When I see Naval Hill (which is often, as it can be viewed from many parts of the city), I think of exciting family drives, taking visitors from overseas to spot our house, Dad’s office and other Bloemfontein landmarks from a high vantage point with panoramic views. I remember thinking how lucky Oranje Meisiesskool was to have people able to watch its hockey games from a hilltop.
Since school days, view point number 15 became our Naval Hill spot, and it was here that my friends and I had pre-drinks the night our Matric results were announced; it’s also from here that we watched the sunrise after our Matric Farewell. Later, at varsity, we enjoyed HK pizza en wyn aande here with guys’ hostels, and, if we were lucky, we’d score a guy romantic enough to take us up to Naval Hill for a sunset kiss.
Naval Hill stands proudly in the centre of Bloem, and is the world’s only nature reserve in the middle of a city. It’s 250 hactares large – big enough to accommodate the zebra, blesbok, springbok, giraffe, eland and ostriches that live here. It’s also the grounds of the (sadly, seldom used) Observatory Theatre, a real astronomical observatory that stopped functioning in 1974. The White Horse painting on the slopes of the Andries Pretorius Street side of the hill was also much of a talking point during our school years when some of our guy friends daringly painted the horse into a zebra in the middle of the night (yes, I was friends with vandals). The White Horse was originally painted during the Anglo Boer War, and was used as a landmark for the British cavalry whenever they had to return to their base.
As one begins to ascend the hill, there’s a sign with various rules, including, ‘All animals have right of way.’ And, boy, do they! After taking pics of a giraffe on the summit, I turned around to see his buddy eyeing me from behind some high bushes. When he realised that I was not a threat, he proceeded to cross the road in front of me – only 10 metres away from my car. I know it’s not quite a Big 5 sighting, but that’s one heck of a close encounter with nature! It’s fun to keep your eyes peeled for animals while enjoying the tranquility atop Naval Hill. Birds thrive here and can be heard tweeting all over the hill.
I wouldn’t recommend going through the dirt roads if you are alone, as they are not in the best condition, and you wouldn’t want to be stuck there for hours on your own (the buck I saw today had very big horns!). I saw enough animals today from the tarred road, and view point 15 is also on the tarred section. Naval Hill has had its ups and downs when it comes to its general safety reputation, but after spending an hour there on my own today, I can report that, even though there was one dodgy man drinking a beer alone at 11am at view point 15 (shame, maybe his girl ditched him up there and he’s still drinking last night’s sundowners), all seemed safe and sound… and clean!
For the conservation office and general information, call 051-4058786.
The booms on top of the hill are open from 8am-6pm