This pristine little town lies close to the edge of the Central Plains in a basin that is so well watered that the grass sometimes grows as tall as a man’s head. The name of the town means “surrounded by waters” in the now extinct Prussian language and refers to the spectacular, internationally recognised RAMSAR wetlands area along the Klip River that is also a prime birdwatching area. Memel is also known for its lovely, natural scenery, consisting of undulating grasslands to the north and the Drakensberg escarpment and mountains to the east and south. The Boer General, Christiaan de Wet, once owned a farm in the district.
Adventure And Sport
Adventure sport and angling: Mountain biking, canoeing and angling, particularly fly-fishing opportunities, are offered in and around the town.
Caravan Park: The Dumela Private Caravan Park offers caravan sites with clean ablution blocks and undercover “braai” (barbecue) areas at reasonable tariffs.
4×4 Routes: Botha’s Pass and the surrounding escarpment are ideal for 4×4 enthusiasts. However, some of the roads might pose a problem during the rainy season (in the summer months).
Guest Farms: Ronderus Guest Farm offers rest and tranquillity; a good way to spend a weekend or short holiday. For thrill-seekers there are many hiking, mountain-biking, hang-gliding and rock-climbing opportunities.
Horse-riding: Umvubu Horse Trails offer you the chance to explore the Zeekoeivlei Nature Reserve on horseback by day or night! Umvubu Bush Camp, situated close to road R34 next to the Reserve, offers easy access to the Reserve and makes a good base from which to explore the area.
Hiking: Memel and its surrounds have a number of wonderful hiking trails, such as the Sediba (“Fountain water”) Trail, that traverse and explore the mountains, waterfalls, forests and caves in the area. Do not be surprised if you come across buck, baboons or monkeys.
Hunting: Hunting packages are offered in season on some of the game farms in the area.
Fauna And Flora
Birdwatching and game-viewing: A number of game farms in the district provide opportunities for birdwatching and game-viewing.
Seekoeivlei Nature Reserve: The entrance to the 4 400 ha Seekoeivlei (“Hippopotamus marsh”) Nature Reserve lies just north of Memel. The Klip River, which meanders through the Seekoeivlei wetland, is characterised by many oxbow lakes. Since the reserve forms part of the larger wetland area, visitors will be able to spot several of the over 350 species of birds that have been identified here. Of the 350 species identified, some 21 are Red Data listed species, such as the three species of cranes, African marsh harrier, white-bellied korhaan, grass owl and the elusive white-winged flufftale. Grassland birds that have made the reserve their home include the southern bald ibis, blue korhaan and Rudd’s and Botha’s larks. Six bird hides interlinked with walkways will increase the possibility of observing the birds. At night, small carnivores, such as the white-tailed mongoose and the African wild cat, come out to play and during the day visitors can view some ten different species of game, such as roan antelope, zebra, buffalo, red hartebeest and black wildebeest. Hippopotami have recently been reintroduced to the reserve, 100 years after the last one was shot in this area. Visitors are welcome to fish, to go canoeing or to take short walks and hikes through the reserve.
Historical And Architecture
British Forts: The British erected forts along the escarpment for defence purposes during the Anglo-Boer War, which still stand.
Rebellion Memorial: The Rebellion Memorial, to commemorate the 1914 Rebellion of the Boers against the British, was erected in front of the Dutch Reformed Church. The rebellion was planned on the farm Allenvale and executed from there. It was the result of many Afrikaners disagreeing with the South African government about whether or not South Africa should invade the German Colony of South West Africa on behalf of Britain. Many Afrikaners were still bitter about the Anglo-Boer War and did not want to fight on the side of the British. Furthermore, many regarded and were in fact related to the people of the then South West Africa (now Namibia). The memorial also marks the spot where General Christiaan de Wet’s son, who died during the uprising, is buried. General de Wet was one of the Boer leaders who instigated the rebellion.
Wetlands: The Memel wetland area incorporated into the Seekoeivlei Nature Reserve, two km north of Memel, is one of the largest remaining wetland areas of its kind in South Africa. Some 220 oxbow lakes (small curved lakes in the floodplains of rivers, the remnants of former meanders) have formed over many centuries and now form one of the few remaining sponge areas in the Vaal River catchment area. The area supports a prolific community of birds, especially water birds, and has been declared a Wetland of International Importance (RAMSAR).