Situated on the northern bank of the Orange River just 48 km north-east of Colesberg and 28km from Tzamenkomst, is the town of Gariep. It is nestled between the hills and scattered around the tip of the southern Free State. It is for being home to the largest manmade dam in South Africa, the Gariep Dam.
Interestingly enough, Gariep was never meant to be a town. It was only because of the dam, that the town came into existence and this all happened almost by accident. When the dam was constructed, a prefab town was set up to house the workers. This was to be a temporary measure just until the dam was completed. The demolition of some of these houses was carried out soon after the project was completed in 1969. By this time, the dam had already attracted a lot of people to the area so it was decided to keep the rest of the houses intact. Gariep has since grown from a town that almost never was, into a place with tremendous tourism potential. If you are staying at Tzamenkomst, it is definitely worth a visit.
About Gariep Dam
The Gariep Dam can only be described as a masterpiece of civil engineering. The sheer magnificence of this 100km long and 24km wide dam can testify to that. If you travel at around 100km per hour, it will take you almost an hour to pass the dam. It is the largest storage reservoir in South Africa and arguably the most picturesque and impressive body of water you may ever see. Formerly known as “Hendrik Verwoerd Dam,” the name was officially changed on the 4th of October 1996 to Gariep Dam.
The spectacular beauty of Gariep Dam draws visitors from all around the country and all over the world. From the early days, the Gariep Dam has played a crucial role in the lives of many South Africans. It provides power, water, jobs and almost endless tourism potential. Tzamenkomst is strategically placed between Gariep Damd and Colesberg.
Things to do around Gariepdam
The Gariep Dam Wall
If you’re looking for a unique experience, then why not book a dam wall tour? Local guides will take you through 13km of passages within the Gariep Dam walls. Marvel at this wonder of engineering from a new perspective and admire the wonderful architecture. Get your mind blown by the sheer power and scale of the magnificent dam wall.
There are viewing spaces where you can see the dam from different locations. For a more birds-eye view of the dam, we recommend taking the stairs up the hill. Visiting the Gariep Dam Wall can only be described as a mesmerizing experience. To see the power of all that water flowing is a scary and amazing feeling.
There are clean toilet facilities and a braai area in case you get the urge to throw some meat on the coals. A camera is a must as the dam wall and the scenery around it are truly something to be remembered.
Visit the Gariep Dam Nature Reserve
Situated on the northern banks of the Gariep Dam is the Gariep Dam Nature Reserve. Neighboured by small stock farmers and private land owners, the reserve provides a variety of game and birds for viewing.
Most of the reserve incorporates the massive Gariep Dam and game sanctuary with the vegetation being typical of a dry Karoo landscape. It offers visitors an array of activities including bird-watching, angling, bush camp picnics, game drives, water sports, and the chance to view the spectacular wildlife.
Gariep Dam Reserve provides a sanctuary to wildlife that includes to the endangered Cape mountain zebra, ostriches, blue wildebeest, eland, springbok, hartebeest and more. If you’re lucky enough, you can spot rarely sighted animals such as the bat-eared fox, the aardwolf, a few species of wild cats as well as other small mammals.
The reserve is also a bird lover’s paradise and boasts as many as 242 different species. Expect to see fish eagles, blue cranes, martial eagles, bustards and many more. For the water bird enthusiasts there are Egyptian geese, spur winged geese, Cape teals, and yellow billed and white-faced ducks among many others. Species of fish include mudfish, yellowfish, barbell, and carp.
Boat Cruises on the Gariep Dam
Enjoy the fresh Karoo air on a boat cruise on the mighty Gariep Dam. The morning cruises offer spectacular reflections that can only be appreciated from the water. The atmosphere is relaxed and provides you with the perfect photo opportunities. From enjoying a sundowner on your evening cruise to watching the sun set, there is nothing quite like a boat cruise on the largest manmade dam in South Africa.
Canoeing and Kayaking on the Gariep Dam
Fans of aquatic adventure can enjoy paddling through some of the South Africa’s most breath-taking spots in the Gariep Dam. Discover all the magic the dam has to offer all while being surrounded by nature and vast farmlands. This is an adventure of a lifetime suitable for the entire family and at Tzamenkomst Lodge we have kayaks available.
Gariep Dam Fishing
Soak up the exquisite scenery as you cast a line for mudfish or yellowfish in this fly-fishing Mecca. Holidaying at Gariep Dam is any fisherman’s dream. Hot tip: Speak to the locals for advice on which are the best fishing spots. You may even find a secret spot of your own. Fishing can be from the shore or a boat.
View the Karoo in all its splendour from a 4×4. Traversing rugged terrain through water and up mountains makes for a truly memorable experience. Enjoy the ultimate trail for outdoor enthusiasts. It is definitely the most fun that you can have on four wheels.