24 hours in… Mpumalanga

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Panorama Route

Mpumalanga province is known as the ‘Place of the Rising Sun’ and the ‘Panorama Route’. The route is one of the most scenic drives and passes by the Blyde River Canyon. The canyon is one of the largest canyons on Earth and the second largest on the African continent; it is 25 kilometres in length and 750 metres deep. The Canyon Adventure Centre offers activities such as kloofing, boat trips and hiking. Kloofing explores the Strijdom tunnel, caves and a hiking trail along a stream that leads to the Tufa Waterfall. The Blyde dam boat trips make for a great view of the canyon. The boat tour leads to the Kadishi Tufa Waterfall for a view of the sunset. The waterfall is tucked away at the end of the Blyde Dam, dropping 200 metres into the Blydepoort dam. The waterfall is one of a few tufa falls in the world. Along the route there is also God’s Window, where you get a good view of the province and on a clear day can see as far as the Kruger National Park or Mozambique. To soak up some luck, you can take a turn at the Bourke’s Luck Potholes. The potholes are a result of centuries of river flow which have carved rock pools into the river bed.

Sudwana Caves

The Sudwana Caves offer an adventure into the depths of the region’s history, by exploring the homes of prehistoric man (Homo habilis) who walked the earth 1.8 million years ago. You’re transported back to a time when the caves were used by a Swazi king’s rival brother Somquba as a hide out. This led to a lot of bloody battles being fought at the cave entrance. The caves got their name from Somquba’s chief (induna) Sudwana, who is said to have been the guardian of the caves. The caves’ role in modern history is nothing short of a treasure adventure. They featured in the second South African War between 1899 and 1902. They were suspected to have been used by President Kruger to hide gold bullion belonging to the Transvaal Republic. The treasure is said to have vanished between Waterval Onder and Nelspruit, where Kruger stayed until after the Battle of Bergendal.

Dullstroom

Dullstroom, also known as Emnothweni, is a small town in Mpumalanga known for its premier fly fishing. The town is said to be one of the coldest towns in South Africa and the only place where Beech and Elm trees grow. The town features the highest railway station in the country, at 2,077 metres above sea level. Highland Giant Estate in Dullstroom has nine dams spreading over 500 hectares of the estate. They offer fly fishing for amateur and professional fishers. Most farm guest houses cater for anglers and although the town’s temperatures plummet in winter, trout love it and fishers know this. If you are looking for a place of serenity, fishing and farm life then Dullstroom is the perfect stop.

Lowveld National Botanical Gardens

Situated outside Mbombela, the Lowveld National Botanical Gardens is one of nine national botanical gardens in South Africa. The character of the garden is shaped by the two rivers that converge into it. The Crocodile and the Nels Rivers form waterfalls that can be viewed at the Cascades or Nels viewpoints. Dubbed the ‘African Rain Forest’, the Lowveld Botanical Gardens offers a chance to cross the Crocodile River using the suspended bridge that also has a great view of the cascading waterfall. The garden is known for its establishment of the cycad gene bank and conservation of rare endangered species. The forest has vegetation from the Coastal Belt and the Limpopo Province. In addition to the garden’s large collection of fig trees, there is also a collection of 2,000 plant species and South African coastal species. The plants represent the disappearing tropical forests of central and western Africa.

Rich History of Barberton

The small town of Barberton originated in the 1880s, during the province’s gold rush. It is fringed by mountains in the De Kaap Valley, and makes for a quiet getaway for non-thrill seekers. The Barberton Greenstone-Belt encases traces of early earth and has drawn scientists from near and far. There is also the Bray’s Golden Quarry tour, which will take you back to what was claimed to be one of the world’s wonders. The Golden Quarry earned its name because when it was discovered by Edwin Bray the stone looked as though it was made entirely of gold. Dusty Tracks offers tours of all the mines in the Barberton area, which include the Shiba Mines. Shiba Mines are said to be the oldest and richest mines still in operation. Accommodation in the area ranges from self-catering lodges to three-star hotels and guest houses. The Cradle of Life accommodation is set among disused quarries and old volcanic rock, with thatched cottages designed to accommodate four people. Each cottage has a view of the distant Drakensberg mountains.