Rooipoort Nature Reserve which dates back to 1893 was declared the fourth South African Natural Heritage Site in 1985. About 65km west of Kimberley, Rooipoort is situated on the transition zone between the Karoo, Kalahari and grassland zones. A visit to Rooipoort must include game drives accompanied by a guide as well as a visit to Bushman's Fountain, one of the richest rock engraving sites in Southern Africa.
One of the oldest and largest private reserves in South Africa with stunning riverine habitat along the banks of the Vaal River, this unique site shows off its environmental, cultural and historical assets in true Northern Cape style.
At the turn of the 19th century, the Red Hartebeest was extinct outside of the Kalahari and the only viable population was on Rooipoort. Rooipoort has been a major contributor to establishing and conserving the Red Hartebeest throughout Southern Africa. Rooipoort is also recognised as the only site where the genetically pure Cape Ostrich exists and the Rooipoort population has been used for restocking a number of other Cape reserves.
Rooipoort has over the years provided tens of thousands of heads of game to other reserves for restocking, most notably Pilanesberg. It was during these relocation exercises that the techniques and protocols of moving animals quickly, reducing stress, as well as the use of chemical tranquillisers in order to further reduce the impact was developed.
On 18 April 1893 the eight farms belonging to the Sheasby Estates were purchased on recommendation of Cecil John Rhodes at a public auction for £30 100, and totalled some 50 179 morgen. This estate, 40 miles west of Kimberley and with 15 miles river front, was already known as Rooipoort in 1898. In August 1906 the farm Waterkolk was purchased, and in August 1910 the farm Randplaats was added to the collection. These farms together with some farms of the Sheasby Estate later constituted the Rooipoort Game Reserve. The name literally means “red gateway” is was so named after a natural feature occurring on the farm.
With the increasing population on the Diamond fields of Kimberley the company came to realise the effect on the surrounding fauna and flora. De Beers took protective measures to conserve the existing game and re-stock the farms with game wherever possible. Cecil John Rhodes and Gardner Williams (the Kimberley Mine Manager at the time) took an active interest in this area. The first game keeper appointed at Rooipoort was Andre Pringle in February 1895. In June 1920 a part of Rooipoort was set aside as game reserve and fenced off as such in the same year.
George William Compton, a founding director of De Beers, was the first to broach the subject of erecting a house on Rooipoort. Rhodes must have heard about the suggestion made at the board meeting because although he did not attend, a week later he informed his fellow directors in 1898 that in his opinion a decent house should be built at Rooipoort to be used as a Shooting Box and goes on to describe what he has in mind. Once the lodge was complete an inauguration shoot was organised but Rhodes never visited the Shooting Box due to the intervention of the Anglo Boer War and then Rhodes’ untimely death, although he used to shoot there often prior to its construction.