It appears that some time ago, much merriment was made in this part of the Little Karoo, for this is what ‘Vrolijkheid’ means. Unfortunately, the origins are obscure as to what brought it all on. Today, the pleasure remains, for nature is naturally of a buoyant disposition.
There is no shortage of accommodation at Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve. One option is a self-catering guesthouse (sleeping six people in four rooms), located quite near the office complex and next door to a small, well-equipped conference hall that can accommodate about thirty people. There are communal ablution and kitchen facilities.
At the reserve’s entrance, across the main road between Robertson and McGregor and a short distance from the entrance to the office/accommodation complex, is an interpretation centre worth visiting. It is housed in what was once a labourer’s cottage and goes a long way to explain the area, its flora and fauna. There are toilets and picnic facilities here too and is the place where the hiking and cycling trails begin and end.
Vrolijkheid is just the place for a ramble or for the start of a hike. The circular 19km Rooikat Trail, which winds up around the Elandsberg Mountains, takes about eight hours. The popular, but strenuous McGregor-Greyton overnight hike (called the Boesmanskloof Trail) is also part of Vrolijkheid. For those less adventurous, a stroll along the Heron Trail (3km) will bring you to two shimmering dams, each with a wonderful little bird hide. (A total of 175 bird species have been recorded at Vrolijkheid, including the jackal buzzard, the African and pale chanting goshawks, and the black and African fish eagles.)
Other activities at Vrolijkheid include an undemanding mountain biking trail and bass fishing in a dam on the reserve. Another option is to visit Genadendal, the country’s oldest mission, built by the Moravians in 1738. Another hiking trail, the Genadendal Trail, under the management of Vrolijkheid, starts from here and is an overnight circular route of 25km. Vrolijkheid also offers a youth education programme.
Youth leaders against crime:
Due to concerns that the youth in local Breede River towns were at risk of being drawn into a spiral of gangsterism, drugs and crime, an educational programme was established on the Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve. With funding and collaboration from the provincial Department of Safety and Security, youngsters are taught life skills. They are made aware of the dangers of substance abuse, and interact with social workers. They also take part in activities that support the nature reserve, such as path maintenance, re-planting trees after controlled burns, removing snares and doing erosion control. In its first year, 432 youngsters completed the programme. In 2002, this number grew to 1 224. Many others are currently attending weekend camps, in groups of 36 children at a time.