The Hans Merensky Nature Reserve, also known as the Hans Merensky Wilderness is a protected area in Limpopo Province which was proclaimed a nature reserve in 1953. The over 5200 hectare reserve was named after the German South African Geologist, Prospector and Conservationist Hans Merensky. The reserve lies approximately 70km northeast of Tzaneen toward the Kruger National Park, an hour's drive from the Phalaborwa Gate and is located on the banks of the Great Letaba River, a tributary of the Olifants River, which offers great bird-watching opportunities.
The terrain is mostly flat lowveld grasslands dotted with shrubby mopane and combretum trees, quite lush in the rainy season, but dying back in winter to provide excellent game viewing at waterholes. The terrain also provides an ideal habitat for hundreds of interesting bird species, including the White-breasted Cuckoo shrike, Brown-headed Parrot, Raptors and Wood Sandpipers.
Hans Merensky is not a Big 5 reserve, but more of a wildlife sanctuary with hiking trails and family friendly facilities. Some of the wildlife that can be seen includes Sable and various other species of antelope, plenty of giraffe, wildebeest, warthog and zebra. Nocturnal predators include the shy leopard, black-backed jackal and hyena. Along the river you will also see hippo, giant monitor lizards and crocodiles. The reserve promotes its hiking trails, and has been involved in the breeding of Sable antelope and giraffe to stock other reserves since its proclamation in 1953.
There are three self-guided trails, each starting from the visitors centre: The Letaba Trail to the river, which involves an hour's walk. The Waterbuck Trail, a round trip of 12km. The Giraffe Trail, is an easy way to discover the beauty of the lowveld on foot. The 33km trail takes three days and begins and ends at the reserves offices. No more than 13km is covered each day which makes it perfect for beginners. The trails overnight overlooks a waterhole where a variety of game can be seen. Apart from the walking safaris there is also a self-drive option along a set route which includes a picnic and viewing spot that looks out over the whole reserve. There are also mountain biking trails and horse riding.
The Muti Wa Vatsonga Museum is a living kraal museum where you can learn about the Tsonga tribe's culture and buy Tsonga arts and crafts. There is also an educational centre. Another special feature of the Reserve is the hot mineral spring at the ATKV Eiland Spa.
The reserve is open daily throughout the year and is most popular in winter when temperatures are lower and game is easier to spot.
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