Information Desk

About The Gariep Area

  • Gariep Dam Nature Reserve
  • Rolfontein Nature Reserve
  • PW Vorster Museum
  • Middelburg Cultural and Historical Museum
  • Oviston Nature Reserve
  • Tussen-die-Riviere Nature Reserve
  • Gariep Dam Airfield and Glyders Paradise
  • Tiger Canyons tiger-breeding project in Philippolis district
  • Landzicht WineryTiger Canyons tiger-breeding project in Philippolis district
  • Jagersfontein Diamond Town of yesteryear
  • The Friendly N6 Route
  • Patrick Mynhardt’s Home Town
  • Legend of the Bridge
  • Railroad tracks running through the centre of Fauresmith
  • Open Mine Museum and mining hole at Jagersfontein and at Koffiefontein
  • Transgariep Museum and Laurens van der Post Memorial at Philippolis
  • The ‘Little Gallery’ at Smithfield
  • Gariep Dam
  • The ‘Eye’ of Zastron
  • DH Steyn bridge near Bethulie

Originally the San people called the “great river” the Garib while the Voortrekkers named it the Orange River because they had orange in their flag and saw the colour in the murky expanse of this 2 000 km long source of life cutting through dry lands and forming the natural southern border with the larger Cape.

One should not be fooled by the tranquillity of the Xhariep Region – underneath the atmospheric serenity lie incredible journeys and unforgettable opportunities waiting to be experienced. These range from the sheer thrill of the hunt on any of the many game farms, the outstanding nature reserves offering their absorbing animal, plant and bird life, or just to enjoy the excellent facilities at the many holiday resorts in the area. Follow the preserved trails of Bushman antiquity and feel the magical presence of a nearly extinct people; so are the historic footsteps of other cultural groups in the region. The charm of small town mythology brings one closer still to the rhythms of the earth, to a natural order, to a way of life perhaps intended for everyone of us.

The town Gariep Dam, (the youngest town in South Africa) situated alongside the N1, is perhaps better known to most for the man-made Gariep Dam (which is the largest dam in South Africa with a radius of 360 square kilometers) which forms part of the Orange River Development Scheme.The sheer magnificence of this more than 100km long and 24km wide dam, is indeed sufficient to testify to the exceptional engineering and success of Africa’s largest water supply scheme.The great Orange River project which was started in 1928 gave rise to the Hendrik Verwoerd Dam. The Town and Kampong areas were erected in the early 1960’s. The rural area became known as Oranjekrag and accommodated 3500 people all involved with the construction of the dam wall. The completion date of construction was 31 August 1969.The realization of a temporary town never materialized. Today there are more than 600 permanent residents living in the Town.

Gariep Dam towns official status as the Municipal of Verwoerd Dam was proclaimed on 21 April 1994. The name was officially changed on 4 October 1996 to Gariep Dam.Gariep Dam is the most central point of the Republic of South Africa. An excellent road network connects the town to the Eastern Cape, North and South Namibia and Botswana.

The town also has a airfield with a double tarred runway. International gliding championships are held annually in December at the airfield. Overseas gliders agree that Gariep Dam is the mecca for gliding competitions to set up world records for gliding. Gliders visit Gariep Dam annually from all over the world to come and set new records with the best gliding conditions in the world with the proof of setting the longest distance traveled world record at Gariep Dam.The nearby nature reserve has one of the biggest black wildebeest herds in the world.There is a long water tunnel nearby. This tunnel is one of the longest tunnel in the world and is so long it was shaped to the curve of the earth and is so big they can drive through it inside.

After a long and tough competition with strict criteria, Gariep Dam was awarded town of the year. If you are one of the few who does not know where we are, it is next to the biggest dam in South Africa, yes even bigger than the Vaal dam. Lake Gariep Dam has the well-known Lake Gariep Route ready to be explored.The dam, also known as Lake Gariep dam has a 165 km Gariep route running from Gariep Dam to Venterstad, Oviston, Bethulie and back, with even more other towns to visit in the area.Social activities include Cycling, running, swimming, hiking, 4×4 trails, fishing, great photo spots, dam wall tours, Eskom tours, fish hatchery tours, rich history area, boat trips, nature reserves, tennis, golf, sailing, canoe, motorboats, picnic and braai areas, fishing next to the orange river, quad bikes, game drives, river rafting, clay pigeon shooting, kayaks, paddle boats, gliding trips, bird watching, gift shopping, restaurants, put put, swimming pools, horse riding, rubber ducks and much more to do in Gariep Dam…. may I add FRESH AIR with CRISTAL CLEAR SKIES ideal for stargazing!

The remarkable Gariep Dam in the Grassy Karoo is the biggest catchment of fresh water in South Africa – prime waterfront real estate. And the real surprise? There’s practically not a soul in sight…

Depending on the time of day you pass it by, Lake Gariep changes mood from sullen midday browns to the dark blues and coppers of dawn – and the molten silvers and golds of sunset. Karoo hills poke through it, appearing in soft light and morning mist like vapid Japanese islands.It holds 6 000 million cubic litres of water in a vast space covering 374 sq km, irrigating more than 200 000 ha of land and providing 600 000 kilowatts of power. It feeds the Great Fish River, the Sundays River and the Orange River that heads west to Alexander Bay, traversing through South Africa’s desert lands.

It has all the makings of a world-class inland Riviera, complete with game reserves and plush hotels. But go now, while it’s quiet. One day, the world will discover this place and turn it into a theme park.

Lake Gariep is surrounded by three provincial nature reserves namely the Oviston Nature Reserve, the Tussen-die-Riviere Nature Reserve and the Gariep Nature Reserve. The Gariep Dam Nature Reserve is situated between the dam and Bethulie on the Free State side. The Tussen-die-Riviere Nature Reserve is situated in the Free State. Oviston Nature Reserve is situated in the Eastern Cape Province on the southern side of Lake Gariep
text and photographs by Chris Marais


Florein de Winnaar
+27 (0)82 571 5231
Tel: +27 82 571 5231

Head Office Tel: +27 11 549 3049
Head Office Fax: +27 11 498 2098

Original Source

Dams have become an integral part of South Africa’s waterways providing numerous benefits to South Africans such as hydro electricity generation, water for irrigation, as well as supporting a wide range of recreational opportunities. As we boat, fish and hike near dams we must do so in a manner which does not place ourselves or loved ones at risk. It is important for everyone to educate themselves on the hazards created by dams and to keep these hazards in mind as you enjoy the beauty that South Africa has to offer.

A dam is defined as “a structure of work forwarding, holding back or diverting water”. A dam can take many forms such as a low head weir, a hydro-electric generating station, a concrete dam with removable stop logs or adjustable gates, and a marine navigation lock.

There are countless dams throughout South Africa ranging in height of less than one meter to over one hundred meters. Dams are owned by a variety of industries, municipalities, Conservation Authorities, private landowners, etc. Historically dams were built for industrial uses such as mills, logging and navigation. Currently, dams provide hydro-electricity production, municipal water supply, flood management, wetland habitat management, low flow augmentation, navigation and recreation opportunities.

Regardless of their size, type of construction or intended use, all dams present certain hazards to those who work or play near them. Dams with associated public uses are assessed for hazards which may be present risks to public safety. Signs, booms, buoys and fencing are methods used to warn and protect the public from these hazards.
What are the hazards?

While low head weirs may appear insignificant, they pose considerable dangers to those boating or playing around them. Water that continuously re-circulates at the base of low head weirs creates underwater hydraulics which can easily trap someone at the base of the dam. This hydraulic effect is commonly referred to as a ‘drowning machine’.

Low head weirs may have no visible structure above the water line. Boaters approaching a weir from the upstream side may not be aware of the dangers present. Boaters should always watch for and obey signs, booms, buoys, and portage markers. Upstream dam leakage between and around stop logs may suck in a swimmer and hold the person below the water level with such force they cannot escape.Objects in foaming water are less buoyant than still water. Air trapped in water reduces the buoyancy and therefore persons caught in such conditions have greater difficulty staying afloat even with the aid of personal flotation gear.Changing water levels and flows below a dam can occur rapidly and without warning. Never place yourself in a situation where you cannot leave the area you are boating in or have accessed by boat. Never camp, picnic or sunbathe in an area below a dam which may become flooded.Concrete retaining walls above and below dams could block exit routes for individuals trying to escape the dangers associated with a dam. These are often present around marine locks.

  • Always stay outside booms and away from all dam structures.
  • Never swim above a dam or dive from a dam structure. Currents can pull you through the dam or pull you against flow structures with such force that you could not escape.
  • Never fish, boat, or swim below a dam. Water levels and flows can change very quickly and you may not be able to react in time to avoid the danger.
  • Personal water craft and boats should always stay clear from dams. Never moor, tie or anchor your boat below a dam.*Never sunbathe, picnic or camp in an area which may become flooded due to dam operations.
  • ATVs should be used with caution around water. Operators should be aware of possible changes in water flows or levels from dam operations.
  • Always obey posted signs, and do not enter fenced areas to hike, or access hunting or nature viewing areas.
  • Persons fishing should stay clear of dams. Water flows and levels can change quickly.
  • Canoers and kayakers should always stay clear of dams.
  • Stay off the dam structures unless the area is clearly marked for public travel.
  • Be alert to changes in water levels.


Every year people are killed or seriously injured at dams. Most of these accidents could be avoided by simply staying clear of the restricted zones at dams, by understanding the dangers dams can create, and by obeying all warning devices.


  • Always heed and obey dam warning signs
  • Always stay outside buoy lines and away from restricted areas near dams
  • Always wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) when near water
  • Always be alert for flashing lights, sirens, and rising water levels
  • Always understand and respect the danger zones near dams
  • Always have an escape route planned
  • Never swim near a dam
  • Never boat or fish alone when near a dam

Critical Danger Zones at Dams

  • Hazard area marked by buoy lines
  • Slippery surfaces on dam structures and shorelines
  • Sudden Water discharge from dam gates
  • Submerged hazards above and below dams
  • Strong, unpredictable currents above and below dams
  • Open spillways which may not be visible from above the dam
  • Sudden turbulent discharges from automatically operated power house generators
  • Deceiving reverse currents below spillways
  • Ice that forms near a dam is often thin and unsafe

Boating Safety

  • Boating above or below a dam can be very dangerous. Always maintain a safe distance from the dam. Keep your motor running when near a dam so that you are always ready to maneuver or leave the area quickly
  • Stay away from spillways. Changing currents and unpredictable waves make boat control difficult.
  • Never anchor a boat below a dam. Rapid surges in water levels can pull an anchored boat under water in seconds.
  • Beware of dangerous and unseen currents. Backrollers, eddys, and whirlpools can pull a boat upstream into a spillway and quickly capsize it.

Flood Safety

Each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other severe weather related hazard. The main reason is people underestimate the force and power of water. More than half of all flood related deaths result from vehicles being swept downstream. Of these, many are preventable.

Follow these safety rules:

  • Monitor the Weather Radio All Hazards, or your favorite news source for vital weather related information.
  • If flooding occurs, get to higher ground. Get out of areas subject to flooding. This includes dips, low spots, canyons, washes etc.
  • Avoid areas already flooded, especially if the water is flowing fast. Do not attempt to cross flowing streams. Turn Around Don’t Drown
  • Road beds may be washed out under flood waters. NEVER drive through flooded roadways. Turn Around Don’t Drown
  • Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and rivers, particularly during threatening conditions.
  • Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.


The construction of the Orange-Fish Tunnel made possible the irrigation of thousands of hectares of additional land in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, diverting water from the Orange River to the Great Fish River.With a length of 83 km, the 5,35m diameter tunnel was the longest continuous enclosed aqueduct in the southern hemisphere and the second-longest water supply tunnel in the world.

It was engineered in association with Messrs Keeve Steyn and Partners of Johannesburg for the Water Affairs Department of the South African Government.

Former Halcrow senior partner, Sir Alan Muir Wood, the “father of modern tunneling” worked on many of the world’s leading tunnel projects, including the Orange-Fish Tunnel.

Interesting fact: The Orange River was named by Robert Jacob Gordon after the Dutch Royal House.For many years, large areas in the Eastern Cape experienced severe water shortages with the result that thousands of hectares of irrigable soil which previously obtained water from one or other of the dams in the region could not be irrigated. The situation was aggravated by the reduction in capacity of many of the existing dams due to heavy silt deposits.

The Orange-Fish Tunnel, together with its network of canals, weirs and balancing dams, has enabled these areas to be restored and has made the irrigation of thousands of hectares of additional land possible.The Orange-Fish Tunnel was completed in 1975 and is the key structure by which water is delivered from the Gariep Dam, to the Teebus Spruit and the Great Brak River and from there to the valley of the Great Fish River and the Sundays River valley. With a length of 82,8 km, the 5,35 m diameter tunnel is the longest continuous enclosed aqueduct in the southern hemisphere and the second-longest water supply tunnel in the world. The main purpose of the tunnel is to divert water to the Eastern Cape for irrigation, urban and industrial use. Over 200 000 m3 of concrete was used to line the tunnel which has a maximum capacity of 54 m3/s.

The intake tower is situated on the south bank of the Gariep Reservoir at Oviston, approximately 19 km upstream of the dam wall. Seen from above, the intake tower is shaped like a four-leaf clover with each leaf containing an inlet gate – all at different levels. In this manner, water can be drawn from different levels to help control the water quality. Each of the four inlets can be sealed to allow complete de-watering of the tunnel for routine maintenance.


The Nature Reserve offers a 16 000 ha unspoiled wild life area which hosts aardvark, aardwolf, African wild cat, bateared fox, black wildebeest, black-backed jackal, blesbuck, brown hyena, Burchell’s Zebra, Cape Clawless Otter, Cape Fox, Cape Ground Squirrel , Cape Hare, Cape Porcupine, caracal, Chacma baboon, common duiker, eland, kudu, mountain reedbuck, gemsbuck, red hartebeest, rock dassie, scrub hare, small spotted cat , small spotted genet, Smith’s red rock rabbit , South African hedgehog, spotted-necked otter, springbuck, steenbuck , suricate, vervet monkey, water Mongoose and yellow Mongoose.

The Orange River has offers the ideal setting for sunset cruises, the perfect end to a perfect day. The area surrounding Siloam Village offers the mountain bike enthusiast plenty of open stretches with adventure rides into the Oviston Nature Reserve. The keen canoeist can enjoy endless trips on Lake Gariep situated inside Oviston Nature Reserve. This is a bird lovers’ paradise, with a wide variety found on the farm. Rarities include: Fish Eagle, Black Eagle, Blue Crane, Secretary Bird, Steppe Buzzard, Kingfishers and many more.

The Orange River has become a fly-fishing Mecca due to the abundance of both Yellowfish species. A true test for both amateur and experienced fishermen. Some of the species found: Largemouth Yellowfish, Smallmouth Yellowfish, Orange River Mudfish, Moggel, Sharptooth Catfish, Chubbthead Barb, Carp and many more.Gariep area is blessed with an abundance of adventure, from our picturesque lake to our beautiful Nature Reserves. The waterways are what makes this province one of the best for outdoor enthusiasts of every kind.Providing game viewing trails in the nature reserve with quad bikes for groups of 14 people or less. Game viewing from our boat is also an excellent option, for those who wish to enjoy the nature reserve and the animals from another angle. Families wanting explore the reserve in their vehicle; will enjoy the variety of game the reserves has to offer. More energetic groups can make use of our mountain bikes to explore all the adventure avenues the reserves have available. Twelve bikers can be accommodated at a time.

For the fishing enthusiasts there is no better place than Lake Gariep to partake in the pleasure this sport has to offer. Fishing can be arranged with a trip out on the dam making use of our boat.

The primary purpose of the Oviston Nature Reserve is the conservation of the communities broadly representative of the Nama Karroo ecotype, and the conservation of the natural processes which are responsible for the resilience of the Karroo.Game drives in Oviston Nature Reserve are amply rewarded by sights of large numbers of Springbuck, Ostriches, Gemsbuck, Zebras and Hartebeest. Location of Oviston Nature ReserveOviston Nature Reserve is situated in the north eastern part of the Eastern Cape Province along the southern shoreline of the mighty Gariep Dam (formerly known as the Hendrik Verwoerd Dam). It covers an area of approximately 16,000 hectare and stretches from the dam wall on the west, to the Bethulie railroad bridge in the east. Oviston and Venterstad are both situated 7km from the reserve entrance.

Lake Gariep, which spans the borders of the Free State, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape Provinces, lies approximately two hours south of Bloemfontein. The dam is more than 100km long and 15km wide with a surface area of about 360km² and a storage capacity of 5,673,8 million cubic meters. The dam wall is 914m long and 88m high.

Oviston is a small town overlooking Lake Gariep on the Eastern Cape side. It was originally built to house the workers who built the dam which was completed in 1971.

Lake Gariep is surrounded by three provincial nature reserves namely the Oviston Nature Reserve, the Tussen-die-Riviere Nature Reserve and the Gariep Nature Reserve. The Gariep Dam Nature Reserve is situated between the dam and Bethulie on the Free State side. The Tussen-die-Riviere Nature Reserve is situated in the Free State. Oviston Nature Reserve is situated in the Eastern Cape Province on the southern side of Lake Gariep.

The land was originally bought by the State for the construction of the dam. In 1968, the Department of Agricultural Credit and Land Tenure and Water Affairs ceded control of the property to the provincial authorities. A Memorandum has been drafted by the MECs of the three provinces, to effectively join the three reserves and create a conservation area in excess of 85,000 hectares.

This is a semi-desert area so it can get blindingly hot during the day, followed by nights in which the temperature plummets. Due to this climate, the area is quite dusty which helps to give the extraordinary sunsets experienced here. The landscape consists of vast, open grassland with low “koppies” (small mountains) and is truly part of South Africa’s “Big Sky” country. Rain falls generally as thundershowers between October and March, the rainfall season peaks from February to March. Temperatures are mild for most of the year, with very cold snaps from June to August and periods of intense heat from January to March. During winter, frost is common.

Those seeking a more tranquil laid-back break will find Siloam a great campsite and reasonably priced on the Oviston side of the dam. If your perfect holiday is a combination of lazing around, fishing and exploring the nature reserve then this is the place to stay. We have a boats to hire if you want to explore the dam or fish deeper waters for yellow­fish, carp and barbel.

The facility is newly renovated and consists of

  • Group accommodation bungalows – sleeps 400 persons
  • Small group accommodation chalets – sleeps 15 persons
  • Luxury bush camp tents – coming soon
  • Conference hall – seats 120 to 150 delegates
  • Dining room – seats 120 persons
  • Swimming pool
  • Volley ball court
  • Tennis court
  • Netball court
  • Rugby Field

We are Andre and Estelle Barnett the dedicated parents of eight children: five sons and three daughters.

And you might ask yourself didn’t they have a TV?’ – NO we didn’t, however we didn’t want a TV for the pure fact that we loved children and couldn’t find time for a TV in our busy lives and our busy schedules.

Our adult children are all involved in the family businesses and we believe in team work and sticking together as a family. And our motto ‘ a family that prays together – stays together’.


Andre, the entrepreneur, artist and designer in the house, has a gift to explore new business ventures and saw the wonderful potential Oviston has to offer about 2 years ago and proceeded to buy the old school site accordingly.

We fell in love with the beautiful nature & surrounding areas that this ‘land of a thousand sunsets’ has to offer.


A Cosy and enjoyable stay at our establishment for a couple, or offering great GROUP accommodation for up to 500 people.

Lots of activities and the awesome natural beauty to enjoy ….