When in Mpumalanga.
Meaning “place of the rising sun” Mpumalanga remains, in my opinion, one of the most underrated provinces in South Africa. From the abundance of wildlife, adrenaline pumping activities, to some of the most incredible panoramic views, waterfalls and the geographical, as well as cultural diversity, I found myself planning my next visit before this trip even had the chance to come to an end because there’s just way too much to experience, see and explore!
Where To Stay
Only 10 minutes out of White River and 15km from the Kruger Mpumalanga International airport (KMIA), overlooking the beautiful valley views of the Lowveld escarp, sits Alevi Farm Lodge. The farm, originally an old tobacco farm, is run by owner, Lizet, who managed to bring her dreams of creating a tranquil destination for both travelers and locals to life.
The eight en-suite bedrooms, all including comfortable queen size beds, showers and or bath, towels and luxury linen, a communal open plan Kitchen, living area and dining room makes Alevi the ideal spot for group getaways and can easily accommodate groups as large as 20 or more.
During the evenings you can look forward to fireside chats by the outdoor Boma or move inside to enjoy the in-house braai, TV facilities and bar. They also offer an amazing spa facility on site, with 6 treatment rooms and a bunch of treatment options to choose from, have a look over HERE.
WHAT TO DO
Go for a walk in the Lowveld National Botanical Garden.
One of the nine National Botanical Gardens of South Africa and situated just outside of Nelspruit’s town centre, The Lowveld Botanical Garden forms the meeting point between the Crocodile and Nels Rivers.
Home to the largest man-made African Rain Forest, 850 tree species, 242 bird species, 53 reptile species and 43 mammal species, it’s the perfect place to go if you’re looking to spend some time outdoors. Be sure to take a walk through every section of the garden, from the Dry Bushveld Plants Area, to the Cycads, Baobabs and onwards to the Nels River viewpoint with its view of the waterfalls. I also loved that they have a ‘Braille Trail’ which allows the blind to learn about the plants and animals in the garden and all of their routes are wheel-chair friendly.
I’ll leave all of the garden’s info HERE, which includes prices, operating hour, maps and visitor information.
Spend a day in the Kruger National Park.
The Kruger National Park needs no introduction. If you’re looking to take a day-trip through the park, I highly recommend booking in advance (over HERE) to skip the early-morning queues and to ensure you get in with the daily visitor limit. We entered through the Malelane Gate, drove on to Skukuza Rest Camp and exited through The Paul Kruger Gate. Stopping at the Afsaal picnic site for morning coffee and at the Skukuza Camp’s shop, which proved to be fully stocked for everyone’s snack and lunch needs, however there is a Cattle Baron Restaurant there as well if you’d prefer that. And remember to pack binoculars! We had one pair between four of us and I’m just going to spare you a family feud and recommend you take a pair each.
Take a drive along the Panorama Route.
We started in Nelspruit and drove all along the R539 towards the little town of Sabie. Past Sabie you’ll find the Mac Mac Falls, the first of many waterfalls along the Panorama Route, as well as the Mac Mac Pools, a perfect picnic spot for families. Continuing on through the landscape of seemingly endless pine trees, the third largest man-made forest in the world, soon reaching the Pilgrim’s Rest / Graskop T-junction. Going left takes you to the old mining town of Pilgrim’s Rest with origins dating back to 1873, it’s a must-see for history buffs. Graskop sits in the other direction, where you’ll find the ever-popular Harrie’s Pancakes and some cute little curio shops. If you’re keen on getting your heart racing, you’re going to want to stop at Graskop Gorge Lift Co. just outside of town, where you’ll find an array of adrenaline junkie-friendly activities at The Big Swing, a 68m freefall at 180km/h, or the “foefie slide”, overlooking the Graskop Falls and gorge , 130 meters above the ground.
Past Graskop, there are three main viewpoints to choose from, The Pinnacle, God’s Window and Wonder View. All offering incredible views over the grasslands of the Lowveld on the edge of the Mpumalanga Drakensberg escarpment.
After that it’s waterfall hopping with Lisbon Falls being the first on the list and at 92m it’s the highest waterfall in the region. Further along the route you’ll find Berlin Falls and Bourke’s Luck Potholes, which marks the beginning of the Blyde River Canyon as you enter the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve.