Mpumalanga is by far one of my favourite destinations in South Africa. If you considering a self drive vacation for you and your family/friends, it has so much to offer. And in my opinion, it is South Africa’s best kept secret.
We embarked on our journey mid-April for 10 days. Autumn in South Africa is perfect for travelling as it is warm but not too hot and there is minimal rainfall.
Travelling from Johannesburg to Hazyview, we drove through Dullstroom and here we stopped for lunch. Dullstroom is a quaint little town in the highlands with a few shops and restaurants. The town is also known for trout fishing and a popular weekend getaway for locals due to its close proximity to Johannesburg. After a quick lunch we headed for Sabie en route to Hazyview.
The journey to Sabie takes you through Long Tom pass which offered the most breathtaking views. I looked out the window in amazement charmed by the beauty of our country. At the top of the mountain pass, you can find the cannon named The Long Tom which is an important part of South African history.
We reached the town of Sabie late afternoon. The town was started when gold was discovered there but its incredible waterfalls and scenery make it that much more special. There are quite a few waterfalls worth seeing except some of them are only accessible via untarred road. I recommend a motor vehicle with high clearance if you wish to see them all. There is a minimal entrance fee and a short walk (between 5 and 15 minutes) to the falls.
Unfortunately we were unable to find suitable accommodation in Sabie so we made Perry Bridge Hollow Boutique Hotel in Hazyview our home for a few nights. The hotel is perfectly positioned between the Kruger National Park and the Panorama route. It offers a tranquil setting and luxurious 4 star accommodation. Tours can be booked through concierge however we preferred to self-drive.
We returned to Sabie the next morning to visit the remaining waterfalls in and around the area. Among my favourites were Lone Creek Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Horseshoe Falls. As the name suggests, the latter is shaped like a horseshoe and the falls have been declared a national monument. Lone Creek Falls is approximately 68m high and possibly the most popular of all the falls in this area. Access to Bridal Veil Falls is about 1km through an easy footpath surrounded by bush scenery. I recommend that you use closed walking shoes as it is muddy and slippery near the falls. Carry a hat, water, camera and use mosquito repellent.
After all that sightseeing, we stopped for a picnic at Mac Mac Pools. Its crystal clear water is very inviting especially on a hot day. Pack your bathing costume if you wish to swim or just cool off.
Mac Mac Falls is a short drive from the pools, with a view of the falls from above. The name ‘Mac Mac’ comes from the common name of some of the Scottish miners which started with ‘Mac’.
We happen to find the Natural Rock Bridge en route to Graskop. Park at the curio stalls, follow the path and listen out for the gushing water.
For lunch we headed to the famous Harrie’s Pancakes – about a 30min drive away from Sabie. There was a short queue but we were seated fairly quickly. The pancakes were soft, fluffy and just delicious. It is a must try!
After a hearty lunch, we hiked through the rain forest at Gods Window. Make sure you wear good shoes and sunscreen. Carry your camera and a few refreshments as the hike is tiring. Gods Window offers great lookout points and magnificent scenery – its name so fitting.
We also visited Wonderview which is a short distance from God’s Window as well as Pinnacle Rock. After a long day of sightseeing we headed back to our hotel in Hazyview via Kowyns pass. This is another spectacular pass in the Mpumalanga area boasting trees and forests. Whilst it offered the most amazing views it felt like an obstacle course trying to avoid the potholes.
On day three of our journey, Pilgrims Rest was first on our itinerary. Pilgrims Rest is a small town in Mpumalanga which was declared a gold field in the 1800’s. The town expanded due to a rush of prospective miners. You may want to plan your visit in time for the tour of the town.
Next we headed to Graskop to see the famous Lisbon Falls which is the highest falls in Mpumalanga. This waterfall is absolutely breathtaking surrounded by what seems like a thousand hills. Close to Lisbon Falls you can also find Berlin Falls – both falls named by the gold miners who flocked to South Africa during the gold rush.
If you are travelling to Bourke’s Luck Potholes, make sure you have enough padkos/lunch as there aren’t many shops/restaurants on the way. Unfortunately we didn’t come prepared but it seemed like a very popular spot for picnics and braai’s. Along the way, you can find a viewpoint of the second largest canyon in Africa and the third largest canyon in the world, Blyde River Canyon. Be sure to check it out.
That night we stayed at Blyde Canyon, Forever Resort in a self catering chalet. The accommodation is very basic but affordable. The resorts most prized possession is its location which offer unfettered views of the Three Rondavels.
For the shopaholics on the trip, there are curio stalls at each attraction which offer a variety of handmade goods. Please don’t feel shy to bargain and support the local communities. Also, word of caution – don’t count on finding the same goods at the next attraction.
The best part of our journey was yet to come through another beautiful pass in Mpumalanga, Abel Erasmus Pass, three nights at a luxurious bush lodge and our first visit to the Kruger National Park. Part 2 of this amazing journey to follow.