The Blyde River Canyon in Mpumalanga. Photo: Masego Panyane

Mpumalanga is easily one of the most under rated provinces of South Africa. It has many scenic tourist destinations that allow you to feel that you are truly in Africa where nature simply shows off. 

Travelling 

Mpumalanga is located almost 2 hours outside of Johannesburg. But with the blessing in our lives that is aeroplanes, travel time is significantly reduced to 45-50 mins.  SA Airlink has a couple of flights that fly out from Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Livingstone, Zambia and Vilankulo (Vilanculos), Mozambique directly to Nelspruit. Being based in Johannesburg, I flew out from OR Tambo International Airport on Friday morning, to set out on my treasure hunt into Mpumalanga. When you arrive at Nelspruit, don't be shocked. It's a small airport, but it has everything you'll possibly need from an airport. 

Our official transportation throughout the weekend was provided by Sizwe Transport and Tours. They did everything from airport transfers to take us around the Mpumalanga province in order to discover some of the province's main attractions. 

Accommodation

Wooden chalets with modern finishes, fully furnished and air conditioned,  comfortable and really expensive views. Located in the Mpumalanga Lowveld, 20 or so minutes out of Nelspruit. The Casambo Guest Lodge is a beautiful way to truly feel like you're out of the hustle and bustle of the city. Owned by couple Lloyd Sambo and Carol Sanderson, the 15 hectares of land were initially a family home, and the pair decided to buy out a neighbour as well. Today, they have 11 fully furnished chalets that are perfect for couples and families. According to Carol, the naming of Casambo is derived from both their names, 'Ca' from Carol and 'Sambo' from Sambo's surname. Lloyd has a slightly different explanation. " The naming is actually meaning "ikhaya lika Sambo" (home of the Sambos) but well Carol has a different definition," Lloyd said. Whatever the explanation, Casambo is a comfortable place to stay while you're out in Mpumalanga.  Casambo is also involved in the neighbouring communities with the lodge hosting weekly jam sessions for young performers to come show off their skills. 

Hidden Gems

Driving along the Panorama Route

The Panorama Route is a stretch of road in Mpumalanga that links the majority of the province's most breath taking sites. The route starts at the foot of the Long Tom Pass just outside Lydenburg, following the natural descent from the Great Escarpment to the Lowveld, and ending at the border of the Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces near the Echo Caves. The route also hosts the largest man-made forest of pine and eucalyptus plantations that stretch along the route. The drive itself is therapeutic, not to mention beautiful.

Blyde River Canyon and Three Rondavels 

Known as the third largest canyon in the world and the most green of the three, the Blyde River Canyon is a sight to behold. On the day we visited locals who told us we were lucky that the area was not completely covered by mist, a stroll away from the Canyon are the Three Rondavels. The mountain formation was created due to erosion. The soft underlying tone of the rock came away and the slate and quartzite shaped the rock formation. The legend behind the formation is that they were named after a Bapedi chief who defeated the Swazis in war. The flat-topped peak was named Mapjaneng ('the chief') after a legendary Bapedi chief, Maripi Mashile, while the three peaks are named after his three wives (from left to right) – Magabolie, Mogoladikwe and Maseroto.

Bourke's Luck Potholes

An extremely spiritual site, the potholes were formed by years of flowing water. The site is named after a prospector, Tom Bourke, who hoped to find gold at this site. He was unsuccessful, but other prospectors had more luck in the area. The Treur River meets Blyde River at this site, and locals have named these rivers the river of sadness and the river of happiness, and believe if they wash their feet in the river, their fortunes will change. If you look to the bottom of the clear water, you see hundreds of coins that were thrown into the water as visitors made a wish. Be prepared for a little walk though, its a beautiful experience that's worth it. 

Phabeni Gate, Kruger National Park 

On the afternoon of our arrival we went on a game drive that took almost two hours. A visit to the Kruger is always a welcome experience and an opportunity to explore nature at its best. On this particular afternoon we were lucky enough to spot a herd of buffalo, a female elephant and two younger ones and impala. In the distance along the drive we spotted lions lying under a tree. We were told by our game drive guide, that male lions are actually quite lazy, and they only hunt at night. Tip: Make sure you carry a scarf or jacket. Sitting on the back of an open vehicle can be a chilly experience. 

Perry's Bridge at Hazyview

The miniature lifestyle centre that is Perry's Bridge makes for a wonderful stop over on travels throughout the province. We stopped at over to have lunch at Kuka Restaurant, that has a wide selection of wines and meal options. Whether you want to enjoy lunch in the sun, or a cozy in door dinner, the restaurant provides options. 

The one thing that the visit proved to me is that Mpumalanga is open for exploring!

Masego was a guest of South African Tourism on the Lilizela Inspired Tour of Mpumalanga.