Mpumalanga, [Zulu for] “the place where the sun rises”, formerly known as Eastern Transvaal, being in the eastern part of South Africa, borders Swaziland and Mozambique. It is one of South Africa’s top tourist destinations and a personal favorite of mine. Not only does the province have awe-inspiring scenery, its tribal legends and stories of the 1870s gold rush era are sure to keep any visitor engrossed.
While Cape Town with its Table Mountain, beaches, winelands and cosmopolitan city is probably the more popular must-visit destination in South Africa, local and international tourists should visit Mpumalanga and it should not be only because it embraces the south of the world-renowned Kruger National Park.
The Panorama Route in Mpumalanga, where the clouds are within reach, has spectacular landscapes and one of the world’s largest canyons. From the small town of Graskop to the Blyde River Canyon is one breathtaking view after another. It also has a wealth of plant, animal and bird life. It is truly a paradise country!
The province truly has a lot to offer, including bird-watching, hiking, horse-riding, and fishing. Personally though, my list of where to go/what to see and experience in Mpumalanga has the following:
• Blyde River Canyon (God’s Window, Pinnacle and Three Rondavels)
• Bourke’s Luck Potholes
• Echo Caves
• Falls – Lisbon, Berlin, Mac Mac
• Kruger National Park
• Pilgrim’s Rest – half an hour’s drive from Graskop
I would like to start off at Bourke’s Luck Potholes simply because I find it most interesting and spectacularly artistic although not man-made. I did enjoy the dip on the stream, too, although feet only. Named after Tom Bourke, a 19th-century gold rush prospector, these natural sculptures or giant potholes formed after centuries of river activity where the Blyde River (“River of Joy”) and Treur River (“River of Sorrow”) converge. The potholes are the starting point of the Blyde River Canyon.
Walk around, cross bridges, get your feet wet and take in the beauty and magnificence of Bourke’s Luck Potholes from various viewpoints.
PS: Please excuse me if I am a bit short on details especially on getting there. Being a local and having lived in Mpumalanga, going to the province even for a holiday, I may have the tendency to take some details for granted. But let me share with you how we, Joburgers, get there from the big city.
South Africans like to drive a lot. We even drive to Cape Town. We drive almost everywhere. We fly for business but we drive for our leisure trips. We will even drag a caravan with us. So, we get on to the N12 from Johannesburg or N4 from Pretoria. Both roads to Witbank/Middelburg are rather boring. If we’re not in a hurry, we will stop at the Ultra City in Middelburg, not far from the toll plaza. We will not stop again until we reach Nelspruit. Sometimes though, we stop at Waterval Boven just to appreciate the place.
I make Nespruit my first base because although I love the mountains and forests, I am a city girl and it’s a good transition for me before heading out to nature. There is another route that takes you straight to Sabie then to Graskop. If you’re like me and you’d like to spend a day or two in Nelspruit, since it’s a stone’s throw away from White River and from there, Sabie and Hazyview are a short distance drive. Like I said, we like to drive and I am no different. I take in everything as I drive slowly and experience as much as I can, pancakes and other local included.