Blyde River Canyon is the greenest canyon in the world
I lived in the United States of America when it was a lot more united than what it is now. What amazed me is that if enough people said something, it had to be true by definition because everyone said so. A perfect example of it being the Grand Canyon.


Yes, Grand, I am not taking away from the fact that it is big, however, is it grander than others? How do we determine Grand? By depth, height, average height, height above sea level, length, width? I think you understand where I am going with this.

So if you wanted to visit the Grand Canyon, it would take you about two days travelling time flying from South Africa to New York and a further five hours to Las Vegas at the cost of R16,000 per person. Once there, it would take you two hours driving time to get to your destination. By now you will be thinking: If I do not look over the edge and see the centre of the earth with pulsating lava, I am going to be upset and annoyed.

Sadly, most people in the world have never heard of the world’s largest canyon regarding depth and length - the Tsangpo Canyon in Tibet. Being longer than the Grand Canyon in the US, this canyon in Tibet is also at 5.5kilometres, the deepest canyon.

However, this is irrelevant because not enough people think it is the grandest canyon.

Those who do matter, will tell you that the Grand Canyon is “huge’ and that it is the best, biggest, the largest canyon in the world. Like Tibet, South Africa also has a little-known canyon with magnificent scenery and spectacular views known as the Blyde River Canyon in Mpumalanga.

The Blyde River Canyon in the Lowveld may not be the “hugest” on the planet. However, it is the greenest. This canyon is an impressive 750m deep and 26km long with some of the cliff faces being over 700m high. Views stretch to the Mozambique coastline.

In the base of the canyon is the Blyde Dam where an abundance of animals and tropical plant life can be found and is home to hippos, crocodiles and troops of monkeys. The deepest part of the canyon is 1.3km.

The canyon is a very special habitat for raptors such as the Cape vultures and Black, Crowned Martial and African Fish eagles which nest in the cliff faces. The peregrine and the rare Taita Falcon can also be admired here along with the much sought after Narina Trogon and a host of owls, such as Pel’s Fishing Owl and the Cape Eagle Owl.

Large areas of high-altitude Afro-temperate forest are located in the valleys of the Blyde River Canyon where a tree can reach over 40m in height.

From Johannesburg, it takes about five-and-a-half hours to arrive at this spectacular region of South Africa where many places of interest and exciting activities await. Visitors will not find themselves in a position where, after admiring the endless view, they look at each other and say: now what?

The list of activities on offer is endless. The Panorama Route includes the scenic area of God’s Window which is famous for its breathtaking vistas. The horizon lies in the far distance and, on a clear day, one can see the blue hue of the Indian Ocean in Mozambique.

The Three Rondavels is a fantastic rock formation on the eastern side of the Blyde River Canyon. This site is popular as it gives a spectacular vista over the unusual rock formation and the canyon with its sky blue lake at the bottom.

The famous Burke’s Luck Potholes are a not-to-be-missed attraction where the water has carved large inter-leading circular pools and water cascades from one pool to the other. A stop in the quaint town of Pilgrims Rest, an old mining town, is rewarding.

The famous Burke’s Luck Potholes.
The historic mining town of Pilgrims Rest.

Waterfalls are abundant in this area, and the surroundings allow for great walks and hikes.

Waterfalls at the Blyde River Canyon are plentiful.


I do feel that South Africa’s Lowveld and its Escarpment have to be one of the most dramatic parts of the word, rivalling natural wonders worldwide including the Amazon Basin.

A great variety of accommodation can be found along the Panorama Route and the Kruger National Park. The types of accommodation range from camping at the Forever Resorts Blydepoort to R40000 per night stay at the luxurious Ulusaba Clifftop Lodge where you can sit on the same “throne” as Sir Richard Branson and Bill Gates, to name but a few.

So before you rush off, please consider that whatever the Blyde River Canyon has to offer in natural beauty, you will be hard pressed to find more breathtaking and more beautiful elsewhere. Besides, where are you going to find a canyon with hippos, crocodiles, trees over 40m high harbouring monkeys and eagles?

* See Ryan Mackie’s websites at http://www.south-african-hotels.com/ and http://www.south-african-lodges.com