Dinokeng (“place of rivers”) refers to an area rich in attractions that lies about 15 minutes outside Pretoria and 45 minutes north-east of Johannesburg. It covers about 281 000 hectares of rural land and encompasses a number of game reserves and dams, ethnic villages and a picturesque Victorian mining town called Cullinan.
These days, Dinokeng and Cullinan attract people who come to Pretoria and Johannesburg and wish to discover the African bush with its wildlife but operate under time constraints. Dinokeng offers soothing health spas, game reserves rich in bird and animal life, theatre performances in Cullinan, plus an almost limitless choice of accommodation and exciting dining venues.
The village of Cullinan features oak-lined streets and refurbished Victorian and Edwardian homes that welcome visitors as B&Bs, guest houses and restaurants. Shoppers will enjoy the quaint country shops and art galleries.
The village is also home to the Cullinan Diamond Mine, which is where the largest rough diamond in the world – the Cullinan Diamond – was found in 1905. Weighing a staggering 3106 carats before it was cut, the Cullinan Diamond now forms part of the British Crown Jewels.
In 2008, a golf-ball-sized diamond of 101,27 carats was mined here and sold for $6,2 million. Underground tours of the mine are available and beautiful diamond jewellery is on display.
Look out for
Jan Harmsgat se Agterplaas (backyard) is a mining house-turned-performance venue on Cullinan’s main drag (Oaklaan), staging theatre productions and music evenings matched with picnic baskets. Fun, funky artefacts and recycled creations make the place unique.
To discover African culture, customs, art and food, book a tour to the colourful Refilwe Township next door to Cullinan and experience a shebeen (informal tavern) and some traditional drumming.
Take a walk around Nelson Mandela village and peek into the workshops of the seamstresses, crafters and backyard motor mechanics who ply their trade informally under the watchful eye of a statue of Madiba that stands in the centre of the township. After dark, gather a group of friends and go the Khuwana Tavern, renowned for its cheap beer, peri-peri chicken and salacious 3D murals.
There are a number of game and nature reserves in the Dinokeng Reserve area, all offering different game-viewing (antelope abound) and bird-watching experiences.
The Dinokeng Game Reserve is Gauteng's first Big Five reserve. Opened very recently, the 18 500-hectare reserve is currently home to four of the Big Five – rhino, leopard, buffalo, and lion - with elephants due by the end of 2011.
Thousands of Italian prisoners of war were held in this area during the Second World War and many are buried at Zonderwater near Rayton, where a memorial built in their honour stands.
Adventure sports fans can opt for a balloon ride to take in the area’s natural beauty.
The Nan Hua Buddhist temple outside the town of Bronkhorstspruit offers spectacular architecture, large Buddhist statues, tasty vegetarian food and meditation retreats.
Visit Ludwig’s Roses and Butterfly Farm (N1) outside Pretoria for a tour, the reptiles on display and pony rides.
Experience vintage train travel from Hermanstad in Pretoria to Cullinan with Friends of the Rail, a group of railway enthusiasts that organises day trips on steam locomotives in vintage coaches.
Unleash your inner John Wayne at Diamond X Cowboy, an American-style cattle ranch where you can go on a cattle drive and try your hand at branding, tagging and lassoing.
Visit Loopspruit winery near Bronkhorstspruit. The 22-hectare winery produces white, red, sparkling and fortified wines, grape juices, mampoer and witblits. Cellar and vineyard tours are by appointment. Spend the night in the pioneer encampment at Tussen-i-Bome and sleep in an authentic ox wagon. Though the camp has modern ablution facilities, why not experience the real outdoors by bathing in a wooden barrel, cooking over an open fire and baking bread in an outdoor oven.