Thaba Nchu, Motheo Region

As one reaches Thaba Nchu, 65 kilometres east of Bloemfontein and one of the oldest settlements in the Free State, it becomes fairly obvious where it got its name. The mountain that looms over the town of Botshabelo often falls into shadow whereupon it becomes a 'black mountain' or Thaba’Nchu, as the Tswana name translates.

The N8 between Bloemfontein and the Lesotho border conveniently passes through the southern parts of the town, which makes it easy to reach, and it is fairly popular with Bloemfontein residents head, who head out here over weekends to the Thaba’Nchu Sun Casino resort, where there is a casino, resort and an adjacent game farm that provide hours of entertainment.

There is little else out here, other than the grave of Chief Moroko, the founder of the Sotho nation and a friend of the Voortrekkers, and a farm called Marseilles, which used to belong to a Lady Mary Grosvenor (she and her family also owned most of London), who only stayed here roughly once a year. But it is principally the resort and the game farm that draw people, that and the immediate sense of wide skies and open country so close to a city centre.

The game reserve is known as the Maria Moroka Game Reserve and lies at the foot of the mountain where one can spot eland, wildebeest, white rhino, zebra and at least a 100 species of birds. There are also eight kilometres worth of hiking trails and a picnic area with braai facilities. Try and take one of their more exciting night wildlife tours. Of course, for diehard shoppers there is a shopping complex and a luxury spa, where there are massage rooms and a sauna.

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