Mpumalanga Travel Guide, South Africa / Kruger National Park / Nelspruit

South Africa

Tip For Trip - Mpumalanga

Mpumalanga – The Place Where The Sun Rises – epitomises every traveller’s dream of the true African experience. Located in the north-eastern part of South Africa, the province is bordered by Mozambique to the east and the Kingdom of Swaziland to the south and east. The climate and topography vary from cool highland grasslands at 1 600 m above sea level, through the middleveld and escarpment, to the subtropical Lowveld towards the Kruger National Park and many private game reserves. Scenic beauty, climate and wildlife, voted the most attractive features of South Africa, are found in abundance in this province. Attractions range from game viewing and birdwatching to scenic drives across the valleys and peaks of the vast Drakensberg escarpment, and include agritourism, industrial and adventure tourism and cultural experiences. Historical sites and villages, old wagon routes and monuments mark events and characters who passed this way in search of adventure and wealth. The cultural heritage of the province is varied and fascinating. The Ndebele beadwork and wallpainting in the north-west, the arts and crafts of the Lowveld and the different traditional villages throughout the province offer a unique insight into the people’s history.


Nelspruit is the capital of Mpumalanga and the commercial and administrative hub of the Lowveld. The Nelspruit Historical Trail is an hour-long route stretching from the Promenade Centre to the Civic Centre. The Blue Train runs between Pretoria and Nelspruit from May to September on a trip called the ‘Lowveld Experience’. Rovos Rail’s trains also travel to Nelspruit. The Green Heritage Hiking Trail in the Nelspruit Nature Reserve is one of several walks in the reserve and one of many in the region. Not to be missed is the Lowveld Botanical Garden, as well as the Reptile Park, the Sudwala caves, PR Owen Dinosaur Park, and the tranquil, town of White River. Well-known as an artists’ haven and a gateway to the Kruger National Park, White River also boasts an orange winery.


Barberton features many reminders of the early gold-rush era. Museums include Belhaven, Fernlea House and Stopforth House. The only known verdite deposits in the world are found in the rocks of the Barberton district. An annual Diggers Festival is held in September. The Blyderivierspoort Nature Reserve near Graskop is characterised by striking rock formations and a rich diversity of plants. Within the reserve, the Bourke’s Luck potholes were formed by river erosion and the action of flood water. The spectacular Blyde River Canyon is a 26 kmlong gorge carved out of the face of the escarpment, and is one of the natural wonders of Africa. The canyon is the third-largest in the worldbut the only green canyon, and hosts three rivers which feed the Blydepoort Dam at Swadini. God’s Window provides a magnificent panoramic view across miles of densely forested mountains, the green Lowveld and the canyon. The Blyderivierspoort Hiking Trail is one of the most popular in the country. A number of other hiking trails are also available. The southern section of the Kruger National Park, which is a major tourist attraction, falls within this region. Kaapsehoop is a quaint historical village known for the wild horses that frequent the district. Blue swallows are regular visitors from September to April. The Lydenburg Museum is situated in the Gustav Klingbiel Reserve, which is the site of archaeological ruins from the Later Iron Age. The Lydenburg heads, human-like masks dated to 500 AD, were discovered in this area. Sabie is the centre of the largest man-made forest in South Africa. The Cultural Historical Forestry Museum depicts various aspects of the country’s forestry industry. The Bridal Veil, Horseshoe and Lone Creek waterfalls, and Mac Mac pools and falls just outside Sabie, are well worth a visit. The 69-km Prospector’s Trail starts at the Mac Mac Forest Station and leads to Bourke’s Luck potholes. At the Montrose Falls in Schoemanskloof, the Crocodile River cascades 12 m into a series of rock pools. It is also the starting point of the annual Lowveld Crocodile Canoe Marathon, held in February. Pilgrim’s Rest is a living museum and a replica of the early gold- ining town. The Alanglade House Museum offers guided tours of the former minemanager’s house, while the Diggings Museum just outside the town arranges guided tours of goldpanning activities. This area was the setting for Jock of the Bushveld, the novel by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick about the experiences of a man and his dog as they shared adventures in the world of African gold-mining. The Dredzen Shop Museum features a range of items in use nearly a century ago. The Pilgrim’s Rest Festival is held annually in December. Mount Sheba Nature Reserve, south of Pilgrim’s Rest, is best known for its indigenous forest – one of few left in the region.

Highlands Meander

The Highlands Meander is a mecca for fly-fishers. It is in the placid and pristine waters of this region that one finds various stocks of fish, with trout as the major drawcard. The meander also offers numerous other activities. At the Verloren Vlei and Steenkampsberg nature reserves at Dullstroom, one can get a rare glimpse of the three endangered crane species (the blue, wattled and crowned cranes). The Loskop Dam Nature Reserve offers game watching, boating and fishing. A large number of hiking trails are available, such as the Elandskrans Trail, which includes a 30-minute train ride between Waterval-Boven and Waterval-Onder.

Cultural Heartland

Visitors to the Cultural Heartland can immerse themselves in the true cultural heritage of Mpumalanga. Here, one can learn about the proud and welcoming Ndebele people, revered for the striking and colourful geometric patterns on their houses, clothing and beadwork. This region also has illuminating historical sites such as the Botshabelo Historical Village, near Middelburg.

Cosmos Country

Cosmos Country covers parts of what is known as the energy belt of Mpumalanga, which is home to a number of power stations. This region also boasts the world’s largest underground coal-mining complex and the Sasol plant renowned for its technology of extracting oil from coal. The carpet of cosmos flowers that blossoms in late summer lures visitors to this region.

Wild Frontier

Various archaeological discoveries dating back almost three billion years were made in the imposing mountains of this region. Visitors to this region enjoy a rare glimpse of the inimitable San paintings embossed in some rocks. The region also holds rich historical sentiments centered around the monument of the late Mozambican President Samora Machel, constructed in the village of Mbuzini. The year 2006 saw the 20th anniversary of Machel’s death in an aircraft crash. Due to their proximity to this region, visitors have the opportunity to visit Swaziland and Mozambique in a short space of time.

Grass and Wetlands

Grass and Wetlands is a paradise, with its variety of bird species. This region stretches across the deep valleys and mountains of the east where thermal springs bubble to the surface. There are 270 pans and lakes within a 20-km radius of Lake Chrissie. In this region, visitors can take part in the unusual ‘frogging expedition’ or simply gaze at the stars during ‘star-gazing weekends’.

Mpumalanga Map Groblersdal Grass & Wetlands Cosmos Country Limpopo Province Map Cultural Heartland Kruger National Park Map Dullstroom Lyndenburg The Panorama Pilgrims Rest Graskop Hazyview Skukuza South Kruger Park Map Komatipoort Nelspruit Sabie Wakkerstroom Barberton Wild Frontier Machadodorp Highlands Meander Gauteng Map Kwazulu Natal Pretoria N4 N12 N4 N4 N1 Standerton White River Waterval Boven Bethal Ermelo Piet Retief Mbabane

Copyright (c)2007,