What Is Waterberg Game Reserve?

Daphne Mallory

Waterberg Game Reserve is often considered one of the best kept secrets in South Africa. The Waterberg mountain range stretches more than 90 miles (150 km) from Thabazimbi in the west to Potgeitersrus in the east. The reserve has rivers and swamps within its almost 100,000 acres (400,000 hectares) of land. It is thought to have more wildlife viewing opportunities than any other reserve in Africa. About 37,000 acres (150,000 hectares) inside the Waterberg Game Reserve is a specially protected conservation area, and one of the signature projects is the preservation and study of the African leopard. A population of about 77,000 people lives within the Waterberg region.

The Waterberg Game Reserve has zebras.
The Waterberg Game Reserve has zebras.

Accommodations within Waterberg Game Reserve are limited. Lodging consists of a few safari tents at a campsite, and the number of visitors allowed in is limited. This makes Waterberg an extremely coveted location for tourists to visit, and there are often waiting lists for a spot to stay in the reserve. The campsite typically allows about a dozen people at a time. Fresh drinking water, beds, and electricity are available, but visitors must bring their own food in to prepare. The campsite is near a watering hole that sometimes provides opportunity for viewing wildlife.

Waterberg Game Reserve is located in South Africa.
Waterberg Game Reserve is located in South Africa.

The wildlife in Waterberg Game Reserve is diverse and plentiful. More than 250 bird species have been cataloged in the area as well as a large number of reptiles. Leopards and brown hyenas are commonly sighted. Larger mammals that can be viewed include giraffes, wildebeests, and zebras. Chacma baboons and vervet monkeys are also present, as well as numerous species of African cats and mongoose. The mountains in the reserve provide the opportunity to see several species of animals that can’t be viewed in other reserves, such as klipspringer and mountain reedbucks.

Giraffes can be found in the Waterberg Game Reserve.
Giraffes can be found in the Waterberg Game Reserve.

The Waterberg Game Reserve is located at about the halfway point between Johannesburg and Botswana. The reserve is approximately a two and a half hour drive from either direction. Visitors are allowed to bring their own vehicles to drive through the reserve for wildlife viewing. Pickup trucks or jeeps with four-wheel drive are often recommended because of the rough terrain. Four-by-four vehicles are usually a requirement during the rainy season, between March and October. Guided game walks and vehicle tours can be arranged with reserve officials ahead of time. Some visitors enjoy mountain biking in the reserve, although there are no maintained trails, and a route often has to be improvised.

Leopards, a "big cat" species that sleeps and eats in trees, are among the game animals that live in the Waterberg Game Reserve.
Leopards, a "big cat" species that sleeps and eats in trees, are among the game animals that live in the Waterberg Game Reserve.
Numerous species of mongoose can be seen in the Waterberg Game Reserve.
Numerous species of mongoose can be seen in the Waterberg Game Reserve.
Waterberg Game Reserve is a three-hour drive from either Cape Town or Botswana.
Waterberg Game Reserve is a three-hour drive from either Cape Town or Botswana.

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