One of Africa’s truly spectacular gorges, the Blyde River in the Mpumalanga Province has, over millions of years, cut a 25km path and 800m deep chasm into the earth. This gorge is known as Blyde River Canyon, covered in green thicket with only the high red sandstone cliffs exposed. The viewpoints along the canyon have extensive views into the gorge which is overseen by 3 large hut-shaped structures known as the Three Rondavels and a source of local tribal folklore. The canyon culminates at the Blyderivierpoort Dam, plugged by a 71m high dam wall.
The Blyde River translates to River of Joy, named after a party of Voortrekkers who were thought to have lost their leader and his group, later thankful to be reunited along this river.
The Blyde River Canyon is deemed a green canyon due to the high vegetation growth and is located at the most northerly end of the Drakensberg (dragon mountain) range of mountains that extends down the eastern length of South Africa.
Stand awestruck at the various canyon viewpoints to enjoy one of nature’s wonders.
Top 6 reasons to visit the Blyde River Canyon
1. Travel the Panorama Route through lush plantations, alongside natural pools, various waterfalls and God’s Window, a panoramic view of the entire escarpment.
2. The Bourke’s Luck potholes are a composition of surrealistic rock formations shaped from swirling waters at the confluence of the Blyde and Treur rivers.
3. Beautiful waterfalls abound, the most popular being the Mac Mac Falls and Pools, and the Lisbon Falls.
4. Visit the Echo Caves, a national monument where new chambers are still being discovered. When a particular stalactite is tapped, the sound reverberates through the cave passages, creating an echo. Various tours are offered through the caves, some strenuous.
5. Spend a day in the old mining town of Pilgrim’s Rest. The entire town is a national monument and retains the character of a temporary gold rush settlement. The robber’s grave is a popular stop.
6. Trout fishing is popular in the Blyde River, hire a rod and get some local advice for best locations.
Mpumalanga’s international airport is Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport in Mbombela, the province’s capital. There are several smaller airports scattered throughout the province, enquire with your travel agent regarding the nearest airport to your destination. A vehicle can be hired from most large towns in Mpumalanga otherwise order a rental online. Most major towns have traditional taxi services. Uber has plans to begin operating in Mbombela in the very near future.
Did you know?
Stamvrug (milk plum) shrubs grow prolifically in the canyon. The fruit is edible and loved by baboons, however, the pips are to be avoided as they are poisonous! The fruit has medicinal properties known to treat certain ailments. Stamvrug directly translated means ‘stem fruit’ due to the fruit growing mostly off the trunk.
The almost 2km high Mariepskop to the east of Blyde River Canyon has an unmarked grave at its peak. The grave holds the ashes of Deneys Reitz, a man who fought in the South African War and wrote of his experiences in a bestselling book called Commando, first published in 1929.