There is a surprisingly large bibliography of the Waterberg region, much of it written in the last decade, as the area began to attract the interest of lifestyle investors and wilderness tourism adherents.

The following list describes most of the books published about the Waterberg to date.


Overview books about the Waterberg 

Clive Walker & J du P Bothma (2005): The Soul of the Waterberg. African Sky Publishing, Johannesburg. A compendium of geology, archaeology, history, ecology, fauna and flora, with interesting anecdotes and biographical sketches.

William Taylor, Gerald Hinde & David Holt-Biddle (2003): The Waterberg: the natural splendours and the people. Struik, Cape Town. A coffee-table presentation of key aspects of the history, culture, scenery and biodiversity of the Waterberg plateau and surrounding areas.

Rupert Baber (ed) (2009): The Waterberg Meander, Volume 1. Waterberg Biosphere Reserve, Vaalwater, Limpopo. The first travellers’ guide to the essential scenic, geological, archaeological and cultural sites of the eastern part of the Waterberg Plateau, with detailed route maps and accommodation listings. Volume 2 (in preparation) will provide similar coverage of the western part of the plateau.

Natural History

Natural History Books of the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve

Lee Gutteridge (2008): The South African Bushveld – a field guide from the Waterberg. Southbound, Johannesburg. A comprehensive summary of the flora, fauna, tracks, geology and history of the region by a professional field guide, with specialist contributions.

Retha van der Walt (2009): Wild Flowers of the Limpopo Valley. Privately published, Musina. The first detailed coverage of flowers for the region, including the Waterberg, with excellent illustrations.

RJ Scholes & BH Walker (1993): An African Savanna – Synthesis of the Nylsvley Study. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK. Summarised findings of numerous research studies into various aspects of the ecology of the Nylsvley Reserve over a 16 year period.

PT van der Walt (ed) (2010): Bushveld – Ecology and Management. Briza, Pretoria. A group of 17 experts write on the geology, vegetation types, bush management, conservation and survival techniques in the Bushveld.


 Waterberg Biosphere Books

Pamela & Peter Oberem (2011): A Guide to Animal Diseases in South Africa – Game. Briza, Pretoria. Two Waterberg-based vets have written the first handbook to diseases in wild animals, for the benefit of non-specialist game farm owners and managers.

Philip and Warwick Tarboton (2011): Birds of the Waterberg – a quick guide. Graphic Touch Guides, Kensington, Johannesburg. An ingeniously folded sheet, printed on both sides, with excellent colour photographs of over 230 bird species most likely to be encountered on the Waterberg plateau, produced by the Nylsvley ornithologist/photographer and his talented son.

Chris Wagner (2010): Waterberg-Bosveld – Prikkelgids vir Veldbewaring. Hoogland Uitgewers / PNA Bela Bela. A Waterberg resident has produced this small, stimulating guide to veld management based on his experience as a farmer and conservationist in the Warmbad area for over 45 years.

Clive Bromilow (2010): Problem Plants and Alien Weeds of South Africa (3rd Edition). Briza, Pretoria. A comprehensive, well-illustrated and easy-to-use reference book. Of particular importance to the Waterberg, where invasive and alien plant encroachment is a growing problem.


History and Biography

History and Biography of the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve

Maria M van der Ryst (1998): The Waterberg Plateau ... in the Later Stone Age. BAR International Series 715. Archaeopress, Oxford, UK. The only comprehensive, professional publication so far about the early human history of the area, up until the arrival of white settler farmers.

Lex Rodger (2010): Waterberg: Vintage Waterberg and Timeless Waterberg. Published posthumously by the Rodger Family, Johannesburg. A charming combination of two previously unpublished books about life and the environment of the eastern Waterberg Escarpment in the first half of the 20th Century.

Elizabeth Hunter (compiler) (2010): Pioneers of the Waterberg – a Photographic Journey. Privately published, Lephalale, Limpopo. A remarkable blend of outstanding old photographs from a private collection, with an authoritative autobiographical account of rural life on the Plateau from the late 19th to the early 20th Century.

C. Louis Leipoldt (1937, 1980): Bushveld Doctor. Human & Rousseau, Cape Town. An autobiographical account of the career of the first Schools Medical Inspector of the Transvaal in the period following World War 1 by the renowned medical doctor, natural historian, Afrikaans poet and writer.

Eugene Marais - books about the Waterberg

Leon Rousseau (1982, 1999): The Dark Stream: the story of Eugène Marais. Jonathan Ball Publishers, Johannesburg. The definitive biography of a talented but controversial journalist, naturalist, hypnotist, doctor, psychologist and morphine addict who spent but eight years of his life in the south-eastern Waterberg, yet is associated with nowhere else.

V E d’Assonville (2008): Eugène Marais and the Waterberg. Marnix, Pretoria. A short but interesting record of Marais’ life along the eastern Escarpment of the Waterberg, 1907-1915.

Eugene Marais (1972): The Road to Waterberg and other Essays. Human & Rousseau, Pretoria. A collection of non-fictional stories drawn from Marais’ experiences during his life and travels in the Waterberg.
Eugene Marais was a prolific journalist and writer, of natural history, politics, fiction and poetry, in both Afrikaans (his home language) and English. His best-known works were based on research undertaken during his time in the Waterberg; those translated into English are The Soul of the White Ant, My Friends the Baboons and The Soul of the Ape. He also wrote numerous articles of a scientific and sociological nature that were published in the Pretoria newspaper, Vaderland and which are of considerable historical importance.


 Kommandos in the Waterberg


Roelf Odendaal (1995): Waterberg op Kommando, 1899 - 1902. Privately published, Nylstroom; and
Roelf Odendaal (~2000): Noord-Transvaal op Kommando, 1899 – 1902. Privately published, Nylstroom. These two books describe in anecdotal detail, from a partisan burgher perspective, the involvement of the Waterberg and Zoutpansberg Kommando forces during the Anglo Boer War of 1899 – 1902, especially the guerilla phase of the conflict after June 1900. Important reference sources.

JL Breedt (ed) (1998): Waterberg Gedenkblad – ter herdanking van kerkgebou 1898 – 1998. Nederduitse Gereformerde Gemeente Waterberg, Nylstroom. The story of the founding and growth of the NGK community in the Waterberg, based in Nylstroom.

Anon (2005): Gedenkalbum, Waterberg Noord, Vaalwater, 1930 – 2005. NG Geemente, Vaalwater. The story of the creation of the Waterberg Noord NG community at a church built on the Melkrivier in 1930, with many interesting anecdotes from the area, not published elsewhere.


Capturing the Spoor, the Lazarus Funeral Parlour, Dongola to Mapungubwe

C C Callaghan (1993): The Geology of the Waterberg Group in the southern portion of the Waterberg Basin. Bulletin 104, Geological Survey, Council for Geoscience, Pretoria. The most recent geological report covering the whole of the Waterberg Plateau.; and an update on the definitive work, The Geology of the Waterberg Basins in the Transvaal, South Africa, by H Jansen, Memoir 71 (1982), Geological Survey, Pretoria.

Mark Berry & Mike Cadman (2007): Dongola to Mapungubwe: the 80-year battle to conserve the Limpopo Valley. Mmabolela Press, Swartwater, Limpopo. The story of the attempt to create a national park along the Limpopo Valley in the 1920s and its eventual realisation as the Limpopo Shashe Transfrontier Park in 2006.

Edward and Cathelijne Eastwood (2006): Capturing the Spoor: An exploration of southern African rock art. David Philip, Cape Town. This exquisitely illustrated and well-written book examines and interprets San rock art in great detail, using examples of rock art and engravings from the Limpopo valley, especially around Mapungubwe.

Pamela Oberem (2009): The Lazarus Funeral Parlour. Umuzi Press, Roggebaai. The well-known veterinarian puts aside her professional role to write an entertaining novel about morals, intrigue and scandal in a typical Waterberg town.


Recent additions


Welgevonden - An African Wilderness Reborn

Ian Finlay (2011):  Welgevonden: An African Wilderness Reborn. Firefinch Publications, Dublin. The author, a noted photographer and Welgevonden resident, has compiled a magnificent selection of images of the fauna and scenery of this iconic Waterberg reserve.


Stephanie Rohrbach (2013): Healing Rhinos and other souls: The Extraordinary Fortunes of a Bushveld Vet. Privately published.   
A warm and amusing account of the life of a beloved and highly regarded vet, the late Dr Walter Eschenburg, who spent most of a 50 year career working among domestic and wild animals in and around the Waterberg.


Written by Richard Wadley

August 2011