Follow the Tswaing Crater Trail North of Pretoria

Approximately 200,000 years ago a stony meteorite with a diameter half the length of a football pitch slammed into the ground some forty kilometres north of where South Africa’s administrative capital now stands. It released the same amount of energy as America’s first hydrogen bomb codenamed “Mike”. This exploded at Eniwetok Atoll on 31 October 1952 with spectacular results and ushered in the Cold War.

Tswaing Crater: First Thermonuclear Explosion Mike
“Mike” – First Thermonuclear Explosion

Hiking the Tswaing Crater Trail

U.S. Nuclear Weapon Test Ivy Mike

We can only speculate what happened as the meteor gouged out a crater 100 meters deep and 1.1 kilometres in diameter. I grew up in Pretoria and did not know this place existed because dense bush surrounds it. The Tswaing Crater has the distinction of being one of only four in the world with a dedicated on-site interpretation centre. Group overnight accommodation is available for up to sixty people and there are guided Tswaing Crater Trail walks and education programs.

Tswaing Crater in Rainy Season

Tswaing Crater receives water from a small perennial spring and summer rains. Although the lake itself is salty, the spring feeds a rare wetland downstream. This is home to a variety of wildflowers, amazing insects, and many bird species. There are also otters, genets, brown hyenas, civets and steenbok, reptiles and frogs. The surrounding reserve is open daily from 07h30 to 15h00 and costs a paltry R20 / US$ 1.25 per visitor.

Tswaing Crater Trial: The Crater
Tswaing Crater

Soutpanspruit River

Having finally heard about the Tswaing Crater Trail a year ago, I joined it when in Pretoria next. I found myself in the company of an assorted mix of eclectic people all with a love of nature. The seven-kilometre Tswaing Crater Trail walk was relatively easy. It took three hours to complete the Tswaing Crater Trail hike thanks to frequent stops to admire the surroundings.

Tswaing Crater: Soutpanspruit River by Laagwaterbrug (Low Water Bridge)
Soutpanspruit River by Laagwaterbrug (Low Water Bridge)

Weeping Wattles at Zoutpan

Next time I go, I’ll take the necessary along and polish the Tswaing Crater Trail walk off with a barbecue and suitable refreshment. There are only three kilometres of gravel and a standard hire car in good condition will do the job with ease.

Tswaing Crater Trail: Weeping Wattles at Zoutpan
Weeping Wattles at Zoutpan

About Richard Farrell

Richard FarrellI tripped over a shrinking bank balance and fell into the writing gig unintentionally. This was after I escaped the corporate world and searched in vain for ways to become rich on the internet by doing nothing. Despite the fact that writing is no recipe for wealth, I rather enjoy it. I will deny I am obsessed with it when I have the time.My base is Umtentweni in South Africa on the Kwazulu-Natal South Coast (30.7167° S, 30.4667° E). I work from home where I ponder on the future of the planet, and what lies beyond in the great hereafter. Sometimes I step out of my computer into the silent riverine forests, and empty golden beaches for which the area is renowned.

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