At the Sandveld Nature Reserve in the Free State you can experience Kalahari thornveld – with its signature camelthorn trees, sociable weavers and crimson-breasted shrikes – without having to travel to the Kalahari. The reserve also offers several other habitats, with a large variety of bird and game species. It is also popular with anglers.

Did you know?

The Bloemhof Dam lies at the confluence of the Vaal and Vet rivers in the Free State.

The Sandveld Nature Reserve is one of South Africa's top birding spots, with 295 bird species recorded here, as well as a wide range of mammals, including rare sable and roan antelope. It offers visitors an uncrowded experience in the wild. Not many people know about this reserve, 200km from Bloemfontein.

Leading South African ornithologist Rick Nuttall has studied waxbill species in the Sandveld Nature Reserve, which he rates as one of his favourite birding spots in South Africa.

'It's a very special place, made all the more special by the lack of crowds and by the presence of camelthorn trees cradling sociable weaver nest masses, which can each host up to 300 birds,' says Nuttall.

The reserve offers a variety of habitats including Kalahari thornveld, Karoo scrub, sweet-thorn savannah, open water and the dam shoreline, contributing to the great variety of species. Among the many species that occur here, you should look for crimson-breasted shrikes, white-backed vultures, sociable weavers, waxbills, lapwings, gabar goshawks, cuckoos, larks and other species of shrikes.

The dam also offers a great variety of waterbird species, including the South African shelduck, white-faced duck, Cape teal, Southern pochard, grey heron and goliath heron.

The reserve also has abundant game, including giraffe, buffalo, eland, gemsbok, and rare sable and roan antelope.

Other attractions are angling and watersports on the 25 000-hectare Bloemhof Dam, which has hosted F1 powerboat racing over a number of years.

Birders, anglers and tourists are offered basic but clean camping and self-catering chalet facilities at the reserve. 

Don't expect luxury facilities and restaurants here. Do expect a wonderful birding and wildlife opportunity far from the madding crowd.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Sandveld Nature Reserve
Tel: +27 (0)53 433 1701/2/3

How to get here

The reserve is situated 200km north-west of Bloemfontein on the R34 between Hoopstad (Free State) and Bloemhof (North West province), and is +/-35km from Hoopstad and 10km from Bloemhof. Bloemfontein is approximately 380km from Johannesburg.

Get around

You'll need to drive yourself around in the reserve.

What to pack

Typical safari gear: binoculars, cameras, bird book.

Where to stay

The Sandveld Nature Reserve offers basic but clean chalets and camping facilities, with and without electricity.

What to eat

The Sandveld Nature Reserve has no restaurant or shop, and visitors must bring all their food and beverage requirements.

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