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Hidden treasures of Mpumalanga

Our world is more than just a planet. It is the only one with life – as far as we know – and although our planet has countless beautiful destinations, you don’t have to travel very far to find one…

Photo credit: Katrine Smit.

Being based in Mpumalanga means being surrounded by a vast number of must-see destinations, like the Kruger National Park, Malolotja Nature Reserve and Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary in Swaziland, the abounding Mozambican beaches and even the Maloti Drakensberg Park.

With such abundant wildlife and pristine nature all around us, it’s not at all hard to find a hiking trail, secluded beach or invigorating waterfall a few hours in any direction, but we’ve found little sanctuaries mere minutes from home.

Mbombela is considered a city, but the streets meander through an endless number of treetops and fortunately, unlike most urban jungles, there’s more greenery than concrete. Not only does it have a magical botanical garden with its very own rainforest, it also has two sizeable nature reserves! One of them has a few hiking trails that take you over a tranquil little river, down a granite boulder and through mossy paths covered with mighty tree roots.

If you follow one of these tracks, they lead to more openness and typical Lowveld fauna. The trick is knowing which way to go when you reach a fork because most of the trails lead back to the beginning, but one of them goes past a mighty boulder. You will likely not consider climbing it at first, but the best view awaits at the top!

After quite a climb, you will reach a more level trail that leads to some tall grass and thorn trees. The first time you wander on this path, you might doubt yourself as it isn’t marked out, but it carries on until you reach another large boulder… This is the one. When you have braved this path and made it to the top of the granite beast, the 360-degree view of Mbombela and all the mountains that surround it will astound you.

Photo Credit: Quinten van Rooyen

Late afternoons offer the most incredible view of the setting sun and all the colours that light up the sky but be sure to make your way back down soon as this trail is not recommended at night.

Sitting up there surrounded by all the majesty of nature, letting your sight stretch as far as you can, will make you feel victorious, yet minuscule at the same time. It almost reopens your eyes to all the beauty that you might not notice every day, and if you listen closely to the warm wind that comes from miles away, you will feel re-energised, ready to take on another day at the office.

YGo Adventures is aimed at helping people rediscover ways to explore and experience the joy nature provides. We believe you shouldn’t have to venture far to find beauty, but if you do, you should do it in style.

Our tours can be tailor-made to make your travel dreams come true. Guided or not, we will put together itineraries that will take you places that give the words “dream holiday” a whole new meaning.

Contact us directly for more info, and look out for our next edition where more hidden treasures of Mpumalanga will be revealed.

Text: Katrine Smit

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Make the Lowveld your kids’ playground these holidays

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

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AFRICAN THUNDER STORMS

How to photograph lightning

Have you ever looked at a thunderstorm and wondered how to take a perfect picture to capture the beauty of lightning?

In South Africa, we get some very powerful thunderstorms and perfect opportunities to photograph lightning.

Read more

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De Juffrauens Coffee Shop

Compiled by: Ista van Zyl

Driving through Mashishing (formerly Lydenburg) in Mpumalanga, one couldn’t ignore the red double-decker bus parked in a pretty garden on Church Street. Rolene Joubert and Marie Jankowitz found the bus in a junkyard in Jet Park just outside of Johannesburg, bought it and had it towed all the way home, where it became the talk of the town – all the locals were speculating about the purpose of this new addition to the town.

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Both Afrikaans teachers by profession, Rolene and Marie had a long-standing dream to open a coffee shop. They couldn’t afford to build anything and were sceptical about how much profit they would make renting expensive premises. ‘Besides, we wanted something really different,‘ Rolene explains.

de-juffrauens-coffee-shop

Their idea for a London-themed café was just the starting point for De Juffrauens, the name of their coffee shop (after being addressed as ‘Miss’ in the classroom), nothing says London louder than a red double-decker bus, so they spent a year looking for ‘their’ bus.

de-juffrauens-coffee-shop

Never having been to London didn’t stop them either. ‘My mother-in-law went to London, and for her the hop-on, hop-off red buses were a highlight,’ says Marie. Some research on the internet and reading up about London was all they needed to start transforming the bus into a restaurant.

de-juffrauens-coffee-shop

The food they serve isn’t ‘typically’ English, but it is tasty. They asked people in the town what they wanted and have tried to use that to compile their menu, with a twist to make it different.  A favourite from the menu is Juffrauens se langpouse lunchbox, which is an open sandwich with cheese, chicken and bacon. You can also order an Engelse tee (English tea) with Lady Di chocolate cookies.

de-juffrauens-coffee-shop

The red double-decker bus on Kerk Street is going places. Its ‘destination’? ‘Why, London of course,’ jokes Rolene – with stops for food and fun along the way…

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Toyota Warrior Race 2017 Powered By Reebok

The Toyota Warrior Race is South Africa’s largest obstacle course race series. It’s a sport that incorporates trail running along with various physical challenges in the form of hindrances. With 8 events in 4 provinces consisting of 3 distances, The Warrior Race offers athletes from different sporting backgrounds the opportunity to compete with one another, to live out their sense of adventure and to break barriers never thought possible. The series is all about encouraging an active, healthy lifestyle, with an emphasis on the importance of being brave and overcoming challenges that put your body, mind and spirit to the ultimate test.

Toyota Warrior Race

Distances:

Rookie – Age 10 and older – 5km – 15 obstacles

Commando – Age 13 and older – 10km – 20 obstacles

Black-ops – Age 18 and older – 15km – 30 obstacles

Upcoming Events:

There are 4 Toyota Warrior Powered by Reebok events left for 2017

TOYOTA WARRIOR 5 POWERED BY REEBOK BLYTHEDALE COASTAL ESTATE

August 19 – August 20

TOYOTA WARRIOR 6 POWERED BY REEBOK TIERPOORT

September 16 – September 17

TOYOTA WARRIOR 7 POWERED BY REEBOK MEERENDAL

October 21 – October 22

TOYOTA WARRIOR 8 POWERED BY REEBOK RIVERSANDS

November 25 – November 26

We attended –  TOYOTA WARRIOR  4  POWERED BY REEBOK KWANYONI LODGE

MAY 27 – MAY 28

We were not surprised to see that CITYBUG was the shuttle service used – that’s how we know them – always involved with community projects.

Thank you CITYBUG

Citybug

For more information visit http://advendurance.com/warrior/

 

 

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Nelspruit – The Lowveld Gem

This city of Nelspruit,  situated in the eastern part of South Africa is the capital city of Mpumalanga Province and the gateway to the best eco and adventure activities in the country.   With the Kruger National Park on its doorstep, getting a look at the African Big 5 is as easy as looking out your own back door. The province is also home to some of the most renowned game lodges such as Sabie-Sabie, Timbavati and Llondolzi to name but a few.  The KNP is an international tourist destination that brings thousands of tourist, local and international to visit the region all year round.

The moderate to the tropical climate, ideal for the growth of most subtropical fruits such as oranges, avocado, lemons, litchis and bananas, have also inspired local farmers to be adventurous in their thinking.   In recent years they have also been experimenting with growing exotic fruit such as grenadilla and Kiwi fruit amongst others.  With more than 11 000 hectares of land planted with bananas in 2010 the Mpumalanga province is the top producer of the fruit in South Africa and in 2010 the province contributed R1.2 billion to the amount of subtropical fruit produced in South Africa.

But the city of Mbombela/Nelspruit has much more to offer. With two major shopping malls that are host to chic boutiques and lush designer stores that include international brands such as H&M and Woolworths, Soviet, Guess to name but a few. The Tsogo Sun Emnotweni Casino is amongst those prime entertainment venues.

The I’langa Mall’s superb location and easy access offer every good reason for NELSPRUIT and surrounding citizens to embrace it as their shopping and dining venue of choice.

It has an extensive offering of popular national retailers as well as a number of unique independent retailers offering specialised products and services, many of which are local businesses. Shoppers have access to many top brands, exceptional stores and a superb comparative shopping experience which is also unique in every way.

The riverside precinct, home to the Emnotweni Casino and all major motoring dealers, is fast becoming a hub of big business in Nelspruit. Recent developments include the upbeat Chill Pepper Boutique Hotel.

But 2017 has promised to be a big year for the city of the sunny province. It was voted as a finalist in the Kwela Town of the year competition and Lowvelders are poised to welcome all the visitors to its warm heart. With great cuisine, fine dining restaurants and world-class entertainment venues Mbombela is bound to have the best South Africa have to offer to local and international visitors.

WRITTEN BY:  Nicolene Olckers

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Sabie Valley Riding

Author: Thomas Böhm

Thomas Böhm is well known in the bike riding circles of Mpumalanga. He is the owner and instructor at  Sabie Valley Rider Academy. The academy is based at the Windmill Wine Shop and Cottages on the notorious and fabled road known as the “22” (R536 ) winding between the towns of Sabie and Hazyview.

The Academy offers on- and off-road riding courses to Adventure Bike riders from novice to advanced riders wanting to improve their skills at bike handling in off-road or dirt road riding conditions. Thomas also conducts a Defensive road riding course. This course is aimed at the riders wanting to improve their safety and skills for riding on public roads.

Thomas’s passion for biking was born at the young age of nine and he participated in off-road races as a teenager. He shared his love of riding with his wife Jacqui and together they originally rented bikes to tourists visiting the Lowveld.

In 2005 he planned and hosted the first ever Sabie GS challenge This became an annual event and only registered owners of BMW Adventure Motorcycles are allowed to enter and participate. The event is held in March every year and is the longest-running BMW GS biking event in Sout Africa. Participants in the event usually have to arrive fully prepared to camp overnight, but chalets and cottages are also available for accommodation. The Sabie GS challenge provides the opportunity to ride in safe, sometimes challenging off-road conditions. The routes are pre-determined and are classed from Green – the easiest – to Black for those that has the advanced riding skills and determination to be challenged.

Thomas started The Sabie Valley Rider Academy in 2010 after a series of negotiations with BMW Motorrad. He completed the advanced instructor training course in 2012 in Germany. He is planning to construct a bigger and better training facility on his property. He is hopeful to have it completed in June this year. Thomas is actively involved in the local BMW Riders Club and assisted in the organising of this years Mpumalanga GS Trophy 2017 held in Badplaas in May.

In addition to the Sabie GS Challenge and offering beginners to advanced (level 1 to 3) training, the academy also offer bike rental, and personal, 1-on-1 training for those not comfortable in groups. The Expert Adventure Riding Sand Experience is aimed to provide training for riding in sandy conditions. Sandy roads can be challenging to most riders and are generally referred to as the sand monster. Thomas’s course conducted over a weekend at Kosi Bay in Kwa-Zulu Natal gives the participants comprehensive training and the opportunity to hone their newly learned skills under the supervision of a capable and qualified instructor. Just to be sure, Thomas assures us that all lady riders are welcome on any of the courses he presents at the Academy.

Thomas and Jacqui Böhm are passionate about Adventure Biking and biking in general. They are as passionate about the Lowveld and riders are welcome to contact him if they are looking for riding partners and or advice on routes to ride in the Lowveld.

For more information and upcoming events visit their website http://rideracademy.co.za/

Or call Thomas +27 (0) 72 133 2151 and Jacqui +27 (0) 82 930 6289

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Explore Mpumalanga On Your Off-Road

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

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Relax and Unwind in Marloth Park

Author: Ina Stevens

A burning red ball of fire with hues of orange fading into a magnificent Africa sunset, lush greenery and wild animals roaming on swaying grasslands springs to mind when I’m descending into Mpumalanga.

My husband James was born and bred in the Lowveld and always dreamed about his own piece of land in this tropical lush part of our country. For me, life on a farm would just be too remote but when he showed me this beautiful location I fell completely in love with Marloth Park. It is then here we found our perfect piece of paradise…

Marloth Park situated on the banks of the Crocodile River, is a Holiday destination for local and international guests alike. Giving you the opportunity to relax, unwind and appreciate nature and wildlife at its best. It boasts four of the “Big Five “in its own game reserve Lionspruit, with the exception of elephants. The rest of the game such as zebra, giraffe, kudu, impala and warthogs roam freely between the houses, they are quite tame and use to humans, which makes for a very” close”  viewing experience. Many lookouts along the river offer magical picnic spots, it leans itself to having a romantic sundowner with spectacular views at dusk.

One can often spot the” Big Five” while driving or walking along the fence road neighbouring the Kruger National Park, with elephants so close you can almost touch them,  Lions feasting on a kill and lurking Wild dogs and Hyena waiting to scavenge. Should you wish to visit Kruger Nation Park, Crocodile Bridge gate are a mere 14km away. Due to its close vicinity of the Mozambique and Swaziland borders, the Park is also a very popular stopover.

You will find this small community friendly and helpful. There are several restaurants offering mouth-watering cuisine and a few shops as well as hair and beauty salons which usually are a big plus for city girls like me!

Bird watching is very popular and those familiar sounds of a Fish-eagle can be heard echoing through the sky. But the true beauty is the calmness, the quietness in your soul, sitting next to a fire with dancing flames, hearing a lion’s majestic roar, looking up at the Milky Way with millions of flickering stars in the night sky. The peace and tranquility it brings to mind are almost indescribable… something you will just have to experience for yourself!