The Magaliesberg mountains, which is our northern border, are among the oldest
mountains in the world, almost 100 times older than Everest. They stretch for
120 km from Bronkhorstspruit Dam east of Pretoria to Rustenburg in the west and
separate the high veldt grasslands to the south from the bush veldt savannah in
Our northern border is made up of sheer quartzite cliffs facing south,
overlooking our wide valley and a smaller ridge similar in shape and structure
to the Magaliesberg. Water runoff from the mountains has created deep gullies
and wonderful cliffs, some more than 30 meters deep, with waterfalls and
streams of crystal clear water spilling from the heart of the mountain during
the rainy season.
Today, much of the greater conservation area is a protected natural environment
that deserves and requires the co-operation and care of every visitor who come
to the valley to seek sanctuary from the stress of city life.
The ancient geological structure of our area is similar to what can be found
for almost the Magaliesberg's entire length. Creation of these mountains began
almost 2,300 million years ago, when Africa was part of what was then a large
landmass called Gondawanaland and most of what is now known as Gauteng and the
North West Province, was submerged under shallow water. This "sea" of salty
water was surrounded by 3000 million year old granite from which fragments of
white quartzite, pebbles, sand and silt were eroded and eventually created a
layer of sedimentary rock on the bed of the sea.
Walk around our garden and have a look at the monstrous rocks and boulders -
every one of them as old as our earth itself ! The Orient was build on this -
the very foundations of the creation.
Another layer was added to this sea bed when algae developed in the saline
water and combined with silica to produce a carbonate deposit which eventually
compressed into layers of rock many kilometers thick. In some places it formed
dolomite, a semi-soluble limestone, and in other places it formed chert.
Eventually the water dried up and other deposits were made on the seabed. These
were quartzite, made from beach sand washed down from the shores onto the
seabed and eventually crystallized into extremely hard, weatherproof rock.
Today quartzite can still be picked up along the hiking trails of the
Conservancy - some that even bears the ripple marks of the original ancient
sandy seabed. Shale, found on the slopes of the mountain to the north of The
Orient came from muddy silt that formed when there was more moisture and
created layers between the quartzite. This process went on for more than 300
million years in four different stages.
Underground water sources
Over millions of years once the rock had solidified, water seeped in and
dissolved parts of the dolomite leaving huge caves, some of which became
underground reservoirs, and these are the source of may of the streams that
flow through the region.
The Schurweberg and Krokodilberg range of hills in our area were formed where
there was more chert than dolomite. The dolomite was deposited into the valleys
and the chert remained to form the ridges of the hills surrounding The Orient.
The Bushveldt Complex
About 2000 million years ago a massive geological phenomenon occurred - deep
beneath the surface of the earth molten magma began to build up pressure. In
our valley, it formed a 65000 sq km reservoir of liquid rock and intruded
between all the sedimentary layers of the area. As the magma seeped in, the
weaker, older structures subsided and slabs of rocks, thousands of meters
thick, tilted into the molten magma - forming jagged ranges of mountains around
the basin. This magma intrusion resulted in a wide variety of igneous rocks
that contain considerable mineral wealth. North of the mountains that can be
seen from The Orient, may ores are found - manganese, vanadium, nickel, tin,
chrome, vast quantities of iron ore and the richest platinum deposits in the
Then came our own Ice Age...
Over the millennia the exposed edges of the tilted rocks were weathered by ice
and the elements to form the mountains we see today. On our own mountain
slopes, it broke out into parallel ridges, with the Magaliesberg to the north
as the highest of them all.
With its variety of habitats, the Francolin Conservation Area provides the
ideal setting for over 100 species of trees, shrubs and grasses and a
magnificent collection of flowers, ferns and fungi.
On the south facing slopes where the region is driest, most of the vegetation
is concentrated in the valleys at the base of the cliffs. Many streams are
evident after fierce summer storms. Here you will find the wild olive and false
olive trees, the creamy white wild gardenia with its large trumpet flowers that
blooms each January, wild raisin, white stinkwood and many other species.
At the crest are the giant mountain aloes which color the hillsides in winter
with brightly colored spurs of orange and yellow flowers. Six of these giants
can be seen just outside of our main entrance. Among the trees on the mountain
plateaus are the bush willows with their winged pods and lower down the slopes
you can even find wild plum trees and their sweet rich fruits prized by humans
and animals alike.
In summer the bright orange Natal Gladiolus blooms across the veldt along with
wild scabious that lures hundreds of butterflies with its pretty flower heads.
The popular pineapple lily can be found sheltering among the rocks. Tall red
hot pokers, delicate mauve harebells, ferns and wild herbs flourish in the
The Wildlife & Birds of Francolin
The Crocodile River Valley in which Francolin is situated, was once the home of
huge elephant herds, rhino, buffalo, giraffe, big cats and many species of
buck. Although many large species have been destroyed over the years, we are
continuously re-introducing some back into our region. Of particular
significance is our re-introduction during 2006 of Nyala to our conservation
Wildebeest, zebras, impala, blesbuck, steenbok and other species can be seen in
the Conservancy. Porcupines, polecats, bush babies, dassies and weasels roam
wild in the forest and at the foot of the mountain there are vervet monkeys,
shy duiker and genets. If you sit very quietly at the edge of the forest, you
may be fortunate enough to sight ground squirrels. Various different species of
mongoose live on the slopes of the mountain and on the cliffs are dassies and
troops of baboons that come down to the lower slopes to forage by day. Many
other species live in this region, including leopards that prefer secret
retreats in the dense vegetation of the cliffs. We can sometimes find their
spoor at any one of the five dams in the Conservancy.
The Valley is a favorite place for birdwatchers who travel out from the city
every weekend to catch a sight of some of the 280 species that have been
recorded in our area. Cape vultures that nest in colonies on the south facing
cliffs of the Magaliesberg can sometimes be seen circling high up in the air,
along with the black eagle, jackal buzzard, falcons and swifts. In winter the
aloes attract myriads of brilliantly colored sunbirds and in summer flocks of
migrating storks can be seen in the fields. Cuckoos, starlings, robins,
babblers, barbets, finches, owls and a multitude of other species are to be
spotted here. In October the exquisite paradise flycatcher moves into the area
to breed and rear its offspring before returning to the tropics for the winter.
One of the objectives of the members of Francolin is to initiate and support
actions towards protecting the natural beauty and wilderness character of our
area under protection, and to promote effective conservation management. All
the members have been instrumental in the proclamation of the Francolin
Conservation Area and the public have access only as guests of The Orient, or
Restaurant Mosaic. The management thereby shares this scarce wilderness
resource with these guests exclusively, in an effort to preserve the area, so
that it can remain this breathtaking wilderness for future generations.