Situated on the Olifants River between Middelburg and Groblersdaal, Loskop Dam was built to provide irrigation water to 16,000 hectares of farmland via a colossal 480km network of canals. Initial construction began in 1934 and was completed in 1938. Built solely by hand, the 506m dam wall is 24m thick at the base and testament to both engineering prowess and the blood sweat and tears of those labouring on it. Interestingly, the original labour force was solely comprised of married white men, although single men were drafted in towards the end of the build. In 1978 the wall was raised a further 9m in response to new dams being placed higher up in the river’s catchment, resulting in the 54m wall we have today and irrigation for 25,000 hectares. At full capacity the Dam can provide water for agriculture for three years without receiving a further drop of rainwater.
While irrigation remains the Dam’s primary function, it has become one of Mpumalanga’s most popular man-made attractions drawing thousands of international and local tourists every year.
Set amidst the impressive mountainous backdrop of the Avontuur Valley. The winding drive along the N11 to Loskop Dam is one to be savoured. While the road gives you great views of the surrounding countryside and Dam, the best way to really explore it is by boat. Forever Resort’s sunset cruise allows you to take in the scenery from a totally different perspective, while relaxing and unwinding in this idyllic holiday spot.
Guide Alan Zitha’s generous smile and soft voice make you instantly feel at home and his stories of the Dam, its wildlife and the standout moments will keep you captivated and wanting more. From the moment the twin engines roar into life and the nose of the boat pushes forward in the water, the Dam seems to come to life. With cormorants partially hidden amongst the rocks at the water’s edge taking to the air, skimming along the water like fighter jets homing in on a target. Whilst fish jump out of the water to evade a predator lurking in the deep and the water glisters as the sun’s rays dance over the surface
Alan’s keen eyes and gentle touch allows you to get closer than you could imagine to the skittish game that comes down to the Dam’s edge to drink. Mountain reedbuck, impala, waterbuck, zebra and kudu are all regular visitors, and for the lucky few rhino, giraffe and even leopard are sighted along the banks. Alan’s stories about rhinos being airlifted from the mud and buffalo bulls protecting the cows and calves will keep the whole family engrossed. For passionate bird watchers its bliss, as they can sit back with a pair of binoculars and enjoy the variety of water birds, raptors, bushveld and grassland species that inhabit the area.
Along the route there are many fascinating inlets and rock formations that provide perfect fishing holes. Although competition for the best spots is fierce, so keen fishermen, be warned, you have to get up early to secure a spot here. The rewards however are great, as the Dam teems with carp, bream, yellow fish and barbel.
Long Island marks the half-way point of the tour. The lower half of the dam extends a further 1.5km beyond the cut-off wire that demarcates the transition from the recreational playground of the lower portion of the Dam to the natural wilderness of the upper conservation area. But Alan prefers to turn here to minimise any impact he might have on the wilderness area and to keep out of the way of the large hippo pods found in the upper section. Populations of crocodiles and hippos are still found in the recreational half of the dam so swimming and other water sports are strictly off limits.
The real magic of the boat cruise is a visual one, as the Dam now seems to dwarf the surrounding mountains which seemed so impressive on the drive in. The sheer scale of the dam and the vast expanse of sky above alter the perspective, seeming to squash the mountains and make them look less imposing. The contrast of colours between the blue water and orange rocks also allows for great photographic opportunities, especially for anyone who enjoys playing with reflections.
The cruise really does cater for everyone and anyone. Whether it is a relaxing ride simply taking in the scenery, a guided tour of the nature on show, a fun activity to keep the kids entertained or a beautiful setting to enjoy time with family and friends, you won’t be disappointed.
Especially when sun starts going down and the beautiful late afternoon light illuminates everything, reflecting on the water, washing the mountains in the softest of glows and turning the clouds into a kaleidoscope of colour. This is why the Forever Resorts has to be one of the Top Ten attractions for anyone wanting to explore the Cultural Heartlands.