10 things to do on and around the Gariep Dam oasis in the Free State

2015-09-18 16:22 - Louzel Lombard
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Cape Town - If you're heading from Cape Town to Johannesburg, or visa versa, and not trying to do it in one dash, why not extend your journey over two or more days and explore the pit-stop, hotspot of the Gariep Dam. 

This Free State oasis has served many a traveller with a good night’s rest, a splendid sunset and an early rise before the journey continues. 

Yet the Gariep Dam is so much more than just a halfway mark. It’s a rightful destination and holiday oasis for many South Africans who want to side-step the Great December Migration and spend some quality time in the heart of the Karoo. 

Here are our Top 10 things to do on and around the Gariep Dam: 

At the Dam 

The biggest dam in SA, the Gariep Dam’s source of life and liveliness is the water and the water sport offering here is impeccable. Action, adventure, leisure or luxury, it's all here... 


The Orange River and Gariep Dam have become a fly-fishing mecca due to the abundance of both Yellowfish species in the water. Some of the species found are large-mouth yellowfish, small-mouth yellowfish, Orange River mudfish, moggel, sharptooth catfish, chubbthead barb, carp and many more. Fishing can be done from the shore or from boat.

A photo posted by Handre Luus (@handreluus) on


Boat Cruise

You cannot visit the dam and not see the 'Oranjekrag' dam wall from up close. The boat cruises are perfect for early mornings or sundowners in the afternoon. 

River rafting

The Orange river feeds the Gariep Dam and if you're after a little more action, you can opt for an adventurous river raft. You can spot many wildlife and especially birds from the river.  

READ: Orange River - Just go with the flow


The Karoo is known for its splendid night skies. The reflection of the stars on this vast body of water make the experience even more breathtaking than anywhere else in the Karoo. 

Gliding over the Gariep

Another adventurous option which offers you the chance to see this oasis from above. The contrast of the arid Karoo against the lush green river banks of the Gariep Dam and Orange River is certainly something to see. 

'Kaskar' race at the Dam

The Gariep Dam Kaskar Race takes place on 9 - 10 October 2015. Join in the fun by entering a home built 'kaskar' and speeding off in competition to be crowned the Gariep 'Kaskar' king. Entry fee is R200 per driver. 

A photo posted by kyla joubert ? (@kylaqiii) on


Hike or MTB in the Oviston Nature Reserve

This nature reserve offers an insight into the endemic flora and fauna of the Karoo. The unspoiled wildlife area is especially loved for the many smaller Karoo predators that roam the reserve freedly. Be on the lookout for weird creatures like aardwolf, the bat-eared fox, the  black-backed jackal, brown hyena, caracal and the African wild cat. 

Taste the Karoo in Colesberg

READ: South Africa's halfway towns

Believe it or not, this is South Africa’s busiest town during the festive season. This is mainly due to its convenient location on the vacation-vein that connects Cape Town to Johannesburg. 

Colesberg is much more than a passing-through town though. Because of the influx of hungry travellers, Colesberg has become quite a foodie haven. The town is overflowing with amazingly unique and quaint eateries including Die Kleipot, the Horse and Mill Pub, Die Plattelander and Bordeaux Coffee Shop and Restaurant.


Hot Springs in Aliwal North 

If you're in the mood to be pampered, the hot mineral springs in Aliwal is just the thing for you. The spa is situated 300m from the Orange River and at a constant 36 degrees, it's the best place to relax and unwind. Grab a bite to eat in the warehouse restaurant The Stables, just outside Aliwal. 


Horse riding in Burgersdorp 

to experience the area around the Gariep Dam on horseback, an amazing way to do game viewing on many game reserves in Burgersdorp. Equitrailing can range from two hour out-rides to 10 day horse trails going all over the Free State.

Burgersdorp is also famous for its brilliant Hagenhuis Coffee Shop, which makes the best secret recipe salad dressing in the country!

A photo posted by Yanez Novoa (@yaneznovoa) on


Where to stay:

Budget option: Gariep Dam Forever Resort

READ: Sleeping cheap as you explore SA

Affordable option: Waschbank River Lodge

A photo posted by Alice (@extremealice) on

Luxury option:
De Stijl Gariep Hotel

A photo posted by Nico Bester (@nicobester) on

- Content sponsored by Ultimate Braai Master

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