Gauteng and Surrounds
Around my home in Johannesburg there are incredible opportunities to get out and photograph both the landscape as well as wildlife. I've included below some places that might be of interest if you are in Joburg between trips and want to get out into the bush to escape the city and get some great stock photos.
Cradle of Humankind and The Lion and Rhino Nature Reserve
This area of under five hundred square kilometers, on the grasslands on the western edge of Johannesburg, was declared a World Heritage Site in 1999. A wealth of humankind's prehistory is revealed in the numerous caves and diggings in this area, and this has warranted its declaration as such. The most famous sites are that of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, and Kromdraai, this is the area where Dr. Robert Broom discovered the famous Mrs. Ples, a four million old ape-like man skeleton. Along with numerous other early hominid fossils, this area has yielded the best evidence anywhere in the world as to our human origins. The area also has a wealth of little nature reserves, battlefields, archaeological sites and country restaurants.
The Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve is an extensive natural highveld grassland only 45 minutes from Johannesburg. This popular nature reserve is visited by thousands of tourists, both local and international, every year.
The Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve is a privately owned 1-600ha reserve with over 200 bird species to view. The South African National Bird of Prey Centre regularly displays a variety of birds of prey but you can also view them naturally on the reserve.
The actual Rhino and Lion Reserve was founded in 1985, with an aim to preserve this beautiful area for private relaxation. It all started off with 2 White Rhinos imported from a German Zoo, from there a few of the antelope species was added. Now 25 different species are accommodated, a total collection of 600 heads of game. Photographic opportunities are huge with the game being very accustomed to vehicles so close up photography work is excellent, particularly in respect of lion, cheetah and wild dogs for which this reserve is well renowned.
Ezemvelo Nature Reserve
Situated 50 min East of Pretoria, Ezemvelo is situated on the transition zone between the Savannah and Grassveld Biomes. Running through the reserve is the Wilge River that has cut a deep gorge that houses beautifully large blue pools. Walks are allowed on the reserve.
The 10 000ha reserve houses large amounts of game species (Wildebeest, Springbuck, waterbuck, Kudu, Eland, Zebra, Mountain Reedbuck, Giraffe and White Rhinoceros amongst others) that are frequently seen.
250 bird species have been recorded on the reserve including our national bird, The Blue Crane, 7 lark species and 5 francolin species.
Predators are well accounted for and include Brown Hyaena, Leopard, Civet, Caracal and very recently, Black footed cat. Ezemvelo is noted for its good sightings of Aardwolf and Brown Hyaena.
Photographically, it offers good opportunities of large game species as well as good grassveld-bird photography, whilst the Wilge River's aqua-blue pools contrast well with the red sandstone cliffs guarding the valley. Dramatic landscape photography can be offered.
Rietvlei Dam Nature Reserve
This nearly four thousand hectare reserve on the outskirts of Pretoria was established principally to protect a dam, which supplies the drinking water to South Africa's capital city, Pretoria. Mindful of the important catchment function that the wetlands of the area would serve, it was in the best interests of all to declare the area a nature reserve. The reserve protects important 'bankenveld' type grasslands, of which only five percent are protected in South Africa, and over sixty percent of which is completely degraded. A variety of game, such as blesbok, black wildebeest, zebra, springbok, white rhinoceros, eland and hippo in the dams, is present. There are a few predator species, such as cheetah and the brown hyena. For the visitor, there are picnic sites, guided trails and game drive routes available.
Rietvlei Dam Nature Reserve is one of the very few reserves situated in the grassland biome on the central South African highveld. It is therefore not very rich in diversity of species, but hosts many of the South African endemics and provides a very relaxing spot for a few hours' birding. Around 80 species can be expected in a morning or afternoon trip. Photographically, it offers good opportunities of large game species as well as good grassland bird photography
This nature reserve is situated on a mountain range about seventy kilometers south-east of Johannesburg and it serves an invaluable 'benchmark' as to what Johannesburg and its suburban ridges looked like before the discovery of gold in the 1880's. Suikerbosrand, translated as "Sugarbush ridge", is testimony to the Sugarbush protea that abounds on the ridges. The vegetation is predominantly moorland, with treed valleys and ridges. The reserve was proclaimed in 1964 and is about fourteen thousand hectares and counting, as the reserve is to be extended. A large number of endemic highveld antelope roam the plains such as the blesbok, black wildebeest and grey rhebok, while others, such as zebra, eland and springbok, are also present. For general highveld grassland birding, this is regarded as the best place to head to. Activities on offer include both walking and game driving, and accommodation is present in the form of hiking cabins or resort-style chalets. With its combination of ridges and grassy plains, the scene is set for capturing the romance of an Africa that is long past. Large game species are easily photographed but the area is such that landscape scenarios are of the more natural inclination.