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Finally, December has arrived. Now you can wind down and spend some quality time with your family. The Lowveld offers a wide range of activities to keep the kids busy and we guarantee you will end up looking back on many memorable moments after a visit to one of these hotspots.

HAZYVIEW

A visit to Hazyview and surrounds is essential for a family looking for adventure and fun. Other than the various types of accommodation and family-friendly restaurants found in town, there are many activities on offer for all ages.

Make a booking at Induna Adventures for anything from zip lining to quad biking or white-water rafting. Get elevated to the treetops on Africa’s longest aerial cableway with Skyway Trails. Interact with mighty African elephants at Elephant Whispers or at the Elephant Sanctuary, or embark on a horse safari at Horse Whispers. Visit Monkeybirds to see 120 exotic monkey species and over 50 pairs of exquisite birds, do a Segway tour through tropical fruit orchards or view an extensive collection of reptiles at Perry’s Bridge Reptile Park.

LOWVELD NATIONAL BOTANICAL GARDEN

With its waterfalls and wildlife, the Lowveld National Botanical Garden is a subtropical paradise for kids and adults alike. The garden is shaped by the Crocodile and Nels rivers that cut across it to form spectacular waterfalls which can be viewed at the Cascades and the Nels viewpoints.

Children will really enjoy walking through the enchanting African rainforest and across the famous suspended bridge, where the cascading waterfall can also be viewed. They will also enjoy one of the largest collections of South African fig trees and the mystical baobab tree.

Other highlights include the useful plants project, children’s play area, dry bushveld area, the riverside trail, canals, SA Forest, cascade viewpoint, Sappi Aerial Boardwalk and Nursery, as well as the resident wildlife and wonderful biodiversity.

SKUKUZA

Whether you are staying in the Kruger National Park or not, a visit to Skukuza is a must.

Although part of getting close to the Big 5 entails a full day in the car, you can get a break from the midday heat by spending the bulk of your day at the rest camp and visitors’ centre.

Skukuza offers family-friendly restaurants and loads of things to do. Just sitting alongside the Sabie River provides a wonderful game-viewing opportunity.

If things really start heating up, make your way down to the day visitors’ precinct where a splash in the pool and an ice cold ice cream will go a long way towards cooling you off.

Visit the Stevenson-Hamilton Knowledge Resource Centre Museum and get to know the history of the Kruger National Park’s most famous warden or take a quick drive to the Skukuza Indigenous Nursery and buy a plant or two for your garden at home.

SUDWALA CAVES AND DINOSAUR PARK

Enjoy an excursion into the depths of the earth. This system of caves dates back 3 000 million years to a time when extraordinary stresses cracked the dolomite of the Mankelekele Mountains, allowing water to slowly trickle through and forming a series of passages through the rocks.

As a result, the Sudwala Caves, thought to be the oldest in the world, were formed – a series of many chambers revealing giant stalagmites, stalactites, flowstone formations and dominated by a circular chamber – the amphitheatre. For the more adventurous, there is the crystal tour, which involves a journey of 2 000 metres into the bowels of the caves.

The Dinosaur Park displays life-sized models of prehistoric animals, ranging from amphibious and ancient reptiles, dinosaurs, prehistoric mammals, prehistoric man and more.

BADPLAAS/EMANZANA

Nestled at the foot of the Ndlumudlumu Mountains between Machadodorp/eNtokozweni and Carolina, is Badplaas/eManzana, which is known as a resort town.

Badplaas, A Forever Resort has become legendary for family leisure breaks and is a firm favourite among kids. It’s a treasure chest of entertainment from heated and cold mineral pools to an entertainment team that keeps the youngsters occupied. There are also game drives, horse trails, paintball, a hiking trail along the canals, a waterfall and so much more.

At The Cradle of Life, kids can visit the animal farm and see a variety of animals like pigs, ducks, geese, tortoises and chickens. They can also go fishing or spend some time at the playground next to the restaurant.

HOEDSPRUIT

The town of Hoedspruit has grown from a small village serving the agricultural industry to a popular wildlife tourism destination ideal for families.

The Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre breeds endangered species for release and cares for injured and orphaned wild animals. Regular tours enable visitors to see some of the animals up close.

A visit to Lion Tree Top Lodge to meet some white lions is a must when exploring Hoedspruit.

At the Moholoholo Animal Rehabilitation Centre the public can interact with animals that have no chance of being released into the wild due to their injuries or habituation.

Khamai Reptile Park is the best place to go to learn more about spiders and reptiles or to help you overcome your fears.

PILGRIM’S REST

Exploring South African history as a family is a rewarding experience and there is no better place to do this than Pilgrim’s Rest, one of South Africa’s most loved heritage sites.

For the outdoorsy types, there is fly fishing on the Blyde River, golf at the nine-hole course and, of course, a visit to the diggings and a spot of gold panning. The town has seven museums that are open daily and offer insight into the history of the town. There are several accommodation establishments catering for most budgets as well as cafes and restaurants that offer something for all palates.

Fun activities also include a visit to Kuzzulo’s Emporium – a place where visitors can get dressed up in period costumes and have old-fashioned photos taken. This is a favourite among the youngsters!

SABIE

The attractive hillside town of Sabie is a Lowveld gem. At the source of the Sabie River, lies under the impressive Spitskop and Mauchsberg mountains and Mount Anderson and has always been a popular place for South Africans looking for a family-friendly holiday.

The town owes its formal founding to the discovery of gold in 1871. Its restored settler buildings, numerous high-quality restaurants, friendly bars and coffee shops along with the surrounding tranquil forests, exhilarating activities and scenic views continue to make it one of the best options for a peaceful retreat.

Have a round of golf at the Sabie Country Club, explore the South African Forestry Company Forestry Industry Museum, go tubing down the Sabie River or take a mountain bike ride with the family.

I’LANGA MALL

Ideally situated on the main road to the N4, i’langa Mall is a hub of entertainment for kids, shopping for parents and fun for the whole family – from the ice rink to Ster Kinekor cinema.

Inside the mall there’s fantastic fun to be had at The Fun Company, enjoy a game of tenpin bowling and a jump around the trampoline park. You can also head over to the arcade games to hit, shoot and jump your way into the top scores.

For those looking for a more relaxed experience, there are loads of restaurants in the entertainment area that offer various options.

CASTERBRIDGE LIFESTYLE CENTRE

Experience the tranquillity of the Lowveld at the Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre, set on the original Casterbridge Farm.

Located on the R40 just outside White River towards Hazyview, the centre offers parents the ideal venue to let their kids unwind after a busy day. There’s nothing better than grabbing some popcorn and catching a good movie at the Casterbridge Cinema or enjoying a show at the barnyard-style Casterbridge Theatre. The centre also boasts the motor museum, which is home to a large collection of immaculately restored vintage cars and bikes.

There’s also a variety of shops, art galleries and restaurants ready to tantalise your taste buds.

CHIMP EDEN

A must-see when travelling through Mbombela towards Barberton is the only chimpanzee sanctuary in South Africa, Chimp Eden. Offering three tours daily (10 am, 12 pm and 2 pm), there is no reason to miss this experience and educational opportunity. After your tour through the sanctuary and meeting some of their famous residents, have a look around the curio shop and enjoy a light meal and a refreshing drink at the restaurant.

Chimpanzee Eden

RIVERSIDE MALL

Situated on the main road to White River, Riverside Mall offers a range of entertainment for kids, from the Mafunyane Riverside Water Park – which features seven, rip-roaring super slides, a sparkling pool and a lazy river specifically designed for the young ones – to the Riverside Go Kart Park – with Honda engines which range in size from 50cc to 200cc.

Inside the mall the Magic Company offers exactly that – a magical experience of fun for the kids. Don’t be surprised if the smell of popcorn lures you to Movies @ Emnotweni, which is right next to the Magic Company. Here you can enjoy all the latest blockbuster films on the big screen.

Information supplied by Kruger Lowveld Tourism
+27 (0)13 755 1988

A Hotel with a view – Piggs Peak Hotel and Casino Swaziland

The Piggs Peak Hotel & Casino is located in the mountainous Kingdom of Swaziland, a country with unique flora and fauna and a distinctive and interesting cultural heritage. The hotel is situated in a beautiful and secluded pine forest and it meets the diverse needs of nature lovers, sports enthusiasts, casino guests and night owls. Each day has many activities or none, whichever you prefer.  Situated just 31km from the South African border on the northern side

Piggs Peak Hotel & Casino in Swaziland provides everything for everyone, from a top class restaurant, luxury bedrooms and a cosy casino to excellent sporting facilities. The hotel is perfect for a romantic honeymoon, a relaxing weekend or a family holiday. Its secluded location also makes it an ideal out-of-town conference destination.  Piggs Peak Hotel & Casino offers a choice of 103 luxury rooms, including 14 suites and 89 comfortable bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, tea/coffee stations, telephones and satellite TV. All rooms have spectacular views from their individual balconies.

The hotel offers a 24-hour room service, arts and crafts boutique, a children’s playground, jumping castle, an indoors life-size chess facility and a babysitting service. For business people, secretarial services are available on request.

Conferences at this Hotel are hosted in 3 well-equipped conference and meeting rooms that are air-conditioned. For smaller gatherings, there is a board room accommodating 10 plus people. There are 4 conference rooms accommodating between 20 and 65 people which can be combined to seat a maximum of 216 guests.

For an experience of a different kind, enjoy a relaxing drink in one of the hotel’s three bars. Gamble in the Casino, where punters have a choice of several gaming tables with a mix of Blackjack, Roulette, Punto Banco, as well as slot machines. Stroll around the beautiful grounds and discover two tennis courts, a gymnasium, two air-conditioned squash courts, a swimming pool, a sauna, a bowling green and a mini golf course. Numerous scenic walking and hiking trails exist in the surrounding forest, which is home to a variety of bird life and indigenous flora and fauna. The hotel is close to tourist attractions like the Phophonyane Waterfall, the Maguga Dam and Sibebe Rock, the second largest single rock face in the world. Local glass and candle factories are worth a visit to search for a perfect Swazi memento.

When visiting Swaziland, if one is a non-local, one needs to have a valid international passport. Check with your travel agent to ensure you have all the correct travel documents to travel to Swaziland. A road tax is payable at all Swaziland borders upon entering Swaziland (at the moment the road tax amount is R50.00 – June 2017). Once in Swaziland it is possible to make international phone calls, the international code for Swaziland is +268, there is also e-mail centres and internet cafes located in Mbabane (Swaziland’s Capital) and Manzini. Travelling in Swaziland can be done via the railway lines, roads, buses and minibuses, roads are in excellent condition but be on the lookout for speed bumps near all the populated areas.

Tel: (+268) 2437 8800
Fax: (+268) 2431 3382 / 3415

Email: res@piggspeakhotelandcasino.co.sz
gm@piggspeakhotelandcasino.co.sz

It is time to take out your bike riding gear and head for hills, forests, dirt roads and those slightly far off places in the province.

Remember to check your bike’s oil and fluid levels before heading out on the road. If your luck is anything like mine, make sure to pack the rain suit as well. Whether you plan to go on a tar or a gravel route be sure to have your brightly coloured reflective jacket on to ensure high visibility. If you are going on an off-road route be sure to have a puncture repair kit and or spare tube handy if your wheels are the tube types.

If you are an experienced rider you know what to do. To refresh your memory and riding skills head out to Sabie either from MBOMBELA (Nelspruit) or via White River. If you get there early have breakfast at The Woodsman or why not make a change and try out the fine fare at Sabie Brewery or The wild Fig Tree Restaurant.

Then get back the tingle of excitement in your toes as you swoop through the smooth curves of the Long Tom Pass. If you are new to the area and the Long Tom Pass ask one of you fellow experienced rider to show you the lines to take through the curves.

Don’t be shy to ask advice on riding some of the best twists and turns in Mpumalanga. Challenge yourself and make use of all the expensive rubber you have on your bike. If you are out early you might just be lucky enough to feel like you are riding on top of the world.

If your heart rate has not been raised by then, stop at Misty Mountain Lodge and take a wild ride on their downhill toboggan. Contact the lodge regarding fees and bookings.

You can then brave the roads from Lydenburg to Dullstroom and enjoy lunch at one of the fine establishments there. The whisky shop comes to mind.

For the more adventurous, the off road dirt roads around Kaapmuiden, Barberton, Kaapsehoop, Swaziland border, Badplaas and Chrissiesmeer offer a wide range to choose from. Take into account that the logging season is in progress and most of the forestry roads are also used by logging trucks and machinery.

Another factor to consider is the recent rains. Roads used extensively by the loggers can proof challenging to beginners or novice dirt riders.

Making a full days ride and getting dirty is the goal. You have to spend at least a day or two cleaning the mean machine that carried you safely. Be sure to oil the chain if your bike is chain driven. Mud and water can take its toll on that shiny new chain and sprockets you had fitted and not used regularly.

Get an early start to make use of the best light for your pictures and utilise the cooler morning air. Pack snacks in your top-box or camelback backpack to have a picnic along the route. Don’t forget the water.

Exploring a recent route, we ended the day at Badplaas. The route followed the service road between the railroad track and the Kruger National Park fence from the Numbi Gate to Matsulu.

This sometime two-track dirt road can be challenging with washed-away low water bridges and slippery causeways. Do not ride this route alone.

From Matsulu you can make your way on tar to Louw’s Creek (R38) and on to Barberton. You can detour on the dirt road by taking the Louieville turn-off that skirts alongside the Shiyalongubodam.

This road links up with the Barberton Geotrail and ambles through an indigenous forest with rich birdlife and small game. This is also a great spot for an impromptu picnic. The Geotrail to Barberton has paved viewpoints where travellers can stop to read about the rich geological finds in the area.

Get out there and explore the blue sky country.

WRITTEN BY:  Nicolene Olckers

In the small town of Barberton in Mpumalanga history and architecture have been coexisting for many, many years. This little town in Mpumalanga is often overlooked, so is the road between Barberton and Kaapmuiden.

The town had two stock exchanges, countless saloons and a hotel, as well as the richest gold field in the surrounding Makhonjwa Mountains. It has been home to quite a few colourful and notorious characters. Famous ones include Cockney Liz, Percy Fitzpatric and the Barber cousins who discovered profitable gold in the De Kaap Valley. The life and adventures of Percy Fitzpatric and his dog, Jock, has been immortalised by a statue of this terrier in front of the town hall.

The town, which was proclaimed in 1884, survived and thrived throughout the Gold Rush era.  The discovery of asbestos at the nearby towns of Bulembu and Msauli, also known as Diepgeset close to the border of Swaziland in the late 1960s, attracted new prospectors. The two mines and the town of Barberton were linked by a cablecar system to transport the ore, supplies and even passengers.

Many of these characters are well documented and honoured by plaques or statues and framed photographs in several private collections. One such location where numerous interesting items are found under one roof is the Barberton History and Mining Museum in De Villiers Street.  The old building has been renovated in recent years and now serves as the offices of Wynand Engelbrecht and Pieter Visser of Dusty Tracks. They use the building as the base for their tour operation.

Originally the structure housed the Transvaal Hotel that later became the Impala Hotel.  After moving in they found the building had ample space and decided to display several items they have stumbled upon while guiding tourists and 4×4 enthusiasts through the area. Since they opened the museum in 2016, the collection of items has grown through generous donations from residents and patrons wanting to preserve a small part of the town’s history. The collection ranges from geological finds of rare green stone to fine porcelain, old photographs, old bottles, mining tools, a replica of a penny-farthing bicycle, and, what could most likely be the last 1958 Zündapp combinette motorcycle ever made.

Among all these rare and precious collected items is the artwork of the wandering German artist, Conrad Frederick Genal, dating back to the 1930s. Unfortunately, not much is known about him and a Google search doesn’t turn up much more than references to those murals found in the Barberton building and the Diggers Retreat. It is rumoured that he would offer to decorate the walls in exchange for a place to stay for a few days.  The paintings vary in colour. Some are in full colour and others in monotones of sepia and/or black and blue ink. Over time Genal’s art was painted over and some parts of the walls it will require time and effort to uncover the originals behind the black paint that covers them. Looking at the older buildings in Barberton, one might speculate that there are more of his work hidden behind the high ceilings and covered with new bland layers of white PVA.

How much of these scenes that Genal painted as record of his travels are not known.   At Diggers Retreat on the road between Barberton and Kaapmuiden his work has been well preserved though. The hotel in the vicinity of the old Sheba Mine, the renowned Eureka City and the Golden Quarry have several rooms decorated with his works. In the dining room of the hotel, the works of Genal show the old Zeederberg coach, transport riders with their ox-wagons and the Guya Falls in northern Rhodesia. Some say they also depict the life of Jock of the Bushveld.

The Zeederberg Coach Service was established by four Swedish brothers in the 1800s. They transported mail and passengers and started the first mail coach service between Johannesburg and Kimberley in 1887. They expanded their services to the north and eastern towns of Leydsdorp and Pietersburg in 1890. The mail coach service from the CH Zeederberg Ltd. company operated in 1910, and by 1930 the Zeederberg family decided to close the coach services in favour of a car-hire service.

It is interesting to see the different scenes painted in shades of sepia, a brownish antique colouring.  The scene of the Gonye Falls in “N.Rhod” proves that nature and man have changed over time. The waterfall is situated on the Zambezi River in western Zambia and is known today as the Ngonye Falls or Sioma Falls and situated few hundred kilometres upstream from the Victoria Falls.

Definitely, a road trip to add to your bucket list if you haven’t been there yet…

WRITTEN BY:  Nicolene Olckers