Head out east from Bloemfontein and you’ll find Thaba Nchu. The main feature of the area is the 2 138-metre high Thaba Nchu Mountain (or “Black Mountain”), which was once the stronghold of the Barolong people. It is known as the spiritual homeland of the Basotho and many great chiefs have laid claim to Black Mountain, including Chief Moroka and Chief Moshoeshoe.
There’s not much going on in Thaba Nchu but there are a few attractions that are noteworthy.
The Mmabana Cultural Centre is a highlight, with local artists depicting vivid works of life in the Free State under the careful eye of Richard Letsatsi Bollers, an artist who hails from the West Indies. The centre is a place of learning and some very promising young talents can be found here.
The Wesleyan Mission Station includes Chief Moroka’s grave and Moroka house, which are attractions in the area. There are also plaques that demarcate the routes take by the Voortrekkers during the Great Trek.
The Maria Moroka Nature Reserve is certainly a highlight of the area, and is a favourite spot for hikers and mountain-bikers. There is excellent birdlife in this part of the world, and local wildlife includes rhino, zebra, jackal, buffalo and antelope. The magnificent amphitheatre is well-photographed and documented and the park incorporates the Groothoek Dam, which is popular with anglers.
The Thaba Nchu Sun, previously owned by Sun International, was always a big attraction (the only casino and entertainment venue in the area), but it was taken over by Protea Hotels in 2005 and the casino and conference venue-hotel is now known as the Protea Black Mountain Hotel.
Look out for
Mmabana Culture Centre to view local artists at work and possibly buy local arts and craft.
Roadside shopping near the Protea Black Mountain Hotel is another good place to stop for arts and crafts.
The Wesleyan Mission Station is worth a drive by, but Chief Moroka’s grave is not open to the public unless special permission has been arranged.
The Maria Moroka Nature Reserve was named after Dr Maria Moroka, a struggle hero from Thaba Nchu. The reserve stretches across 6000 hectares and is home to black wildebeest, red hartebeest, springbok, eland, blesbok and zebra. There have been spectacular sightings of Blue Crane from time to time. Hikes and walks, as well as mountain-biking, are popular in this reserve.
The Black Mountain Hotel has a spa facility on the premises and numerous options to entertain children.