Lake Chrissie – the Centre of South Africa’s Lake District
The lifeblood of the town of Chrissiesmeer, Lake Chrissie is one of South Africa’s largest natural freshwater lakes with a surface area of 1043ha, and is situated at the centre of South Africa’s Lake District – a unique network of pans that differs considerably from other pan systems in Southern Africa in that they are perennial, mostly independant of each other despite close proximity and contained within a small high-altitude area.
270 of these small shallow lakes dot the landscape of the Mpumalanga Highveld within a 20km radius, and are home to thousands upon thousands of birds – particularly in the spring and summer months when the rains fill the pans and the reeds and surrounding grasslands become lush and vibrant. Many of these birds are rare and some critically endangered, among both the endemic/indigenous and the seasonal bird populations. Birding in Chrissiesmeer
While the natural heritage value of this lake network is undeniable, the tangible beauty of the area and its abundant bird-life is as important for tourism, and ultimately it is a tourism-based economy that will help protect these areas – ever under threat from future open cast coal mining in Mpumalanga – the most coal deposit rich province in South Africa.
Further interesting and irreplaceable historical aspects to this area include the abundance of San rock art found around the pans – the perennial supply of water supported thriving communities of San hunter gatherers up until fairly recently, a giant’s footprint, the history of the Tlou-tle people who lived there 1500 years ago on rafts, and… frogs! There are as many of them as there are birds, if not more, and they and their summer sing-song are well loved. A sign outside the town extolls residents to be aware of frogs crossing the road and each December resident and visiting froggers go frogging on the Frog Run!
The Chrissiesmeer area is special. It is an absolutely unique eco-system in Southern Africa, and It’s biggest hope is eco-tourism - the more people that know about Chrissiesmeer, the more easily it can be protected, and the hazards of unregulated influx and tourism aside, if you wish to spend a penny in South Africa, it’s worth also looking past the ‘standard’ game and nature reserves and the well known World Heritage Sites to find the rare jewels like pretty Lake Chrissie and her 269 children.
And if you are worried you might get bored in this rural paradise – Getaway magazine has come up with 11 Things To Do in South Africa’s Lake District.
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