Expediently dubbed South Africa’s adventure capital, Mpumalanga offers an array of activities ranging from, abseiling, white water river rafting, fly-fishing, paragliding, mountain biking, bungee jumping, hiking and 4×4 trails, to name a few.  The province is undoubtedly the ultimate in terms of wildlife experience. The Kruger National Park, the Sabi Sands private game reserve and other game reserves dotted throughout the province, offer an exhilarating and unequalled experience that brings visitors in close proximity to nature.

The Kruger Park boasts a conservancy area spanning two million hectares rich with flora and fauna. The Lowveld escarpment (Panorama Route) offers spectacular landscapes with attractions like the Blyde River Canyon (the third largest in the world), majestic waterfalls and high-altitude scenic drives leading to attractions like God’s Window, the Bourke’s Luck Potholes and the Three Rondavels.

The province also boasts a rich heritage, which is greatly unexplored. The myriad heritage sites include  the Samora Machel monument near Mbuzini, and the Makhonjwa Mountains in Barberton boasting rock formations dating back to more than 3,5 billion years. Other sites not to be missed are the mining village of Pilgrim’s Rest, the Highveld Heritage Route abound with adventurous tales into history, the stone circles of Mpumalanga, and Goliath’s Footprint, to name just a few.

Bird watchers can glimpse more than 500 different birds endemic in the Kruger Park or the Chrissiesmeer areas in the southern part of the province. The midveld offers trout fishing opportunities in pristine rivers and dams, with Dullstroom referred to as South Africa’s trout-fishing Mecca. The Ndebele culture in the Highveld region boasts icons like artist Sarah Mahlangu who have managed to preserve, package and export the colourful culture to international countries.  Mpumalanga is also an ideal golf destination with numerous world-class golf estates and courses that provide sheer enjoyment of the game in complete serenity.

Get off the beaten track and explore the wonderful   sights and experiences on offer. Visit www.mpumalanga.com for more information.

Makhonjwa Mountains World Heritage Site

The Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains were inscribed as a World Heritage site on 2 July 2018. The site comprises 40% of the Barberton Greenstone Belt, one of the world’s oldest geological structures. It represents the best-preserved succession of volcanic and sedimentary rock dating back 3.6 to 3.25 billion years, when the first continents were starting to form on the primitive earth.

It also features meteor-impact fallback breccia’s resulting from the impact of meteorites formed just after the Great Bombardment (4.6 to 3.8 billion years ago). Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains are South Africa’s 10th World Heritage site, and the first for Mpumalanga.

Geotrail – explore the surface of Earth 3.5 billion years ago.

The Geotrail allows you to step back in time and explore what the surface of our planet would have looked like 3.5 billion years ago. Before man, before the dinosaurs, when the first life forms were only beginning to appear, and the planet was a far more hostile place.

Along the route, you will see evidence of the first life visible to the naked eye, of superhot volcanoes, ancient tsunami’s and what could be the first land! It is impossible to overstate the importance of the Geotrail, as these rocks only occur in two places on earth and the other is totally inaccessible.

So, come and let the Geotrail reveal its secrets, take in the spectacular scenery and wildlife along the route and learn about life 3.5 billion years ago. The Geotrail starts just outside of Barberton at the intersection between the R40 and R38 and continues all the way along the R40 to the Swaziland border. There are 11 stops along the route, each with information boards. The route takes around five hours to do, so pack a picnic and make use of the picnic sites along the way. It is free for those doing a self-drive tour, the cost of guided tours varies.

 Explore Mpumalanga’s routes to independence – the Liberation Heritage route

The Liberation Heritage routes form part of the Mpumalanga chapter of the National Liberation Heritage Route, spearheaded by the Mpumalanga Department of Culture, Sports and Recreation, to map out, document and preserve Mpumalanga routes to independence. It highlights the key freedom fighters who fought against racial segregation as well as the destinations that featured prominently during the liberation struggle.

The Nkangala District Resistance and Liberation Route highlights four key towns and sites that were extensively involved in the anti-apartheid liberation struggle, which resulted in a peaceful transition to democracy in 1994. These include Delmas, Emalahleni, Botshabelo and Mapoch caves.

The Gert Sibande District Liberation and Heritage Route highlights six towns like Bethal, Daggakraal, Ermelo, Saul Mkhizeville (formerly Driefontein), Secunda and Volksrust. Although these are not the only sites within the province that were home to various freedom fighters involved in the grassroots liberation struggle. As more research continues to be conducted, other towns may be added within the route.

Detailed content highlighting each town and the various offerings in each place has been developed. This provides comprehensive information about the route, accommodation, attractions, maps and cities. The information will assist in planning your trip when visiting the attractions on these routes.

More information is available on www.mpumalanga.com, or you can download information from the Mpumalanga Travel Guide App available on Apple and Android phones.

 Visit the birthplace of renowned Ndebele artist, Dr Esther Mahlangu 

Known as the country’s national treasure for her incredible work, renowned artist Dr Esther Mahlangu was born in 1935 on a farm outside Middleburg, in what is now the Mpumalanga province. She was the first of nine children: six boys and three girls. Following traditions passed down from her mother and grandmother, she learned traditional Ndebele wall painting and beadwork as a child.

She became an expert in executing murals as a teenager, using a widening range of paint colours that emerged in the 1940s. She married and had three sons but lost her husband and two of her children. Between 1980 and 1991, she lived and worked at the Botshabelo Historical Village, an open-air museum of Ndebele culture.

After researchers from Paris saw the paintings on Mahlangu’s house in 1986, they invited her to create murals for an exhibition of international contemporary art called the Magicians of the World. In 1989, she flew   to France and lived there for two months and painted a house in front of thousands of spectators.  In February 2019, Mahlangu’s Ndebele Patterns sold for a whopping R91 040. She had previously donated her 2008 acrylic-on-canvas work for the benefit of a Soweto art project which was then valued at R35 000.

Have you ever … in Mpumalanga?

  • Hiked the Blyde River Canyon trails, through the deepest green canyon in the world?
  • Visited the cultural villages at Loopspruit, Botshabelo, Matsamo, Ebutsini and Shangana?
  • Visited the Samora Machel monument and museum at Mbuzini?
  • Birdwatched at Wakkerstroom, Chrissiesmere and the Southern Grasslands?
  • Rock climbed at Waterval Boven?
  • Explored the southern grasslands’ archaeological sites in Ermelo?
  • Photographed the sculptural wonder of the Bourke’s Luck Potholes?
  • Taken a historical gold mining tour of Pilgrim’s Rest and Barberton, or panned for gold?
  • Played golf at Skukuza in the Kruger National Park, or many other Mpumalanga golf courses?
  • Explored the Sudwala Caves, the oldest dolomite caves in the world?

Top 10 things you may not know about Mpumalanga

  1. South Africa’s first Stock Exchange was built in Barberton in 1884 during the gold rush.
  2. The world-renowned artist, Gerald Sekoto, was born at Botshabelo near Middelburg, on 9 December 1913.
  3. Makhonjwa Mountains in Barberton boast the oldest rock formations in the world dating back 3,5 billion years.
  4. By far the world’s largest underground coalmining complex is in Secunda, making Mpumalanga South Africa’s powerhouse.
  5. The Blyde River Canyon is the third largest canyon in the world and the largest green canyon.
  6. The Kruger National Park is 2 million hectares in size.
  7. South African icons, Ray Phiri, Marriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Zakes Nkosi, Lucky Dube and Rebecca Malope all hail from Mpumalanga.
  8. The Sudwala Caves are the oldest known dolomite caves in the world. The caves are approximately 2000 million years old.
  9. Pilgrim’s Rest was the second town in South Africa after Kimberly to be electrified. The electricity was generated from a hydro electrical plant in the Blyde River Canyon built in 1911.
  10. The giant footprint, otherwise known as the Goliath’s Footprint, embossed on a rock on a farm near Ermelo, is 1.8 metres long.

This article was published in partnership with Media Xpose.

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