A Quick Break at the Roodeplaat Dam

The morning that we wanted to set out on our small victories breakaway dawned dark and gloomy. Typical, I thought as I opened the bedroom curtains and saw a sky that looked as ominous as my mood on a Monday morning. But there was no turning back, so we bundled ourselves, a sleepy toddler and an excited Labrador into the car and set out on our epic journey!

We dropped Loki off at my dad’s farm where he would spend the weekend in the company of eight other dogs, his version of doggy nirvana. The rest of us headed onwards.

The surprised look on the face of the guard at the gate of the Roodeplaat Nature Reserve should have been our first clue. “Where to?” he asked and I optimistically declared that we would be driving around the reserve in search of game. The glance he exchanged with his companion should have been our second clue. However, it was only while looking at the simple map he handed me that I first realised that this trip might not be quite as exciting as we were led to believe.

We drove through the gate and was surprised to see that the road (just the one, with two loops that connect back to it) is neatly paved. While driving at the speed limit of 40km/h, it took us just less than 15 minutes to reach the perimeter of the nature reserve. We hadn’t seen a thing.

We stopped at the picnic grounds for a snack and a look at the dam itself. The reserve is known as a water-lover’s paradise and a good place for bird-watchers, and we did spot two rowing teams practicing and a bunch of white water birds in the distance. Riveting stuff.

But the little traveller loved the chance to run about and stared at the dam as if he’d never seen such a big body of water before (his trip to the ocean last year is probably only a distant memory by now). He was outside and he was in his element. Totally worth the trip.

Back in the car, he promptly fell asleep (all that fresh air!) while we set out on a mission to find the wildlife. Find them we did. A herd of impala, two kudu with twirling horns and a couple of zebras. So no, this was not the most successful game watching trip we’ve ever had, but still, it was a fun outing and it was better than nothing. If you’ve ever wondered if you should go visit the Roodeplaat Nature Reserve, my answer is to go to Rietvlei Nature Reserve instead.

Our hotel was another 15 minute drive away and was situated on the banks of a tributary off of the Roodeplaat Dam. It’s a lovely place with a deck that looks out over the water and would be perfect for sundowners if you’re so inclined. We found a nice spot on the lawn right next to the river under an umbrella, but were asked to leave not long after because apparently it had been booked out for a private function.

This was especially disappointing because, although the hotel was advertised as family-friendly, it was not toddler-friendly and there was absolutely nothing with which we could keep the little one entertained. They didn’t even have baby-chairs at the onsite restaurant, so you can imagine what our meals were like with an active little boy running around. So we spent the rest of the day inside our room playing with toys we had (luckily) brought along just in case. We couldn’t wait to go home where we would have been much more comfortable and much better equipped to entertain the little one.

All in all, this was not the most successful weekend, but we did learn two very important things: 1) make sure that you plan activities that will keep you busy all day, and 2) be sure to check out the hotel’s facilities before booking to see if there’s anything to keep a toddler entertained with. We’ll do better next time.

Have you had a disappointing weekend breakaway? What did you learn from it? Where would you recommend we take our 2-year old next?

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