The place of the rising sun has many enchanting attributes that will capture any the heart of any adventurer.
For instance, it’s home to the Kruger National Park and the third largest canyon in the world, Blyde River Canyon, while also being the province with the largest number of natural waterfalls in the country.
When it comes to natural beauty, the province is a strong contender and her natural features will leave you mesmerised.
With summer and the festive season having officially kicked off at the start of December, it’s peak travel season in the country.
I had the opportunity recently to visit Mpumalanga with the Shot Left team in collaboration with Mpumalanga Tourism.
The purpose of this trip was to dispel the notion that the province isn’t accessible or affordable for South African travellers due to its international reputation.
Drive or fly?
Though South Africans love road tripping, our journey started off with a flight from OR Tambo International Airport to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport.
When you land at KMIA, you’re welcomed to a beautiful and chic African setting.
You know that you have entered safari territory. Airlink offers direct flights from Johannesburg to Mbombela. The flight is 45 minutes to an hour, whereas a drive from Johannesburg to Mbombela is an estimated four-hour drive, depending on the traffic.
You can also take a flight from Durban or Cape Town but may have to stop over at OR Tambo for a connecting flight.
Where to stay?
Nut Grove Manor - White River
For our first night, we stayed at 5-star boutique hotel Nut Grove Manor in White River. The boutique hotel is conveniently located 12km away from the airport and offers both bed and breakfast and self-catering facilities.
The boutique hotel was built in 1924 and has 15 suites. The property boasts well manicured garden and the trees surrounding the manor provide a cooling atmosphere from the Mpumalanga sun.
A stay at the Manor starts from R 1981 a night a room.
Mdluli Safari Lodge - Hazyview Kruger National Park
After road tripping and exploring the Panoramic Route, we moved on to Mdluli Safari Lodge to get closer to the action at the Kruger National Park.
The lodge is perfect for the adventurer looking for a luxury safari experience and an immersive bush experience with the possibility of the encounters with the Big Five.
The lodge is in the heart of the Kruger National Park close to Pretoriuskop Rest Camp and just a 20-minute drive from the Numbi Gate.
When the gates close at night, you are locked into the Kruger National Park and the bush comes alive with sounds and calls sounds from hyenas and other animals that call the Kruger home.
The lodge has 50 luxury custom-designed uniform tents that comfortably sleep a family of four. These tents have backup power in the event of a power outage, a private indoor and outdoor shower and patio where you can enjoy sights and sounds of the African bush.
A stay starts at R5 560 a night for the self-drive package, including breakfast and dinner, while a game drive package that includes accommodation, breakfast and dinner starts at R6 820 a night.
Where to eat?
Mpumalanga is a foodie’s delight as agriculture is the province’s main economic activity.
We toured Casterbrigde Lifestyle Centre, which has over 35 delectable speciality shops, The White River Art Gallery, Vintage Car Museum, restaurants and coffee shops.
Magnolia Restaurant, Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre, White River
Magnolia Restaurant & Café offers on trend cuisine in an inviting, sophisticated setting when it comes to White River restaurants.
The décor is inspired by rural French charm with locally produced elements to add a modern, African touch.
The Café makes the most of the country setting, and breakfasts and lunches are served alfresco, providing a fresh breeze and a ray of sunshine to enliven the day.
Influenced by local and European flavours, chef Jamie Watt prepares the food using fresh, locally sourced and seasonal produce.
Delightful desserts offer mouthfuls of nectarous pleasure, complemented by high quality coffee using freshly ground beans.
A carefully selected wine menu featuring a wide array of local and international wines complements the meals and ensures a well-rounded experience.
Traditional Food at Shabalala Cultural Village, Hazyview
We visited Shabalala Cultural Village in Hazyview and received a cultural singing and dance performance from Swati, Zulu and Tsonga cultural dancers.
The cultural village is conservative and respects cultural traditions so we wore cultural attire to enter into the kraal. We got a taste of traditional African gin and mopane worms, which are high in protein and nuts.
The dinner at Shabalala Cultural village consisted of fresh Impala stew and Kudu wors, which was accompanied by traditional African favourites samp, pap and veggies.
The experience starts from R740 a person.
Gin tasting and making at Gin and Co
Cool down after a long hot summer day with a gin slushy. Gin & Co is Mpumalanga’s premier craft gin micro-manufacturing distillery and we received a quick tour of the distillery and got to see how they handcraft their gin.
The distillery offers gin tasting making it the perfect place to pop in to cool after a long day of travelling.
The gin tasting starts from R130 to R 160 a person.
Bush Dinner by Mdluli Safari Lodge
Imagine a cool sunset next to a lake with hippos in the middle of the African bush? That’s one of the experiences on offer when you book a stay with Mdluli Safari Lodge.
We took an afternoon or evening game drive and stopped in the middle of the wild to enjoy a braai under the stars. The chef prepared a scrumptious last supper featuring pap, braaied meat and desserts with sundowners and drinks.
The bush dinner is included in the Mdluli Safari package. Enjoy a meal and tell stories of your adventurers from the game drive.
This is an experience every South African should try.