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Chrissiesmeer - The Mpumalanga Lake District


Ritsgaai
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A fortnight ago I joined my husband on a short 2-day business trip to Chrissiesmeer in Mpumalanga. It was our first time to visit the area and I doubt that it is on the itinerary of many visitors to South Africa.

 

Chrissiesmeer first came to our attention through an article in the newspaper describing a weekend to go frogging... where you take your torch and gumboots to join a local guide to try and find some of the thirteen frog species that have been recorded in the area. We were pleasantly surprised to find emerald green rolling hills dotted with small pans and lakes round every corner.

 

The area consists of over 230 lakes and pans in a relatively small area of  approximately 1500 ha. The largest of these lakes is Lake Chrissie south of the small town of Chrissiesmeer and is the largest natural body of fresh water in South Africa. Lake Chrissie measures about nine kilometres long and three kilometres wide with a circumference of  25 kilometres. The pans do not have any inlets or outlets which means it is only filled with rainwater. A local farmer told us that the area had already received over 500 mm of rain for the season, which explains the green landscape and full pans to be seen everywhere. This remarkable wetland system that includes reed, sedge and saline pans supports 287 species of birds, including large flocks of greater and lesser flamingos.

 

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I have read reports where visitors counted 18 000 flamingo chicks on one of the pans one year! With our limited time we hoped to find a few. The area received heavy rains all off the previous week and the weather forecast was still showing a thick cloud cover and intermittent rain during our visit. I hoped for the best, but the promise of spending 2 days on a farm with beautiful surroundings was enough to lure me along.

 

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Upon arriving in town we visited the information center at the Frog Coffee Shop to obtain a map that indicates the best roads for birding. We did not see a lot of birds as a strong wind was blowing.  We nevertheless enjoyed the beautiful landscapes and farms as we did a circular route that ended at our lodging. 

 

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Edited by Ritsgaai
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We stayed on a working farm that is situated on the eastern side of the biggest lake, Lake Chrissie. Miss Chrissie's Country House was exactly what we were looking for as we had a beautiful view of the lake and I could explore the area the next day (weather permitting) while my husband was attending to his business appointments. 

 

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It rained all night and into the next morning. The rain stopped by mid-morning but there was still heavy clouds and a very strong wind was blowing. I headed to the lake shore down the road but there was not many birds about, except for these swallows lining up on the barbed wire fences.

 

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The surroundings were still very enjoyable and peaceful and the weather opened up nicely later on.

 

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The previous evening our friendly host, Pieter mentioned a pan where they had a lovely sighting of flamingos a few weeks ago and showed us exactly how to get there. My husband arrived back just before 15h00 and we went off shortly thereafter with the map in hand and our hopes high to find the flamingos.

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~ @Ritsgaai

 

What a charming location! Your images above bring out the relaxed beauty of the area.

 

The deep red pelargonium, the nasturtiums — such nice landscaping.

 

In all of my life I've never seen so many resting swallows. It's a convention!

 

The cattle looking toward the photographer is an image which appeals to me.

 

Thank you for posting these.

 

Tom K.

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Our search for the flamingos was quite interesting as there are no written or sign-boarded directions to the specific pan except for those given by our host. We had to follow a smallish gravel road between the farms and after a couple of kilometres take a right. Next we found the only written sign - "Farm Banagher" - opposite Lake Banagher. We followed the small track leading pass the farmstead, outbuildings and barns. We opened two farm gates and had to chase the horses away first as they wanted to come through the gate to go to the other side of the fence. :mellow: 

 

It was only then that we know for sure we were on the right track as a longish pan, called Slangpan (Snake Pan) appeared to our left. Our destination was Blinkpan which lies on the other side of Slangpan. Eventually the track disappeared altogether and my husband needed to carefully moved through the very soggy veld and over sandstone rock plates to get to Blinkpan. We just hoped and prayed that the vehicle would not get bogged down along the way but all went well and at long last we reached Blinkpan and found between 500 to 600 greater and lesser flamingos. There were also many other waterbirds and we were very excited about our finding. We felt that the lakes did not let us down in our high expectations. :D 

 

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8 minutes ago, Tom Kellie said:

~ @Ritsgaai

In all of my life I've never seen so many resting swallows. It's a convention!

 

 

@Tom Kellie

Thank you very much for your kind comments... it is much appreciated. 

I enjoyed your description for the swallow's get-together. 

The few photos I took does not even show a fifth of the swallows on those wires. It was a swallow's en-mass convention. :)

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~ @Ritsgaai

 

You've just taught me something.

 

Slangpan” or “Snake Pan” tells me why “Boomslang” has “slang” in it.

 

May I please ask, how is the “meer” in Chrissiesmeer pronounced?

 

Is it similar to “mare”, as in a female horse?

 

Or is it closer to “mirror”, as in a looking glass?

 

The flamingo images are remarkable.

 

Such a surprise to encounter in an out-of-the-way location.

 

South African birds deeply impress me.

 

Thank you for these images.

 

Tom K.

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I was as happy as could be and we spent the best of 2 hours just watching the flamingos move in the water and fly over the pan to settle down again.

 

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What an incredible show they displayed and a perfect finish to our brief visit!

 

 

 

 

Edited by Ritsgaai
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38 minutes ago, Tom Kellie said:

~ @Ritsgaai

 

You've just taught me something.

 

Slangpan” or “Snake Pan” tells me why “Boomslang” has “slang” in it.

 

May I please ask, how is the “meer” in Chrissiesmeer pronounced?

 

Is it similar to “mare”, as in a female horse?

 

Or is it closer to “mirror”, as in a looking glass?

 

The flamingo images are remarkable.

 

Such a surprise to encounter in an out-of-the-way location.

 

South African birds deeply impress me.

 

Thank you for these images.

 

Tom K.


@Tom Kellie,  "Meer" is pronounced like "deer" and "near".

 

It is easy to make Chrissiesmeer a day or two stopover on the way or from the Kruger National Park. It is 250 kilometres from Johannesburg and 170 kilometres from Nelspruit. 

 

I am grateful that you could share our enjoyment of the beautiful flamingos.

 

Thank you kindly for reading and commenting.

 

 

 

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A lovely report from a place I certainly have never heard of! @Ritsgaai

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@Towlersonsafari

Thank you very much! 

 

If anybody is interested in the 2nd Anglo-Boer war, they will be surprised by the amount of history that involves Chrissiesmeer and surrounds.

 

We had supper in town in the Billiard Room. The building and a full sized billiard table was shipped all the way from England to provide entertainment for the British officers coming from the battlefield. 

 

The way Chrissiesmeer got it's name is also very interesting.

 

Another story is about a  certain Scotsman who endeavored to establish a whole Scottish settlement there as the many lakes reminded him of Scotland. This story ended on a sad note.

 

There is also a lovely love story that still lives on today!

 

All the history is available on Internet and easy to find.

 

 

 

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A couple of times I hwve driven through the area on my way to the sugar mills of Swaziland and every time I have promised to return.

 

You have just firmed up that promise.

Lovely little report thank you!

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@Ritsgaai thanks for taking the time to post this report - what an amazing farmstay and so many beautiful flamingos to say nothing of swallow central!

 

You certainly know the out of the way and worthwhile places to visit in ZA. Chrissiesmeer is now added to the wishlist, maybe next time.

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@Ritsgaai, if only I would know for this place 4 weeks ago, I might stay there instead of in Piet Retief. Those flamingos alone would be enough to change my mind, and to drive the "upper road".

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Thank you,@Peter Connan, @Treepol and @xelas!

 

We are busy planning a few days to Swaziland -  hopefully later this year, and might make a stopover at Chrissiesmeer again as we will have friends with us who would like to see the flamingos. We hope to go during springtime as we were told that there will be plenty of wildflowers.

 

There is a secluded and rustic campsite in a small oak-tree forest on the farm where we stayed, Miss Chrissie's Country House. I just think one must avoid camping in winter as this area can get very cold. It is not a coincidence that all the rooms in the guesthouse are fitted with fireplaces. :rolleyes:

The ablution block has hot water and a flush toilet.

 

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@Treepol, I certainly hope you will be able to visit the flamingos of Blinkpan soon. :)

 

When will you be visiting South Africa, @xelas?  May you have a wonderful time!

 

 

 

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Flamingos galore.  Success!  What a gem of a place.  Thanks for sharing!

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Flamingo everywhere! Wonderful! :-D You are very lucky :-) 

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