Welcome to the Voortrekker Monument Nature Reserve, a hidden gem located in Pretoria, South Africa. Most people know about the Voortrekker Monument, which honors the journey of the Voortrekkers who trekked over the mountains from the Cape ‘inland’ to Pretoria during the Great Trek. However, few people realize that the monument is surrounded by a 340-hectare nature reserve that was declared in 1992.
One of the most remarkable things about the Voortrekker Monument Nature Reserve is its location on a hill, which provides visitors with breathtaking views of Pretoria city. While taking in the stunning scenery, you can spot a variety of wildlife, including zebra, wildebeest, buck, mongoose, genets, hedgehogs, and porcupines.
The reserve offers various activities for nature enthusiasts. Cycling, running, and hiking trails, as well as bird watching and horse riding opportunities, are all available. The cycling routes range from circuits of under 3km to over 10km, and the lower slopes of the nature reserve are shaded and wooded, making it perfect for jeep track rides.
The horse outrides through the reserve highlight a project aimed at re-establishing the endemic South African horse breed that was practically wiped out during the Anglo Boer War. It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the local flora and fauna while supporting the conservation efforts.
While the monument remains the primary attraction for its historic marble frieze, tapestries, and cenotaph, more people are beginning to discover the possibilities of the nature reserve as a regular destination. Moreover, the reserve is newly connected to Freedom Park by a road that was initially intended to be completed in time for the 2010 World Cup. This connection is symbolic and promotes the ideals of national building and social cohesion.
Popular Activities at Voortrekker Monument Nature Reserve
In addition to the stunning scenery and wildlife, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy in and around the Voortrekker Monument Nature Reserve.
One popular activity is picnicking. The reserve has designated picnic areas, so visitors can bring their own food and enjoy a leisurely lunch surrounded by nature. This is a great option for families with children, as it provides a fun and relaxing way to spend an afternoon.
The Voortrekker Monument
The Voortrekker Monument Nature Reserve offers a range of activities and attractions for visitors to explore. In addition to the Voortrekker Monument, which is the main attraction, visitors can enjoy a picnic in the beautiful natural surroundings or take a guided tour of the reserve. The reserve offers hiking trails that lead visitors through the rugged terrain and wildlife of the area. For bird lovers, there are over 150 species of birds to be seen, including the magnificent Verreaux’s eagle, which is a rare sight in other parts of Gauteng.
One of the most popular activities for visitors is the annual December 16th celebration, which commemorates the Battle of Blood River. This event features traditional Afrikaans food, music, and cultural activities, providing a glimpse into the rich history and heritage of the Voortrekkers. The reserve also hosts a range of other cultural and historical events throughout the year.
Nearby attractions include the Union Buildings, which is the seat of the South African government and offers stunning views of the city, as well as the nearby Pretoria National Botanical Garden, which is a must-visit for nature lovers. The Garden boasts a range of different ecosystems, including grasslands, savannas, and forests, as well as a wide variety of indigenous plants and wildlife.
Visitors can also explore the rich history of the area by visiting the Freedom Park Museum and the Kruger House Museum, which provides insight into the life of the famous South African president. For a taste of the local culture, visitors can head to the nearby Maboneng Precinct, which is a vibrant hub of art, food, and entertainment.
Whether you’re interested in history, culture, nature, or simply looking for a peaceful retreat, the Voortrekker Monument Nature Reserve has something to offer everyone.
For those interested in history, a visit to the Voortrekker Monument is a must. The monument is an iconic symbol of Afrikaner nationalism, and its marble frieze and tapestries tell the story of the Voortrekkers and their journey inland from the Cape. Visitors can also pay their respects at the cenotaph, which honors those who lost their lives during the Great Trek.
The Retief Obelisk
The Retief Obelisk is a significant monument that stands tall on the site of the Voortrekker Monument and Nature Reserve. This granite column, designed by architects Meiring, Naudé, Lötter and Botha, represents the original obelisk erected in 1922 at Weenen, also known as ‘the place of weeping’ in KwaZulu Natal (Umgungundlovo). The original obelisk was built to commemorate Voortrekker leader Piet Retief and his followers who were brutally massacred by Zulu King Dingane and his warriors on February 6, 1838.
Piet Retief was negotiating with Dingane for land for the Voortrekker settlement when he and his fellow trekkers were suddenly attacked. More than 70 men, women, children, and servants sleeping in the waiting wagons were brutally slaughtered, leaving a tragic mark in the history of South Africa. The Retief Obelisk pays tribute to the courage and sacrifice of Piet Retief and his followers.
Apart from the Retief Obelisk, there are many other points of interest and tourist attractions in the Voortrekker Monument Nature Reserve. Visitors can explore the reserve’s natural beauty and enjoy a range of activities, including hiking, picnicking, and birdwatching. The reserve is home to a variety of bird species, including eagles, owls, and weavers. There are also several hiking trails that offer stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
For history enthusiasts, the Voortrekker Monument is a must-visit. The monument is a national heritage site and one of South Africa’s top ten cultural sites of history. The monument pays tribute to the Voortrekker pioneers who founded the resistance movement against the British Cape Colony and migrated by the thousands on ox-wagon away from colonial rule between 1835 and 1854. The monument is a massive structure standing at 40 meters high and 40.5 meters by 40.5 meters in size. The monument’s design is rich in symbolism, with the bronze sculpture of a Voortrekker woman and her two children representing the role of women, wives, and mothers in the Afrikaaner flee and settlement.
Visitors can also explore the lower hall, known as the Cenotaph (empty tomb) Hall, which is decorated with all the Voortrekker Republic Flags. The hall is made of local red granite and serves as the resting place of Piet Retief and his followers who died during the Great Trek. The monument’s Hall of Heroes is another must-visit attraction, with its classical entablature and 27 panels of Italian marble depicting the Great Trek triumphs and tribulations.
In addition to the Voortrekker Monument and Nature Reserve, visitors can also explore nearby attractions such as the Union Buildings, Pretoria National Botanical Garden, and Freedom Park. The Union Buildings are the official seat of the South African government and offer breathtaking views of the city. The Pretoria National Botanical Garden is a beautiful botanical garden with over 2200 species of plants, and Freedom Park is a national monument and museum that commemorates South Africa’s struggle for freedom and democracy.
Located in Groenkloof, Pretoria, the Fort Klapperkop is a must-visit for history buffs and those who appreciate the beauty of ancient architecture. This fort is considered one of the best examples of 19th-century weaponry defenses globally, and it has been restored to its original state to preserve its rich history. It is known for its peculiar German-style dry moat, which was built in 1986 before the start of the second Anglo-Boer war.
The fort features an incredible museum showcasing artifacts, rifles, and furniture found and used during the war, providing an immersive experience of South Africa’s military history. You can marvel at the steam locomotive, which was used back then to transfer troops, the duplication of the long tom gun used, and the last tram used in Pretoria. The museum also features a touching memorial dedicated to those who gave their lives serving in the South African Defense force to protect their country.
Apart from the historical significance of Fort Klapperkop, the views from the top of the fort are breathtaking, offering panoramic vistas of the surrounding hills and city skyline. You will often find people using the rough terrain for hiking and mountain biking. The fort has also become a popular spot for picnics and enjoying the natural beauty of the reserve.
Visitors to the Voortrekker Monument Nature Reserve can easily include a trip to Fort Klapperkop in their itinerary, as it is just a short drive away.
Nearby attractions include the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa, also known as the Pretoria Zoo. The zoo is home to over 5000 animals, including lions, elephants, and gorillas. It’s a great place to spend a day with the family, and visitors can even book guided tours for a more educational experience.
Another nearby attraction is the Union Buildings, which house the offices of the South African president and are a symbol of the country’s democracy. The buildings are surrounded by beautiful gardens, and visitors can take a guided tour to learn more about their history and significance.
For those interested in outdoor activities, the Groenkloof Nature Reserve is a nearby destination that offers hiking, mountain biking, and game drives. The reserve is home to a variety of wildlife, including giraffes, zebras, and antelopes, and offers stunning views of the city.
Groenkloof 4×4 trail
If you’re looking for an adventure, head to Groenkloof 4×4 trail near Pretoria. This circular route is 14 kilometers long and will take you approximately two hours to complete. The terrain consists of water, mud, steep climbs, and a rocky climb, making it perfect for a 4×4 adventure.
You can visit the trail year-round and self-drive, as no guidance is needed. The trail is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, and there are other activities available, such as mountain biking, hiking, and horse riding.
If you want to extend your stay, check out the overnight hut, youth camp, and camping sites available at the Fountain Resort, which also allows caravans. After a long day on the trail, you can enjoy a much-needed meal and refreshment at the on-site restaurant.
Whether you’re looking for a fun weekend with friends or an exciting family outing, Groenkloof 4×4 trail is an excellent choice. Don’t forget to take in the stunning scenery and enjoy the rugged terrain.
The Freedom Park is another nearby attraction that offers a unique and educational experience. The park is a memorial to South Africa’s past struggles and celebrates its progress towards democracy and human rights. Visitors can take guided tours of the park’s exhibitions, which include a museum, garden of remembrance, and a sanctuary dedicated to the country’s indigenous religions.
Horse riding at the Voortrekker Monument
In addition to hiking and mountain biking, horse riding is another popular activity to enjoy while visiting the Voortrekker Monument Nature Reserve. Cape Riding Horses is a reputable company that offers trail rides for both experienced and inexperienced riders. Their horses are well-trained, disciplined and patient, making them suitable for all ages and levels of ability. They also offer a discount to members of their riding club.
While on horseback, visitors can take in the breathtaking views of the reserve, which overlooks Pretoria’s Jacaranda trees during the day and the city’s shimmering lights at night. The reserve boasts of indigenous flora and fauna, slopes, valleys, trails, and paths, making it a perfect location for therapeutic and relaxing rides, as well as obstacle course adventure challenges.
Riding through the reserve allows visitors to enter the gates of South African history on a comfortable South-African bred gait. The Great Trek, a mass South African family migration, is dedicated to this land. Therefore, riding through the reserve brings a level of tangibility to local heritage, allowing visitors to pay homage to South African history from horseback.
For a romantic experience, visitors can take part in a moonlit ride under the Southern Cross stars led by a qualified guide. Children can share a saddle with a parent or be led on their horse by a helper. Visitors can also bring a picnic for a private picnic ride, resting under tree-shaded African sunlight on a bed of flowers.
Horse riding in the Voortrekker Monument Nature Reserve is a great way to explore the reserve’s beauty and history while enjoying the company of Cape Riding Horses’ well-trained and loving horses.
The Voortrekker Monument Nature Reserve is not only a beautiful destination in itself but also provides easy access to a variety of other attractions and activities. Whether you’re interested in history, wildlife, or outdoor adventures, there is something for everyone to enjoy in and around the reserve.
The Voortrekker Monument Nature Reserve is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the beauty of South African nature. Whether you’re a cycling enthusiast, bird watcher, or simply looking for a place to relax and take in the spectacular views, the reserve offers something for everyone. Don’t miss out on this hidden gem in Pretoria!