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Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve is an excellent highveld reserve approximately 50 km south of Johannesburg and 25 km west of the town of Heidelberg. It has a number of species that are otherwise difficult to see in the Johannesburg area. One may expect to see around 50 of the 286 species listed for the resrve.

A number of mammals inhabit the grasslands, including Black Wildebeest. Both Leopard and Cheetah are also present, but are rarely seen.

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Specials

The specials at Suikerbosrand are Secretarybird, Grey-winged Francolin, Red-winged Francolin, Orange River Francolin, White-bellied Korhaan, Eastern Long-billed Lark, Zitting Cisticola, Desert Cisticola, Cloud Cisticola, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Long-billed Pipit, Striped Pipit, Sentinel Rock-Thrush, Cape Rock-Thrush, Yellow Canary and Black-throated Canary. African Red-eyed Bulbul and Kalahari Scrub-Robin also occur.

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Habitats

The reserve covers an area of 13,337 hectares and the major habitat is grassland. There are two main types of grassland within the reserve, with montane grassland above 1800 m and a non-montane savanna below 1800 m. Broadleaved woodland is present in the valleys, while Acacia savanna and Protea caffra veld (which gives the reserve its name) make up the rest of the reserve.

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Facilities

A 60 km circular drive traverses all the major habitats. A shorter loop starting and ending at the main northern gate is possible, as well as a drive from the main northern gate across the ridge and down to the south-western “Kareekloof" gate. There are picnic sites at the main entrance and at the Kareekloof Resort. Overnight accommodation is available at the main gate and at the Kareekloof Resort. A network of hiking trails criss-crosses the reserve.

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Birding

A bird list, map and information guide can be obtained from the main administration centre close to the start of the circular drive. The following describes the longer 60 km circular drive, with a stop at the picnic site halfway round the drive.

1. The gates to the reserve only open at 07:00 which, in summer, is well after sunrise and eats away at valuable birding time. An option is to bird a dirt road before the turnoff to the main entrance gate, as this offers good birding in the early morning. Turn off the N3 onto the R550, and after 3km take the dirt road off to the left. A drive down this road for more or less 4km in the early morning could yield Orange River Francolin, Marsh Owl or even African Grass-Owl.

2. Just before the main entrance gate is reached there are a couple of small pools on the left that are regularly used by Great Crested Grebe and White-backed Duck. Barn Swallow is very common at this spot in summer and frequently accompanied by Sand Martin.

3. The first part of the circular drive takes you up to the highest part of the reserve through montane grassland. Eastern Long-billed Lark, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Mountain Wheatear, Familiar Chat and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting are common. Red-winged Francolin can be seen along the slopes leading to the top, while Grey-winged Francolin is mostly seen at the top. Yellow Bishop also occurs and Sentinel Rock-Thrush may be found in winter.

4. As the drive descends, so the habitat slowly changes. Keep an eye out for Long-billed Pipit and Striped Pipit.

5. The lower grasslands have many Zitting Cisticola, Desert Cisticola, Cloud Cisticola, while Rufous-naped Lark and Ant-eating Chat are common. Capped Wheatear may also be encountered. This area often holds Secretarybird, and Banded Martin can be seen hawking over the grassland. As the habitat starts to change to Acacia thornveld, look out for Red-throated Wryneck. The slopes on the right hand side of the road a few kilometres before reaching the halfway picnic spot (presently closed) often produces Ground Woodpecker.

6. The picnic spot (presently closed) is set in Acacia savanna and African Red-eyed Bulbul is common. In addition, Cape Rock-Thrush, Mocking Cliff-Chat and Bokmakierie are all normally present and are joined by Fairy Flycatcher in the winter months. Another bird that is at the eastern extremity of its range in the reserve is Kalahari Scrub-Robin and they can also be found in the Acacia savanna areas. Also look for Mocking Cliff-Chat around the picnic site and listen for the call of Greater Honeyguide.

7. Beyond the picnic spot Red-throated Wryneck and Red-headed Finch may be seen, as well as Red-backed Shrike in summer. Common Scimitarbill, Brown-crowned Tchagra and Brubru are also readily found around these parts.

8. The drive gradually climbs back up to montane grassland again to give you an opportunity to find any birds you might have missed in the early part of the drive.

9. You are likely to come across canaries in any part of the reserve and Cape Canary, Yellow Canary, Yellow-fronted Canary, Streaky-headed Seedeater and Black-throated Canary all occur. Brimstone Canary is also recorded, and although easily confused with Yellow-fronted Canary, is very uncommon. Although Red-winged Francolin, Orange River Francolin and White-bellied Korhaan occur, they are not easy to see.

10. The common raptors are Secretarybird, Black-shouldered Kite, Verreaux's Eagle, Jackal Buzzard and Rock Kestrel. Both Steppe Buzzard and Amur Falcon are regular in the summer months.

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General

Directions
The reserve may be reached from Johannesburg by travelling south on the N3 highway. Take the R550 offramp and turn right (there is a signpost). After 6 km turn left (again signposted) and the entrance to the reserve is at the end of this road after a further 4 km. There is a second access gate on the south-western side of the reserve off the R557.

Gate Times
Access to the reserve is possible daily from 07h00 to 16h30 (the latest that admittance to the reserve is allowed).

Entrance Fee
A nominal entrance fee is payable at the main entrance gate.

Contact Details
Tel +27 11 904 3930.

Accommodation
There are a number of options for accommodation in the reserve, all managed by Protea Hotels Suikerbosrand Kareekloof. Tel: 016 365 5334 , Fax: 016 365 5628, Cell: 082 887 5676.

Déwald Swanepoel 2007
Guy Gibbon 2002
Paul Wood 1998




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