The Waterberg Biosphere Reserve

An exceptional and internationally recognised natural heritage

The Waterberg Biosphere Reserve - highlands landscape at sunrise - Vaalwater, Limpopo, Waterberg, South Africa [© 2009]

The seemingly impenetrable Waterberg Mountain Range covers 14,500 square km the equivalent of 80% of the Kruger National Park and is one of Limpopo's major mountain ranges.

The area surrounding the Waterberg Mountain Range is an immense storehouse of cultural, archaeological and biological diversity. It is a breathtakingly beautiful area that is well worth a visit for anyone who loves nature, history and cultural experiences.

To make it easy for visitors to explore this region, a dedicated group of individuals has, with the support of local and international funding, created an exciting number of routes within the Waterberg, called The Waterberg Meander.

Biodiversity is high on the agenda in the Waterberg, but sustainability can only be achieved through the commitment of all the stakeholders, no exception.

The Waterberg Biosphere Reserve - Lephalala river from view point - Lapalala wilderness, Vaalwater, Limpopo, Waterberg, South Africa [© 2009]

There are over 500 UNESCO-recognised biosphere reserves in the world spread over 100 countries and linked through the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. The Waterberg is one them since 2001, and the only savannah biosphere reserve in the world!

What is a biosphere reserve?

Biosphere reserves are areas of terrestrial and/or coastal ecosystems promoting solutions to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. They are internationally recognised, nominated by national governments and remain under sovereign jurisdiction of the states in which they are located.

Core functions of a bioshere reserve

A biosphere reserve is intended to fullfil 3 core functions, which are complementary and mutually reinforcing:

  1. conservation to contribute to the conservation of landscapes, ecosystems, species and genetic variation,
  2. economic development to foster economic and human development which is socio-culturally and ecologically sustainable,
  3. logistics to provide support for scientific reseach and education.

Promotion of the core functions

The core functions are being promoted in a substantive way through the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve's 3 main projects:

  1. management plan
  2. skills development initiative
  3. branding and promotion of the area as a eco-tourism destination

How is a biosphere reserve structured?

Biosphere reserves are organised in 3 interrelated zones:

  1. the core
  2. the buffer zone
  3. the transition zone

These zones are created in a way that they accommodate geographical conditions, socio-cultural settings, available legal protection measures and local constraints. This flexibility is one of the strongest advantages of the biosphere reserve concept, facilitating the integration of protected areas into a wider context.

About Biosphere Reserves

Structure and Partners

The Waterberg Biosphere Reserve is a Section 21 company and since 7 January 2010 a registered Non-Profit Organisation (NPO nr 074-684) that works in conjunction with local and international partners.

Biosphere Documents

Here you will find a range of important documents for the logistics and functioning of biosphere reserves

Waterberg Biosphere Today

In 2001 the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve recieved international status under UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere program in recognition of the area's considerable conservation value and support of a large range of stakeholders. Ten years later...


A synergy between the communities, tourism and government sectors