The Oviston Nature Reserve at Lake Gariep - The Oviston Nature Reserve at Lake Gariep
The Nature Reserve offers a 16 000 ha unspoilt wild life area which hosts aardvark, aardwolf, African wild cat, bateared fox, black wildebeest, black-backed jackal, blesbuck, brown hyena, Burchell's Zebra, Cape Clawless Otter, Cape Fox, Cape Ground Squirrel , Cape Hare, Cape Porcupine, caracal, Chacma baboon, common duiker, eland, kudu, mountain reedbuck, gemsbuck, red hartebeest, rock dassie, scrub hare, small spotted cat , small spotted genet, Smith's red rock rabbit , South African hedgehog, spotted-necked otter, springbuck, steenbuck , suricate, vervet monkey, water Mongoose and yellow Mongoose.
The Orange River has offers the ideal setting for sunset cruises, the perfect end to a perfect day. The area surrounding the lake offers the mountain bike enthusiast plenty of open stretches with adventure rides into the Oviston Nature Reserve. The keen canoeist can enjoy endless trips on Lake Gariep situated inside Oviston Nature Reserve. This is a bird lovers' paradise, with a wide variety found on the farm. Rarities include: Fish Eagle, Black Eagle, Blue Crane, Secretary Bird, Steppe Buzzard, Kingfishers and many more.
The Orange River has become a fly-fishing Mecca due to the abundance of both Yellowfish species. A true test for both amateur and experienced fishermen. Some of the species found: Largemouth Yellowfish, Smallmouth Yellowfish, Orange River Mudfish, Moggel, Sharptooth Catfish, Chubbthead Barb, Carp and many more.
Gariep area is blessed with an abundance of adventure, from our picturesque lake to our beautiful Nature Reserves. The waterways are what makes this province one of the best for outdoor enthusiasts of every kind.
Providing game viewing trails in the nature reserve with quad bikes for groups of 14 people or less. Game viewing from a boat is also an excellent option, for those who wish to enjoy the nature reserve and the animals from another angle. Families wanting explore the reserve in their vehicle; will enjoy the variety of game the reserves has to offer. More energetic groups can make use of our mountain bikes to explore all the adventure avenues the reserves have available.
For the fishing enthusiasts there is no better place than Lake Gariep to partake in the pleasure this sport has to offer.
Location of Oviston Nature Reserve
Oviston Nature Reserve is situated in the north eastern part of the Eastern Cape Province along the southern shoreline of the mighty Gariep Dam (formerly known as the Hendrik Verwoerd Dam). It covers an area of approximately 16,000 hectare and stretches from the dam wall on the west, to the Bethulie railroad bridge in the east. Oviston and Venterstad are both situated 7km from the reserve entrance.
About Lake Gariep
Lake Gariep, which spans the borders of the Free State, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape Provinces, lies approximately two hours south of Bloemfontein. The dam is more than 100km long and 15km wide with a surface area of about 360km² and a storage capacity of 5,673,8 million cubic meters. The dam wall is 914m long and 88m high.
The Town of Oviston
Oviston is a small town overlooking Lake Gariep on the Eastern Cape side. It was originally built to house the workers who built the dam which was completed in 1971.
Lake Gariep is surrounded by three provincial nature reserves namely the Oviston Nature Reserve, the Tussen-die-Riviere Nature Reserve and the Gariep Nature Reserve. The Gariep Dam Nature Reserve is situated between the dam and Bethulie on the Free State side. The Tussen-die-Riviere Nature Reserve is situated in the Free State. Oviston Nature Reserve is situated in the Eastern Cape Province on the southern side of Lake Gariep.
The land was originally bought by the State for the construction of the dam. In 1968, the Department of Agricultural Credit and Land Tenure and Water Affairs ceded control of the property to the provincial authorities. A Memorandum has been drafted by the MECs of the three provinces, to effectively join the three reserves and create a conservation area in excess of 85,000 hectares.
This is a semi-desert area so it can get blindingly hot during the day, followed by nights in which the temperature plummets. Due to this climate, the area is quite dusty which helps to give the extraordinary sunsets experienced here. The landscape consists of vast, open grassland with low "koppies" (small mountains) and is truly part of South Africa's "Big Sky" country.
Rain falls generally as thundershowers between October and March, the rainfall season peaks from February to March. Temperatures are mild for most of the year, with very cold snaps from June to August and periods of intense heat from January to March. During winter, frost is common.
A beautiful blog by Shahili:
Some of the Strangest Things ...
Chasing the sun around the Lake District
Posted on 17 July 2009 by shahilj Posted in Two weeks of Solitude
For some odd reason, the route around the Gariep Dam is called the Gariep Lake Route. As far as I know, a lake is a natural body of water whereas a dam is enclosed by a dam wall made of some sort of structure – be it man-made or made by beavers in North America. Whatever the reason, the drive around the dam is one of the most amazing drives in South Africa.
In 1971, a marvel that showcased South Africa’s engineering skill was opened. We’ll forget that the project was given to a French company for a moment as I tell you about the Hendrik Verwoed Dam (now called the Gariep Dam) – built in the Ruigte Valley; the dam wall stands 88m high and is almost a kilometre in length. The amount of enclosed water is staggering. Think of the distance from Amanzintoti to Verulam. Now think of how far apart Durban is from Pietermaritzburg. The mighty Gariep Dam is larger than this…
The round trip is a “tourist” circuit consisting of the R701, R390 and the R58. The circuit is quoted as being 134km long – I honestly feel it is much longer. The road is spectacular. It is a perfectly tarred masterpiece stretching out to the horizon in this most amazing land. The sleeping Free State greets the remnants of the magestic Maluti. Together, they dance and meet in this beautiful valley – a valley now that is pivotal in allowing millions of South Africans to quench their thirst and live.
The road is just great. I’ve thought long and hard on ways to describe it but I just can’t do it justice…The route starts outside Smithfield on the 70km or so drive to Bethulie passing the Tussen-die-Riviere Nature Reserve. On the way, I was greeted by maybe five potholes and probably the same amount of cars. Climbing over each hill is a signal for you to hold your breath. Emerging on the horizon is beauty that you have never experienced before. Go over the next hill and the beauty is outdone as the giant snake of the Gariep pulls you closer and closer. I’m sure those stunning posters of roads leading into mountains are taken here and not at the foot of the Appalachians and Rockies! Although a day earlier, I felt scared because of what unknown fears lurked on the sides of the N12 outside Kimberley, the fear of this road was far greater. In all its beauty, this road defined “alone…” A cry for help goes unnoticed and unheard. It is here where you truly experience yourself and your reality.
The Gariep has this natural sense of mystery, power and greatness. Starting in the Drakenberg, this river, also know as the Orange, is the lifeblood of South Africa. Downstream of the Gariep is another mega-dam, Vanderkloof, home to South Africa’s largest hydroelectric scheme. Even more downstream is the wonder of the Augrabie Falls. Further downstream is the river mouth at Alexander Bay. Here, the mighty Gariep releases her diamonds into the Atlantic. Visit Alexander Bay and you’ll see how important these diamonds are to people…
Anyway, the Gariep is home to an ambitious project. South Africa is a drought country – the water we have is precious and not abundant. Not a year goes by without warnings (that we don’t heed) about South Africa having serious water shortages within a few years. The Gariep has a water tunnel on its eastern shores that connects to the Great Fish River that nourishes the Eastern Cape. Its use is similar to the Lesotho Highlands Project at Sterkfontein Dam in KwaZulu-Natal – when water is sparse; it is transferred from the Gariep to the Great Fish to provide the province with water.
I’m a sucker for dramatics and I was hoping to experience awe at the first sight of water from the Gariep. This, obviously, never did happen. After a quick stop in Bethulie to offload, I set about remedying this by embarking on another infamous sun-chasing mission to capture the sunset over the Gariep. My destination lay 60km away on the south-eastern banks of the Gariep at a hamlet named Oviston. The R-roads are infamous for their lack of shoulders, cat eyes and fences. With knowledge of the cow incident still pretty fresh, I speed on hastily as the sun falls. It light bathes the land in a lazy orange that intensifies as the sun retreats more and more. I push on…
I reach Venterstad and soldier onto Oviston as the orange glow deepens. Looking back, darkness encroaches. I start to panic and wonder if I will make it in time. I (obviously) have never been to the Gariep before and I have no knowledge of the terrain that I will encounter at Oviston. I wonder what the view would be like and if this mad trip was worth it. I reach the town and the waters edge. On one side of the dam, the sun kisses the horizon with its most intense shade of orange. On the other is nature’s most beautiful view…
I sit on the rocky banks, perched on a rock gazing at this site. A heron calls from the distance as the sun extinguishes over the Gariep. I smile
I linger. In actual fact, lingering could spell my death. I have a half an hour drive back to Bethulie on a road strewn with cattle and untold creatures of the dam. Obligatory on all routes travelled at night is the car without lights. It amazes me how people travel with minimal vision. In this wilderness, the hazards multiply. I easily pass them and approach the Bethulie Bridge. I am home and safe – a relief. However, the Bethulie Bridge has something in store for me…
Estelle Barnett South Africa