The Bezuidenhoutshoek Nature Reserve, or Bezhoek as it’s more affectionately known, has it all. Situated in the Mpumalangan transition zone between the Lowveld and Highveld, it boasts over 120 indigenous grass species, which is more than the significantly larger Kruger National Park. Cycad populations of the critically endangered Encephalartos Middeburgensis and vulnerable Lanatus dot the landscape as testaments to our planet’s evolutionary past. Then there’s the permanent wetlands and streams, many of which are so pristine you can drink from them.

The Olifants and Klein Olifants rivers play their part too. Converging in the reserve’s North Western corner, then leaving the property to flow down to Loskop Dam and, ultimately, into the Kruger National Park. Both rivers meander through the reserve, cutting awe-inspiring gorges into the predominately sandstone and quartzite geology on their way to their confluence point. This provides Bezhoek with extensive river frontage, which attracts a wide variety of plant and animal life to the area. It also creates the ideal habitat for the pockets of riverine forest that transforms the twisting riverbanks into long ribbons of lush green in an otherwise uniform-brown African landscape.

Away from the river, savannah plains, rocky outcrops and Bushveld dominate the rest of the 3 000 hectare reserve. Roaming freely are over fourteen different species of antelope, including Eland, the vulnerable Oribi and Klipspringer. Predators include Leopard and Brown Hyena. Other game includes Giraffe, Ostrich, Bushpigs and the elusive Honey Badger. Over 278 confirmed bird sightings have been ticked off the list, including the African Finfoot, Verreaux Eagle and Denham’s Bustard. And, as if that isn’t enough, surviving late stone age rock art pays homage to the reserve’s older, more ancestral human residents.

No wonder the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Authority has designated Bezhoek as irreplaceable and highly significant in terms of their bio diversity assessment criteria – which qualifies it to be registered as a Protected area. Simply put, this place is a real gem, and everyone who’s ever visited knows it.

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