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TThe Franklin Game Reserve is a unique 250-hectare wildlife reserve in the heart of Bloemfontein, established in 1930. The capital of Free State province and the largest city in the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality, Bloemfontein shares with Hong Kong the distinction of being the only 2 places in the world in which a game reserve is completely enclosed within the city.
Giraffe, blue wildebeest (gnu) and city views are on offer – and apart from the game, there are bird species aplenty to delight twitchers’ hearts, including Karoo scrub robin, the fairy flycatcher and violet-eared waxbills.
For safety reasons, it’s best not to walk alone in the reserve – hike in larger groups or take an organised tour. You can also take a day drive to the top of Naval Hill in the reserve, from which you’ll enjoy breath-taking city views.
An iconic feature on the east side of Naval Hill is the White Horse, an image created with rocks painted white. It is believed to have been created during the South African War of 1899-1902 (formerly called the Second Anglo-Boer War) as a direction marker for the British cavalry to see from afar.
A remount camp was stationed here after the British captured Bloemfontein from the Boers on 15 March 1900. The White Horse was most likely the handiwork of men of the Second Battalion of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Wiltshire regiment, and is said to be the only ‘Wiltshire white horse’ that is not in Wiltshire, England.
One of several urban legends about the White Horse is that every time a maiden is kissed on Naval Hill, it moves a step forward.
Tour guides are available – simply ask the host at your guesthouse, hotel or backpackers’ lodge to advise you.
TTravel tips & Planning info
How to get here
You can fly or drive to Bloemfontein – it’s about 4 hours from Johannesburg or 10 hours from Cape Town on the N1. The entrance to Franklin Game Reserve is on Union Avenue.
Best time to visit
Bloemfontein is an all-year-round destination, but the city’s famed roses, plus a huge variety of other botanical wonders, are flowering at their best in spring (September to November) – which is also when you’ll see animals with their new-born young in the game reserve.
Walk or drive around the reserve – but if you’re on foot, enlist the services of a recommended tour guide to show you around. Enquire about guided tours at your accommodation.
Length of stay
Take 2 nights in Bloemfontein and explore the surroundings over 2 or 3 days.