Nigel, East Rand

The town of Nigel, directly south of Springs and Brakpan, lies in what is known as the East Rand, south east of Johannesburg.

As with many of the little outlying towns out this way, Nigel began as a gold mining town in the late 1800s, named, not after anyone particularly famous but instead for a book the prospector, Sir Walter Scott, happened to be reading at the time they discovered gold here - The Fortunes of Nigel.

Whilst the gold mines recently closed, the industrial area of the town keeps its economy ticking over (the Gautrain rail cars were dispatched from here and electricity line hardware and towers are manufactured here, amongst other things). This does mean that the centre of the city is anything but pretty. But head into the suburbs and the leafiness of Gauteng is once again evident.

If you do one thing whilst visiting Nigel, make sure that you head out on the R42 on the Marievale road extension to the Marievale Bird Sanctuary, a beautiful escape from the hustle and bustle of city living, lying on a large wetland roughly 10 km outside of town. Over 65 water bird species are found here and over 3 500 types of birds – to call it a prime birding spot does not quite do it justice. The team at Birding South Africa advocate that this is the best place in Gauteng to try and spot the goliath, black squacco and purple heron. Even marsh owls are evident in the grasslands during winter.

Also take in Diepkloof Farm Museum on the Nigel road towards Suikerbosrand. This is a restored farmhouse from 1850, and whilst out here, visit Suikerbosrand itself, where a day spent hiking is food for the soul.

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