Wonderboom Nature Reserve (Pretoria)
The Wonderboom Nature Reserve is a 1 km 2 reserve centered around a wild willow leaf fig tree that is more than a thousand years old. The Wonderboom Nature Reserve is situated to the north of the Magaliesberg Mountains in Pretoria.
Except for the Wonderboom Tree, which lends its name to the nature reserve, a breeding pair of Black Eagles can also be found, as well as one of the four historic 1900's Pretoria Boer Forts, Fort Wonderboompoort.
The Wonderboom Nature Reserve offers much for visitors to enjoy. Various hiking trails transcend the mountain, leading to Fort Wonderboompoort, the man-made waterfall and cave.
The Wonderboom Nature Reserve is also a popular picnic spot, with ablution and braai facilities available. Larger antelope species such as impala and zebra are also found on the reserve, although spotting them is quite difficult.
The 1000 year old Wonderboom
"Wonderboom" is the Afrikaans name that translates as "Wonder Tree", or more accurately, "Miracle Tree".
Discovered in 1836 by the Voortrekkers, this unusual 23m high Ficus Salicifolia tree was considered sacred by the local tribes, which in part explains why it was allowed to flourish.
What makes this tree so special, is that while it has grown, the outlaying branches have rooted themselves around the parent tree. This has repeated until there are now three circles of daughter trees encircling the 5.5m diameter mother fig tree, with 13 distinct trunks, now covering a 50m area.
Legend has it that the Wonderboom grew this big because the chief of an indigenous tribe lies buried beneath its roots. It is also recorded that the Wonderboom was once big enough to shade 1 000 people at a time, or 22 ox wagons with 20 oxen in front of each! Unfortunately, the tree is much smaller today, mainly contributed to the devastating for of 1870, and a parasitic infestation, which put the three under quarantine for 20 years.
Stone Age Site
The Wonderboom Nature Reserve includes a stone age site that has produced the largest single accumulation of Neolithic tools ever found in South Africa, and also features an important Iron Age site.
Hiking Trails in the Wonderboom Nature Reserve
One of the main attractions of the Wonderboom Nature Reserve is the multitude of hiking trails with varying lengths that visitors can use to hike up the mountain to one of the attractions, and for the superb views of the city.
Six fairly moderate hiking trails are available:
- Wonderboom Interpretive Trail (approx 500m)
- Fort Trail (2,857km)
- Waterfall & Cave Trail (479m)
- Joos Becker Guided Trail (2,740km)
- Fort to Waterfall and Cave Trail (1km)
- Alternative Waterfall & Cave Trail (343m)
Keep an eye out for the ripple marks of an ancient sea. This can be seen on the rock of the paving on some parts of the trail. The ripple marks in the quartzie rocks are testimony to the ancient sandy beaches that was found around this prehistoric area.
Read more about this historic Boer Fort by visiting the Fort Wonderboompoort page.
Review of the Wonderboom Nature Reserve
On a sunny Winters morning, our main aim was hiking to Fort Wonderboompoort, but we got a lot more than we expected! Arriving at the gate, we we greeted by the friendly gate-lady, and provided with a map which clearly outlines the various hiking trails.
Although we were immediately intimidated by the high, towering mountain in front of us, we braced ourselves and picked a combination of two trails, the Fort Trail, and the Fort to Waterfall and Cave Trail. It is a steep trail, ascending quite rapidly, but around every bend we were greeted by the most magnificent views of Pretoria.
After hiking up and up and up, we finally reached our first destination, Fort Wonderboompoort. The Fort is now not much more than ruins, but is still a special place.
Hiking to the waterfall and cave from the fort is a much easier trail, rounding the mountain through spectacular landscape. Unfortunately, the waterfall and cave is a bit of let down, since the cave is closed off to the public, and you can't see much of the waterfall. But, it is still a worthwhile hike to do.
I would recommend however, that while small children are able to complete the hike to the Fort and Waterfall with relative ease, the trail back to the bottom is a bit tricky due to a small area where one has to scramble down some steep boulders.
If you are in the area, and want to do a fun excursion for a few hours, do not miss the Wonderboom Nature Reserve. The hike takes about 2 - 3 hours to complete, which leaves ample time for a braai with the family.