Commando Drift Nature Reserve is a hidden gem located 60 km north of Cradock, on the road to Tarkastad. The 6,000 hectare reserve is home to the Commando Drift Dam, which is fed by four rivers and serves as the centerpiece of the reserve.
The reserve boasts a unique combination of Karoo veld and recovering grasslands, which provide a habitat for a variety of endangered species such as mountain zebra, black wildebeest, and antelope including blesbok and red hartebeest. Bird lovers will also find over 200 species of birds in the reserve. The combination of dolerite and sandstone cliffs, the large dam, and the diverse wildlife make for beautiful scenery.
Hikers will find a variety of trails to explore in the reserve. The Bushman Trail follows the shore of the dam and leads to a jeep track up Palingkloof, perfect for spotting water birds and waders. The Endurance Trail is a more challenging two to three day hike over 28 km, that takes hikers through the lower slopes of the Rooiberg and the Springbokvlakte, where there’s a good chance of encountering game. The trail ends at overnight huts where hikers can spend the night.
Dutch Reformed Mother Church
Commando Drift Nature Reserve offers a variety of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy. One of the most historical and interesting is the Dutch Reformed Mother Church, located in the town of Cradock.
The Dutch Reformed Church is a denomination that has its roots in the Netherlands, stemming from the Roman Catholic Church beginning in 1570. It is an amalgamation of the Reformed and Evangelical churches in the Netherlands. The Dutch Reformed Church developed during the Great Trek of the Boers in the 1830s, and evolved into the NG Kerk, with predominantly Afrikaans worshippers.
The Dutch Reformed Mother Church, which can be found in Church Street in Cradock, was built in 1868. The church’s architecture was loosely based on the St. Martin’s in the Field Church, in Trafalgar Square, and it makes a powerful architectural statement within the small town of Cradock. The corner stone was laid in 1832, and it was inaugurated in 1842. The beautiful wooden ceiling and stinkwood pulpit are visually impressive and harken back to a time when such craftsmanship was employed in churches.
The church has a rich history, including the christening of statesman Paul Kruger in 1826, and its roof was used as a lookout point for British soldiers during the Anglo-Boer War. The building itself was met with controversy when the builder refused to hand over the keys at the opening ceremony in 1868, until the final payments had been handed over. The community clubbed together and contributed towards the final sum, which amounted to £24,500.
Visiting the Dutch Reformed Mother Church is a great way to learn about the history and culture of the area and appreciate the beautiful architecture and craftsmanship of the church.
Obesa Cacti Nursery
Another unique attraction to visit at the Commando Drift Nature Reserve is the Obesa Cacti Nursery, located in the heart of Graaff Reinet. The nursery is a true surprise and can easily be mistaken for a garden. The name ‘Obesa’ is derived from the euphorbia obesa plant that is indigenous to the Kendrew area, which lies in the Graaff-Reinet district. It is protected by the World Succulent Society.
Obesa Nursery has been around since 1970, it started as a hobby, and now stocks well over 7,000 species of plants. The nursery is a maze of towering cacti and succulents, and follows the seven chakra colors from the outside in. The nursery raises its own 35,000 plants every year, and stocks over 2 million. The size of the cacti is truly overwhelming, and it must be the heat in Graaff Reinet that contributes to their growth, some standing five to ten meters high. Visitors will encounter cacti they have never seen before. The nursery is one of the biggest privately-owned nurseries in the world today.
The original nursery is located out of town in Graff-Reinet, where visitors can see row upon row of cacti growing for market against the backdrop of mountains- a beautiful sight. Obesa’s focus is on the conservation and propagation of rare and endangered plants, and they sell their stock all over the world. Their plants are maintenance-free, water-wise, sun-loving, and produce flowering masterpieces. A visit to the Obesa Cacti Nursery is an opportunity to learn about the different types of cacti and succulents and appreciate the beauty of these unique plants.
Another unique attraction to visit at the Commando Drift Nature Reserve is Egg Rock, located near Cradock on Queenstown Road. Egg Rock is a fascinating tourist attraction that stands 10 meters tall and weighs about 488 tons. The large piece of Dolerite rock is egg-shaped and has a piece missing out the back, which was reportedly caused by lightning striking it in 1937. Visitors will find Egg Rock balancing on the edge of a seemingly unstable surface.
The area surrounding Egg Rock is breathtakingly beautiful, and exploring it will take about 1.5 hours. Upon entry, visitors will need to obtain a permit and pay a deposit for the gate key, which they will receive R10 back on the keys return. The road to Egg Rock is relatively good, and the surrounding vegetation and scenery is magnificent.
Exploring Egg Rock and the surrounding area is a great way to appreciate the natural beauty of the Karoo and learn about the geological history of the area. The unique shape of Egg Rock and the story behind its missing piece make it a must-see attraction for any visitors to the Commando Drift Nature Reserve.
One of the best things about Commando Drift Nature Reserve is the lack of visitors, making it a great destination for those looking for a peaceful getaway. While the campsite and picnic sites can get busy during holidays and long weekends, the rest of the reserve offers plenty of space to enjoy the natural beauty of the Rooiberg peak and rolling hills.