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Driving into Sabie in the Mpumalanga Province, one is presented with a panorama of emerald-painted forests interspersed with waterfalls tumbling down rocky sandstone cliffs. Here, millions upon millions of trees are planted annually to replenish the great demand for paper and wood products worldwide.
Gold was discovered along the Sabie River’s edge in 1895 and Sabie can, like any gold rush town, boast of legends built, of instant wealth creation and destitution, and of unusual characters filling the history books.
Sabie is a Tsonga word meaning fearful, named at a time when the Sabie River was the domain of the man-eating crocodile.
The town is located in one of South Africa’s prettiest regions and in big game country, near to the Kruger National Park and surrounded by other renowned private game reserves.
Top 8 reasons to visit Sabie
1. Sabie is on the Mpumalanga Panorama Route for good reason: waterfalls, forests, scenic picnic spots, hiking trails, outdoor adventure activities, curio shops and fruit stalls abound.
2. The Sabie Xperience MTB Stage Race takes place annually and is an important event on the mountain biking calendar. The route is laid out through forested areas with tough peaks to climb and hair-raising downhills to negotiate.
3. Try the interesting stout, lager and draught craft beers on offer at the Sabie Brewing Company. Tours are conducted at the facility and end off with a tasting of all 6 beer styles.
4. A short drive outside of town is the 68m Lone Creek Falls waterfall. There is an interesting walk to the bottom of the waterfall that takes in natural forest and traverses a footbridge to reach the pool.
5. Travel to the Kruger National Park to enjoy an authentic game drive through this massive reserve populated by thousands of animals, including the Big 5 (lion, rhino, elephant, buffalo and leopard).
6. Hike the 14km Loerie Trail via the Bridal Veil Falls and with magnificent views of the valley below. As the name implies, the secretive Loerie bird (now called a Turaco), is occasionally seen high up in the forest canopy.
7. Take the family to enjoy a toboggan ride – minus the snow – at the Long Tom Toboggan. The ride consists of a yellow crate positioned on a rail 1.7km in length and has riders reaching speeds of 45km/h! Enjoy a meal at the well-known Misty Mountain Lodge restaurant afterwards.
8. Sabie has a lovely 9-hole golf course for those missing their golfing fix.
The nearest airport to Sabie is the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport in Nelspruit (Mbombela), 69km away. An alternate airport is the Eastgate Airport in Hoedspruit. Car rental agencies are located at the airports and in Nelspruit, otherwise order a vehicle online. Shuttle operators and metered taxis offer transport between Sabie and other towns.
Did you know?
Gold was discovered here when, during a drunken party held by the farm owner, a shooting match took place with bottles as targets and a misdirected bullet struck a rock, exposing a gold vein. Those present at the party immediately staked claims along what became known as Sandstone Reef and caused a gold rush that lasted for 55 years.
The tree plantations around Sabie began after the demand for wood from underground mining had all but dried up supply of the magnificent trees growing naturally in the area. The gold mines have since closed but the plantations have endured.