Wakkerstroom, one of the oldest villages in Mpumalanga, is situated at the foot of Ossewakop, on the banks of the Umzinyati River. When Voortrekkers settled in the area in 1859 they called their village Martinus-Wesselstroom after the then President of the Transvaal. However, this difficult name was soon changed to Wakkerstroom (“Lively/Wide-Awake Stream”). Today, the town is also known as “eSizameleni”. During the Anglo-Transvaal War that broke out in 1880 after Britain had annexed the then independent Transvaal, the area saw much fighting and the British experienced heavy losses.However, one small British garrison that was besieged in a fort in the town for three months, refused to give up and marched victorious out of the town when peace came. Because of the foresight of the early town fathers, Wakkerstroom has become one of the prime bird-watching venues in Africa. They refused to allow a proposed Durban to Johannesburg railway line to pass through their town – a wise decision that protected the town’s natural wetlands (a possible World Heritage Site), ensuring the survival of many different species of birds. Today, the town and district also owe their prosperity to their sheep, cattle and coal-mining activities.
Adventure And Sport
Angling: The many beautiful streams and lakes and the two dams, Heyshope and Zaaihoek, in the area provide numerous opportunities for trout, fl- and coarse-fishing.
Hang and paragliding: Hang-gliding and paragliding are two popular adrenalin-pumping sports that can be practised in the area. Conditions encountered in the area create easier-than-usual circumstances for paragliders. The sites in the area face all points of the compass and gliders are thus not limited by the direction of the wind.
Hiking: There are several hiking trails that take hikers through the forests east of town, the wetland areas with their many birds and up the mountainous slopes in this area.
Horse-riding: Travel through the Wakkerstroom countryside with its beautiful trees, waterfalls and many streams and wetland areas, on horseback.
Mountain-biking and cycling: Some excellent mountain-biking routes have been established in the area.
Archaeology And Palaeontology
San Rock Art: Several examples of San rock art are found in the area.
Fauna And Flora
Scenic routes: There is a lovely circular, scenic route that travels over the Jantjieshoek Pass, down to the Assegaai River Valley and back through Buitenzorg. The route traverses pristine grasslands and towering mountain peaks, where the rivers that run through this area have their sources. There are other scenic routes, mostly on gravel roads, between the town and Heyshope Dam.
Paardeplaats Reserve: Paardeplaats Reserve lies close to Wakkerstroom and is a high-altitude grassland reserve in the upper catchment area of the Ntombe River, a tributary of the Pongola River. More than 70 species of orchid, including 12 epiphytes and other protected species of flowering plants, as well as pockets of yellowwood, cussonia and strangler fig trees grow here.Typical grassland fauna, such as oribi antelope, grey rhebuck, reedbuck and many species of birds also call this reserve home.
Wakkerstroom Wetland Reserve: Wakkerstroom is a renowned bird-watching venue because of the wealth of birds protected in the Wakkerstroom Wetland
Reserve. The 700-ha Wakkerstroom Wetland Reserve is part of the South African
Grassland Biome and many rare and sought-after species of birds, such as the blue crane, Rudd’s lark and wattled crane have made the grass- and marshlands their habitat. At least 19 of these rare species are endemic or near endemic to this region. Local specialist “birding” guides can help you make the most of your bird-watching experience.
Wild Flowers: Many summer visitors are entranced by the many wild flowers in bloom.
History And Architecture
Historic buildings: There are several historic buildings in and around town, including some Boer homes built in the mid- to late nineteenth century. The
British blockhouses and encampments are still intact and the staging posts for the original coach services can still be seen. The Courthouse has been restored to its former glory.
Town Museum: Visit the small museum in the library building and learn more about the town’s past.
Wagon tracks: The tracks left by the timber wagons of yesteryear can still be seen in the forests east of town