Surrounded by mountains, valleys, waterfalls and forest, Graskop is a well centrally-located village. As it is situated at the beginning of the famous Panoramic Route along the Blyde River Canyon inbetween Johannesburg, the Kruger National Park, Mozambique and Swaziland, there are lots of amenities to make the visitor feel as comfortable as possible. At an altitude of over 1400m, Graskop has a climate which makes it a very pleasant place to stay, with an average temperature of 25 degrees Celsius in Summer and 18 degrees Celsius in Winter. There are a lot of good quality and reasonably-priced curio shops and stalls, a SPAR supermarket, TOTAL filling station, FNB bank with several ATMs and a variety of good restaurants, including the famous pancakes! Don't forget to take a peep or even a daring backward jump at the famous 'Big Swing', with a 68-metre free fall down into the gorge below (closed on Mondays).
From Graskop you drive through the Lowveld to the world-famous animal park where its visitors can experience the wonders of African nature. From the safety of your car you can spot many breeds of antelope, lions, monkeys, elephants, rhino, giraffes, hippos, buffalo, wildebeest and if you are very lucky you might even catch a glimpse of a leopard or cheetah! Not forgetting the many kinds of birds, insects and plants to identify too.
The park may be explored with your own car or as a guided tour, where the qualified and experienced trackers can perhaps explain and show you many more interesting things that you would otherwise not have known or spotted yourself. In the rest camps you can choose to sleep in a variety of accommodations ranging in luxury and price and most have a restaurant, electricity, a filling station and a telephone. You can also go on a guided night drive and watch the beautiful sunset or take an early morning bush walk and wake up with the animals as the sun rises. At night whilst safely tucked up in bed, listen out for the lions and their territorial roar – it’s spine chilling and thrilling!
Just 5 minutes outside Graskop begins the Panorama Route, which gives you stunning views along the escarpment. Have a look at the Pinnacle, a 30-metre quartzite column, then continue on up to catch a view of the world from God’s Window. From here you can marvel at the Lowveld, which lies 600m to 800m below your feet, the highest viewpoint being at Wonder View with its 360 degree panoramic vista. If the climate is right, you may even see Mozambique on the horizon! The route takes you past the Lisbon Falls, the Berlin Falls and on to the exceptionally-formed Bourke’s Luck Potholes. At the end you will not be disappointed with the most incredible and unique landscape at the Lowveld viewpoint and the Three Rondavels, standing above the world’s greenest and third largest canyon: the Blyde River Canyon.
This quaint village with its rich history brings you back to the end of the 18th century. To the times when fortune seekers and daredevils from all over the world came to search and dig for gold that was hidden in the hills. The museums give you a lot of information about the village and its past. You can even test your luck in one of the many rivers that may still carry along this most desired precious metal. There are several restaurants and plenty of souvenir shops, try out the cappuccino at Pilgrim’s Pantry!
The Mac Mac area is named after the many Scottish immigrants who came to search for gold, which also spread to this waterfall and particularly to the pool below its 56m drop. In an attempt to divert the flow with explosives, the single stream was split into twin falls. During hot days you can take a refreshing dive into the crystal clear waters of the Mac Mac Pools, sunbathe and have a braai in the picnic area for a small entrance fee. This area is ideal for mountain biking and hiking.
The village has many souvenir shops, nice restaurants, market stalls and even a second-hand book shop to offer you a complete day out. Besides all this, you can visit the four waterfalls that are close to town; Sabie Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Horseshoe Falls and last but not least the spectacular Lone Creek Falls.
This city is the capital of Mpumalanga and the transit area between Johannesburg/Pretoria, Mozambique and Swaziland. It is a modern place where African culture meets the Western. There is a cinema, a casino and at least three big shopping malls. Apart from this, Nelspruit offers you the beautiful Botanical Gardens, the River Croc Reptile Park, the Sudwala Caves and the world-famous Jane Goodall’s Institute ‘Chimpanzee Eden’. Not forgetting the famous world cup football stadium ‘Mbombela’ on the N4, direction Emalahleni. Go and visit the wild horses at Kaapeshoep (25km SW of Nelspruit) and wander around the paths on the quartzite escarpment to capture stunning views of the valley below.
Hazy View is the main door way to the Kruger with the entrance gates Paul Kruger and Phabeni just down the road and on to the biggest rest camp, Skukuza. There is no village centre as such but it does have some interesting places to visit. There are two elephant havens where you can feed, touch, ride and interact with them; 'Elephant Sanctuary' and 'Elephant Whispers'. The Shangana Cultural village offers tours to meet the chief and learn about their everday life and traditions. Visit the Marula hand-made craft market for free, and you could make a night of it and join their song and dance evening with/without their more than generous and delicious helpings of local traditional food. Prices on request or visit their website. Before entering the Kruger National Park, you can stock up on food at the convenient shopping mall and if you fancy a bit of a treat, why not make a stop at 'The Belgian Baker' for tea & cake at Perry's Bridge (closed on Tuesdays) The 'Skyways' Canopy trail is also based at Hazy View where you can zip from tree top to tree top as if you were one of those vervet monkeys!
The village of Hoedspruit is situated next to the Kruger National Park, the nearest entrance being the Orpen Gate. There are at least two animal rehabilitation centres for wild animals; Moholoholo and the Endandered Species Centre, otherwise known as the Cheetah Project. Here you see and learn about many species of animal which have been rescued from the wild for a variety of reasons, you can even touch and feed a few too! The route to Hoedspruit from Graskop takes you along the Blyde River Nature Reserve, with amazing views at Mariepskop, and hiking trails and boat rides on the dam. If it gets too hot during the day, you can also go underground and cool down by visiting the Echo Caves with its many stalagmites and stalagtites, and why not take a look inside the Museum of Man (cradle of Mankind) while you are there too.
The Swazi people are very friendly and very proud of their country, and so they should be after so much battling - they had to fight for a long time to keep their land out of the hands of the British, Boers and the Zulus! Although Swaziland is still very traditional, the country has developed in a skilled way, as the local hand-made crafts are some of the best in the area. There are many Nature Parks where you are likely to spot the 'Big 5' and numerous hiking trails through the mountains and valleys. A visit to the Milwane Animal Sanctuary is well worth a visit!
This former Portuguese colony has a fast growing economy and tourism is rising. Please note that this has had an affect on the cost of living, so prices for accommodation, travel and food is not as cheap as it used to be. Consider getting your visa beforehand or in the main capital in Swaziland as it is a lot cheaper than at the border! Alongside the coast are beautiful spots to aqua dive, snorkel or swim, where you can meet with dolphins, manta rays and even turtles. You can also relax under the coco palms on one of the deserted beaches. The capital, Maputo, offers you elegant colonial buildings and a wonderful variety of tasty cuisine. A travel tip - the more north you travel the more remote and unspoilt it is, but you really need a 4x4 to get anywhere.