Alongside the trendy stores and innovative eateries of Melville, lies the vast Melville Koppies Nature Reserve, a lovely green space with magnificent views of the Johannesburg skyline in the distance. Bordered by Beyers Naude Drive, and with secure parking available at Mark’s Park on Judith Road, it is easily accessible to all.
Due to safety concerns, it is advisable not to visit on your own, and to this end, group tours are hosted each weekend to enable everyone to access this special place. The tours alternate each weekend, with either a challenging 9km hike or a 4km guided walk on offer each weekend. At R60 per adult and R40 per child, the fee is quite fair and goes towards the upkeep of the property. Remember to take cash with and be punctual, as the group departs promptly at the agreed time, usually 8:30 or 15:30.
There is nowhere to buy snacks or water on the route, so make sure to pack sufficient water and food for your walk. Also be sure to wear a hat and sunscreen, and comfortable shoes. I took a camera with, hoping to take some photos of the reserve and its gorgeous views, but due to the quick pace and the reminders not to stray from the group, I didn’t get any time to compose a good photo, and only managed to snatch a few blurry shots as we rushed along. If you want to take good photos, perhaps opt for the guided walk as the leisurely pace allows more time for this.
The hike requires a relatively high fitness level as it encompasses steep climbs and rocky paths, and the guide keeps up a fast pace, completing the 9km hike in less than three hours. There is a halfway stop for about fifteen minutes, giving you just enough time for a quick snack before carrying on. However, there are a few emergency exit routes that you can take if the walk becomes too much for you to handle.
The guided walk is more relaxed, and focuses on sharing information about the local flora, fauna, geology, and history of the area. With the option to take the tour at 8:30 or 15:30, it is easy to attend, but keep in mind that in summer it gets really hot, even during early hours.
The guides are all really knowledgeable, and are able to answer most questions posed to them. They are all volunteers, and are really passionate, and chatting to them is one of the highlights of the day. It is also a great opportunity to meet people, and on the day we did the hike, we had about sixty people in our group.
One of the ladies walking with us had done the walk countless times, and knew as much as the guides did, providing us with a running commentary about the history of the area and how things have changed over time. We were accompanied by people from such varying backgrounds, visiting from other countries or neighbouring communities, and speaking to people who we otherwise wouldn’t have come into contact with was one of the highlights of the experience.
The Koppies turn 60 in 2019, so keep an eye on their website or Facebook page to keep up with special events. Aside from its status as a Nature Reserve, it also holds heritage status since there is evidence that Bantu-speaking farmers settled there as early as 1300CE. If you want to learn more about the site, you can peruse the website or purchase CDs or a flash-drive with a host of information.