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Mpumalanga Accommodation

Sub-tropical Mpumalanga, meaning “the place where the sun rises”, covers 79 490 square km and is bounded by the Kruger National Park, Swaziland and Mozambique to the east and the spectacular Drakensberg mountains to the west. Mpumalanga is a region of contrasts. Highveld grasslands dominate the western border with Gauteng, moving eastwards through bushveld to the Greater Escarpment, which overlooks the lowveld and the Kruger National Park. The wildlife, birds and plant life are all truly representative of Africa, and the scenery is majestic and endless. The region's attractions include game-viewing, scenic drives, and historical sites and monuments.

The Kruger National Park, spreading over an area of nearly 2 million hectare, contains a large variety of wildlife including buffalo, elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, cheetah and giraffe. There are many rest camps in the Park, air-conditioned accommodation being provided in rondavels and cottages. Most of the camps have licensed restaurants and shops where fresh provisions may be obtained. There are also several hiking trails within the Park. Reservations should be made well in advance with SA National Parks. There are a number of private game reserves situated on the western and southern sides of the Kruger National Park, including the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. These offer day and night guided tours by experienced game-rangers in open Land Rovers. Most of these reserves offer luxury accommodation.

The Sabi Sand Game Reserve, a 65 000 hectare wildlife sanctuary, is made up of an association of freehold landowners. The land is unfenced between the landowners, and the animals are free to roam unhindered through the conservancy. The reserve shares a 50km unfenced boundary with the Kruger National Park in the east. Two perennial rivers, the Sand and the Sabie, provide the reserve with a valuable water supply, ensuring that the area enjoys one of the most bio-diverse wildlife populations in Africa. The Sabi Sand Game Reserve contains numerous private, luxury lodges, often still owned by descendants of the original pioneers of the association.

South Africa's foremost trout-fishing destination, set high on the temperate Mpumalanga escarpment, is contained by the area formed by the towns of Ohrigstad, Lydenburg, Montrose, Machadodorp, Belfast and Dullstroom. Ohrigstad, where the remains of a Voortrekker cemetery and an old fort may still be seen, was founded as a Voortrekker settlement, which was subsequently abandoned because of malaria epidemics. Lydenberg can be reached from Sabie via the scenic Long Tom Pass, one of the highest passes in South Africa. There are trout fisheries on the outskirts of the town. The town has two National Monuments, the old school on the corner of Church and Kantoor Streets, which was built in 1851, and the powder magazine in Viljoen Street, dating back to 1884.

Dullstroom's village and farm environment offers the ideal opportunity for visitors to experience beautiful natural surroundings, including tranquil trout waters, horse-riding, bird-watching or engaging in the vast variety of nature-related activities. Children of all ages are welcomed into establishments - even the pubs are family (and dog) friendly. The Montrose Falls, situated on the road between Machadadorp and Nelspruit, are surrounded by attractive indigenous vegetation. There are picnic spots along the river and steps have been cut so that a view can be obtained of the Crocodile River plunging over the falls. The ZASM Tunnel was built by the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek in 1892/3, linking Pretoria to Maputo in order to make the Republic independent of the surrounding British colonies.

The Elands River Falls are close to the abandoned tunnel where part of the original track is still visible. The Sudwala Caves contain a large number of dolomite chambers decorated with a variety of speleothems, stalagmites and stalactites. The main cavern is a subterranean amphitheatre, nearly 70m in diameter, which has a dolomite dome 37m high. The acoustics are excellent and choral recordings have been made in this chamber. Dinosaur Park, which is sited next to the Caves, has life-size replicas of prehistoric animals sited among indigenous vegetation.

The Cultural Heartland, home to the Ndebele people, noted for their artistic talents, offers a variety of tourist destinations. The three nature reserves, Mabusa, Mdala and Mkhombo offer some of the finest trails in the region. Further east the Loskop Dam Nature Reserve is a popular week-end destination. Nearby the Botshabelo Cultural Village and Mission Station is one of the prime attractions in the region. Further south are the important mining and industrial towns of Middelburg and Witbank. There are excellent hunting lodges in the Groblersdal and Marble Hall agricultural areas.

Cosmos Country, the important industrial, agricultural and mining region is located to the south-east of Gauteng, offering easy week-end access to visitors. The Grootdraai Dam is a popular watersports destination. A number of South Africa's most important rivers, including the Vaal River, rise here. The town of Secunda, known for its vast fuel from coal plant, dominates the economy of the region.

The highland grass and wetlands of Mpumalanga are of international significance as birding sites. A number of rare and endemic species attract visitors from all over the world. The village of Wakkerstroom, in the south, is one of the principal birding sites. The area offers adventure activities in the form of trout-fishing, mountain-biking and hang-gliding. In the north, the pans surrounding Chrissiesmeer attract flamingo and other water bird species.

The Panorama Route: Blyderivierspoort Nature Reserve lies to the north of Graskop and is a narrow strip, which runs for approximately 57km along the Drakensberg escarpment. It contains one of the great scenic wonders of Southern Africa, the Blyde River Canyon, which is 60km long and is the third largest canyon in the world. Unlike the Fish River Canyon in Namibia and the Grand Canyon in America, it is filled with lush vegetation and wildlife. There are a number of viewpoints along the edge of the escarpment offering excellent views of the Canyon and the river 600m below. Bourke's Luck Potholes were named after Tom Bourke who discovered gold here at the confluence of the Treur and Blyde rivers. The potholes are deep cylindrical holes formed by the action of the sand and rock carried down by the rivers when in flood. Visitors can obtain a close view of the potholes from specially constructed bridges. God's Window, on the edge of the escarpment, offers magnificent views across the Blyde River Canyon and the Lowveld. The Kruger National Park and the mountains to the west can be seen in the distance. It is also the starting point of the Blyderivierspoort Hiking Trail which runs through to Swadini. Pinnacle Rock in the southern part of the Blyderivierspoort Reserve is a large protruding column of granite rising 30m above the dense indigenous forest. The Berlin Falls can be reached by means of a path along the river where the water from the Berlin Creek falls 150m into a large pool. The Lisbon Falls are at the point where the Blyde River splits and large pools are formed before the water cascades over the sheer cliff to a pool 92m below.

Pilgrim's Rest, a historic village which is now a National Monument, was established in 1873 when the first significant gold strike in South Africa was made in the area. Mining operations ceased in 1971. The Transvaal Provincial Administration purchased the village in 1974 and has restored the historic attractions of the old gold rush days. The original post office is now a museum. The local hotel, originally a chapel, which was transported from Maputo, contains many historical relics. The Mac Falls and the Mac Pools offers picnic and bray facilities. The pools form a natural swimming-pool. The name of the falls was derived from the town of Mac Mac, an old mining camp, so named because of the number of miners of Scottish descent. In the same area are the Forest Falls.

Sabie is the main town for the local forestry and mining industries and dates back to the gold rush days of the 1880s. The Sabie Falls are on the outskirts of the town. The Bridal Veil Falls are 5km north of the town of Sabie and are so-named due to the wide veil of water from the Bridal Veil Creek. The Lone Creek Falls are situated west of Sabie and can only be reached on foot. The Fanie Botha Hiking Trail covers a beautiful mountainous area with views of Mount Anderson and Mauchsberg. The J.C. Strijdom Tunnel, which is 132m long, is on the northern side of the Abel Erasmus Pass, which drops steeply to the Olifants River and the sub-tropical Lowveld. The Echo Caves, which once acted as a refuge for various African tribes, are dolomite caves where many tribal artefacts have been discovered. Many of these can be seen in the Museum of Man and the Art Gallery adjacent to the caves. The caves have six subterranean chambers containing stalagmites and stalactites.

The capital city, Nelspruit, on the R40, is an excellent departure point for visits to the many lowveld destinations. Nelspruit is situated in the fertile Crocodile River Valley, in the heart of the Lowveld. It was named after the Nel brothers in 1884 and proclaimed a town in 1905. Today it is the industrial hub of the Lowveld area and is the center to one of the largest citrus-producing areas in South Africa. The Nelspruit Falls are reached by walking through the National Botanical Gardens, which feature more than 700 naturally occurring species and 1 500 introduced species.

The atmosphere and scenic beauty of the lowveld is very evident along the banks of the Crocodile River, which borders the grounds on which the park is situated. The park is located between Nelspruit and the Riverside Mall and is a mere five minute drive from Nelspruit's business center. Facilities include a variety of attractions including the Turtle Pond, the Crocodile Pond and the Fish Pond, all linked by a cascading waterway. Next to the Crocodile Pond is the water monitor enclosure. The reptiles are housed in a terraquarium containing 88 glass enclosures, in which are displayed indigenous and exotic species. The Tropical House is offset from the terraquarium and features a nine metre high indoor waterfall. Live presentations are made in the demonstration pit at specified times.

Also on the R40 is the town of White River, which is known for its fine art and sculpture galleries, a famous silk factory, indigenous furniture manufacturers and restaurants. White River has a championship golf-course and is an ideal base for excursions on the Panorama Route and into the Kruger National Park, via Numbi Gate. Being at a slightly higher altitude than the rest of the Lowveld, White River offers respite from the stifling heat of summer.

The Wild Frontier, gateway to both Mozambique and Swaziland, borders on the southern reaches of the Kruger National Park and contains two entrance gates, one at Malelane and the other at Komatipoort. The historic mining town of Barberton is older than the city of Johannesburg. The town was founded in 1884 as a mining camp after the discovery of gold by the Barber brothers, after whom the town is named. South Africa's first stock exchange was located here. The museum houses many photographs and relics of the old gold-rush era, providing a wonderful insight into the early mining settlements of the region. Above the town, the scenic Bulembu Pass takes visitors high into the mountains on the road to Swaziland.

South Africa's Big Five - The term Big Five originated in the hunting jargon for the most dangerous trophy animals to hunt on foot. The Big Five occur in many of the game reserves in southern Africa. From a tourism perspective, the whale is often added to this list, forming the tourism “Big Six”, due to the world-class whale-watching opportunities that South Africa has to offer. Lions are the largest of the African cats and live in prides of varying sizes controlled by one or more dominant males. An adult male weighs about 180 kilograms and a female about 135 kilograms. Lions can live for up to 20 years. The lion's roar, normally heard at dawn and dusk, can be easily heard within a radius of many kilometres. The leopard is a shy predator that hunts mainly at night. Leopards prefer dense riverine areas and craggy hills, which explains why they are not easily spotted. They hide their prey from other predators in trees and are often seen resting in the branches of trees. Leopards are by nature wary and stealthy, yet can be incredibly bold. The rhinoceros is classified as either white or black, although there is no real colour difference between the species. White rhino are generally larger with a flattened or square mouth and feed on grass. The name "white" arises from the Dutch word "wid", meaning wide. Black rhino have a pointed mouth that they use to strip leaves and break twigs. Rhino weigh up to 1 500 kilograms. The rhino's horn is formed from matted hair and skin. Elephants live in tightly knit family herds, led by the matriarch. The bulls remain solitary or may join together to form bachelor herds. A fully grown elephant weighs 6 to 7 tonnes and they are the largest land-based mammals. When there are young elephants in the herd, the adult female may become very aggressive, and it is advisable to keep a safe distance from the herd. Buffalo are the most abundant of the Big Five and occur in large herds that can number up to 600 animals. Deceptively docile, these animals are aggressive and powerful, particularly the older bulls that have been rejected from the herd. These older bulls form smaller bachelor herds. When a herd of buffalo is alarmed, the herd tends to stampede. Buffalo are regularly preyed on by lions.

The world-renowned Kruger National Park offers a wildlife experience that ranks with the best in Africa. Best known for the 'Big Five' - Lion, Elephant, Leopard, Buffalo and Rhino - the Kruger Park...
The Sabi Sand Game Reserve, a 65 000 hectare wildlife sanctuary, is made up of an association of freehold landowners. The land is unfenced between the landowners, and the animals are free to roam...