Catchments, Wetlands and Rivers – Kgaswane: 8 -10 April 2022

Report by Tracey Andrews

The 2022 weekend for catchments, wetlands and rivers took place from 8-10 April at the beautiful Kgaswane Mountain Reserve near Rustenburg. The weather report for the weekend predicted 15mm of rain on Friday, 36mm of rain on Saturday and 60mm of rain on Sunday! We were warned to come prepared, and we all did – but we still got wet. This did not, however, dampen our spirits, and we still had fun! It was definitely a ‘wetland’ weekend.

The weekend rain resulted in the formation of two new teams, i.e. Team Cadac and Team Wetbraai (Editor)

Kgaswane is a nature reserve of almost 5000 hectares situated in a part of the UNESCO Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve. Geomorphologically, the reserve has high plateaus and low-lying valleys. It is also home to one of the 28 internationally recognised and protected Ramsar wetland sites in South Africa. Ramsar refers to the city in Iran where the Convention on Wetlands was signed in 1971 (https://www.ramsar.org/about-the-convention-on-wetlands-0, accessed on 27 April 2022). The water that drains into this wetland comes from mountain streams that cascade over the quartzite rocks. The river flowing through this wetland forms part of the Hex River catchment, which joins the Elands River, the Crocodile River, and finally, the Limpopo River.

Many people do not know about this jewel in the Northwest Province. Although it is not a Big Five reserve, it is home to many antelope, including sable, eland, oribi, mountain reedbuck, springbok, kudu, blesbok, hartebeest, waterbuck, zebra and impala. Three hundred and twenty species of birds are reported in the Ramsar information sheet (https://www.ramsar.org/wetland/south-africa, accessed on 27 April 2022). The rare and endangered endemic Aloe peglerae and Frithia pulchra can also occur in Kgaswane. We were lucky to find a group of frithia on our sundowner walk to the magnificent waterfall that cascades down the Baviaanskrans kloof. The camping facilities are great, and there are two challenging overnight hikes that can be done in Kgaswane.

Our catchments, rivers and wetlands lectures were presented well by Ulrich, André and Peter. It was clear after the presentations just how important it is for us to conserve and protect all wetlands.

We all enjoy Ulrich’s sense of humour and his practical demonstrations. He showed us how to make a terrarium and even how to level our car with a large rock to level the rooftop tent.

The torrential rains and lack of sun meant that everything was wet, wet, wet… It was either from a leaky tent, condensation inside the tent or water runoff over the groundsheets. Some of us were not inside but on top, but this did not help either.

Kgaswane Mountain Reserve camping area

I chickened out and decided not to pitch my tent but slept inside my Hilux canopy! It was small and cramped but at least mostly dry. We were fortunate to be camping at Kgaswane, as the ablutions and kitchen facilities were large, clean and dry.

Saturday afternoon, we conducted our water quality tests in the stream close to camp. Some deep pools in this section would be fabulous to swim in had the weather been warmer. 

Water quality tests in the stream close to camp
Darren had an underwater camera for this exercise and took some great photos. 

We also had an inter-team wetland creation task to do – this was lots of fun, and, of course, the Wetlands Team produced the clearest water.

All three teams did very well with the wetland creation task

Ulrich set up his waterproof motion detection camera on Saturday evening, and interestingly a female kudu came to investigate. Some of us went for a late-night scorpion and critter search with an ultraviolet torch, but unfortunately, we did not find any. However, we found some impala droppings that looked like Megan’s beautifully painted toenails!

We had a safe weekend – the only rescues were Waldemar, Marlene, and I, who had to be rescued out of the locked bathrooms. I wish Ronnie had a photo of Waldemar peeping over the top of the door!

Unfortunately, we could not do the mini-SASS assessment on Sunday morning (http://www.minisass.org/en/, accessed on 27 April 2022). The rivers were now in full flood, and it would not have been safe to get into the water, but we hope to do the mini-SASS in November during the invertebrates practical weekend. 

By Sunday morning all the rivers and streams were in flood

Thank you, Team Bushveld Mosaic, for an awesome, professionally run environmental course!