Vredefort (“Fort of Peace”) was founded in 1876. It owes its name to the peaceful conclusion of a threatened war between the Transvaal and the Orange Free State Republics. The town is located near the impact site of a giant meteorite (approximately 10 km in diameter, weighing about 750 000 million tons) that hit the earth at a speed of 20 000 km per second, some 2 000 million years ago. Scientists worldwide recognise the Vredefort Dome site as the third largest and oldest meteorite impact site on earth. The Dome area now enclosed within the Dome Conservancy offers panoramic views over the Vaal River Valley and has become a popular tourist attraction. Following the Dome Bergland Meander with its 18 stopovers is a good way to explore the surrounding Dome area.

Adventure And Sport

Adventure sport: The Dome area offers a large variety of adventure activities, such as hiking, horse-riding, abseiling, rock climbing, canoeing, white river rafting, angling and birdwatching.

Fly-fishing: The Vaal Hackle Fly-fishing Resort, an exclusive, self-catering, fly-fishing resort, is situated in the Vredefort Dome Highlands Yellow Fish Conservancy. Accommodation consists of four chalets on the riverbank in magnificent surroundings.

Hiking, biking, paddling and canoeing: Popular Dome trails include the Rooihaas Hiking Trail, the Dome Mountain Biking Trail, the Drift­to-Drift Canoe Trail and the Boot and Paddle Hiking and Canoe Trail. The five mountain bike trails that traverse the Dome are considered be among the ten best mountain bike trails in the country.

Hunting: Hunting opportunities exist at Chazen Game Lodge.

Archaeology And Palaeontology

New archaeological find: An exciting new archaeological find at Askoppies in the Dome area, the remains of a young woman and the remains of an Iron Age settlement, have stirred much interest. Excavations are continuing here and in the many Iron Age caves in the area.

San Rock Shelters and Caves: The rock shelters along the banks of the Vaal River bear witness to the earlier presence of the San.

Fauna And Flora

Birds and Butterflies: The Dome is recognised as having a unique eco-system and some species found here are found nowhere else in the world. Scientific research into the birds, butterflies and moths of the Dome area has so far revealed 450 species of birds, 99 species of butterflies (as many as are found in the whole of Great Britain) and 15 species of big moths. Research into the fauna and flora of the area is ongoing.

Chazen Game Lodge: Chazen Game Lodge, in the Dome area, boasts a large camp with a well-cared for pride of lions, as well as a herd of buffalo and various species of buck and smaller animals species.

Fauna: Baboons abound in the rocky, mountainous Dome area and leopard, rooikat, aardwolf, many small species of buck and the endangered rock dassie also live here.

Flora: Approximately 99 species of plants have been identified in the Dome area, including the world’s largest olivewood tree forest.

Thwane Bush Camp: This exclusive, tented bush camp is situated on a private game farm and offers game viewing in beautiful surroundings and a relaxed atmosphere. There are several other private game camps and reserves in the area in which game may be viewed.

History And Architecture

Historic Buildings: An original Voortrekker hartbeeshuisie, a house constructed of intertwined, hard reeds and dating back to 1881, can be seen in the grounds of the sandstone Dutch Reformed Church. The latter was consecrated in 1923. The rectory of the church and the old Post Office Building are fine examples of Cape Dutch architecture. The two oldest houses in town are situated in Water Street (built in 1884) and Sarel Cilliers Street (built in 1885).

Symbolic Ox wagon Trek Monument: A monument commemorating the symbolic ox wagon trek of 1938 stands in the grounds of the Dutch Reformed Church.

Natural Wonders

Vredefort Dome: The Dome is the site where a meteorite, measuring approximately 10 km in diameter, crashed into the earth, approximately 2 000 million years ago, forming a crater with a circumference of 200 km. According to experts the impact caused an explosion of such magnitude that the meteor itself all but disintegrated. The resulting shock waves cause basement rocks deep in the bowels of the earth to rise up, pushing sedimentary and volcanic layers of rocks upwards into a huge tube-like structure.

The impact of the meteorite, released an amount of energy equivalent to the simultaneous detonation of more than 780 000 000 hydrogen bombs and may have led to the formation of the diamond and gold-bearing reefs in the Free State. This status of the Dome site is currently under review at UNESCO and will, it is hoped, result in its being given full status as a World Heritage Site.

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