The West Rand extends from Randfontein in the west to Roodepoort in the east, and includes the town of Krugersdorp. Carletonville and Westonaria are included as being part of the Far West Rand. This region offers woodland, mountain and grassland birding since the area is bounded by the Magaliesberg Mountains and slopes into the bushveld. The steeper southern slopes (cliffs) are ideal breeding ground for the Endangered and Vulnerable Cape Vultures as well as other raptor species. Several major rivers flow through this region. The Cradle of Humankind which is a World Heritage Sites are also situated in this area.
The reserve is predominantly comprised of Carletonville Dolomite Grassland and associated wetlands with scattered caves and patches of broad-leafed and acacia woodland. The wetland itself is diverse ranging from dense reed beds to shallow open water, patches of short emergent vegetation, extensive areas of flooded grassland and narrow mudflats. The combination of wetland, grassland and bush habitat makes this a rewarding birding destination at any time of year and throughout the day. Despite an already impressive species list, the relatively low visitor frequency means that new birds are regularly encountered adding an element of excitement to any visit.
The reserve provides excellent viewing of both grassland and wetland birds, while the woodland patches occasionally provide interesting surprises. The current reserve list stands at over 260 species of which over 100 are residents or regular migrants. This is an excellent destination for novices, while experienced birders can expect to record over 100 species during the course of a morning in summer.
No bird hides are currently available, but a vehicle serves just as well on the main entry road which has been paved. The bridge across the wetland is an excellent spot for catching glimpses of Black Crakes and African Purple Swamphens as well as good sightings of Black Herons and of course large numbers of Red-knobbed Coots and Moorhens.
Birds are best observed on foot and excellent views of a variety of species are possible if one is prepared to walk quietly. Park your vehicle at the reserve offices and spend some time searching/listening for the Red-throated Wrynecks, Paradise Flycatchers, Karoo Thrushes, Cape Robin-Chats, Grey-headed Sparrows, Glossy Starlings and Cape White-eyes that can often be found there. Walk back along the entry road to the wetland and keep a lookout for Black-collared, Pied and Crested Barbets, Black-eyed and Red-eyed Bulbuls, Speckled, Red-faced and White-backed Mousebirds, African Hoopoes, Diedericks Cuckoos, Chestnut-vented Titbabblers, Blue Waxbills, Black-throated Canaries, Black-chested Prinia and other interesting birds in the long grass, bushes and woodland patches adjacent to the road. Fairy Flycatchers may be encountered here in winter.
Once back at the wetland, turn right (i.e. west with the sun behind you) and follow the rough path along the edge of the water until you reach a stand of large Eucalyptus trees. The first 100m of the floodplain has recently become inundated with shallow water and while affording some excellent views of ducks and waders, visitors will need to scout carefully for a dry route around this section. A canal has been dug along the length of the wetland and the numerous, well-spaced, vegetated mounds provide ideal vantage points, but care should be taken to avoid stepping into a Ground Squirrel burrow. Keep a lookout for African Rails, Black Crakes, Squacco Herons and Little Bitterns. Good sightings of African Purple Swamphens, Reed and White-breasted Cormorants, Darters, African Spoonbills, Glossy Ibises and a wide variety of ducks, geese, herons and egrets are usually possible. Three bridges once spanned the canal, but these have become unsafe and should not be used.
Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Three-banded Plovers, Ruffs, Marsh and Wood Sandpipers and African Snipes can frequently be seen feeding in the shallower areas and on the adjacent mudflats. Yellow-billed Storks are regular summer visitors while Greater Flamingoes are occasionally recorded. Don't forget to keep one eye on the more aerial species as a variety of swifts, swallows and martins may be seen hawking for food over the wetland throughout the year. Both African and Western Marsh-Harriers have been spotted patrolling the wetland on rare occasions while small flocks of African Quail-finches and Orange-breasted Waxbills are regularly encountered on this walk.
Few additional species are likely to be recorded beyond the stand of Eucalyptus trees and this is a good place to turn around. Cormorants and Darters have nested in the dead trees on the far side of the wetland and these are always worth scanning for activity. From the Eucalyptus trees, one can either return to the reserve offices by retracing the wetland route or alternatively there is a rough road running through the adjacent grassland. Stonechats, Cape Longclaws, Wattled and Crowned Lapwings and flocks of Long-tailed and White-winged Widowbirds, Red and Yellow-crowned Bishops, Red-billed Queleas and Pin-tailed Whydahs frequent this grassland area.
For those who are particularly interested in viewing grassland species, the reserve staff should be contacted for directions to the most appropriate tracks/trails. There are currently no formal access roads for visitors to drive through the grassland habitat. In addition to those grassland species already mentioned, Northern Black Korhaans, Helmeted Guineafowls, Swainson's Francolins, Rufous-naped, Spike-heeled and Clapper Larks and Ant-eating Chats are commonly recorded. Capped Wheatears may be abundant in burnt areas at certain times of year and Namaqua Doves and Secretarybirds have also been encountered on occasion.
From Johannesburg, take the M1/N1 to Bloemfontein and then the N12 west following the signs to Potchefstroom. Before the railway bridge across the N12 turn right on the R501 to Carletonville. Take the first turning into Carletonville, cross the railway line and then proceed along Agnew Road to the 4-way stop on Annan Road. Cross over Annan road passing the Carletonville Technical College on the right. Turn right into Ada Street and continue straight over the bridge (grain silos on the right) until you see signs indicating Khutsong to the left. Proceed as to Khutsong, and keep a sharp lookout for the Abe Bailey Nature Reserve sign on the right after approximately 3.8km. For those who have visited the reserve before, the new gate is several hundred metres further along from the original entrance. If you reach the intersection at the entrance to Khutsong, then you have gone too far. Approximate travelling time from OR Tambo International Airport is 90 minutes.
|Abe Bailey Nature Reserve||S 26° 18' 0.00"||E 27° 20' 0.00"|
Contact number for site: +27(0)18 788 3290
Gate opening and closing times
Summer: 06H00 - 18H00
Winter: 06H00 - 18H00
R5 per person and R5 per vehicle (payable at the reserve office)
Ablution facilities are available for day visitors while groups can make use of the recently completed lecture hall and kitchen. The original chalets and braai area have been completely renovated and dormitory accommodation is now also available. Those wishing to make use of the lecture facilities or accommodation should contact the reserve manager on (018) 788 3290 during office hours.
There is no longer a fence between the reserve and the neighbouring township of Khutsong and visitors may well encounter groups gathering firewood from stands of exotic trees. Although no incidents have been reported, it is nevertheless advisable for people to visit the reserve in groups and no valuables should be left in vehicles.
Typical grassland species that can be seen here include Wing-snapping, Cloud, Desert and Zitting Cisticolas, Rufousnaped Lark, Anteating Chat, Long-tailed and Red-collared Widowbirds, African Pipit and Northern Black Korhaan. Blackheaded Heron, Cattle Egret, Glossy and African Sacred Ibis, Yellow-billed Duck, African Wattled Plover and Egyptian Goose can be located at the various dams within the reserve. Southern Red Bishop, White-winged Widow, Red-collared Widow and Levaillant's Cisticola can all be found in the reed beds. In summer the wooded valleys are home to Red-chested and Diderick Cuckoos whilst large numbers of Barn Swallow quarter the grasslands. Rarities seen at the reserve include Kurrichane Buttonquail and Montagu's Harrier (summer visitor).
There is an aviary in a disused lime quarry situated on the road network around the reserve containing a number of indigenous species such as Grey Crowned Crane, Southern Red-billed Hornbill, Red-billed Quelea and Wattled Starling.
The Game Reserve is renowned for its 100 ha Lion enclosure and in addition has various antelope species such as Tsessebe, Impala, Springbok, Gemsbok, Waterbuck and Eland. The Reserve also contains Burchell's Zebra, Giraffe, Vervet Monkey and Hippopotamus.
From Johannesburg Airport take the R24 towards Johannesburg. Shortly after the R24 merges with the N12, branch left off onto the N3 south towards Heidelberg and Durban. Continue along the N3 for approximately 5 kilometers and take the N2 Johannesburg offramp, keeping to the right towards Johannesburg at the N2 split. Continue along the N2 for approximately 11 kilometers until reaching the intersection with the N1 at which point you remain in the centre lane and continue towards Roodepoort on the N2. Descending from the freeway via the offramp on the right hand side the road becomes Main Reef Road. Continue along Main Reef Road through Roodepoort for approximately 15 kilometers and then turn right onto Westlake Street. After 1.7 kilometers turn left onto the R24 Rustenburg road and continue for a further 21 kilometers approximately, the entrance to the reserve is on the right hand side. Approximate travelling time from the airport 1 to 1.5 hours depending on traffic conditions and the time of day.
|Main Entrance||S 26° 6' 37.02"||E 27° 43' 43.98"|
The reserve contains a public day visitor's picnic spot close to the entrance with swimming pool, braai and ablution facilities. There is a swimming pool, ablution facilities and a small shop at the caravan park. Ngonyama Lion Lodge has a restaurant and Ladies Bar.
Overnight accommodation is available at either the Ngonyama Lion Lodge or at the caravan site, both of which are within the reserve.
Tel: +27 (0)11 950 9900 or +27 (0)71 556 3813
Gate opening and closing times
Gate times: 08H00 - 18H00
Adults: R 70
Children: R 30
Field Guide: R 30
Despite its near urban location the birdlife is prolific and the gardens are renowned for their breeding Verreaux's Eagles which have their nest ledge adjacent to the waterfall. In winter the Succulent Rockery attracts Amethyst, White-bellied, Greater Double-collared and the occasional Malachite Sunbirds. Winter is also a good time to look for Fairy Flycatchers.
In summer the gardens attract a good array of migrants with Red-chested, Diderick, Black and Klaas's Cuckoos all regularly recorded. African Paradise-Flycatchers are common in summer and the gardens are a good location to find Striped Pipit, Black-headed Oriole, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Kurrichane Thrush, Cape Weaver and African Black Swift. The dam holds a breeding population of Red Bishop and Southern Masked-Weaver and is regularly visited by Reed Cormorant and the occasional Pied Kingfisher and Green-backed Heron.
The more energetic visitor venturing to the top of the cliffs may encounter the occasional Cape Rock-thrush or Lazy Cisticola. The gardens are well worth a visit at any time of the year and have a species list of well over 200 birds.
From Johannesburg Airport take the R24 towards Johannesburg. Shortly after the R24 merges with the N12, branch left onto the N3 and immediately right onto the north off-ramp towards Pretoria and Roodepoort. Continue on the N3 for approximately 12 kilometers and at the N3 / N1 split keep right on the N1 South towards Roodepoort and Bloemfontein. After a further 14 kilometers take the R 512 off-ramp sign-posted Malibongwe Drive and Lanseria. Turn right towards Northgate / Lanseria and after 4 kilometers left into Olievenhout Avenue. Continue to the intersection with the R 564 Northumberland Avenue adjacent The Dome and turn left towards Honeydew. Cross over the M5 Beyers Naude Road and turn right into Paul Kruger Road. Continue for 5 kilometers then turn right onto Hendrik Potgeiter Road. After a further 3 kilometers turn left at the Caltex petrol station onto Doreen Road and then first right into Malcolm Road. The entrance to the Botanical Gardens parking is on the left after a further 3 kilometers. Approximate travelling time from the airport 60 to 90 minutes depending on traffic conditions and the time of day.
|Main Entrance||26°05'13.8" S||27°50'40.7" E|
The Botanical Gardens have ablution facilities at the main entrance, Eagle's Fare Restaurant and at strategic points along the pathways. Meals and refreshments can be obtained from the Eagle's Fare Restaurant which is open daily excluding Christmas Day. No overnight accommodation is available.
(Please visit the Bird Hide page for a description on the grading of the accessibility of the different Bird Hides).
The bird hide (Grade 2) is over-looking the small pan. The pathway to the hide is paved and in good condition. The gradient of the pathway is quite steep in some areas. The wood boardwalk is raised from the ground but without a rope, rail or raised edge at the edge of the boardwalk. This design shortcoming makes if dangerous, not only for wheelchair users but also the general public. The benches and the viewing slots are at two different heights, making provision for people of different ages and heights. The benches are not fitted to the ground and can be moved. The floor is made of cement and access through the door is generous.
Co-ordinates: 26˚ 05' 06S 27˚50' 37E
Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens are maintained and overseen by The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).
Tel: +27 (0) 86 100 1278
Fax: +27 (0) 11 668 4903
Fax to email: +27 (0) 86 520 7715
Eagle's Fare Restaurant:
Tel: +27 (0) 82 671 8382
Gate times: Mon – Sun, 08H00 - 18H00
Pensioners & Disabled: R25
University students (with valid student cards): R25
Children under 6 yrs: Free
BOTSOC members: Free
Pensioners: Free on Tuesdays
Please note: Entrance fees are more on concert days - see Events