Mpumalanga, South Africa
Lowveld Legogote: Sudwala Caves and Nelspruit
One of the best attractions in the province is in the lowveld region near the provincial capital city of Nelspruit.
The Sudwala Caves are said to be the oldest known caves in the world. The formations have been formed from 3000 year old dolomite that is part of the escarpment of the Drakensberg Mountains. Some of the fossils that have been found are some of the first oxygen producing plant life on earth. There are many tours that you can go on and the standard tour takes you 150 meters underground and 600 meters into the caves. The Crystal Tour is one of the most popular taking you 2000 meters into the cave where you can see the aragonite crystal displays. In and around the caves you will find great accommodation and Nelspuit offers luxury hotels, great shopping malls, cinemas and much more. It also borders the Kruger National Park and is close to the airport. Some places to stay are The Palms Guest House, Hippo Water Front, Kilarny Farm House, Sheppard Boutique Hotel and Shandon Lodge.
Cosmos Country: Gold and Coal
This part of the province is stunning during the late summer as the bright pink cosmos flowers cover the countryside. This area is also famed for being the only place in the world to mine both coal and gold. It is also the only place in the world where coal is made into petrol commercially. This area borders on Gauteng and the Free State Provinces and has plenty to offer visitors including various tours of the mines, a large casino and an annual potato festival in Bethal where you can take tours of the ancient farms.
Highlands Meander: Nature Lover’s Paradise
This area is revered for its excellent fly fishing conditions, especially at Dullstroom. Here you can also fish for trout in the many farms and the quaint towns provide a peaceful place to getaway from it all in comfort and style. This area is home of some of the rarest bird life on the sub continent and also to the only breeding group of wild black leopard. The Verloren Valei Nature Reserve is a great place to visit and here is the only habitat in the world where the three most endangered species of Crane are kept, namely the Blue Crane (SA’s national bird), the Crowned Crane and the Wattled Crane. It has been named one of the international RAMSAR wetlands areas.
Anglo Boer War History
Much of the area here along the border is where battles where fought between the British and Boer troops during the Anglo Boer War as they vied for control of the main line to Delgoa Bay. Paul Kruger lived along this route before being exiled and you can learn more about the battles by taking a ride on the steam train, the Oosterlyjin Express, as it retraces his steps along the battleground.
The Panorama: The Blyde River Canyon
In the most breathtaking part of the province at the edge of the Drakensberg escarpment you will find the third largest canyon in the world, the Blyde River Canyon. This massive spectacle covering 33 kilometers in length starts at what are called Bourke’s Luck Potholes and it ends at the Three Rondavels. The Potholes are interestingly shaped, swirl-like rock formations that were developed by erosions over millions of year ago.
Some of the potholes are 6 meters deep and can be seen via several Bourke’s Luck walking trails. Along the canyon you can see other attractions like God’s Window. This is a stunning vantage point where the vertical cliffs give way to the most scenic view over the entire lowveld area. The Three Rondavels form near the end of the gorge and are reminiscent of the circular huts that the local tribes of Ndebele people live in. There are plenty of wildlife along the river and at the Blyde Dam including crocodiles, hippos, zebra, antelope, wildebeest, and more. As far as activities go, this place is perfect for hot air ballooning, white water rafting (in certain parts), 4×4 trails, bungee jumping, gold panning and more.
Vhembe Region: The Kruger National Park
There are 54 reserves of provincial status in the Limpopo as well as various private game ranches, resorts, lodges and more. Limpopo is recognized as the Province of Peace and people come here to be one with nature and enjoy the splendors of attractions such as the Kruger National Park. The Kruger Park was founded by Paul Kruger and is made up of various main rest camps and secondary campsites throughout a 2 million hectare reserve.
The larger, more tourist friendly camp site are Skukuza, Orpen, Pretoriuskop, Satara, Letaba, Punda Maria, Olifants, Berg-en-Dal, Lower Sabie Mopani, Shingwedzi, Crocodile Bridge and Tsendze. These rest camps have more comfortable suites and bungalows, as well as luxury guest houses, some with en suite bathrooms. You also have restaurant and café facilities as well as curio shops and supply stores at most of them. Be warned that when you enter the Kruger Park in your own vehicle that you will have to have a map to find your way to your camp site and to enjoy your journey through the park. The camps close at a certain time and make sure you have enough time to get there. You must also remember to never get out of your car because the animals are completely wild. Also try to keep your windows closed in case of inquisative baboons and strange insects that might fly in.
There are many great watering holes that are sometime the best places to spot animals as they come to drink and cool off. If you are driving around, drive slowly as you might miss rhino hiding far into the thick bush or a lion as he lies camouflaged in the grass. To really enjoy what the Kruger Park has to offer, you can join in some game drives where the trained and armed rangers will show you the best game viewing spots as you ride in open vehicles. Make sure you wear insect repellent and sunscreen. If you are staying at one of the private camps on the border of the park you will have to pay a daily tariff to come inside. Sometimes this can be a more suitable option if you prefer to have more privacy and luxury on your bushveld experience. To get the best game viewing opportunity, go when it is cooler, like first thing in the morning (cue before the gates open) or later in the afternoon.
This region of the Limpopo is rich in culture and history and offers brilliant eco tourism. Here is where you will find the massive salt pans that have formed at the end of the Soutpansberg Range. There is also ancestral folklore and myths surrounding this area and the massive Baobab trees and Mopane trees dominate the scenery. With the border of the Limpopo valley stretching into Zimbabwe, you also find a World Heritage Site with ancient ruins of the first people in this region, the Dzata along with a holy forest and sacred lake. The Tropic of Capricorn runs through the province in this area and the Ivory Route is a popular eco-adventure. With the great Limpopo River running through this area there is also the largest concentration of wildlife and natural vegetation that has been totally untouched. This part of the country also borders with Botswana and there are plans to create a Trans-border park that will encompass all three countries.
Bohlabela Region: Timbavati
Timbavati Private Game Reserve was established in 1959 and was made to be the most natural of all reserves that still offered the viewing of the Big Five. This area adjoining the Kruger National Park is home to elephants, leopards, buffalo, rhino, cheetah, antelope, monkeys, birds, reptiles, insects, warthogs, buffalo, crocodile and of course the famed lions. The White Lions of Timbavati became a world famous tourist attraction and was caused by a certain recessive gene. There are no white lions any longer, but parts of the gene are still seen in the prides as they are by comparison paler than other lions. For an unforgettable trip, there are impressive and luxurious camp sights and lodges in the park.
Southern Region: Attractions
This area is teeming with activities ranging from off road adventure seeking expeditions, to golf on pristine courses. You can find great game / bird viewing, fishing and family camping areas like the Bloemhof Dame Reserve, Boskop Dam Reserve and the Wolwespruit Nature Reserve and the Vaal River offers some great white water rafting, canoeing and fly fishing. There are also places to abseil, hike, and mountain bike. This area is filled with vast sunflower fields and is one the most pleasurable placed to visit. An interesting place to visit is the Vredefort Dome which was created by a meteorite over 3000 years ago. From the air you can clearly see the ring of mountains that form the crust of the 70km diameter crater. It is about 18km deep.
Central Region: Attractions
Mafikeng, the capital of the province is found here and is known as the Province of Goodwill. There are amazing luxury hotels and resorts here offering all the best facilities. There is game viewing here, as well as hunting, fishing and sporting, shopping and gaming and historic places to visit like the Anglo Boer War Monuments. Some of the places where you can view the Big Five along with other animals are the Mafikeng Game Reserve, Botsalano Game Reserve, Henk Joubert Game Reserve and the Lichtenberg Game Breeding Center. For sports and culture try out the Leopard Park Golf Course or the Kortkloof Cultural Village. Cookes Lake is a perfect camping spot for caravans and campers and you can picnic, fish and go for game drives in one of the reserves.
Bojanala Rustenburg Region: Magaliesberg
Close to Johannesburg you will find the Magaliesburg region of the North West Province. This is the place where the urban dweller comes to feel free in the open plains. The many activities that you can do include water sports, hang gliding, mountain sports, parasailing, hiking, abseiling, angling, hot air ballooning, yachting and going up the cable way. The Cradle of Humankind also falls into this area with many Stone Age and Iron Age remnants having been discovered here. The mountain range of the Magaliesberg also surrounds the Hartebeespoort Dam which is one of the most popular holiday destinations for locals and internationals. There are great timeshare opportunities and holiday homes here as well as resorts where fishing, para sailing, water skiing and jet skiing are favorite pastimes. In this location there is also a great snake park, zoo and aquarium, golf courses, craft and arts routes and more.
Lost City Sun City Resort and Casino Complex
Only 2 hours away from the center of Johannesburg you will reach the largest casino complex in the country – Sun City. This was also the first casino to be built and offers plenty of fun and entertainment for all. There is accommodation, restaurants, kids shows and camps, parties, bars, games, adult shows, shops, world class casino halls, international concerts in the 2000 seater Superbowl and tons more. A later addition to Sun City was the adventure playground of the Lost City.
This themed aqua fun park has its own sea called the Valley of the Waves with the waves begin made by a machine. There is the Bridge of Time leading into the Monkey Spring Plaza for shopping, but as you go through Kong Gates, beware as the bridge moves and shakes with a volcano eruption. There are water slides of all shapes and sizes such as the Temple of Courage which drops you 17 meters down a 70 meter chute under and bridge and into a pool at the end. There are rides like the Tarantula and Scorpion which are slide and the Mumba and Viper are water slides in floating tubes. When it comes to sports this is definitely the place to be with 2 of the best championship golf courses in the world, the Gary Player Golf Course and the Lost Coty Golf Course with 20 real Nile crocodiles. Other sports include clay pigeon shooting, quad biking, archery and drumming. You can also fly off in a helicopter, visit butterfly world, check out the crocodile sanctuary, go horse riding or zip sliding.
When you come to stay here you can choose from various accommodation options. The family orientated hotel is the Cabanas with restaurant facilities and a pool as well as lots of games. There are bumper cars, putt putt, mini car racing, trampolines, bumper boats and steam train rides. You can also leave your kids in the capable hands of the Kamp Kwena Fort crew. They organize fun and games for children between the ages of 4 and 12 while you go shopping, or exploring. They also offer evening courses and social activities for older children and teenagers.
The Sun City Hotel is also for children and they have a separate pool for them with a lifeguard on duty all day. The Sun City Theater is near here with shops, jogging and cycling trails, and bars and pubs. The Cascades Hotel is perhaps the most well known and it is the one with the most luxury and romance, perfect for honeymooners. There is a heated pool, aviary, tennis courts, squash courts, and even spinning studios. At the Lost City your premier hotel is The Palace at the Lost City. This is considered to be one of the best hotels in the world and is lavishly decorated in African tribal themes with specially crafted furniture and interesting architecture for a magical vacation.
Pilansberg Game Reserve
Set in an extinct volcanic crater, this game park offers the Big Five on a much closer scale. You can stay at stylish lodges and enjoy gorgeous sunsets while looking out into the bush. Here there are many game drives and tours where you can actually walk into the reserve with armed ranger guides to see and touch the solidified, ancient lava rocks. There are certain picnic spots and open game drives at sunset are most enjoyable. The unique overlap of terrain makes this one of the best places to see many different animal species in one area. Aside from the Big Five you can see giraffe, zebra, buck, warthog, brown hyena, monkeys, hippo, crocodile, and plenty of birds.