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SSterkfontein Dam Nature Reserve is a place of rugged and steep crevices silhouetted against the skyline and mountain slopes, snugly covered with a thick grass blanket. The views offer deep lush vegetated hills and a crystal-clear lake. It's a place untouched by humans and teeming with wildlife.

The nature reserve is a water wonder in the eastern Free State, offering wildlife, birding, windsurfing and fly fishing, with a magnificent view over the Drakensberg.

The reserve covers 18 000 hectares and is situated 23km from Harrismith. The local residents include oribi, mountain reedbuck and grey rhebuck. The bald ibis and the blue and white-bellied korhaan are conspicuous on the grassy slopes, while buff-streaked chat, ground woodpecker, and Sentinel and Cape rock thrushes can be seen on rocky outcrops.

Did You Know?
TThe Sterkfontein Dam is home to the biggest hydro-electric power station in South Africa.

HHere you will find springbok on the plains, black wildebeest, blesbok, mountain reedbuck and if you’re lucky, an African wildcat. As a birder, you’ll want to spend several days here, with 230 recorded species on offer, including the Cape vulture and the bearded vulture.

NNature abounds with yellowwood, wild peach, koko tree, silky bark and bush guarri, which flourish in the sheltered cliffs of Sterkfontein. Wild grape has twined into the treetops, where they form a dense, leafy canopy that protects ferns and mosses below. Fungi and lichen nestle against living and rotting tree trunks. 

The mountain slopes are decorated with wild myrtle, redwood, ouhout, bush guarri, highveld protea, silver sugarbush and the scarce tree fern. It is a place you’ll want to explore with some great hiking trails and routes. Those wanting to relax and savour the great outdoor sensation and the beauty of the mountain will not be disappointed. 

The Sterkfontein Dam Nature Reserve is also a popular spot for camping, angling, game viewing and biking. The fly-fishing here ranks as one of the finest yellowfish hotspots in South Africa, offering a catch-and-release adventure where this freshwater fighter, renowned for its gameness, seriously challenges your skills. You will mainly catch the Orange/Vaal smallmouth here, but there is a small population of Orange/Vaal largemouth.

IIf you’re a windsurfer, when the high winds blow here they will take you on a joyride across this vast expanse of water, spanning about 7000 hectares in this 18 000 hectare nature reserve. The Sterkfontein Dam is part of the Tugela-Vaal water transfer system that supplies the greater Gauteng province and is celebrated for the high biodiversity associated with the varying veld types, including Afromontane, Karoo and savannah.

If you want to stay a few nights and really get to know the reserve, the accommodation includes self-catering chalets (96 beds in total) and camping facilities, some with electrical points, others without. It’s solid, basic accommodation without frills and no restaurant, but the town of Harrismith is about 25km away, with all the provisions you need. For those who prefer more facilities, there is a private resort called Qwantani on the other side of the dam.

After a day on the water or exploring the reserve, there is little to beat than putting a few coals on the braai (barbeque) and then sitting back and watching the twilight dance between the water and the mountains.

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