Africas Eden Waterberg
(CNN)Tucked away in Limpopo province, the pristine, rugged and ancient Waterberg region doesn't make it on to most South Africa travel itineraries -- and that's much of its appeal. By the same token, you don't have to stray far from the more beaten paths. The Waterberg has soaring mountain peaks, antediluvian rock formations, expansive savannah plains, dense riparian forests and plunging river valleys.
It's just an easy few hours' drive from the pulsating urban hub of Johannesburg, though it feels a world away. This under explored northern nook of South Africa is sometimes known as Africa's Eden,. Here iconic megafauna tends to outnumber its human counterparts, and the cows that meander across the "main roads" of quirky provincial towns are often the only traffic you'll see. Still not sold? Here's some more reasons to go:
Africas Eden Waterberg At Ant's Nest and Ant's Hill visitors can go wildlife-watching on horseback. On a family-run reserve close to the town of Vaalwater, Ant's Nest and Ant's Hill are two of the most family-friendly lodges to be found anywhere in South Africa. They offer a wide range of bush activities that include walks, game drives and even sundowners with white rhinos. But the real specialty at Ant's, which is named after owner Ant Baber, whose family have been on this land for about 150 years, is horse riding.
When the horses are not being ridden, they graze and roam among big game including buffalo, giraffe, kudu and rhino, and the wildlife's familiarity with the horses affords particularly close and relaxed encounters for riders. Ant's also has a strong conservation and community development ethic that's palpable in the warmth and dedication of its long-serving staff.
Nylsvley Nature Reserve is one of the most important and populous bird habitats in southern Africa. It's home to almost 400 bird species and a total population of 80,000 birds when the flood plain is at peak water level in the wet and warm summer months. The marshy reed beds and grasses of the flood plain itself are surrounded by large swathes of open woodland that are home to giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, the rare roan antelope and more elusive mammals such as leopard and brown hyena.
Visitors can drive around the reserve, enjoy a number of hiking trails or set up shop with their binoculars, a bird book and a long zoom lens in one of the various bird hides. Cheap and cheerful self-catering accommodation and a quaint restaurant are available just inside the reserve's main gate.