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A Record Breaking Dam

 
08 January 2016 by Katy La Grange

eMalahleni, formally known as Witbank, has been home to a number of recognisable faces, from former Miss South Africa Anneline Kriel, well known trumpeter Hugh Masekela, Welterweight SA Boxing Champion Leslie van Rooyen and international sporting legend and Springbok Captain Francois Pienaar. eMalahleni is the place where Winston Churchill successfully hid from the Boer’s and is now known as a hub for South Africa power production.

It is also home to the largest municipal dam in the Southern Hemisphere. The Witbank Dam has a colossal surface area of over 1,200 hectares and can hold, when full, over 104 million cubic metres of water, thanks to its 3,500 square kilometre catchment area. The dam wall itself is an impressive 42m high and 562m long, nestling between the rock faces of the nature reserves gorge.

While it is not advisable to swim in Witbank Dam due to the contamination possibilities from the surrounding industry, there are plenty of other leisure activities to enjoy here. Some of which you will be able to spot on the horizon. It is a fisherman’s mecca, with anglers a daily feature along the shoreline and in bass boats and cruisers looking for the perfect fishing hole.

The reason it draws such a crowd is down in part to the legendary bass caught here in 1997, weighing a monstrous 6.045kgs, it held the South African record for many years. While those in the know will assure you that the only way to land the real monsters of the dam is by night fishing. Witbank Dam is also the perfect spot for families looking to simply throw in a line and then sit back and enjoy the day.

What makes Witbank dam the perfect family retreat is the adjoining nature reserve. There are routes for all vehicles and some specialist 4x4 routes, simply arrange with a guide at the gate to show you around and you’ll enjoy a lovely drive in a really underrated reserve. While you won’t get the big five here, there are a lot of smaller species that are equally enchanting.  Highveld antelope like Eland, Wildebeest, Kudu, Impala and Waterbuck can all be found, along with a number of lesser known predators like the brown hyena and smaller cat species. There is also a leopard that roams the hills. The big draw however is the rolling grasslands, beautiful rocky outcrops that make spectacular landscape vistas and the numerous streams and water features that wind their way through the reserve.

With rustic accommodation in the form of simple chalet huts along with a caravan and campsite, Witbank dam has a range of basic accommodation options for those looking to be close to nature.

There are a number of cycle routes that will take you around both the dam and the reserve. It is recommended these are done in groups as the routes are quite isolated in places and avoid the dangers of an individual getting into difficulties without immediate assistance being available.

Work is currently underway by the Local Municipality to restore Witbank Dam‘s former glory as a tourist destination. The leisure area and chalets are currently in the process of being updated. Nonetheless Witbank Dam is a wild and wonderful place simply waiting to be explored.

For more information contact: enquiries@emalahleni.gov.za | +27 (0)13 690 6911.  GPS Coordinates: 25.8909S, 29.3054E