Most travellers who visit South Africa make sure they include a safari vacation in the iconic Kruger National Park on their itinerary. Home to Africa’s Big Five and a myriad other incredible species of wildlife, Kruger National Park is one of the country’s most visited attractions, but did you know that there are some other great things to see en route in Mpumalanga?
If you’re not staying in one of the luxury accommodations that boasts its own airstrip, you’re most likely going to be hiring a car and driving yourself to Kruger National Park’s Skukuza or Crocodile Bridge gates from Johannesburg.
As you traverse the province of Mpumalanga, also known as Paradise Country, you’ll see why it earned this nickname. You won’t regret adding a few days on either side of your safari vacation to see these top five attractions to visit en route to Kruger National Park.
Bourke’s Luck Potholes
Named after a gold digger, Tom Burke, who staked a nearby claim, these incredible potholes where the Treur River (river of sorrow) meets the Blyde River (river of joy) is the result of decades of swirling eddies of water, which have caused erosion over long periods of time.
These incredible, natural cylindrical phenomena draw thousands of tourists each year to marvel at the moon-like structures of varying hues of red and yellow. The colouring is due to the soil present in the water – in contrast with the dark water.
To get there, take the R532 north of Graskop and travel for approximately 35km until you reach Bourke’s Luck Potholes.
This prospecting village takes visitors back in time, capturing the essence of a bygone era when early settlers came to Mpumalanga on a quest to discover gold.
Pilgrim’s rest was founded in 1873 when prospectors flooded the region looking to make their fortune and strike gold during the famous gold rush of the 1870s. The largest gold nugget on record weighed in at 214 ounces, with rumours of larger ones being discovered that were never substantiated.
In 1986, the town of Pilgrim’s Rest was declared a National Monument and its integrity and heritage has since been preserved by historians, curators and architects in the town’s buildings and museums.
If you’re a history buff and have some time to spare, make sure you make a detour to visit this beautifully maintained historic town.
The breathtaking views across the Blyde River Canyon afford travellers the sight of the famous Three Rondavels. These round pointed mountain turrets are named after traditional African huts called “rondavels” made out of clay, reeds and other local materials.
The Three Rondavels are also sometimes referred to as ‘the chief and his three wives’, named after Mapjaneng, a famous warrior hailed for opposing the Swazis who were invading the area. The nearby flat-topped peak to the right is named after him, while the three rondavels are said to represent his troublesome wives, Magabolle, Mogoladikwe and Maseroto.
If you’re travelling to Kruger National Park, you can include a visit to these iconic geological formations on either the start or the end of your trip.
It only takes one look to understand why this incredible view was named ‘God’s Window.’ With some of the most breathtaking views across the Blyde River Canyon, cascading waterfalls, and incredible geological formations, God’s Window affords views down over the Lowveld into the lush, indigenous forest below.
The striking cliffs plunge more than 700m down into the picturesque canyon, creating one of the most exquisite and famous views in South Africa.
Blyde River Canyon
One of the largest canyons on earth, the Blyde River Canyon is one of Mpumalanga’s most popular attractions and forms part of the Drakensberg escarpment in the north. The canyon spans 50km along the lip of the escarpment and is said to be the site where the ancient supercontinent of Gondwanaland broke apart some 200 million years ago.
Travellers can marvel at magnificent views over the verdant canyon across to the Three Rondavels and spot the elusive Taita Falcon soaring overhead. There are also a number of scenic walks, hikes, horse riding and mountain biking trails for more active visitors to enjoy the sights of the canyon. Pack your camera and get ready to snap photos of one of the most beautiful attractions in South Africa.
Of course, these five attractions are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to exploring what Mpumalanga really has to offer in the way of attractions and activities.
Be sure to spend some time exploring the province on either side of your safari vacation in Kruger National Park. We promise you won’t be disappointed!