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The capital city of the Mpumalanga Province of South Africa, Nelspruit (Mbombela) is considered the gateway town between the Kruger National Park, Mozambique and Swaziland. It is also the largest town in the Lowveld, a lush area where tropical fruits and nuts are farmed. The outlying areas consist of rolling green hills, waterfalls, forests and rivers, a place where Mother Nature parades her complete array of magnificence.
Nelspruit is strategically located between the large Gauteng cities and the coast of Mozambique, its history tells of it being on a trade route and later, a junction for trains carrying cargo to the shipping port in Maputo Bay. Today, the busy N4 highway runs from Pretoria via Nelspruit and to the Mozambique border.
A warm subtropical climate makes Nelspruit the perfect place to enjoy the outdoors and explore this entire region that is rich in natural wonders.
Top 8 reasons to visit Nelspruit
1. A visit to the Kruger National Park is mandatory. This world famous reserve hosts the Big 5 (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo), the endangered African wild dog, hyena, crocodile, hippo and many other mammals. A total of 451 bird species have been officially recorded in the park.
2. Farm stalls along the roads around Nelspruit are common, however, the Halls Farm Stall on the R104 is worth a stop to sample the excellent coffee and fresh home bakes on offer. All manner of gifts, jams, and preserves line the shelves. The place has a lovely garden to rest up.
3. Travel to the Croc Grove Crocodile Farm on the Schoemanskloof road to see the 75 breeding Nile crocodiles, some well over 3m in size. Try and schedule your visit during croc feeding times.
4. The Lowveld National Botanical Garden is one of the most picturesque in South Africa. Walk through the rain forest and cross the suspension bridge to view a spectacular waterfall. The unique baobab tree and ancient cycads are on display.
5. Watch a movie, sip on a cocktail or try your luck on the slot machines at the gracious Emnotweni Casino and Entertainment Complex in Mbombela.
6. Take a tour of the Mbombela Stadium where 40000 fans regularly watch their favourite soccer and rugby teams in action. The pillars are designed to appear as giraffes and the seats are arranged in the pattern of zebra stripes.
7. Birders visit the Nelspruit Nature Reserve, home to many striking birds such as the purple-crested turaco, however, hikers and animal lovers will enjoy the reserve for the 3 forest trails and small mammals roaming the reserve.
8. The Jane Goodall Institute of South Africa Chimpanzee Sanctuary, also called Chimp Eden, is the only one of its kind in the country and houses orphaned and rescued chimpanzees mostly from the illegal pet trade. Guided tours take place 3 times a day and there is a restaurant on site.
Mpumalanga’s international airport is Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport, 27km outside Nelspruit. There is also an airstrip on the outskirts of town for small commercial and charter planes. A vehicle can be hired from car rental agencies at the airport or in the town, otherwise order a rental online. Metered taxi and shuttle services operate in Nelspruit. Uber has plans to begin operating here in the very near future.
Did you know?
Nelspruit was officially renamed to Mbombela (meaning Crowded Place in isiSwazi) in 2009, however, the new name is long in being adopted. At this stage, both names are recognised, use either when asking for directions.
Dame Jane Goodall won acclaim for her research conducted on chimpanzees and other primates. She found that chimpanzees have a complex social structure, display many human-like traits and are able to master basic toolmaking skills. She has opened various research centres and sanctuaries for primates throughout the world, including the one in Nelspruit.
Guests escape the noise and bustle of lodges by opting to stay in either fully self-catering or bed and breakfast cottages. Self-catering cottages are a home away from home and come fully equipped with everything guests need. Most self catering cottages also come with a cleaning service, Dstv, and a private patio/entertainment area. Guests who opt for bed and breakfast cottages enjoy their own private patio/entertainment area, luxury amenities, Dstv, and cleaning service. There is often a small kitchenette, if guests wish to do a little cooking, and a relaxing lounge area. Cottages are ideal for families, small groups of friends and couples wishing for a more private retreat.