It was a Sunday morning when my family and I awoke. We decided to take a trip to the Lion and Rhino nature reserve.
A bit of history
“The Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve is a privately owned, non-subsidized game reserve, covering approxmiately 1 200 ha on the typical highveld of Gauteng. The reserve is situated in the “Cradle of Humankind”, a declared World Heritage Site, about 40 km north-west of Johannesburg and 60km west of Pretoria.
The reserve was founded in 1985 by Ed Hern, a well known stockbroker, with the aim of preserving this beautiful area for private leisure. Prior to this the farm was utilised as a dairy and agricultural produce farm. From a modest beginning of two white rhinos, “Ouvrou” and “Bulle”, imported from a zoo in Germany, and some antelope species, the reserve now boasts 600 head of game representing 25 different species. Public demand to visit the reserve became overwhelming and this was met in 1990, coinciding with a name change from “Kiepersol” to “Rhino Park”.
Emphasis was also placed on breeding and the success of this project is best illustrated by the fact that no less than 18 white rhino calves have been born at the reserve to date. Increasing the number of species is always hampered by external factors such as climate, habitat, grazing, availability, etc. but the reserve has always strived to reach this goal in order to enhance the entertainment and educational value to the public – many of whom would not otherwise have the opportunity to experience wildlife in this manner due to cost and distance constraints.
For obvious reasons, the rare and dangerous species have a greater attraction value, and this led to the introduction of lions, cheetah and later, the highly endangered Cape wild dog. The latter have formed part of a very successful breeding programme which has, in turn, led to breeding programmes for Bengal tigers, Siberian Tigers and the extremely rare White Lion (one of which was born at the reserve in 1999). These activities have seen the staff complement at the reserve grow from 5 to 39 people employed on a full time basis.
Once again the name was changed to “Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve” in order to reflect the new attractions and to differentiate between the reserve and its competitors.
The management of the reserve were still not satisfied and hence the re-introduction of warthog, after a long absence from the Gauteng highveld, was successfully implemented. A natural development was the establishment of a vulture restaurant which caters for the groups of these magnificent birds which live in the nearby Magaliesberg. Through the generosity of the general public and farmers, who donate carcasses to the reserve on a regular basis, this venture has proven highly successful. Often one can view as many as 200 birds feasting at the reserve.
Visitor numbers increased to such an extent that the reserve became a proud member of the Johannesburg’s Big 5 Tourist Destinations. This growth necessitated the construction of peripheral visitor facilities which include, for the general public, individual barbecue (braai) areas, a kiosk, restaurants, curio shop, swimming pool, children’s play park and the Crocodile Pub where visitors can enjoy a quiet sundowner while watching crocodiles at close range.”
The Wonder Caves are also accessable from this farm where Limstone was mined, wonderful stalictites and stalicmite formations. I will do an article on the caves in Part 2>