Within easy reach of urban Gauteng, Dinokeng offers a taste of life in the country, writes Michelle Colman.

Dinokeng, in the far north-eastern reaches of Gauteng, has long marketed itself as the location for absorbing a taste of South African country life within easy access of the province’s urban concentrations. In addition, the opening of a game reserve some three years ago, now featuring a full complement of the Big Five, is great news for time-pressed visitors to Johannesburg.

With these attributes, Dinokeng took on the appropriate slogan, ‘Dinokeng Africa in one day’.

Besides the game reserve, there are two other tourist focal points in the 228 000ha Dinokeng region – the mining village of Cullinan, and the vicinity of the Roodeplaat Dam. In all hubs, local tourism committees are at work, making up the larger Dinokeng Tourism Organisation of provincial government and private-sector representatives, says GM, Melany Muraour.

Marketing efforts have included a tourism map listing sights, facilities and activities on offer in the location, and combined representation at trade shows such as Indaba and others.

Dinokeng has built up a reputation for its spa facilities, and wedding and conference venues. The historic town of Cullinan is the place where the world’s largest diamond – the Cullinan – was discovered, and offers a great mine tour. Old mining houses in the village’s Oak Street have been converted into eateries, décor and antique shops, making for enjoyable browsing.

Roodeplaat Dam is surrounded by the Roodeplaat Nature Reserve, presenting opportunities for boating, fishing, hiking and game viewing. Its bird watching is particularly renowned, with opportunities for catching sight of over 250 species. The dam is also the location of regattas. On May 20, the Agricultural Research Council Roodeplaat will be the start of a Nissan Trailseeker mountain biking event, expected to attract 1 500 participants.

The Dinokeng Game Reserve (DGR) can be explored either on a self-drive basis or by booking a professionally guided game drive or bush hike with one of the lodges in the reserve. There are now 36 accommodation venues in the reserve, all privately owned and managed, providing self-catering through to full-service facilities. There are also four camping and caravan sites, and the choice of restaurants in the DGR has increased to six.

Chris Pieterse, Acting Chair of the DGR Tourism Association, reports that the self-drive route was recently extended by 4km with a section known as the Nakedi Loop, and stretches to 125km covering 60% of the reserve.  The route links most of the accommodation and restaurant amenities, the picnic sites and lookout points.

The reserve has 6 000 head of free-roaming game. Other than the Big Five, the visitor can spot giraffe, zebra, eland, kudu, Blue wildebeest, Red hartebeest, tsessebe, nyala, blesbok duiker, impala, warthog, steenbok and cheetah. The reserve now boasts a breeding pair of Martial eagles.

Avid twitchers will be interested in a birding weekend at Mongena Game Lodge, one of the DGR lodges, from November 25-27.