Gariep Dam: heritage pride of the Free State

Friday, September 14, 2018

South Africans are invited to view the great sunrises over the biggest inland water mass in the country, the Gariep Dam, during September, writes Marcus Monyakeni.

Gariep Dam, formerly known as “Hendrik Verwoerd Dam” is a heritage site which prides itself as the largest water storage facility in the southern hemisphere and the second largest in Africa.

It covers a radius of 360 square kilometres and a wall height of 88m, crest length of 914m, including the capacity of 1000 cub.m. It is part of the Orange River Development Scheme situated on the Orange River between the Northern Cape and the Free State. The dam was constructed with the aim of irrigation, domestic, industrial and power generation.

It took the Department of Water and Sanitation six years, between 1966 and 1972, to construct the dam and its wall was raised in 1988 with the aim of supplying water to Free State, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape. Downstream is Eskom’s four hydroelectric turbines which adds 360 megawatts to the grid - enough to supply 70000 households with electricity.

Gariep Dam wall tours can be arranged with officials from the Department of Water and Sanitation to explore the 13km of passages and halls within the walls of the Gariep Dam.

During Tourism and Heritage Month, marked in September, many flowers showcase their colours and beauty in the area.

The unique upper Karoo open fields, in combination with the largest dam in South Africa, surrounded by nature reserves with plenty of fresh air lots of flat plains and hills make for peaceful sunsets and breath-taking skies at night.

The scene creates the perfect combination for watersport enthusiasts, runners, hikers, mountain bike riding, bird watching and wildlife game viewing.

It is an experience to sleep at Gariep Dam, with many accommodation opportunities available from luxury units, guest houses, chalets, farmhouses, lodges, hotels, resorts to nice budget backpackers. It is also an ideal stop on long road trips - just eight hours to Cape Town, five hours to East London and a little over three hours to Kimberley.

Forever Resort in Gariep Dam is the perfect stopover between Gauteng and the Cape, 200km south of Bloemfontein in the Free State, just off the N1. The resort is situated on the banks of Gariep Dam, and borders the Gariep Dam Nature Reserve. It is home to many species of antelope and the Cape Mountain Zebra.

Perfectly posted halfway between Gauteng and the Cape, you’ll find this beautiful resort and watersport enthusiast’s paradise on the banks of the country’s largest dam, the 374sq km Gariep Dam.

Bordering a well-stocked nature reserve, this vast expanse of sparkling water offers equally sparkling attractions – game-viewing by boat, windsurfing, sailing, jet skiing, canoeing and rowing.

So next time you're travelling through the country, take a sho't left via the Gariep Dam, to see it for yourself.

*Marcus Monyakeni writes for the Department of Water and Sanitation