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Dullstroom, home to the Big ‘F’s

 
20 November 2015 by Katy Johnson

All Photographs by: Dullstroom Bird of Prey Centre

 

They say there are five ‘F’s in Dullstroom, I found seven in this little town that really does deserve its big reputation.

Fireplaces, at 2100m above sea level it is one of the coldest villages in South Africa and was dubbed the “place of eternal mists” by the early settlers. Is there anything as cosy or as welcoming as a crackling fire and a warm hearth on cold day!

Fishing, this is the capital of trout fishing in South Africa! From expert to novice, young and old, all are catered for in the timeless delight of casting the fly on the water in pursuit of the glorious trout.

Flora and Fauna, this unique location has attracted its own specialists. The elm and beech trees are found in numbers not seen elsewhere and bring a dash of ‘old world’ elegance and charm to the landscape. Whilst the presence of blue cranes, crowned cranes and the critically endangered wattled crane make it a must for bird watchers.

Fine Foods, Dullstroom is packed with fine eateries, using the finest of local ingredients. From pancakes to gourmet, cosy pubs to country manors the choice is yours. The town even has its own brewery so good cheer is assured!

Fresh Air, at this altitude the air is clean and invigorating. Take a walk through any of the areas and feel the smog and fug of city living being blown away as you draw the freshness into your lungs and through your body, the literal “breath of fresh air”.

These have been the basis of Dullstroom’s growing tourist reputation, now as I have found there are two more ‘F’s to add to the collection.

Feathers, The Bird of Prey Centre, this is a sanctuary, a place for education and a place to marvel at the awesome beauty, amazing agility and sheer majesty of these magnificent birds.

The rehabilitation centre is a charitable organisation that is purely funded by donations and visitors. Its aim is to rescue, rehabilitate and return these raptors to the wild where possible. Every year hundreds of raptors are injured, orphaned or displaced as an accidental result of our actions and also regrettably by the deliberate action of poisoning, trapping or the pet trade. A fortunate few of these birds are rescued and brought to the Centre.

Flying the raptors is an important part of the rehabilitation process and provides a fantastic spectacle for any visitor. I joined Adian for the 10.30 aerial display and was firstly amazed by the sheer size of the birds. As specks in the sky, you can never get an idea of how truly enormous these birds are. Yet is not just their size that is impressive. Their sharp talons and powerful beaks are a master craftsman’s tools honed to perfection for their lethal purpose. But their eyes, bright and piercing draw you in and up this close you realise the true meaning of “eyes like a hawk”.

Throughout the display, their individual stories bring out their character and resilience, such as Nicola, the Hawk Eagle. Her taste for pedigree pigeons is what brought her to the Centre, after attempts to relocate her failed when she flew hundreds of kilometres to dine on her favourite pigeons once more! Thankfully the Centre has provided her with an alternative food source that has kept her away from the pigeons and part of the Centre’s flying squad. Or, Rooney the Secretary Bird, he and his sibling were orphaned when the tree containing their nest was felled in error. Despite best efforts to re-unite them with their parents, including building a platform and new nest, they remained orphaned and now Rooney is now a permanent and endearing fixture.

The Centre has onsite medical facilities, large aviaries, strategies to ensure as many birds as possible are released back into the wild and a commitment to rehabilitating every bird they possibly can. It is doing incredible work toward ensuring the survival of many endangered species and also educating and enthusing the next generation of conservationists and policy makers. The entertaining and informative flying displays capture the hearts and minds of children and adults alike.

To continue their work the Centre wants to buy the present site and place it in trust for the Birds. By visiting you can enjoy the birds and help the work of the Centre and its dedicated team of staff and volunteers.

Fun, if the first 6 ‘F’s aren’t enough then a bit of retail therapy may help with a good array of general, antique and curio shops. Oh and if you have time there is the largest collection of clocks and whiskey in the Southern Hemisphere.

At just over 126km from Nelspruit this is the longest day trip in our series but definitely worth the drive. It takes around 1 hour 40 minutes to drive to Dullstroom but the trip itself is worth the journey. As you weave through some of the most spectacular scenery in Mpumalanga, making your way from the warm lush Lowveld and up and onto the cooler open spaces of the Highveld.

 

Dullstroom is altogether a ‘F’abulous day out and an even better weekend away that the whole family will enjoy. Combine some sporting relaxation with rod and fly, a bit of shopping, a fascinating trip to the Bird of Prey Centre and the convivial bonhomie of the bars, restaurants and welcoming B&B’s. It’s a great place to make happy memories.