Did you know?
Nelson Mandela said this about the Free State: ‘The Free State landscape gladdens my heart, no matter what my mood. When I am here I feel that nothing can shut me in, that my thoughts can roam as far as the horizons.’
Experience some of the Free State province’s many offerings in one day on the BBT Heritage Route, which takes in Bloemfontein, Botshabelo and Thaba Nchu (BBT).
City sights, struggle tales, wildlife and leisure are all part of this 70km route.
Starting in Bloemfontein, there is much to see and do. Some of the attractions include major sporting events; jazz clubs; pubs like the Mystic Boer, which hosts alternative music; the Orchid House with its intoxicating orchid species; the National Museum with its treasure of South African fossils and archaeological artefacts; the Oliewenhuis Art Gallery and its outstanding artworks and gardens; and the Loch Logan Waterfront for shopping and entertainment.
You may want to take a helicopter tour of the area, or hire a guide to accompany you, who knows how to get around Botshabelo, a vast township 60km east of Bloemfontein.
This township is part of South Africa’s struggle history. It was established during apartheid when the Sotho people from the area refused to move from their ancestral farmland to the puppet homeland of QwaQwa, created for them by the National Party government. Following an uprising in the 1970s, the Sotho people took their case to court and won, securing their right to remain. Botshabelo township (meaning ‘place of refuge’) was established in 1979.
From Botshabelo, head east along BBT Heritage Route for 15km to the village and district of Thaba Nchu (which means ‘Black Mountain’). It was named after a landmark mountain, which turns black in the afternoon shadows and which the local people regard as a holy place. Thaba Nchu is the traditional seat of the Barolong Bo Seleka clan, who also fought long and hard from 1833 to maintain their independence.
Just outside of Thaba Nchu is the Black Mountain Hotel and the 5 500-hectare Maria Moroka Nature Reserve. Enjoy the luxuries of this leisure resort and spa, where you can book a game drive to see rhino, buffalo and many other species. There is also a large dam for fishing and birding. And at day's end, you can enjoy a fine meal at the hotel under the stars.
And all this within an hour of Bloemfontein.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
How to get here
From Bloemfontein take the N8 towards Lesotho. Botshabelo is approx. 60km from Bloemfontein, and Thaba Nchu is a further 10km on. Follow the signs to the Black Mountain Hotel and the Maria Moroka Nature Reserve.
Best time to visit
All year round. Winters are cold, with snow often falling on the mountains in this area.
Around the area
The Naledi Sun in Thaba Nchu has a casino for those who enjoy gaming.
Tours to do
Contact Bloemfontein-based tour guide Tony Horn of Bush Junkies for information on tours: +27 (0)82 953 0737.
Self-drive or book a tour.
What will it cost
The game drive costs R100 per person for a 2-hour drive – bookings can be made at the Black Mountain Hotel. Accommodation rates in the region vary from about R250 to R900 per night per person.
Length of stay
1 to 2 days.
What to pack
Casual clothes, smart clothes, safari gear (hat, binoculars and muted-colour clothing).
Where to stay
There is a wide range of places to stay in Bloemfontein. And in Thaba Nchu there’s the Black Mountain Hotel and the Naledi Sun.
What to eat
There is a choice of restaurants in Bloemfontein, and the Black Mountain Hotel and other establishments offer all meals.