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GGariep Dam Nature Reserve in South Africa’s Free State province offers visitors fantastic fishing and all kinds of water sports. For those who prefer dry land, there’s game viewing, horse riding and hiking, all of which allow you to absorb the rich natural environment of this spectacular dam.
The reserve, more than 11 000 hectares in size and home to the largest herd of springbok in South Africa, is a haven for anglers, water sports enthusiasts and nature lovers. It is situated on the northern shore of the vast 36 487-hectare Gariep Dam on the Orange River.
Fans of aquatic adventure have lots to keep them amused on the dam: sailing, powerboating, canoeing, angling, swimming and waterskiing. A tour of the dam wall, which is an astonishing engineering feat in itself, takes visitors right down to the bedrock.
Thanks to its location between Bloemfontein and Colesberg in Free State and the plentiful accommodation in the area, this nature reserve is also a perfect place for a stopover on the 1 400km drive from Johannesburg to Cape Town, or vice versa.
The whole family can relax at the adjoining privately owned Aventura Resort, with a choice of activities that include swimming, tennis, golf, mini-golf and water sports. You have the option to stay at the resort, or at one of a range of guesthouses and BnBs in Gariep Dam Village nearby.
The area is famed for its game and bird life, and visitors can expect to see impressive herds of Cape Mountain zebra, red hartebeest and black wildebeest (gnu). There are also many places around the dam at which visitors can enjoy river rafting, canoeing, boat rides and fishing. The Gariep 500 Rubber Duck Race and the Water Sport Festival are held in February each year.
TTravel tips & Planning info
How to get here
Follow the N1, the major route between Cape Town and Johannesburg, and take the R71 turn-off halfway between Springfontein and Colesberg. It will take you to the Gariep Dam Nature Reserve.
Best time to visit
All year round, although the area can get uncomfortably hot from December to March.
You will need your own vehicle, unless you are on a tour.
Around the area
The Norvalspont Concentration Camp Graveyard, a poignant historical reminder of British policy during the South African War of 1899 to 1902, and the Stable Inn Environmental Education Centre are both worth a visit.
Tours to do
Guided tours of Gariep Dam wall and the local fish hatchery.
Where to stay
A number of guest houses, hotels and BnBs offer accommodation in the Gariep Dam area.
Visitors can enjoy game drives, fishing, river rafting and canoeing, boat trips, plus the Water Sport Festival and the Gariep 500 Rubber Duck Race every February.