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Regarded as the coal capital of the world, the town of Witbank in the Mpumalanga Province was a rest camp along a wagon route in its history before the town was officially laid out in 1903 to service the collieries that sprang up after a railway line reached the area.
Although there are substantial deposits of coal, Witbank also has a large steel and vanadium industry and the surrounding areas are mostly farmland consisting of dairy, sheep and vegetable farming. Witbank is a strategic stop between Johannesburg and the Mozambique coastline on what is known as the Maputo economic corridor.
The Witbank dam is one of the largest in the country and with a casino, and shopping and sports facilities, Witbank has sufficient entertainment to enjoy a holiday in the town. Witbank was officially renamed to eMalahleni in 2006, however, the old name is still regularly used.
Witbank lies halfway between the bright lights of Johannesburg and the many natural wonders of Mpumalanga that centre around the city of Nelspruit.
Top 6 reasons to visit Witbank
1. The huge eMalahleni/Witbank dam is a relaxing spot to enjoy swimming, fishing, picnics, water sports and family fun on the grassy banks. Hire a boat and rod to catch carp and yellow fish.
2. With a large number of slot machines and several tables, gambling at the Ridge Casino is serious business. The casino has movie theatres, a restaurant, coffee shop and lounge bar for alternate entertainment.
3. Travel to Ezemvelo Nature Reserve for an unusual game viewing experience on horseback. Guides take riders through the reserve to see interesting animals such as leopard, hyena and aardvark. There are a few ancient rock paintings in the reserve.
4. Spend the day shopping at the Highveld Mall. The mall has over 170 exciting stores to browse, 20 restaurants, ongoing tenant promotions and the occasional exhibition.
5. After a thorough 20 minute briefing, you are ready to plunge to earth at breakneck speeds strapped to a qualified Dropzone parachutist on a thrilling skydive. Be sure to bring along a selfie stick.
6. The Witbank Golf Club is over 100 years old and many a fine golfer has played on the course. Hire clubs and try the 18-hole course yourself. Visitors are welcome and are requested to dress conservatively.
OR Tambo International Airport outside Johannesburg is located 124km from Witbank. Witbank has a private airport for chartered flights, ask your host for more info. Rent a vehicle from a car rental agency at the OR Tambo airport or in Witbank, otherwise order a rental online. There are a number of metered taxi and shuttle service companies operating in Witbank.
Did you know?
Witbank’s most celebrated citizen is Anneline Kriel who won the Miss World title in 1974 at age 18. At one stage, she was married to hotel magnate Sol Kerzner.
Back in the mid-1900s, the Witbank golf course had no way to cut the grass so they used oxen – provided by the local butcher – to maintain the fairways. Years later, donkeys were used to drag the mowers and when hungry, would be shepherded out to the rough to feed.