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The Modderfontein Nature Reserve, Johannesburg, South Africa

The Modderfontein Nature Reserve, Edenvale

When the Modderfontein explosives factory on the outskirts of Edenvale still made dynamite, there was a buffer of almost 1000ha of empty land around it, in case of accidental explosions. The 275ha reserve, the second largest private park in Gauteng, was established in 1988 by AECI to demonstrate that industry and nature can co-exist and the Modderfontein Conservation Society, a volunteer body, was formed to help preserve it. Access to the reserve at that stage was not open to the public due to the laws around dynamite production.

In 1994, the factory moved away from nitroglycerine explosives production to water-based products and this reduced the amount of land needed as a buffer. In September 2012 the way was clear to allow the public access to this hidden gem, right in the heart of Johannesburg. The reserve is managed by the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) working with Heartland, the property arm of land owners AECI and the Modderfontein Conservation Society. The EWT has made great progress removing the alien vegetation and monitoring the wildlife that occurs naturally in the reserve. The formal management of the reserve will ensure the eco-system balance, the safety of the area and that the public can enjoy it for recreation. The area is fenced off and is patrolled by security guards.

The Modderfontein Nature Reserve Views

The reserve includes a variety of habitats ranging from grasslands, forests and riverine vegetation to wetlands with the Modder Spruit running through it. The main attraction of the reserve has always been the wide variety of birds. Some 280 species have been recorded here.  Birds such as the African Fish-Eagle, Long-Crested Eagle and Crimson-breasted Shrike are regular sightings. In addition, a pair of breeding Blue Cranes has nested here since 1981. The John Voelcker bird dam in the reserve is named after John Voelcker who was the prime mover in having the first Roberts Birds of South Africa published.

The reserve has small populations of Black-backed jackal, Duiker, Reedbuck and Genet. The game variety has been boosted with the introduction of Zebra, Black Wildebeest, Red Hartebeest, Blesbok, and Highveld Springbok – currently housed in the game area (still off limits) in the north-west portion of the Reserve.

The Isidleke Village, Modderfontein Nature Reserve, Jhb
The Isidleke Centre in the Modderfontein Reserve provides a tranquil setting for a picnic

At the heart of the reserve is a small complex of buildings called “Isidleke” which means “the nest” in isiZulu. It comprises four buildings: an old barn, built in 1900 by Randlord, Sir Alfred Beit, and used to stage carriages and horses – it has been restored to its former glory and is a great picnic spot;  Dobb’s House,  the old estate manager’s house built in 1934 which has also been restored;  the remains of Sir Alfred Beit’s hunting lodge and a toilet complex.

The Modderfontein Nature Reserve WalksThe public has access to the reserve at an entrance fee of R30 per adult and R15 for children and pensioners. There are picnic spots, a dam and nature walks.

Bike Trails are constantly being developed and marked. Currently there are four different routes available, all with varying degrees and levels of difficultly and distance, the shortest route being 10km and the longest approximately 40km. The trails are open on Saturdays and Sundays; please attend at the registration table on either day, to purchase either a single entry ticket or a multi-pass.

Rules and regulations apply and must be strictly adhered to.  These include no fire, fishing, pets or radios.

The Val Bonne Country Estate is a captivating restaurant and event venue hidden in the 275ha, that offers unbelievable views, superior food options and efficient event management — just a short drive from Sandton! 087 288 1904 – 087 288 1905.

Dobbs Cottage offers a country-café vibe and boasts a wrap around veranda. The restaurant overlooks Grebe dam and is surrounded by beautiful green lawns, perfect for the kids to play while you enjoy a relaxed meal. The restaurant is open to the public during normal trading hours, buffet breakfast is served on Saturday and Sunday.

Hours of operation: 06:00 – 18:00: Closed on Mondays. To enter the reserve, the gate is in Ardeer Road, Modderfontein. +27 79 519 1589. Should you wish to visit The Dynamite Company Museum, read about it on ShowMe.

More info on the quaint town of Edenvale More info on the Ekurhuleni area


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