Fly to Mpumalanga
Mpumalanga is the most spectacular of SA’s nine provinces. The scenery is jaw dropping, as you’d expect from a place that boasts a viewpoint called God’s Window. It’s a land of mountains, valleys and dramatic twisting roads, deep gorges and waterfalls and pretty old towns with delicious tea shops. Then, after all that, there’s the enormously impressive Kruger National Park. It’s a land of history and legends, with a name that means “the land of the rising sun” in Zulu and siSwati.
The Panorama Route delivers breathtaking views after every twist along the mountain roads. The route leads you to the Blyde River Canyon, one of the largest canyons in the world at 33km. What makes it so spectacular is lush foliage all the way down the steep slopes to an endless sea of green at the bottom. God’s Window is a highlight, a viewpoint with glorious vistas where cliffs plunge down 700m. The Three Rondavels are another landmark where the rocks have eroded away to leave three beehive-shaped pinnacles.
Another fabulous sight is Bourke’s Luck Potholes, where giant circles have been scoured out of the rocks over the millennium by swirling water where the Treur and Blyde Rivers meet. Walkways and bridges let you stand right above these weird formations. They’re named after Tom Burke, a gold digger who staked a claim nearby.
Graskop is the gateway to the Panorama Route and one of several pretty towns worth spending time in. Sabie is another great little town in which to base yourself. For waterfalls, you’re spoilt for choice with Lisbon Falls, Berlin Falls, Lone Creek Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Mac Mac Falls all within easy reach.
Pilgrim’s Rest is a preserved gold rush town dating back to the heady days of 1873. This is where the famous dog Jock of the Bushveld roamed with his master, and where prospectors, hookers, thieves and conmen congregated. The entire village was declared a National Monument in 1986. You can poke around the collection of old houses that have been turned into museums, bars, cafes and craft shops or stay overnight in the historic hotel.
The Kruger National Park has all the wildlife you could hope to see. Since it’s a vast place, it’s better to go on official game drive. Not only are you higher up in a proper game-viewing vehicle, but the rangers also keep in touch with each other and share tips on where the best animal sightings are. To really appreciate nature, try a guided walking safari. It’s not too gruelling and there’s something about seeing nature at eye level that’s far more intimate than from a vehicle.