Gauteng Tourist AttractionsGrootvaly Wetland Reserve
Where? Welgedacht Road, just 4 km outside the town of Nigel.
How? Call +27 (0)11 360-2203
Part of the only Ramsar site (wetland of international importance) in Gauteng, Grootvaly Wetland Reserve lies off Welgedacht Road, just 4 km outside the Highveld town of Nigel.
It is 350 hectares of high altitude wetland that extends along the Blesbokspruit, a small river that is a tributary of the greater Vaal River.
Grootvaly isn't the only wetland on the river. While it lies to the north of Blesbokspruit, Marievale Bird Sanctuary is at its southern end. Collectively the two form the Blesbokspruit Wetland Reserve.
Interestingly, Blesbokspruit continues flowing until it reaches Suikerbosrand, and then the Vaal River.
Grootvaly is wonderful for birds. The combination of open water, reed beds and marshy ground edged with grasses, and sedges that are sometimes in flood, attract a fantastic group of water birds and waders.
Various duck species, Hottentot teal and Cape shoveler are consistent visitors, whilst in winter capped wheatears and sentinel rock thrushes are sometimes sighted.
The grasses are awash with bishops and widows, finches and waxbills. Collectively the two wetlands atract well over 265 species of bird. The two bird hides at Grootvaly are the wheelchair-friendly Sappi Hide, overlooking open spaces on the Blesbokspruit, which gives a bird's eye view of swallows and waterbirds, and a recently built raised hide over the vlei.
The self-drive gravel road to the picnic area is well worth driving as it is hemmed in by pans, giving you access to birds from all sides.
Amazing to think that Grootvaly and Marievale were the byproducts of mining in the area. Most of the water that now fills the pans and vleis comes from industry downstream.
Some of the wetland belongs to AngloGold, whilst a handful of properties inbetween the two wetlands is in the hands of individuals and companies – a difficult status to manage from a conservation perspective.
In particular there is a constant battle against reed infestation. And the water flowing into the spruit is high in nutrients that act as a fertiliser, making this battle all the more difficult. At least mine water is no longer pumped into the wetland.
The Wetland Reserve spans 22 km between the R555 and the R22. It is 7 km wide and 1 000 hectares.