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File:Coat of arms of the Free State.svg  FREE STATE ATTRACTIONS



   

Free State National Botanical Garden

  


On the north western fringes of Bloemfontein lie 70 hectares of botanical garden, in a valley peppered with dolerite koppies, tall grassland and woodland; some magnificent examples of wild olive and karee trees, an orange blossom arbour and a petrified tree, thought to be over 150 million years’ old.


  

The Free State National Botanical Garden is home to some 400 species of plants, mainly from the Free State, Northern Cape and Lesotho. A meandering paved path, perfect for the more elderly visitor and the physically disabled, takes one through the gardens, whilst the more agile can venture up the koppies.


National Museum Bloemfontein




The National Museum in the judicial capital of South Africa, known as the city of roses, has as its motto - Curator Hereditatis - which means that it regards itself as the custodian of our heritage, which it is in quite a big way. The National Museum in Bloemfontein has been in existence since 1877, when it began collecting and displaying rarities from around the world. Today the museum focuses on natural history and cultural history sciences, as well as art, and it has established some important collections.



The National Museum, on Aliwal Street in the centre of Bloemfontein, has some alluring attractions that include life-size fibreglass elephants, the only complete skeleton of Euskelosaurus, one of the earliest known dinosaurs, a working beehive, live snakes and other reptiles in the their Herpetology Hall, and an extensive history of Bloemfontein / Mangaung. Most of their visitors are children, and it’s not surprising given the attractions.

  

The palaeontology / anthropology and archaeology section is probably one of the more interesting areas of the museum - it takes us back to what our world must have been like millions of years ago. The museum has an extensive collection of fossils and archaeological material that includes the Florisbad Skull, one of the largest known dinosaurs. There is an ethnological section too, with fascinating displays on the Bushmen, and a replica of a Victorian Bloemfontein street scene.


Vredefort Dome


The Vredefort dome is the oldest and largest meteorite impact site (Asrobleme) in the world. Formed an estimated 2000 million years ago when a gigantic meteorite (larger than Table Mountain) hit the earth close to where Vredefort is today.





The force of the impact opened up a crater, which is still visible, and is about 40km in diameter. When visiting the area you will notice small hills in a large dome shape with beautiful valleys between them. Evidence has been found by geologists that the cause of this upliftment was an extreme impact event, caused by an asteroid some 10 kilometres in diameter. The ring of hills we see now are the eroded remains of a dome created by the rebound of the rock below the impact site after the asteroid hit. The original crater, now eroded away, is estimated to have been 250 - 300 kilometres in diameter. Some 70 cubic kilometres of rock would have been vaporised in the impact.

The Vredefort structure is currently regarded the biggest and oldest clearly visible impact structure on Earth. It just beats the Sudbury impact structure in Canada for this ranking. The Sudbury structure is some 200 km in diameter and is estimated to be 1.85 billion years old.



Basotho Cultural Village



A visit to the Basotho Cultural Village which nestles at the foot of huge sandstone mountains, will give you a deeper insight into the lifestyle of the South Sotho from the 16th century to the picturesque present. On arrival at the Cutural Village, a friendly receptionist will show you an introductory video which illustrates the building process of the museum. Demonstrations of the decorations of huts, making of basketware, crushing of maize and traditional dances are shown.




Your tour will commence at the Khatloa under the expert guidance of a tour guide as you cannot enter the chief's village and explore the way of life of his people without first receiving his permission. He will offer you a sip of Sotho beer as a token of hospitality and you may engage in a traditional game of maraba-raba. At the Ngaka (the chief's bone thrower) the throw of his which bones will give the visitors a peep into the future. At the dwellings of the first and second wives, visitors will enjoy some motoho and dipabi. The interesting utennsils and colourful decorations are discussed and explaine.


Golden Gate National Park

  

Nestled in the rolling foothills of the Maluti Mountains of the north-eastern Free State lies the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. The park derives its name from the brilliant shades of gold cast by the sun on the park's sandstone cliffs, especially the imposing Brandwag rock, keeping vigil over the main rest camp.


  

This 11 600 hectares of unique environment is true highland habitat, providing home to a variety of mammals including black wildebeest, eland, blesbok, oribi, springbok and Burchell's zebra - and birds, including the rare bearded vulture (lammergeier) and the equally rare bald ibis, which breed on the ledges in the sandstone cliffs. Ribbokkop, the highest point in the park, reveals a breathtaking tapestry of red, yellow and purple hues as its warm shades merge with the cool mountain shadows towards evening.

Cool highveld summers with the possibility of thunderstorms in the afternoon and cold winters with occasional snow transform the Golden Gate National Park into a white wonderland.Activities include Short nature trails varying from 1 hour to 5 hours (no bookings required), Game viewing at leisure in own vehicles, Guided excursions, night drives, video shows and lectures during school holiday periods. Environmental education courses (varying from 1 to 5 days), Bowls, tennis, table tennis and snooker. Horse-riding during peak periods. Swimming in the natural pool at Glen Reenen.


Sterkfontein Dam Reserve


  

Rugged, steep krantzes silhouetted against the skyline, mountain slopes snugly covered with a grass blanket, deep lushly vegetated kloofs and a crystal-clear lake are facets of the beauty of the Sterkfontein Dam Reserve which covers 18000 Ha.


  


Oribi, Mountain Reedbuck and Grey Rhebuck inhabit the Sterkfontein Reserve. The bald Ibis, the blue and whitebellied Korhaan are conspicuous on the grassy slopes, while buffstreaked Chat, ground Woodpecker and Sentinel and Cape rock Thrushes can be seen on rocky outcrops. Bearded and Cape Vultures, as well as the Black and Martial Eagles and Secretary Birds are found here.


The Yellowwood, Wild Peach, Koko Tree, Silky Bark and Bush Guarri flourish in the sheltered kloofs at Sterkfontein. Wild grape has twined into the tree tops, where they form a dense, leafy canopy that protects ferns and mosses below. Fungi and lichen nestle against living and rotting tree trunks. The mountain slopes are decorated with wild Myrtle, Redwood, Ouhout, Bush Guarri, Highveld Protea, Silver Sugarbush and the scarce Tree Fern.


Gariep Dam Nature Reserve




The Free State's largest nature reserve is a combination of the 36 487 ha Gariep Dam on the Orange River and an 11 237 ha game sanctuary on its northern shore.

                     
From the Gariep dam some 200 000 ha of land is irrigated, by means of a tunnel of 83,8 km, delivering water to the upper valleys of the Fish River, and then from another 13,2 km tunnel to the Sundays River.


The Gariep dam covers some 374 square kilometers. With the supply of some 455 million litres of water to the dry Karoo region around it, the hydro electric scheme generates 600 000 kilowatts of power, as well. Situated between Bloemfontein and Colesberg in the Free State, the Gariep Dam is an ideal place to stop over on your way between Cape Town and Johannesburg.




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