The festive holiday season is upon us with many who will be hitting the road soon, travelling to various destinations across the country.
The length of South Africa’s road network is estimated to be about 750 000km, the longest of any African country and the 10th longest in the world.
The road network connects the nine provinces, making sure that we’re always a drive away from one another. The national routes are well maintained by the SA National Roads Agency Ltd.
South Africans love road tripping and it remains one of the most convenient ways to travel as a family.
With scenic drives, like the Panoramic Route in Mpumalanga, the drive from Johannesburg to the North West and from Tzaneen to Haenertsberg in Limpopo, it’s no wonder South Africans can’t wait to get hit the road.
For those travelling through Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the North West, here are some beautiful spots you can use as a pit stop or for a longer stay:
Self-drive the Kruger National Park
The world-renowned Kruger National Park offers a wildlife experience that ranks among the best in Africa.
It is home to an impressive number of species: 336 trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 mammals.
The self-drive safari gives you the freedom to explore the park in your own vehicle. It is the most affordable way to do so and it gives you the flexibility and thrill of spotting wildlife, including the Big Five, at your leisure.
Once the entrance and camp gates are open, you can drive through the park on designated roads. All the roads are either tar or gravel. You may not drive your vehicle off-road to get closer to the animals. If you follow the rules, you’ll be safe.
Graskop Gorge Lift Co
For adventure-seekers and nature-lovers, visiting the Graskop Gorge Lift Company is a must. The lift company is centrally located on the Panorama Route.
While it is an ideal stopover point, it is also an end destination in its own right, with lots to do on-site and in the area, for example taking the viewing lift 51 meters down the face of the gorge into the indigenous forest below where wooden walkways and suspension bridges make up the 600m trail.
There is also a suspension bridge spanning the northern and southern sides of the gorge and you can enjoy breathtaking views of mountains, rugged cliff faces, forests and the Motitsi waterfall while standing 70 meters above the ground.
You can also get and adrenaline rush by zipline from the northern side to the southern side of the gorge or take the big swing – participants free-fall for 70m before the jump rope pulls them into a high-speed arch and they swing from one side of the gorge to the other.
There are two restaurants on-site, so don’t forget to fuel up while there.
Bourke’s Luck Potholes
Bourke’s Luck Potholes is without a doubt, a must-see spot, especially when thrown in with the likes of the Three Rondawels, God’s Window, the Blyde River Canyon and numerous magnificent waterfalls.
If you can, begin your wander around Mpumalanga with Bourke’s Luck Potholes for they are incredible. Essentially they’re the result of decades of swirling eddies of water where the Treur River meets the Blyde River, the tumult of which has caused extensive water erosion over time.
The result is cylindrical rock sculptures that look as though they would be more comfortable on the moon.
They are on the Panorama Route and are one of the major tourist attractions in South Africa, so best get there before the bus tours.
Also on the Panorama Route in Mpumalanga are the Three Rondavels. Depending on which way you choose to drive along the 16km of the Blyde River Canyon, the Three Rondavels can either start or end your journey.
The three round mountain tops have slightly pointed tops, similar to the traditional round or oval African homesteads made with local materials called rondavels.
They are sometimes also called the Three Sisters, although this confuses them with a similar threesome visible from the N1 in the Free State lower down in the country and a beautiful sight to see.
Remaining on the famous Panorama Route in Graskop is Harry’s Pancake Shop, famous for its delicious sweet and savoury pancakes.
The shop is a traditional stop-off for a pancake when en-route to Blyde River Canyon or exploring Graskop and Pilgrim’s Rest.
Harry’s Pancake Shop is well known and reputed to serve the best pancakes that side of the Kruger National Park.
Modjadjie Royal Kraal and Nature Reserve
If you are exploring Limpopo, you can visit Modjadjie Royal Kraal and Nature Reserve. The 305 hectare reserve features the world’s largest concentration of a single-species cycad, also known as the Modjadji palm.
The cycad nursery, picnic sites, day trails through the forest and information centre make the reserve a highlight on any tour of the Modjadji kingdom.
On the walking trail, you could come across dassies, monkeys, bushpigs, impala, nyala, bushbuck and other antelope.
Visits to the Royal Kraal can also be arranged. Tourists visiting the reserve can stay in the traditional huts of the African Ivory Route.
Makgobaskloof Canopy Tours
Makgobaskloof Canopy Tour is for the more adventurous family. You can enjoy the thrill of the zip-lining and experience the thrill of sliding through the forest on a 2 1⁄2 hour Tarzan-and-Jane-style adventure.
Magoebaskloof Canopy Tours will take you into a previously inaccessible realm of nature, moving you between platforms built high within the upper level of indigenous forests and ancient mountain cliffs.
Each platform is joined by the spectacular “foefie” cable slide high above the sparkling river, waterfalls and forest floor.
Sagole Big Tree
Limpopo has many treasures, one of them being the Sagole Baobab. It is also known as Sagole Big Tree, Muri kunguluwa in TshiVhenda (Tree That Roars) and Muvhuyu wa Makhadzi.
This is a champion tree and the largest baobab tree (“Adansonia digitata”) in South Africa.
It is east of Tshipise, in Vhembe district, Limpopo, and has a trunk diameter of 10.8m and a circumference of 32.89m.
It would take 18 to 20 people, their arms opened, to encircle the tree.
Also on the list of things to do is visiting Lake Funduzi in the Soutpansberg of the province. The lake, measuring about 5km by 3km when full, was created by an ancient landslide blocking the course of the Mutale River.
The lake, its resident crocodiles and the nearby forest of Thathe Vondo are regarded as sacred by the Vhatavhatsindi, the People of the Pool who are part of the Venda people.
Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre
For a fun and educational activity, HESC presents a fascinating insight into rare, vulnerable and endangered animal species, and animal conservation efforts at large.
It offers fun and informative tours, and other specialised excursions to visitors.
Funds raised through tourism activities are used for conservation projects and daily operating costs.
Upside Down House
The Upside down House, a thrill for young and old, is a magical location that resembles something out of a Dr Seus book.
The house is only a 45 minute drive from Johannesburg and among the Magaliesburg Mountain Range and the magnificent Hartbeespoort Dam.
Magalies River Valley Scenic Balloon Ride
You can also take a flight on a hot-air balloon in the scenic Magalies River Valley with Bill Harrop’s Original Balloon Safari Team. This is an out-of-this-world adventure and a bucket-list tick.
Your unforgettable journey over the Magalies River Valley begins at sunrise when you will walk down a lantern-lit pathway to enjoy pre-flight coffee or tea and freshly baked muffins while you watch the balloons being inflated.
Then, you will embark on your exciting hour-long sunrise flight, taking in the views of the majestic Magaliesburg mountains and river valley.
Celebrate landing, with a glass of sparkling wine or juice while the crew pack up the balloons.
Return to the Clubhouse Pavilion for a delectable buffet breakfast overlooking the mountains and manicured gardens.
Take the Aerial Cableway, Hartbeespoort
The Hartbeespoort Aerial Cableway is a Swiss-engineered and installed cableway in the heart of Harties.
It’s the place to be if you want to experience some of the best views of the beautiful Magaliesberg Mountains, Hartbeespoort Dam and surrounding areas.
The destination also offers world-class recreational activities to ensure you enjoy an unforgettable experience. Ride the cableway in either an open-air two-seater or an enclosed four-seater cable car.
Harties is the ideal location for a fun-filled day out with family and friends. It gets packed during the festive season, so make sure you arrive early to enjoy the restaurant and live music action.
Take a water ride and cruise with the Harties Boat Company at Harties Dam. The company offers daily lunch or sunset cruises.
The cruise route goes from Kommandonek, passed Caribbean estate and Sandy Lane Golf Course to the Kosmos foreshore and the quaint Kosmos Village to the dam wall, passing the Zoo and Snake Park, as well as the Transvaal Yacht Club.
You will then hit open waters and cruise across to Eagle Waters and Pecanwood Estate and Golf Course, taking a look at some of these fantastic waterfront homes, and then head past The Islands and back to the harbour.
All this while sipping on bubbly, enjoying a buffet of gourmet finger and fork snacks and good conversation.
Hartbeespoort Dam Snake and Animal Park
Also in Harties and snuggled against the foot of the Magaliesberg on the eastern shore of Hartbeespoort Dam lies this most remarkable private park, surrounded by massive walls like those of a medieval castle protecting a rare gem.
Within the walls, a world has been created where visitors can experience the essence of what makes Hartbeespoort Dam special – the presence of animals, water lapping at stonewalls and jetties, giant tress, exotic foliage and towering cliffs.
The park has an interesting snake and seal show on public holidays, school holidays and weekends at noon and 3pm.