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Sandveld Nature Reserve, Northern Free State

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Excellent game viewing, birding and angling beckons visitors to the Sandveld Nature Reserve in the Northern Free State.

The 14700ha Sandveld Nature Reserve is considered one of the best birding areas in the Free State but is also very popular for angling on the 25 000ha Bloemhof Dam. The Bloemhof reservoir dam lies at the junction of the Vaal and Vet Rivers on the border between the Free State and the North West Province, and in the middle of the Sandveld Nature Reserve and the Bloemhof Dam Nature Reserve – the reserve area on the North West side of the provincial border.

Both reserves are often referred to together as the Sandveld Reserve.

The reserve is mostly Kalahari thornveld savannah – a combination of semi-arid climate and sandy soil grasslands dotted with camel thorn trees. There are also areas of sweet-thorn and scrub bush. These biomes, along with the dam, shoreline and marshlands, support a large variety of bird species, including the ‘Sociable Weavers’ known for their huge communal nests, Tinkling Cisticolas, Yellow Billed Hornbills, Crimson-Breasted shrikes, Pygmy falcons  and White-backed Vultures, which nest along with the weavers in the camel thorn trees and hornbills.

The dam supports many endemic and visitor species of aquatic bird, including Greater and Lesser Flamingo, egrets, herons, pelican, spoonbills and some species of rare waterfowl. Tawny Eagles, Lappet Faced Vultures and Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest Eagle, the Martial Eagle, have been recorded, though sightings are rare and only one or two individuals have been logged.


All in all, 295 bird species are listed in the Sandveld Nature Reserve birding checklist, and the best time of year for birding is late summer, January to February.

Game viewing is excellent at Sandveld. There are several species of antelope on the Reserve, including herds of springbok, eland, kudu and wildebeest, as well as zebra, rhino and giraffe. There are no large predator mammals on the reserve.

Powerboats are permitted on the dam and there are camping sites with ablutions at the dam in the ‘angling area’, with boat launch facilities.

Self catering accommodation is available in three self catering chalets about 1.5km from the dam. The chalets sleep 6 people in twin rooms and they are very basic, but linen and kitchen appliance, plates and cutlery is provided.

Log Cabins at the dam sleep 4, but you need to take your own cutlery.

Don’t expect luxury here, but you can be sure of excellent rates, bird and game sightings and even better fishing. The angling on the Bloemhof Dam is renowned. The dam is full of common carp and catfish, with specimens over 18kg commonly caught, Bloemhof Dam is host to a number of annual Angling competitions, including the Bloemhof Bonanza, South Africa’ biggest inland fishing competition.

For more on the Sandveld Nature Reserve, Bloemhof Dam Nature Reserve and the Bloemhof Dam call 053 433 1706

Getting there: The closest town to the Sandveld Nature Reserve is Bloemhof in the North West Province. If you are travelling through the Free State from Bloemfontein, take the R700 to Hoopstad, then from Hoopstad take the R34 north for 30km to the entrance.

More info on the area of Northern Free State More info on the Free State area

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