Situated in the centre of country, the Gariep Dam is the largest dam in the South Africa. Built in 1972, the area around the dam has been declared a nature reserve. The area attracts all manner of visitors and offers a variety of activities including, but not limited to, water sports and game viewing.
The main Gariep Dam covers almost 375 km2 and the surrounding nature reserve around the dam covers an approximate 112 km2. The dam is central to the Orange River Project. The dam has a dual purpose. It provides irrigation to the upper valleys of the Fish River and to the Sundays River valleys. In addition, the dam generates hydroelectric power up to 600 000 kilowatts of power.
|The dam is both a scenic and wilderness attraction
The Gariep Dam is built in a gorge at the entrance to the Ruigtevallei. Built from composite concrete, the original design called for an arch dam. The size of the gorge made a traditional arch damn impossible and, to keep the pressure of the water back, only the centre of the dam is arched. Solid straight struts are embedded in the sides of the gorge for strength. For those who want to get a closer look at the inner workings of the dam, guided tours of the inside of the dam are available.
The Gariep Dam Nature Reserve is home to a large number of mammals. It has the largest population of springbok in the country. Other animals that are commonly seen in the park include Cape zebra, klipspringer, black wildebeest and red hartebeest. The reserve is also, unsurprisingly home to a large number of aquatic bird species. Game viewing is usually done from the comfort of your own vehicle, but game drives are arranged by the park and the nearby resort.
While no accommodation is available inside the park, there are numerous nearby options. The Gariep Dam village offers guest houses and bed and breakfasts for travellers staying over in the area. More attractive is the Aventura Midwaters Resort that is built on the edge of the Gariep Dam. This resort offers all the modern comforts of a vacation resort along with swimming pools, tennis, golf and bowls. Water sports are not far behind, of course, and some of the activities on offer include sailing, power boating, canoeing, water skiing and fishing.
For the truly adventurous, there are horse trail tours in and around the Gariep Dam area. These trails are discovered on the back of paint Appaloosa horses. The trails follow the Orange River trail and wide open plains of the dam area. The horses are all well-trained and used to the area so your safety is assured. Trips can be as short as half an hour to an hour and half and sometimes more.
The Gariep Dam is coincidentally situated between Johannesburg and Cape Town making it the perfect place to stop over when travelling between the two cities. The unspoiled natural splendour of the area and numerous diversions are enough to keep you here for a long time, so make sure to add some days to your itinerary!
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