In the heart of the Great Fish River valley, sandwiched between two rivers and traversed by the mighty Great Fish itself, lies the Great Fish River Nature Reserve. A haven for wildlife of all shapes and sizes and home to several historical sites, this reserve near Grahamstown offers beauty and peace.

Did you know?

At the mouth of the Great Fish River mouth is a 9m-high lighthouse that was built in 1898.

The Great Fish River Nature Reserve, just outside Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape, boasts plenty of big game such as buffalo, elephant and hippo.

Its semi-arid bushveld vegetation also sustains large populations of plains game, including various species of antelope indigenous to South Africa.

The park actually comprises three individual South African nature reserves: the Sam Knott Nature Reserve, the Andries Vosloo Kudu Reserve and the Double Drift Nature Reserve, all connected by a circular route. As such it covers a massive 45 000ha, offering prime game-viewing opportunities in a malaria-free environment.

There are a multitude of ways to enjoy this rugged wilderness experience, including walking and hiking trails, day and night game drives, riverside picnics, birdwatching excursions (there's also a waterside bird hide) and visits to the Adam Krantz viewpoint, which offer spectacular views across the reserve.

The Inyathi Game Camp, located in the Double Drift Nature Reserve, offers the chance to see a number of of antelope species, blue wildebeest, waterbuck, zebra and giraffe. This part of the reserve also boasts San (also known as 'Bushman') rock art, dating back thousands of years.

Further east, between the Great Fish and Keiskamma rivers, guided game-viewing trails are available.

While in the Great Fish River Nature Reserve keep a look out for black-backed jackals and caracals – rare treats for visitors. You should have no problem spotting the reserve's number one inhabitant – the kudu – whose numbers top 2 000.

This area played a major role in the frontier wars that raged here between the British settlers and the Xhosa, from 1779 to 1878. Many of the historical sites remain and can be easily viewed by visitors, including old fortified homesteads, forts, signalling towers, graves and old army barracks.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Great Fish Nature Reserve
Tel: +27 (0)40 653 8010

How to get here

If driving from Johannesburg, take the N1 highway south to Colesburg, then the N9 to Middleburg, and then the N10 to Port Elizabeth. From Port Elizabeth, take the N2 highway east to Peddie.

From Cape Town and Durban take the N2 motorway east and west respectively to Peddie. At Peddie, pick up the R345 to the Great Fish River Nature Reserve.

Best time to visit

The Great Fish River Nature Reserve is an all-year-round destination due to its moderate climate, although rainfall and temperature can vary greatly in different parts of the reserve at different times of the year.

Generally, rainfall peaks in the reserve in October and March, with relatively dry, cool winters. The winter months (May to August) are the best time to view game.

Tours to do

As an area rich in historical significance, this part of the Eastern Cape offers a number of historical tours, especially in Grahamstown and Fort Beaufort. In the reserve itself, make sure you do the Inyathi Game Camp circuit, the walking trails, an outing to the historical sites and a night game drive.

What to pack

Always pack plenty of sunscreen and a hat, no matter the season.

Where to stay

The Great Fish River Nature Reserve has a variety of accommodation options available, from rustic cottages and campsites to luxury chalets.

What's happening

The Grahamstown National Arts Festival, a showcase of South African art, culture, drama and dance, takes place annually in nearby Grahamstown in July.