Suikerbosrand is an amazing nature reserve less than an hour’s drive outside of busy Johannesburg. It boasts the highest point in the entire region and features wild herds of wildebeest, zebra, and eland. It’s the perfect place to introduce children to hiking and biking in a pristine natural setting. Suikerbosrand [SAY-ker-boss-rand] means “sugar bush,” named after the local plant which attracts many species of birds because of its sweet nectar. The reserve features ancient aloes as well as the magnificent cabbage tree, whose silhouette says “Africa.” The biome here is known as “veld,” also called savanna or high grasslands. Most veld, like prairie land in the United States, has been eradicated by human development.
We took a picnic lunch and made ourselves at home in one of the two designated picnic areas, both with running water and barbecues. While we snacked, watched birds, and played games, Daddy and friends took a 45 km mountain bike ride up the mountain and down. Most Joburgers don’t know about Suikerbosrand — we had the place to ourselves with a handful of families joining us as the day passed.
The deep history of this place is that it was an Iron Age settlement. It also hosts a Farm Museum with accurately-restored buildings, a herb garden, and a flock of sheep. There are even overnight trails with chalets and meditation huts which can be booked for total silence. For more information, see the provincial page on the Suikerbos Nature Reserve.