Bloemfontein: not the place you would truly associate with a trip to South Africa. It would hardly make a highlight of any South African tour- or would it?
As we explore some of the lesser-visited towns and cities of South Africa we lift the lid on the diversity that makes South Africa what it is and Bloemfontein, in Free State, South Africa is one such place.
Affectionately called “Bloem” by South Africans, Bloemfontein is the Capital City of the Free State and is one of the three national capitals of South Africa alongside Cape Town and Pretoria. The name means “fountain of flowers” in Dutch and Afrikaans. Officially founded in 1846 as a British outpost, the city is the seventh largest in South Africa with a population of around 520,000.
Like many cities and provinces and because of the biodiversity that so defines South Africa, Bloemfontein is home to the Free State National Botanical Garden. SANBI (South African Biodiversity Institute) describes the garden extremely well “This garden, on the outskirts of Bloemfontein, spans a valley between picturesque dolerite koppies. The natural vegetation comprises tall grassland and woodland, dominated by magnificent wild olive and Karee trees.” The garden is well worth a visit and is the perfect place to enjoy a wonderful Free State picnic with the family.
It hardly seems possible to visit Bloemfontein without spending some time learning about the Anglo-Boer War and the Anglo Boer War Museum is the only museum in the world for this historic bloody phase in the history of South Africa. With an outstanding art collection and many very interesting exhibits, this museum is a must-see for anyone with a love of history or a family connection to the Anglo-Boer War.
A place that stands out on the landscape of Bloemfontein is Naval Hill. Once the home of the British gun placements in the Anglo-Boer War, a walk up and around Naval Hill is a blend of history and amazing views of the Free State. On top of the hill, you will find the planetarium as well as a massive statue of former president Nelson Mandela. Naval Hill is also a place where South African wildlife can be readily encountered and ostriches, zebras and giraffes are frequently spotted by visitors.
Getting up close to the Big Cats of South Africa is something that many visitors to the country have on their “things to do” list. At Zanchieta Wild Cat Farm visitors can do just this in one of the most amazing wildlife rehabilitation centres in Africa. You can visit Zanchieta Wild Cat Farm for a day or stay in one of the lodges for a few days for an experience you will never forget.
Toyota Stadium is home to the Free State Cheetahs Rugby Club. This first-class rugby team plays world-class rugby and if there is a match on, it would be well worth going to watch it, to make your visit to Bloemfontein very memorable.
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We visit De Hoop Nature Reserve - a World Heritage Site offering world class land-based whale viewing, just 3 hours from Cape Town. This is also one of the best places to discover rare and endangered mammals and fynbos, is a bird watchers paradise and is home to more than 85 species of game.
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