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The Aloe marlothii is the primary image on the Summerplace Game Reserve logo. That’s because our reserve is home to an abundance of Aloe marlothii (Mountain Aloe). We also have several large marlothii forests and, what we now know is officially the tallest Aloe in South Africa.

The giant Aloe at Summerplace Game Reserve was recently measured and is officially confirmed as the tallest Aloe marlothii in South Africa. Measuring 9.80 metres, the Giant Aloe can be distinctly seen on the ridgeline from a couple of kilometres away and is even more impressive up close.

“The marlothii growth at Summerplace really is quite something. Summerplace has a terrific population of marlothii with large concentrations in some places, such as along the southern boundary,” said Warwick Tarboton, author of multiple bird books and Wildflowers of the Waterberg. He is also a Waterberg Biosphere expert and co-edits the website,, a valuable resource for the region.

South Africa’s tallest Aloe marlothii is at Summerplace Game Reserve. Photo: Josh Baber

Tarboton assisted the South African Dendrological Society to measure the height of the Giant Aloe at Summerplace Game Reserve.

“We have long poles with a mirror to be able to examine eagle’s nests. We used those poles to measure the height of the Aloe marlothii. When I first saw the Aloe, it was flowering, so it was taller. But when we measured it in mid-May 2024, the flower head was on the ground. It’s another metre long, so when flowering (usually between May and September), it is even taller, at around 10.80 metres, which is unusually tall” explained Tarboton.

According to the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), ‘Aloe marlothii is a large, perennial, succulent, single-stemmed aloe, usually 2-4 m tall (occasionally up to 6 metres), with old dried leaves remaining on the stem below the upper living leaves. Leaves are large, broad and succulent, light green to greyish green to blue-green, up to 1500mm x 250mm, having a broad base tapering to a sharp point, covered with spines on upper and lower surfaces and maroon-coloured teeth with orange tips along leaf margins’.

Compared to most mature Aloe marlothii in the area, the Giant Aloe is immense. Photo: Josh Baber

Aloe Marlothii is found mainly in bushveld vegetation along mountainous areas, rocky terrain and slopes where temperatures are warmer and frost infrequent. Mountain ranges of the Drakensburg, Lebombo, Zoutpansberg and Waterberg have large populations of the species.

“The generally accepted definition of a tree is a plant with a woody stem two metres or more in height. Aloe marlothii is essentially a plant until it’s taller, then it classifies as a tree,” explained Tarboton.

In addition to the height of the enormous Aloe Marlothii, the Dendrological Society measurement includes stem girth (0.93m), stem diameter (0.30m), average crown diameter (1.50m) and crown spread (1.80m-squared). All of these combine for a size index of 6.53.

It is noted via one theory that the clustering of Aloe marlothii on the Polokwane Plateau is could be associated with African Iron Age archaeological sites of Ndebele village ruins. Ndebele occupied the area from 1650 to 1880. It is believed the seeds were brought to the Ndebele villages from plant material they used for a variety of uses such as scraping hides to prepare women’s dresses, using ash from dried leaves for an additive to snuff, eating nectar from the flowers, leaf extractions to treat roundworm and tapeworm and fresh leaf sap used on women’s breasts to wean babies.

The Ndebele left the region around 1885 and large thickets of Aloe marlothii continued to flourish in the area. Although no ruins are obvious, this may explain the unusually large marlothii forest at the southern border of Summerplace Game Reserve. It also indicates that some of the larger Aloe marlothii  trees may be in excess of 130 years old.

The protection offered by the surrounding trees and mineral-rich ground are likely reasons for the Giant Aloe’s success. Photo: Josh Baber

The Aloe marlothii Forest, which  sits at one of the lowest points of the reserve, is a key feature on the reserve. A mountain bike trail ­– fittingly name Aloe – winds its way through the forest, which is also a favourite location for wedding and special occasions photographs.

After co-authoring the book, Wildflowers of the Waterberg, Tarboton is currently working on a new book that focusses on trees of the Waterberg. He believes the reason for the unusually high Aloe marlothii on the northern ridge is two-fold.

“That side of the reserve is underlain by dolerite, and the soils from these rocks have more nutrients than the soils from sandstones which make up most of the Waterberg. Coupled with this is that this marlothii is growing on a large old termitarium (termite mound) which provides even more plant nutrients’ explained Tarboton.

“The other reason it may have been able to grow so tall is that it is surrounded by a clump of other trees, which both protect it from the elements and add nutrients into the soil,” he added.

The Giant Aloe can be seen on the Grey Mountain Bike Route, shortly after the start of the appropriately named Marlothii Trail.

The Giant Aloe at Summerplace Game Reserve is visible from a long distance away. Photo: Josh Baber

To see the Giant Aloe for yourself, book a stay at Summerplace Game Reserve. Here are the accommodation options.


The Pangolin is a curious creature. It looks like a reptile but is a mammal. Pangolins are the only mammals completely covered in scales. Pangolins are also highly sought after in the Far East and are therefore either on the endangered or vulnerable wildlife lists. While rare, we have seen Pangolins at Summerplace Game Reserve. And we’re on a mission to help protect this amazing animal.

We were cautious about publishing an article that confirms Pangolins have been seen at Summerplace. The illegal trade of these unusual creatures – currently the mostly highly trafficked animal in the world – has understandably made location awareness a sensitive issue. However, promoting the plight of Pangolins is an essential part of helping save the species too and that’s the light in which this article has been published.

“I have lived, walked and ridden mountain bikes on this land my whole life and never seen a Pangolin,” says David Baber (52), co-owner of Summerplace Game Reserve. “So, we were quite excited when regular visitors, Sean and Joanne Badenhorst, came back from a late afternoon ride with photos and video of their Pangolin encounter.”

The Badenhorsts came across two Pangolins, a mother with a pup on her back on one of the popular mountain biking trails.

“We knew they were Pangolins, but we didn’t know that we were the only people to spot Pangolins here. We didn’t know how rare it is to see them in the wild. They were lying quite still in the middle of the trail when we saw them. We thought they would scurry off or roll up when they became aware of us, but they didn’t. I took a quick video and then wanted to get a bit closer to see if I could try and snap some photos,” explained Sean.

“They were aware of us because when I went around the other side of them to see their faces better, the larger one folded her head under her body. The younger one on top seemed unafraid and maybe even a bit curious. I knew that they roll into a ball for defence and I didn’t want them to feel threatened, so I only snapped a few pics. Interestingly, they never moved off the trail. Joanne and I walked our bikes around them and carried on with our ride,” added Sean.

“We are very pleased to have confirmation that there are Pangolins here. We haven’t seen any since that sighting in May 2023 and honestly don’t know how many there are here. As we grow our guest numbers, there’s a good chance there will be more sightings. Because we have such an established trails network, there’s a more consistent number of visitors enjoying riding, running or walking through the reserve in the early morning and late afternoon, when Pangolin are most likely to be seen,” says Baber.

“I don’t know much about Pangolins, other than they are very widely distributed in the Lowveld, Bushveld, Kalahari and Waterberg. You very rarely see them, but they are there. You can be sure that Pangolins live on any well-looked after farm. We probably have a good population of them at Summerplace, but it’s very rare that humans will ever see them here,” said John Mackie Conservation Director at Summerplace Game Reserve.

“The security at Summerplace Game Reserve – and the surrounding area – is of a very high standard. There are several properties in our region with Rhino, which are heavily protected by landowners and regional security companies against poaching and this no doubt also helps protect other species too, including Pangolins,” added Baber.

Pangolin primarily move around at night. | Photo: Pat Bonoir
Some facts about Pangolin:
  • There are eight species of Pangolins with four of those found in Africa.
  • Pangolins are insectivores and predominantly eat ants and termites, but also eat crickets, earthworms and flies.
  • They use their sharp claws to excavate into ant nests and their long, sticky tongues to reach the ants inside.
  • Little is known about their life span in the wild, but they have been known to live up to 20 years in captivity.
  • Pangolins are solitary creatures and are mostly nocturnal. They mostly live on the ground but can also climb trees.
  • The Temminck’s Pangolin, as spotted at Summerplace, can weigh up to 12kg and grow up to 90 centimetres in length.
  • When feeling threatened, Pangolins roll into a tight ball and use their hard, sharp-edged, overlapping scales as defence. They can also release a foul-smelling fluid from a gland at the base of their tail. Common animal threats are lion, hyena and leopard.
  • Pangolin give birth to live young – usually only one – with fully formed scales, which are still soft. When an infant, the pup will ride on its mother’s back.
  • Pangolins have poor eyesight but an exceptional sense of smell and hearing.
  • Pangolins are essential to the ecosystem in which they live. It’s anticipated they keep ant and termite populations under control.
  • Humans are Pangolin’s greatest threat. Organised crime syndicates traffic Pangolin illegally to Asia.
  • Pangolin scales consist of keratin, a substance found in fingernails, hair, and horns. They are used for traditional medicine in China and Vietnam and the Pangolin meat is also served as a delicacy in some places in Asia

According to the African Pangolin Working Group, the key to Pangolin conservation is to raise awareness about Pangolins. This can be done by sharing reliable and well-researched information on social media and in family and friends circles. Additionally, donating to verified Pangolin-focussed NGOs/NPOs goes incredibly far in Pangolin conservation. When donating to African Pangolin Working Group all funds go to research of the four African species of Pangolins as well as protection and rehabilitation projects.

There’s a very interesting 45-minute documentary video called, Eye of the Pangolin that’s worth watching if you have an interest in Pangolins. Watch it here.

To give yourself a chance at spotting a Pangolin at Summerplace Game Reserve, check out our variety of accommodation to suit all budgets here.


You may think that Easter Weekend is a long way away, but it isn’t! Easter Weekend this year is from 29 March until 1 April. It’s worth noting that Thursday, 21 March, is also a public holiday, essentially lining up two successive long weekends at a traditionally good-weather time of year. A good time to visit Summerplace Game Reserve. Here are 10 reasons why…


Summerplace Game Reserve is located in the Waterberg region of Limpopo province. It’s a 2h15m drive from Pretoria and less than 3 hours from Johannesburg. Most of the route is good quality N1 toll road. It’s not that far away from the big cities, but its far enough away to feel like another world!


Because our lodges are spaced to ensure privacy, Summerplace Game Reserve is perfect for a couple’s escape. You can either self-cater or book your meals in advance. We deliver meals to your lodge so that you can focus on relaxing and being present for your significant other. Walks in the bush, sundowner game drives and stargazing from the hot tub are all sure to elevate the romantic getaway to be a memorable one.


No matter what New Year’s Resolutions you made, it doesn’t take long to build up post-Festive Season stress. The city buzz gradually sucks you into chaotic routine that involves meetings, deadlines, school runs, traffic and loadshedding. There’s complete tranquility at Summerplace Game Reserve where the only delays are caused by wild animals crossing the road or trail…


Summerplace Game Reserve is ideal for families. We love to see kids enjoying the outdoors and ensure that that there’s loads of space for them explore the freedom of the bush. They can ride their bicycles on fun trails right in front of The Bike Village, they can swim in our pool or play on the jungle gym. Whether you book a camping site, or one of our lodges (some of which have outdoor wood-fired hot tubs), you can be assured that kids will love their time at Summerplace!


If you are a mountain biker, then you’ll love our network of world-class mountain bike trails. We have trails to suit all levels of skill and fitness and because we don’t have Big Five animals on the reserve, the riding is safe – although you are likely to encounter wildlife on your rides as we have more than 40 species of large mammals at Summerplace Game Reserve. Find out why mountain bikers love Summerplace here.


We have a fleet of high-quality mountain bikes for hire. These include regular bikes and eBikes, making it possible for anyone, even non-mountain bikers, to enjoy the freedom of a bushveld ride. Find out more about our rental bikes here.


Whether you’re on a tight budget or have no budget limit, there’s top-quality accommodation to suit everyone at Summerplace Game Reserve. From our beautifully maintained campsite under the shady trees to our high-end luxury villa and everything in between, you’ll get the very best Bushveld escape experience. Find out more about our accommodation options here.


If you’re dendrophile or an ornithophile, you’ll love the variety of tree and bird species at Summerplace Game Reserve. While it’s situated in the Bushveld, Summerplace Game Reserve also enjoys some elevation, which see a wider range of vegetation and birdlife than most of the region. Find out more about our tree and bird species here.


With over 40 species of large mammals, Summerplace Game Reserve is home to a variety of wildlife. Expect to see many species of antelope, including Kudu, Eland, Sable Antelope, Tsessebe, Roan Antelope, Waterbuck, Impala, Bushbuck, Mountain Reedbuck, Common Reedbuck and more! There are also the visually impactful Giraffe and Zebra as well as elusive creatures, including Pangolin, Aardvark and Leopard. Find out more about our wildlife here.


Several of our lodges are fenced, making them perfect for pets. It’s not always possible to take your pets away with you, but Summerplace Game Reserve is a fast becoming a favourite pet-friendly game reserve. The pet-friendly lodges are popular, so ensure you secure you Easter Weekend booking soon!

To be honest, there are a lot more than 10 reasons Summerplace Game Reserve is the best place to spend the Easter Weekend, but these are personal and developed by the hundreds and hundreds of guests that keep returning to invest their time in a place where peace is a priority.

To book your accommodation, check out the various options here.


There’s a very good chance that when you visit Summerplace Game Reserve, you will encounter Sable Antelope. This regal buck with its beautifully arced horns is considered a very marginal species in this area, with survival not guaranteed. However, the Sable at Summerplace appear to be flourishing. Here’s why.

“Of the more than 40 large mammal species at Summerplace, Sable is definitely the most marginal. They may have occurred in the area in the past and if they did, it would have been a scattered population with low numbers,” said John Mackie, Summerplace Conservation Director.

“In order to introduce Sable to Summerplace, we needed to start with a herd that was adapted to this environment. We managed to locate a herd not too far from Summerplace. The farmer told us that he lost many animals over the years in his efforts to introduce Sable to the area,” explained Mackie.

“We purchased the entire herd, which numbered 32 animals, including three breeding bulls. It has a nice and diverse gene pool and was well adapted to the region,” added Mackie.

Photo: Josh Baber

Sable are more suited to grassy woodland areas in South Africa, such as the Mopane Woodland in the northern Kruger National Park and the Limpopo River basin. The Waterberg is largely Bushveld and therefore doesn’t provide the ideal habitat for Sable.

“But, as we have come to discover, Summerplace isn’t a typical Waterberg reserve and the Sable seem to have settled in very well. We have seen some young additions and we also recently introduced at new, younger breeding bull to Summerplace,” said Mackie.

The Sable is a large antelope, standing 117–140 cm tall. The bulls weigh about 235kg and females about 220kg. It has a compact and robust build, characterised by a thick neck and tough skin. It has a well-developed and often upright mane on its neck, as well as a short mane on the throat. Its general colouration is rich chestnut to black. Females and juveniles are chestnut to dark brown, while males begin darkening and turn black after three years. However, in southern populations, such as that at Summerplace, females have a brown to black coat. The Afrikaans name for Sable is Swartwitpens, which roughly translates to black with white stomach.

The Sable is a grazer and a browser. During the rainy season  it feeds on the grasses and foliage of woodlands, and in the dry season it emerges onto grasslands where it concentrates on green leaves after. It is water-dependent and visits pools and pans daily in the dry season.

Photo: Josh Baber

The Sable is a sociable and territorial antelope. Herds of females and young numbering up to 70 live in ranges of 10-50 square kilometres. Herds frequently break up into smaller units of variable composition and may remain separated for long intervals. The main predator of Sable is Leopard. Adult Sable are generally too large and formidable for leopards, but calves and yearlings are vulnerable.

“The Sable were among the first purchased game to arrive when we created a game reserve. They have been here for more than two years now and appear to be thriving.  We started with 32 and now have more than 50. They are obviously getting the right kind of grazing as we have a mixture of grasses here at Summerplace, but we did purchase a herd that was already adapted to this region, so are pleased with how they have settled here,” said David Baber, co-owner of Summerplace Game Reserve.

“Sable encounters are fairly frequent at Summerplace. The Sable aren’t too skittish and mountain bikers regularly ride near them. Sometimes the Sable herd is on one of the trails and when the riders approach, they move off on either side, but they don’t scatter in a panic like many other antelope here, they move away a bit and remain fairly close by,” added Baber.

To secure a chance of a Sable encounter at Summerplace, check out our accommodation options here.

Photo: Josh Baber


Regardless of our budget we all want value-for-money holiday accommodation in South Africa. That’s why we have three levels of accommodation at Summerplace Game Reserve. Here’s a breakdown of our comfortable bushveld escape accommodation that’s just a short drive from Gauteng.

Budget: R180 per person per night


Our recently expanded campsite is located on a largely flat surface beneath a canopy of shady trees. There are electricity points spread throughout the campsite as well as recently added modern ablution blocks, which offer separate male and female toilets and hot showers as well as communal dishwashing space. There are also portable braais. Catering for caravans, trailer tents or regular tents, Brett’s Campsite is near to the Bike Village, where food and beverages can be purchased and where a swimming pool and other amenities for campers are available.

To find out more or book, click here.

Budget: R550-R650 per person per night


The Shed comprises three self-catering units that are separate, but which can also be combined to accommodate a small group. Sheds 1 and 3 are two-bedroom, four-sleepers, while Shed 2 is a one-bedroom two-sleeper. Each unit has its own bathroom. There’s a veranda space for each unit for outdoor relaxation as well as access to a large boma and firepit. The Shed apartments all have uncapped Wi-Fi, power is via solar and hot water is generated by gas. If you are on a budget but need to escape to the bush from the city, The Shed is your sanctuary.

To find out more or book The Shed 1 or 3, click here.

To find out more or book The Shed 2, click here.


New Wine is a two-bedroom, four-sleeper self-catering home. Although adjacent to The Shed, it faces the bush on the base of Marula Hill and is private with its own veranda, outdoor fire pit and wood-fired hot tub. The open-plan living room and kitchen area is spacious and comfortable for indoor relaxation. New Wine has uncapped Wi-Fi, power is via solar and hot water is generated by gas. New Wine offers incredible bang-for-your-buck bushveld accommodation.

New Wine is fenced and pet friendly.

To find out more or book, click here.


This free-standing self-catering two-bedroom, four-sleeper cottage has one of the best vistas at Summerplace Game Reserve. Located about 500 metres from the Bike Village, Marula Cottage has a veranda with a view over the grassy plain that we call ‘Summergeti’, where wild animals regularly gather to graze or rest. Beyond that is the classic bushveld vegetation with the highest peaks of Summerplace’s hills on the skyline. Marula Cottage is private with its own fire pit and boma and a wood-fired hot tub. The open-plan living room and kitchen area is spacious and comfortable for indoor relaxation. It has a bath and a shower. Marula Cottage has uncapped Wi-Fi, power is via solar and hot water is generated by gas. Ideal for a small family getaway.

Marula Cottage is fenced and pet friendly.

To find out more or book, click here.


This six-bedroom, 12-sleeper lodge is located on the north-eastern high ground of Summerplace Gamer Reserve, delivering spectacular views of the reserve and the Waterberg. There are four bathrooms, a large comfortable living room and modern kitchen, making this an ideal group booking lodge. Yorks View is ideal for outdoor relaxation and entertainment with a generous wraparound veranda, swimming pool, boma, fire pit and wood-fired hot tub. There’s uncapped Wi-Fi, solar power and gas-generated hot water. This is the ideal bush escape accommodation for families or groups of friends.

Yorks View is fenced and pet friendly.

To find out more or book, click here.

Budget: R875-R1050 per person per night


This spacious three-bedroom, six-sleeper bush lodge has recently been upgraded to offer a tranquil bush escape. Each bedroom has an ensuite bathroom one of which includes a bath. Located close to the Bike Village, this comfortable unit is also right at the start of the mountain biking and running trails and adjacent to the tennis court. There’s a covered veranda and a wood-fired hot tub for outdoor relaxation; and there’s uncapped Wi-Fi, solar power and gas-generated hot water. Rosemary Cottage is the ideal accommodation for active families and friend groups looking to get away from the city.

Rosemary Cottage is fenced and pet friendly.

To find out more or book, click here.


This luxurious couples retreat is one of our new lodges, featuring modern design to capture the natural light and wilderness sounds of the Waterberg. Set against Marula Hill with uninterrupted views of the bush and Waterberg peaks, Saringa is a stunning destination for couples looking for privacy and space. Built as a self-catering lodge, it includes a comfortable open-plan kitchen and living area with fireplace. There’s a covered veranda and wood-fired hot tub as well as uncapped Wi-Fi, solar power and gas geysers. Saringa is the perfect romantic getaway close to Pretoria and Johannesburg.

To find out more or book, click here.


This modern two-bedroom four-sleeper lodge is designed to offer ample space and stunning views of Summerplace Game Reserve. The bedrooms each have an en-suite bathroom, one of which also has an outdoor shower. For outdoor relaxation, there’s a large, covered veranda, fire pit and a wood-fired hot tub. The spacious living area includes a modern kitchen and comfortable lounge with fireplace. Bushwillow also offers uncapped Wi-Fi, solar power and gas-heated geysers. Bushwillow offers classy accommodation for a weekend away with friends or a small family.

To find out more or book, click here.


Designed to accommodate large groups OR offer separate mini-lodges, Summerhill is the ultimate modern bush lodge. Set on the south-facing slope of Marula Hill, Summerhill features a large living and dining room with full kitchen and scullery. A generous covered veranda offers ample outdoor relaxation and dining space, while a built-in braai, fire pit, swimming pool, tanning deck and wood-fired hot tub complete the outdoor facilities. There are two two-sleeper units and two four-sleeper units, each with its own kitchenette and bathroom with outdoor shower option. Summerhill is the perfect venue for small business conferences or social group getaways.

To find out more or book, click here.

Located in the Waterberg, Limpopo, Summerplace Game Reserve is a 2-hour 15-minute drive from Pretoria and less than 3 hours from Johannesburg. Although all accommodation is self-catering, tasty meals can be ordered in advance to give you a break from cooking to focus on relaxing! Our activities include game drives, bush walks, hiking, trail-running, mountain biking and tennis. We have more than 40 species of large mammals making for regular, exciting wildlife encounters while exploring our reserve.


A few months back we published an article about the installation of camera traps at Summerplace Game Reserve. The first data check has been done and a total of 34 species have been photographed, most were expected but there are a few surprises. Here are the details and the images.

The FBIP Waterberg Biodiversity Project, headed by Professor Nigel Barker from the University of Pretoria and managed by Marelize Greyling of the Waterberg Research Support Centre are responsible for the camera traps installation at Summerplace. It’s part of the mammal survey being undertaken by the Waterberg Biodiversity Project, which is headed up by Professor Mark Keith.

Top: Brown Hyena, Bottom: Black-backed Jackal

All of these humans have an interest in studying and preserving the Waterberg Biosphere of which Summerplace Game Reserve is a part of. The camera traps are robust cameras placed in selected locations to remotely capture images of animals. They operate continually and silently using a motion sensor and infra-red light beam.


“After the first service following about three months of capture we were able to identify 34 species. We were quite surprised by the diversity of species captured at Summerplace, especially the diversity of small predator species. These interesting species include Honey Badger, Rusty Spotted Genet, Serval, Caracal and Water Mongoose,” said Greyling.

“Other interesting, noteworthy species include Aardvark, Jameson’s Red Rock Rabbit, Leopard and Brown Hyena,” added Greyling.

Top left: Civet; Top right: Badger, Bottom left: Aardvark; Bottom right: Rusty Spotted Genet

“I’m not really surprised to find all of those species at Summerplace. But it is certainly nice to get visual, recent confirmation that they are here, especially both species of Genet and the Water Mongoose/Marsh Mongoose. I expect we’ll find a couple more species when the next camera trap images are checked in the future,” said John Mackie, Summerplace Game Reserve Conservation Director.

“What for me is really exciting, is the presence of the White-tailed Mongoose. That was a big surprise for me. The White-tailed Mongoose is generally a Lowveld animal. They do occur on the Waterberg, but I would say that Summerplace is right on the western edge of their distribution range. They’re normally in much lower, hotter areas.

Top left: Bush Pig; Top right: Jameson’s Red Rock Rabbit; Bottom left: White-tailed Mongoose; Bottom right: Serval

All told, though, the camera traps give us important information in images that confirm the signs of a very healthy environment and that’s really what’s most important to us,” added Mackie.

“The cameras will stay on site at Summerplace for a while longer. They are normally on site for 6-8 months and are serviced periodically. Data will now be analysed using a program called Traptagger to verify the findings from the first batch of images. After the six-month deployment, all data will be analysed taking into account management, weather and habitat types,” added Greyling.

Top left: Kudu; Top right: Eland; Bottom left: Bushbuck; Bottom right Tsessebe

VIDEO: Watch the video here.


Since Summerplace was transformed from a farm to a game reserve, we have introduced several new wildlife species. Visually, the most prominent of these species is Giraffe. Although the Waterberg in general isn’t naturally ideal for Giraffe, these graceful creatures have really settled in well at Summerplace. Here’s why.

According to Waterberg Biosphere expert, Warwick Tarboton, Giraffe have been present in the region for thousands of years.

“We see on the rock art in caves* in the region depictions of Giraffe going back a very long time. Giraffes are definitely indigenous to the Waterberg region,” said Tarboton after a recent visit to Summerplace.

This rock art, located at Kaingo Game Reserve, about 45km from Summerplace, is dated as Later Stone Age – around 4000 years ago.

John Mackie, Summerplace Conservation Director, has been responsible for the introduction of Giraffe to Summerplace over the past two years. He agrees that Giraffe are indigenous to the area, but not the entire region, which is largely Bushveld.

A rock painting of a giraffe with an extremely long neck found at one of 70 historic rock art sites in the Waterberg. | Photo: Dr Ghilraen Laue

“Giraffe would have been indigenous, but not very common and likely migratory over time,” said Mackie.

“There are very few parts of the Waterberg that are able to sustain Giraffe with food all year round. Summerplace is obviously one of those. Giraffe are more of a Lowveld species, like Impala. They prefer acacia, which is attached to sweetveld. There is a lot of sweetveld at Summerplace, but very little in the rest of the Waterberg. There’s plenty of acacia and other suitable trees at Summerplace, which is more than adequate to sustain a Giraffe population on the reserve,” said Mackie.

Over the past two years, Mackie has sourced groups of Giraffe from nine different areas so as to ensure a diverse gene pool.

“We have introduced a total of 34 Giraffes at Summerplace now. A couple of young have already been born on the reserve. They seem to be settling in very well. They must be left alone now for the next five years – there’s plenty of food for them, so they’ll hopefully thrive,” added Mackie.

The Giraffe at Summerplace is the South African Giraffe, one of two subspecies of the Southern Giraffe, commonly found in northern South Africa, southern and northern Botswana, and southwestern Mozambique. They number around 31000.

Whether hiking, running, mountain biking or on a game drive, a Giraffe encounter at Summerplace is always a possibility.

Fully grown Giraffe stand between 4.3-5.7 metres tall, with males taller than females. The average male weighs around 1100kg, while the average female weighs around 800kg. Each Giraffe has a unique coat pattern with calves inheriting some coat pattern traits from their mothers.

Males and females have prominent horns on their heads. These are called ossicones, which are skin-covered bone-like structures. The ossicones of young and females are thin and display tufts of hair on top, while the ossicones of adult males are bald and knobbed on top.

Giraffe have only two gaits – walking and galloping. They can gallop at speeds of up to 60kph, but can sustain a speed of 50kph for several kilometres. Adult Giraffe eat around 34kg of plant matter a day. Giraffe gestation is between 400-460 days and usually one calf is born, although twins have been noted. A Giraffe lifespan on average is 38 years.

To experience the Giraffe at Summerplace Game Reserve, book a stay at one of our accommodation options here.

* To read more about the rock art in the Waterberg, click here


“We spent two days at Summerplace and it was an unexpected surprise!” That’s what Waterberg expert, Warwick Tarboton, said following his first visit to Summerplace Game Reserve during October 2023. He and his group recorded high numbers of tree and bird species, both of which are expected to increase. Here’s what they discovered.

Tarboton is retired, but keeps busy by managing a website called Waterberg Bio-Quest, a veritable treasure in terms of information on the Waterberg Biosphere. The website  is a meticulous record of almost everything natural in the Waterberg Biosphere, including mammals, insects, birds, reptiles, trees, wildflowers and grasses. It also contains every kind of map that’s relevant to the region, including topography, geology, drainage and many more. All content on the Waterberg Bio-Quest is English but most of it has also been translated into Afrikaans.

“We have visited well over 100 properties in the Waterberg and haven’t seen anything quite like Summerplace,” said Tarboton. “Five couples with deep interests and experience in nature and conservation were in my group and we thoroughly enjoyed our first visit.

“When you drive up the Melkrivier Road, everything looks rather homogenous. But driving into the Summerplace property with its hills and valleys delivered some very interesting sightings for us,” he added.

Until mid-2021, Summerplace was a farm, but the conversion to a game reserve has seen the introduction of a range of mammals, all of which occur naturally (or used to) in the Waterberg. Among other species, Roan Antelope, Sable Antelope, Tsessebe, Common Reedbuck, Mountain Reedbuck and Giraffe have all been added to the reserve in the past 26 months.

“I am most encouraged that Summerplace is keeping its species introductions to animals that originally occur there. The Tsessebe and Roan Antelope in particular aren’t found elsewhere in the Waterberg these days, so it was really good to see them at Summerplace,” said Tarboton.

“In our short visit we identified 94 species of trees. I would estimate that there are probably 130-140 in total. That’s a very good list! We spotted 107 different bird species, which is very good for the Waterberg this time of the year because the migrants haven’t returned yet. Combined with others who have recorded bird sightings at Summerplace, the list numbers 140 currently. That is a good score, especially for a place with limited water,” he added.

For Tarboton and his group, the sighting of a baby African Hawk Eagle was a highlight.

“I asked David Baber, who was our guide, about any raptors and he took us to a nest that has been there for years. We identified it as the nest of an African Hawk Eagle because it contained a big chick that’s almost ready to fly. Assuming they feel safe, they keep the same nest for years. This is the 28th African Hawk Eagle nest that we are aware of in the Waterberg.

As one of the authors of the book Wildflowers of the Waterberg (digital sample here), Tarboton obviously has a keen interest in this category of flora.

“We did see some wildflowers, but once the rains have begun, that’s when we’re likely to see a lot more at Summerplace. We are looking forward to returning after some rain,” said Tarboton.

The group was also impressed with the Aloe (Marlothii) at Summerplace.

“David took us to the Aloe forest and that is very unique. He also showed us the giant Aloe on the high ground. It’s very rare for an Aloe to grow that tall. We estimate it to be 12-14 metres tall, which is immense and at least double the size they normally grow,” remarked Tarboton, who will return regularly to continue recording flora, fauna and other data for his website.


As a game reserve with a strong focus on sustainability and responsible conservation, it’s not unusual for there to be game capture and release projects at Summerplace. But we recently held our largest game capture of almost 100 Wildebeest, which was quite spectacular. Here’s why we needed to remove them from Summerplace.

There are more than 40 species of large mammal at Summerplace Game Reserve and Wildebeest was one of the biggest populations of any species on the reserve. However, it was determined that they pose a health risk to our Boran cattle, so the decision was made to remove the Wildebeest.

We have previously written about the essential role of Boran cattle at Summerplace. With a growing Boran herd and our grass-fed beef production plans being fine-tuned, the cattle occupy an important multi-function role. Unfortunately, we lost a few cattle over the past year to Snotsiekte, or Malignant Catarrhal Fever (MCF).

Wildebeest are principal carriers of Snotsiekte primarily the calves between the ages of 4-6 months. With the calving season imminent (October/November), it was important to remove the Wildebeest from Summerplace as soon as possible as the disease is infectious. The capture and removal happened over two days in September and included air (helicopter) and ground activation.

“While it’s nice to have Wildebeest on the reserve, they’re not essential to the ecosystem. One of our priority species is Tsessebe, which is a short-grass grazer and because Wildebeest are quite selective short-grass grazers, they compete with the Tsessebe. And since Wildebeest are tough and hardy, they usually win the grazing battle,” said John Mackie, Summerplace Game Reserve Conservationist.

“Normally this wouldn’t be a concern, but with large populations of both Roan Antelope and Sable Antelope and with late rains and high temperatures being forecast over the next couple of months, it helps reduce the overall grazing pressure on the reserve. But primarily, it was in the best interests of the cattle to mass capture and remove the Wildebeest, which should remove the Snotsiekte risk completely,” added Mackie.

“The capture was actually very efficient. The capture team is experienced and they just needed two mornings,” said David Baber, Summerplace Game Reserve co-owner.

“They set up a boma which has a wide entry and then gradually narrows to funnel the animals towards the trucks. The chopper pilot finds them and then chases them towards the boma. As the animals move through the boma, the capture crew members close curtains behind them to ensure none try to run back. Once they have moved up the ramp into the truck, they get given a very mild tranquiliser to help them stay calm for the trip to their new home.

“Because there were quite a lot of Wildebeest and the chopper can’t chase them for too long, they did one capture on the East side of the reserve on the first morning, relocated the boma to the West side that afternoon; and did the second capture the next morning. They rounded up most of the Wildebeest with a really slick operation. There are a handful still here which we will move ourselves, in time,” added Baber.

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