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Last updated : Nov 2009
Mpumalanga - TravelPuppy.com
Mpumalanga (the land of the rising sun) includes the highveld plains and mountains from Gauteng to the borders with Mozambique and Swaziland. This is 1 of the key tourist destinations in South Africa, home, with Limpopo, to the world famous Kruger National Park, a huge reserve the size of Wales and amid the best places in Africa to see the ‘Big Five’, as well as 1000's of other species. The park features a variety of accommodation, from camping (in fenced enclosures to keep lions out) to self catering huts and cottages.

Surrounding the park, in a series of linked game reserves called Sabie Sand, Klaserie, Manyeleti, Timbavati and the Umbabat, there are several private concessions, less crowded but significantly more expensive than the National Parks camps. These small, luxury camps provide guides and vehicles, and offer facilities such as night drives, walks and off road game spotting not allowed within the park proper. Since animals wander freely throughout the area, the game viewing is as good as in the main park.

The Escarpment

The other main area of significance to tourists is the escarpment just to the west of the Kruger boundary. This marks the edge of the African continental plateau with several remarkable mountains and plunging cliffs. The road along the rim of the escarpment provides stunning views of the landscape below, including The Pinnacle, a massive, free standing granite column, God’s Window, a viewing point over the Lowveld 1,000 metres (3,300 feet) below, Lisbon Falls and Berlin Falls.

It then turns to run along the rim of the Blyde Canyon (26 kilometres / 16 miles long and 350 metres to 800 metres / 1,050 feet to 2,400 feet deep), passing Bourke’s Luck Potholes, a series of bizarre rock formations created by the swirling action of pebble laden flood water. There is an impressive 5 day hiking trail along the canyon called the Blyderivierspoort Hiking Trail, beginning at God’s Window.

The surrounding area has many attractive market towns, such as Sabie, set against the backdrop of Mauchsberg and Mount Anderson, with an profusion of waterfalls and wild flowers, Graskop, a forestry village perched on a spur of the Drakensberg escarpment, and Pilgrim’s Rest, a gold rush town with several historic buildings. Nearby, the Mount Sheba Nature Reserve embraces 3,705 acres (1,500 hectare) of waterfalls and ravines. Nelspruit, the provincial capital, features the Lowveld National Botanical Gardens on the banks of the Crocodile River, focusing on Cycads, as well as other semi tropical Lowveld vegetation.

Limpopo (formerly Northern Province)

Limpop province is bordered by Zimbabwe and Botswana to the North and Mozambique to the east, and contains a large section of the Kruger National Park (see our Mpumalanga section). This northern section is usually drier and has far fewer tourists than the southern section but still has brilliant game viewing. Access to Limpopo is via the copper mining town of Phalaborwa, which has some interesting prehistoric sites, or Hoedspruit, home of the Cheetah Project and Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. Just west of the park, the Letaba area is a flourishing green farming district with rewarding walking, bird watching and riding amongst the tea plantations and Magoeboeskloof Mountains.

To the north of Letaba, near the Zimbabwe border, are Gazankulu and Venda, largely rural peasant communities renowned for arts and crafts. The mystical South African artist Jackson Hlungwane, who has pieces of his remarkable sculpture in European and South African galleries, is based here. This is also the home of the Rain Queen, said to have been Rider Haggard’s inspiration for She, and the Modjadji Forest, the world’s biggest collection of cycads (50 million year old palms).

In the west, the Waterberg mountains and the Soutpansberg provide brilliant opportunities for nature watching, hiking and riding, and there are many private game ranches in the area.

In the far south, near the Gauteng border, Warmbaths predictably contains warm mineral springs. In the centre of the province are Polokwane (formerly Pietersburg), the provincial capital, famous for the Potgietersrus, an attractive old Afrikaaner town, with a rare breeds breeding centre, and Bakone Malapa Museum.
Useful travel Links
Mpumalanga Mpumalanga tourism authority