Mangaung / Bloemfontein
Bloemfontein, which translates to Fountain of Flowers, is also called the “City of Roses.” Its Sesotho name is Mangaung meaning Place of Cheetas. It is located in the heartland of South Africa in the midst of huge maize and rapeseed farms. It is an oasis in a hot land where roses flourish – more than four thousand can be seen in Kings Park and many more in the peaceful suburbs that surround the historic city centre.
The Free State Stadium was permanently extended for the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup by adding a second tier of seating, and now seats forty eight thousand soccer fans in a completely upgraded environment.
These are a few of the other things to see and do in the restfully mature City of Bloemfontein:
National MuseumThe National Museum, which regards itself as the custodian of the nation's heritage, dates from 1877 and has an impressive natural and cultural history collection. The paleontology and anthropology sections are especially impressive and include the Florisbad Skull and the only completely assembled skeleton of a Euskelosaurus, one of the earliest known dinosaurs.
Free State National Botanical GardensThe Free State National Botanical Gardens comprise seventy hectares of botanical gardens in a valley dotted with wild olive and karee trees. A meandering path takes visitors past some four hundred species of plants, while the more energetic can scramble up one of the koppies or low hills. During spring every year, the botanical gardens are alive with myriads of flowering plants that attract many of the one hundred and twenty four species of endemic birds.
Oviston Nature ReserveA little farther afield, Oviston Nature Reserve, near the Karoo towns of Venterstad and Oviston two hours drive away, is an almost eerily silent place that exudes the quintessential Karoo characteristics of blindingly hot summers and cooler, crisp evenings. Visitors can wander at leisure across the grassy plains and enjoy magnificent sunsets from one of the low hills. At night, the only light is from the twinkling stars above, which are said to be more than can be seen almost anywhere else. The nature reserve on the border of the Gariep Dam covers sixteen thousand hectares and is home to myriads of ostriches, springbuck, zebras, oryx, and hartebeest.
Caledon Nature ReserveAbout an hour’s drive south of Bloemfontein lies the Caledon Nature Reserve, which is on the banks of the Caledon River and the Welbedacht Dam and offers visitors opportunities for hiking, fishing, 4x4 driving and just chilling out in nature. Two spartan floating bush camps add an additional sense of adventure, however to many the main attractions are the spectacular views and the generous herds of black wildebeest, blesbok, springbok and zebra roaming across the plains. A special treat is to witness a solitary fish eagle pluck a fish out of the water against the golden orb of the setting sun.
The spirit of Bloemfontein is not unlike that of an overgrown village and those in search of theme parks and singles clubs need not tarry here. It is, however a very special place for lovers of nature, who will receive a reserved but genuine welcome from the conservative folks who have made their home here.