesburg to allay fears of potential explosive dangers or too much noise.

Villages sprang up around the factory to accommodate the many European immigrants who came to work here, and the remains of these villages and their surrounds are now part of the Modderfontein Nature Reserve.

Various heritage buildings from the past are still to be found in the reserve, including the Stone Barn, the first Chief Engineer’s residence and now the Modderfontein Dynamite Company Museum.

But no longer is it about blowing things up – it’s about conserving.

The reserve today is run and administered by a subsidiary of AECI (African Explosives & Industries) in partnership with the Endangered Wildlife Trust, whose mission is to ensure that this lovely open space is socially, economically and ecologically sustainable.

Alien vegetation continues to be removed, indigenous trees and shrubs are planted on an on-going basis, and now this second-largest private reserve in Gauteng has become a haven for birds and small mammals, as well as for city-stressed locals.

There are two cycling trails as well as a variety of hiking trails. Guided walks are also available.

Keep your eyes open for over 250 species of birds, including the African fish eagle, the Blue crane and the dazzlingly coloured Crimson boubou. If you’re very lucky you might spot otters swimming along the water course.

It seems a far cry from dynamite to duikers, explosions to black-backed jackals, but when you visit Modderfontein Nature Reserve you’ll quickly appreciate the environmental care and commitment to protect indigenous flora and fauna that has resulted in this natural oasis.

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