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.
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.
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.
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.