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TThe flamingos of Lake Chrissie are by no means the only attraction in the Lake District of South Africa. Just outside the little town of Chrissiesmeer lies this extraordinary place – a land of water, pans and birds. This is also a good place to look for elusive larks and flufftails.
The flamingos of Lake Chrissie are attracted by a string of freshwater lakes, a region some refer to as the country’s Lake District. It’s a particularly appropriate name because there are in fact 270 lakes and pans, all interconnected.
Only 3 hours from Johannesburg, this area of Mpumalanga has long been overlooked for tourism, with most people racing to the more intense climes of the Lowveld. But here, in the subtle blues and greens of the lake-dappled high grasslands of Lake Chrissie, are wondrous delights – including frogs and birds.
You’ll find both species of flamingo here – lesser and greater. Up to 20 000 of them periodically turn the limpid waters of Lake Chrissie (near the town of Chrissiesmeer) a festive pink.
They come to wiggle their toes in the mud, scaring up tiny shrimps and other delicious food sources. Flamingos never settle in one place, but they do have their favourite breeding and meeting places. Lake Chrissie is one of them.
Nocturnal fliers, they will head back and forth across southern Africa to various lakes and pans. You might see the same flamingos next at the Makgadikgadi Pans in Botswana. They are restless birds.
But the flamingo is by no means the only long-legged beauty you will see in the Lake District. This is also a favourite region for cranes, blue and grey crowned. You’ll also see the blue korhaan here, perhaps Rudd’s lark, red-chested flufftail and yellow wagtail.
Still, flamingos are quite magnificent to watch and certainly not only for birders. They wag their strange, hockey-stick heads from side to side, honk inelegantly and sometimes take on balletic postures. Every now and then they will all troop in one direction, and then march back.
You could spend many a diverting hour watching these fascinating birds, and Lake Chrissie is a delightful place to do it.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)82 378 9488
How to get here
From Johannesburg or Pretoria it's a 3-hour drive. Head east on the N4 and turn off near Middelburg onto the N11 towards Hendrina. After Hendrina, turn left to Breyten and on to Chrissiesmeer.
Best time to visit
Spring (September to October) is a lovely time to visit, but the whole of summer (October to March) is good.
Length of stay
Chrissiesmeer is rather charming. Stay for a couple of nights.
Where to stay
There are a number of guest houses in town, but best of all is a farmstay in this lovely district.
What to pack
Pack your binoculars and bird book.
Every year there's a frogging event in Chrissiesmeer in early December.