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Magalies Mountains
Magalies Mountains
Magaliesburg Mountains

The Magaliesberg is a mountain range extending from Pretoria in the north of the Gauteng Province to a point south of Pilanesberg, in the North West Province, South Africa (see also Pilanesberg National Park). The highest point of the Magaliesberg is reached at Nooitgedacht (1 852 meters) 25.8583° S 27.530° E. Situation, Geographical Extent & Geology Stretching 125 kilometers from east to west and rising an average of 330 meters above the surrounding plains, the Magaliesberg separates the lower-lying, hotter bushveld to the north from the cooler Highveld to the south, extending in an east-west arc between Rustenburg and Pretoria in the province of Gauteng.

The ridgeline has a small number of main summits along its crest, but none of these require mountaineering skill to ascend. The crest of the ridge is only 450m above the surrounding Highveld plain, which is itself about 1200m above sea level. The highest point (1780m) is found 35Km south east of Rustenburg in the area known as Nooitgedacht. It forms the most southerly range of the band of mountains lying between the Limpopo and Olifants rivers, and lies along the southern limit of the Bushveld Igneous Complex.

Geologically, the Magaliesberg is typical of the ranges found in this area of South Africa. Its quartzite's bear the mark of a turbulent past, when layers of sand were deposited on the edges of a large inland lake The rocks of the Magaliesberg are amongst the oldest exposed volcanic rocks in the country. Farmers privately own most of the land along the length of the range, and public access is obtained via this land at a limited number of points. The Magaliesberg Section of the Mountain Club of South Africa owns a number of small areas and access points and is very involved in the conservation of this wilderness area. Access is also gained via a number of small hotels and public resorts scattered along the range. The largest sections of land open to the public are the Rustenberg Nature Reserve and the Mountain Sanctuary Park. Rising 330 m above the surrounding plains, the Magaliesburg is the most conspicuous of the three parallel quartzite ridges dominating the landscape north of Johannesburg. With a length of about 170 km it stretches in an arc from just south of Rustenburg to Pretoria and then eastwards to the Bronkhorst Dam, forming a natural divide between the highveld and the bushveld.


The small village of Magaliesberg is situated some 80 km from Johannesburg and Pretoria and is nestled at the foot of the Magaliesburg range of mountains. Originally named the Cashan Mountains, the Voortrekkers named the range after Mogale, a Tswana chief, and corrupted it to Magaliesburg. Dissected by numerous kloofs with crystal-clear streams, waterfalls and pools, the range is home to over 150 bird species, including three breeding colonies of the Cape vulture and a variety of other raptors, kingfishers, crimsonbreasted shrike, the elusive African finfoot and the Marico flycatcher. Animal’s occuring here include leopard, brown hyaena, and mountain reedbuck. Bushbuck, klipspringer and baboon. Although the Magaliesburg is almost entirely private property, most of the range was declared a Natural area in 1977 and a Protected Natural Environment in 1993.

All trips into the Magaliesberg require you to be fully prepared for all eventualities. This means that you will need to carry your own shelter or tent, food, sleeping bag, cooking equipment, and clothing for any weather type or temperature. The weather can change very fast. It is recommended that the minimum party size is three to four persons and that a walking rope is carried.


Magaliesberg lies in the Gauteng province on the boarder of North West Province is situated in a summer rainfall area, at an altitude of around 1700 meters. Rain occurs mainly as thunderstorms in the late afternoons, sometimes with hail. The storms are typically very localized, and the weather clears soon afterwards. The average daily temperature in January in this area is about 25° C. Due to the altitude of the Magaliesberg there is little or no humidity and the UV factor is extremely high.

Winter temperatures (July) during the day average around 16° C with extremely cold nights and early mornings, temperatures can drop below freezing during these hours. Hornbill Lodge recorded -4° C in July 2007 The average night temperature during winter is around 4° C.



Troops of baboon are found in the Magaliesberg. These troops are sometimes large, and such groups should be treated with caution. Interference with their social activity, their feeding, or their young is inadvisable, and hikers should never place themselves between baboons and their young, or corner these animals, leaving them no escape route. Carnivores such as the Brown Hyena, Black-Backed Jackal, and the Leopard are also found here, but all are very shy, and are thus rarely seen. Vervet monkeys are not dangerous, but offer some degree of nuisance value, having learned to raid rucsacs. The Magaliesberg is home to a number of poisonous snakes. It must be remembered that snakebites are rare, as most snake species will try their best to escape from contact with humans. A particular danger in the Magaliesberg is lightning. Summer storms on the Highveld are often vicious, and particular care needs to be taken in the Magaliesberg during such storms. Avoid high, open grassland areas with few trees. Do not shelter beneath trees or bushes in such areas, and if possible retreat to lower ground before the storm arrives.



There are just over 120 tree species in the Magaliesberg area, all mostly indigenous, some are however exotic invaders. Of the indigenous trees, a wide variety has traditional medicinal & magical uses. These are worth reading up on. There are also numerous species of wild flower that are situated in the different kloofs and cliff faces, mountain tops & river valleys.



Vast and varied communities of mammals, birds, reptile's amphibians, arachnids & invertebrates inhabit the mountain slopes. Some of the larger more common mammals being: Chacma baboon; Vervet monkey; Lesser bush baby; Porcupine; Cape fox; Aardwolf; Leopard; Brown Hyena; Bush buck; Kudu; Mountain Reedbuck; Eland; Gemsbok; Springbok; Burchells Zebra. Some 300 species of birds ranging from Birds of Prey, to scavengers, to grassland birds and forest species, it is nearly impossible to give a brief broad range. The list of wildlife is endless; needless to say that there is a wide diversity found in the Magaliesberg.


Brief History

This Area The Magaliesberg has been an arena for the enactment of a succession of cultures and societies. Humankind has inhabited the Magaliesberg and surrounds for hundreds of thousands of years. In fact, the Sterkfontein caves, 25Km south of the main range hold some of the best known and oldest of hominid fossils. The first "modern" humans to occupy this region were the San or Bushmen anywhere between 25 000 and 10 000 years ago. These people hunted and gathered here until about 1000 years ago, when people demonstrating iron-working capacity migrated in from eastern and central Africa.

The ancestors of today's Tswana speaking people arrived in the Magaliesberg between 1200AD and 1600AD and began the building of the stonewalled structures that dot the southern slopes. Early explorers to the area years later describe the ruins of great towns and even speak of villages in trees. In the early 1820s many Nguni clans began to retreat into the Highveld to escape Zulu expansionism. These groups often clashed bitterly with the Tswana-speaking groups and threw many cultures into disarray. In 1821, Mzilikazi, one of Shaka's under-chiefs, defied his king and took his impi to the northwest. By 1827, the Ndebele as they become to be known, had all but driven the Tswana out of the Magaliesberg and had claimed the are as their own.


Continued Zulu attacks eventually convinced Mzilikazi to take his people across the Limpopo and establish his kingdom in what is now Zimbabwe. The first Europeans into see the area were three Scotsmen from Grahamstown. McLuckie, Scoon and Hume were hunter-traders and interacted extensively with the Sotho, Tswana and Ndebele. Later the missionary Robert Moffat traveled to the Magaliesberg at the invitation of Mzilikazi. At around 1850, Boer farmers began arriving in the area and Rustenburg was founded in 1852 and this area was to play a significant role in the formation of the Transvaal Boer Republic and the subsequent Anglo-Boer War.

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