Barberton Uncovered – Part 2

02 July 2015 by Katy Johnson

It only takes a few minutes of speaking with David to realise that he is a man who wears many different ‘hats’. A geologist by training, he now runs the Aloe Ridge Guest Farm with his wife Anne. A 66 hectare once derelict property that they transformed into a beautiful guest house with a garden any bird lover would die for. Over 260 bird species are officially listed on the property. Mainly as a result of David’s insistence that they only plant bird attracting plants, although Anne has managed to sneak in the odd Aloe or three. Aloe Ridge truly is a birder’s paradise.

So it is no surprise that David is also the Chairman of Barberton’s birding club, as well as a guide for the town’s newest attraction, the Geotrail. Add to that, his involvement on several tourism committees, running their organic small holding and it’s safe to say David’s a busy man. But he is also a passionate man, keen on promoting Barberton and the surrounding Genesis Route making him the ideal person to Uncover Barberton.

What makes Barberton and the surrounding area’s special?

People come to Mpumalanga for the climate and the wildlife. That is what initially drew me, the warm winters and the birds. Barberton has both and so much more. There is the geology, unique not only in South Africa but in the world. The only place you can travel back in time 3.5 billion years and see what our planet would have looked like at a time when life was just beginning. Then there is the history. Barberton is overflowing with gold rush nostalgia that can be viewed along the Heritage Walk or on a tour of one of the many surrounding mines. It is home to a national hero; Percy Fitzpatrick’s dog Jock and played a role in the pre-1994 struggles with a number of the struggle leaders, including Nelson Mandela, seeking refuge in the township. Finally and most importantly what makes Barberton really special is the community, people here go out of their way to help you. So to me Barberton has it all – the weather, the wildlife, the history and the community.

If we had one day, where would you take me and why?

That is difficult! It would depend on what you are interested in. As Barberton has so much to offer! I guess it would either have to be the Geotrail or to Peddlar’s Bush in search of the elusive Narina Trogon. 

The Geotrail is a truly unique experience you can have nowhere else in the world but here. What is extra special about the Geotrail, is that while you are uncovering the secrets of how our planet was formed you are also being treated to some of the most spectacular views in the province. At one of the Geotrail stops on a clear day you can look over Mpumalanga into Swaziland and then in the far distance you see Mpumalanga’s Lebombo mountain range. So you are looking through Swaziland back into Mpumalanga again.

Peddlar’s Bush is quite simply a birders paradise. It is 60 hectares of indigenous forest sandwiched between pine plantations and boasts over 200 species of birds. Including the Starred Robin, Brown Scrub-Robin, Knysna Touraco, Bush Black Cap, Orange Ground-Thrush and Narina Trogon, which are prized finds for even the most experienced birder. The following site gives great information for those new to birding and experienced birders alike: https://sites.google.com/site/birdinginkruger/peddlar-s-bush

Where is the best place to grab a bite to eat?

Without a doubt Restaurant Josephine’s! Their food is in a class of its own and their hospitality is renowned. It is a Belgian restaurant, open Tuesday to Sunday and whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner you fancy, you won’t go wrong there. I recommend the Eisbein or Lamb Curry. [Contact Restaurant Josephine on: +27 (0) 13 712 3543 | +27 (0) 72 400 5279 | restaurantjosephines@hotmail.com | www.restaurantjosephine.co.za]

What are the top 5 things to do or visit in Barberton and the surrounding areas?

The Geotrail would have to be one, as would a visit to either Peddlar’s Bush or Rimer’s Creek for the birding. Then for the historians a trip to Bray’s Golden Quarry, where the rocks were quite literally cemented with gold! It is still the richest mine ever known. As most gold mines produce 5-6g of gold per tonne of ore, while here they produced up to 100g and sometimes it was kilograms! For those who enjoy scenic tours Nelshoogte pass is one of the most impressive in South Africa. On a clear day the views it offers up are simply breath-taking and the drive is fun to. Finally, for the thrill seeker I would suggest diving at Komati Springs. Mpumalanga is not famed for its diving, but perhaps it should be. As the Komati Springs dive site attracts qualified divers from all over the world who relish the chance to explore the flooded mine and series of underwater caves. There are also nesting Southern Bald Ibis around the dive site

What makes Mpumalanga stand out from all the other Provinces?

It would have to be the Lowveld. The combination of habitats and ecosystems in the Lowveld are not unique to Mpumalanga. It is the level of preservation of that environment you have in the Kruger National Park and then combine that with the geological, historical and cultural heritage together with some immense scenic views, we have here that makes Mpumalanga a truly unique tourist experience. There really is more to this province than just the Big Five animals and it is time we helped the tourists see the great range of attractions that we have. 



Contact details for David’s Top Five:

The Geotrail: Open 365 days a year, it starts in Barberton at the intersection of the R40 and R38 and goes all the way to the Swaziland border. Admission is free for those self-driving. Guide books can be obtained from the Barberton Tourism Office.  Alternatively contact David (dmourant@iafrica.com | +27 (0) 82 923 5366) or Tony Ferrar (tonyferrar@lantic.net | +27 (0) 72 376 2581) for a guided tour.

Birding at Peddlar’s Bush and Rimers Creek: Open 365 days a year. Peddlar’s Bush is located in the Mountainland some 20km from town. While Rimer’s Creek is a 30min walking trail situated just behind the Museum in town. Admission is free For more information or enquires regarding joining birding expeditions contact the Barberton Birding Club using David’s contact details above.

Historic Barberton: For more information about the Barberton Heritage Tour, Township Tour or visiting Bray’s Golden Quarry contact Barberton Tourism Office (astrid@barberton.co.za | +27 (0)13 712 2880) or alternatively contact Andrea at Barberton Odyssey (barbertontours@gmail.com | +27 (0) 79 180 1488).

Nelshoogte Pass: Open 365 days a year and is situated on the R38 GPS coordinates (S25 51 10.9 E30 45 41.8).

Komati Springs Diving: Situated on the R38. Komati Springs caters for both recreational and technical diving. It offers overnight accommodation and bird watching. Visit their website: www.komatisprings.com or contact Andre Shirley directly (+27 (0) 82 650 2294 | info@komatisprings.com).