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Page History: Sterkfontein Dam Nature Reserve

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Page Revision: 2008/10/10 11:49

The Sterkfonteindam Nature Reserve is situated outside Harrismith in the eastern Free State. Access to the reserve offices is from the R74 on the Oliviershoek Pass from KwaZulu-Natal and Harrismith. From the Bloemfontein and Gauteng (via N1) areas the reserve can be reached from the N5 or the N3 over Villiers and is about a four hour drive from both areas. The reserve has a bird list of 195 species and up to 100 species can be recorded in summer, if the higher mountainous areas are also visited (arrangements must be made with reserve's office).


The reserve is mainly mountainous habitat of the drakensberg escarpment and has a total area of 17 770 ha, of the dam covers 6 940 ha at full capacity. The water of the dam is released from time to time into the Wilge River, which then flows into the Vaal Dam. The dam is kept full by pumping from the Tugela-Vaal scheme in KwaZulu-natal. The surrounded habitats of the dam are mainly montane grassland with Leucosidea scrub in cliffs and protea woodland on mountain slopes. Isolated pockets of Silver Proteas occur on plateaus and dense Afromontane forests in a few mountain gorges.


The main attraction is a vulture restaurant which can be viewed from Oliviershoek Pass outside the reserve, and offers good views of Cape Vulture, Bearded Vulture and both Cape Crow and White-necked Raven. In short montane grassland areas Yellow-breasted Pipit have been observed and Amur Falcon perching on roadside telegraph. For vulture feeding details contact Paulus Fihlo on 0835470238.

Several waterbird species can be seen from the chalets and near the reserve entrance, including Little Grebe, Goliath Heron, Egyptian Goose, South African Shelduck, Caspian Tern, African Fish-Eagle and Osprey. In the grassland and open bush areas Common Quail, Grey-winged Francolin, White-bellied Korhaan, Ground Woodpecker, Mountain Wheatear, Buff-streaked Chat, Drakensberg Prinia and Yellow-crowned Bishop can be seen.

The rocky slopes provide habitat for several species such as Grey-winged Francolin, Red-winged Francolin, Ground Woodpecker, Mountain Wheatear, Cape Rock-Thrush, and during winter near the reserve's offices, Malachite Sunbird. Other raptors such as Verreauxs' Eagle, Jackal Buzzard, Black Harrier and Rock Kestrel are common, while Southern Bald Ibis breeds on sandstone krantzes in reserve and can be seen foraging in grassland. The rare Rudd's Lark also occurs in short montane grassland and there must be on the lookout for them.

A scenic drive to the upper end of the reserve in the higher mountainous areas is a must, but permission must be obtained from the reserve office. There is also a trail in this part of the reserve, which is over two days and will provide excellent birding opportunities. Along the road, Jackal Buzzard, Cape Rock-Thrush, Red-collared Widowbird and Yellow Bishop are common, as well as Buff-streaked Chat in the rocky areas. In the protea woodland, look out for Gurney's Sugarbird, Malachite Sunbird, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Streaky-headed Seedeater, and Golden-breasted Bunting. Pale-crowned Cisticola is localised, but can be located by call in the moist grassland patches along the mountain streams. In the isolated forest patches, African Green-Pigeon, Red-chested Cuckoo and Black Cuckoo, Bush Blackcap, Cape Batis and Forest Canary occur locally.


The reserve has fully catered chalets and reservations can be made by telephoning (058) 6223520. The Qwantani time-share holiday resort falls within the reserve and reservations can be done at (058) 6230882 or write to PO Box 980, Harrismith.

Dawie de Swardt 2001.

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