Top family friendly campsite in the Magaliesburg (and how to avoid Easter traffic)
Rustic family friendly campsite
Magaliesburg, a great destination, close to Johannesburg & Pretoria, for the Easter weekend (and other times of the year)
Family friendly nature reserve in the mountains, ideal for hiking, camping and exploring nature.
Mountain Sanctuary Park – a quick getaway from Johannesburg or Pretoria.
Need to get away from the urban jungle of Johannesburg (also known as Jozi) for a night or two? Maybe you’d like to get back to nature but don’t want to drive to the gramadoelas (wild or remote country). It will be wild, but not that remote.
Mountain Sanctuary Park is situated on the Magaliesburg Mountain range (or is it Magaliesberg?). It has become a tradition for us to camp at Mountain Sanctuary when it is Easter. It relieves the traffic nightmare when thousands of motorists leave Johannesburg for the Easter holidays.
It is always chaos going to Natal for those that want a beach holiday. More chaos prevails when traveling north, because of the annual Zion Christian Church’s Easter pilgrimage at Moria, near Polokwane. Although there is no official record, there is speculation that between 3 million and 5 million worshipers gather there for the weekend.
Breedt’s Neck Pass or Hartebeespoort dam?
We used to travel via Breedt’s Neck pass, but in recent years we’ve renamed it to Break Neck Pass (cyclists love using it for training). It used to be a decent gravel road but now the terrain is rough. It is down to bedrock and although it makes for an interesting and adventurous route and we’ve done it numerous times in its rugged condition, we’ve decided because we tow a trailer, we’ll avoid the axle twisters. We now travel via the Hartebeespoort dam, which is about 40 kilometres further.
A Nature reserve ideal to explore nature
Mountain Sanctuary Park is in a nature reserve and one of our old haunts. We’ve been camping there for the past 30 years. It is always a nostalgic time as it holds very dear memories of family and friends that have spent some time with us there over the years.
Short walks or hikes lead you further up or down the mountain to crystal clear rock pools. Some are perfect for young kids to splash in and others are deeper. The landscape consists of fantastic rock formations interspersed with various grasses, trees and shrubs. It lends itself to interesting and beautiful panoramic shots. Only problem is, I haven’t quite mastered that skill yet. I’m hoping though, that my photos will give you some idea of the beautiful surroundings.
If you thrive in nature, love walking and don’t object to rustic camping, this is the place for you. From short walks to long hikes (permits are available – enquire at the office or at Mountain Club SA, if you intend to walk further into the Cedarberg Farm – about 1000 hectares to explore and enjoy at your own pace). Some of the activities you can enjoy are mountain bike trails, swimming, rock climbing or abseiling. If that sounds too exhausting, simply RELAX!
Just a wee little bit of warning. We have on occasion met a few, hmm, let's say interesting characters at the campsite. It seems to be the place to 'connect' with nature at a different level.
One such individual while chopping wood, almost sliced his finger in half with an axe. Leaving a crimson trail, he headed to the office for First Aid. I’m not sure why, because he insisted he wanted nothing unnatural touching his skin, so no plasters, bandages or medication! I am convinced he succumbed from pain and fell down one of the steep ravines or gorges, but that is just my theory. Maybe he lit up a natural herbal painkiller and used the leaves as a poultice. I would suspect it would have taken a whole forest of foliage to help him!
On another occasion a young gentleman camped next to us. It seemed he also thought he had an affinity to nature. He knotted himself into a pose and chanted, at odd times of the day, like, just when we were nodding off at night. He then proceeded to blow a didgeridoo – wrong country, mate! He might have been into nature, but he was certainly disturbing the peace for the rest of us. Fortunately the honorary warden heard him and told him to consider the rest of the visitors in the park, so we could all enjoy the peace and quiet. He was astounded that anyone would object and insisted it was a natural sound.
On a certain morning, at the crack of dawn, we wake to the sound of excited kids hunting for Easter eggs. It’s very difficult not to hear them through the thin canvas walls, but it doesn’t bother us. It reminds us of the early years when our sons were convinced the Easter bunny came from Mountain Sanctuary, because they regularly spotted a rabbit hopping around at night.
The last few years the kids have had an added surprise. When weather permits, Owen flies his plane and Stacy dresses up in an Easter Bunny suit and they drop Easter eggs from the plane. Such fun to watch the excitement of the children, trying to catch the eggs. Invariably some end in the bush and of course it’s like a treasure hunt to try and find them before someone else does. A lovely gesture from the two of them.
At times when we have camped on quieter weekends, we have seen a shy mountain buck venture into the camp at night. Of course there are always monkeys and baboons that ravage whatever food is left outside by the insensible camper.
Both hubby and I have been fortunate to go for a flight in the plane. Flying over the mountain is spectacular and great to be able to see Mountain Sanctuary from a different perspective.
At the end of each Easter weekend we always wondered what the traffic would be like on the way home. Each time we listened to the traffic reports and heard of the congestion at the toll plazas, we realised we made the right choice of destination for the Easter weekend.
Short videos of the Easter egg drop and sliding pools