Grass & Wetlands
The Grass & Wetlands are the best places for those who would like to go stargazing and for those who are in search of rare birdlife.
This tranquil region is filled with spectacular mountains, lakes and ancient rock formations. When you visit the region you can also learn about the Battle of Chrissiesmeer, see the Bushmen rock paintings and see the evidence of the ancient Legoya nation.
Holland. Locals will tell you that to this day many Dutch tourists visit the town when travelling through South Africa. The town was proclaimed in 1888 and has retained parts of its Dutch heritage – its most recognisable feature is the Cape Dutch house with its characteristic gables in the centre of town, which has been granted national monument status. Today, it houses the Home Affairs office.
While it appears humble at first glance, Amersfoort reveals numerous facets of South Africa’s history – there are rumours that the Kruger Millions lie hidden somewhere in the surrounding area and it’s not unheard of for ‘gold hunters’ to spend the night in Amersfoort when they go in search of the elusive treasure. Another legend associated with the region – formerly known as the South Eastern Transvaal – is that of the Afrikaans heroine Racheltjie de Beer, who has become a bit of a protagonist in South African culture. She gave her life to protect her younger brother from a sudden change in weather that brought with it harsh cold. So you see, Amersfoort is just what you're looking for, if you're after a bit of history and peaceful solitude.
Amsterdam, the one in South Africa, is best known for its extensive stone age rock tool collection and Goliath's Footprint – a six-foot-high geological feature shaped like a human foot.
Travellers are often astounded when they discover that there's a town called Amsterdam located in South Africa's Mpumalanga Province, but the town has closer links to Scottish rather than Dutch history. Amsterdam’s beginnings can be traced back to Scotsman Alexander McCorkindale, who envisioned establishing a New Scotland Republic on the 200 farms he planned to buy from the South African government in 1864. The capital of this republic was to be called Roburnia, after the Scottish poet Robert Burns, however, it was renamed Amsterdam in 1882 in gratitude for the support that Holland had shown the Boers during the First Anglo-Boer War (1880-1881). However, the Scottish heritage of the surrounding region is evident in the names of nearby towns and farms.
Yet the region’s history stretches back much further than the 19th century. It is in the unassuming town of Amsterdam that Zama Sibeko, a maths and science teacher at a nearby school, has a private collection of more than 1 000 stone age rock tools that can be viewed by appointment. His passion is palpable as he demonstrates how the tools were used and for what purpose. He also points out those tools that are still enveloped in mineralised rock.
A short drive away from Amsterdam is Goliath’s Footprint, a 6-foot-high geological feature that captures the imagination of all who see it because it is shaped like a human footprint, with five perfectly formed toes. Numerous myths and legends attempt to explain its existence – some call it God’s Footprint, others refer to it as Adam’s Footprint, while still others believe that it is a remnant from times when giants roamed the earth. Resting a few metres below the footprint is a
large boulder shaped like a human skull, which further adds a mythical element to the storytelling.
Also nearby is Jericho Dam, located a few minutes’ drive from Amsterdam on the Mpama River. It is a fishing and camping destination that is also known for boating and water sports. Even if you’re only coming for a day trip, remember to pack a picnic basket, swimming costume and your mountain bike or hiking shoes.
eManazana, meaning 'healing waters' in siSwati, is best known for its hot mineral baths that are set in the bowl of the Dhlumudhlumu Mountains, meaning the place of much thunder. The region attracts local and international tourists and is a famed getaway destination. No matter which time of year you visit, there's much to do for the whole family at the Forever Resorts besides soaking in its warm waters, splashing around in the pools and testing your courage on the water rides and slides. Why not challenge your family and friends to go-karting around the track, a round of putt putt golf or paint ball, there's even a zip line. Or immerse yourself in nature on a quad bike safari that lets you get closer to the resort’s game than you ever thought possible.
Even the game rangers patrol on horseback. There are also numerous archaeological features within the game reserve, such as the stone circles and terraces of the Bakoni people.
The Batwa Valley region surrounding Breyten is brimming with San history that is seldom told. These stories are narrated on a private tour through the geological features and historic sites of the valley.
Breyten lies at the foot of Klipstapel, meaning 'rock pile' in Afrikaans, which at 1829 metres above sea level is the highest point on the watershed between the westward- flowing Vaal River system and the eastward-flowing Olifants and Komati River systems. In the late summer months the landscape is swathed in the pink and white of cosmos flowers.
The town's origins are quite intriguing as Bothasrus, which was the original farmstead on which the town was established, was granted to Mr Lukas Potgieter after he lost his leg during the first Anglo-Boer War. Potgieter later sold it to Nicolaas Breytenbach who, as you may have already guessed, named the village after himself and so the name stuck.
Although the farming town of Breyten was a bustling railway stop between Johannesburg and Nelspruit in the early 20th century, today the only remnants of that history is the class 19 series (number 1369) steam locomotive and carriage that is painted in the South African flag and plinthed outside the old railway station.
Breyten is also home to one of three leather tanneries left in South Africa, which sells sheepskin slippers across the county and is the town's biggest employer. If you're passing through en route to Chrissiesmeer, only 25km away, book a private tour for insight into this dwindling industry. The owner will take you around their facilities and explain the process of making leather slippers from start to finish.
It's recommended that you explore the region around Breyten with a private tourist guide as it's rich with natural beauty and geological features, such as the giant Mushroom Rock in the Batwa Valley and its links to San history. Mushroom Rock, which is found on private property and therefore cannot be explored independently, is also the site of the san genocide by the swazi people. The tour will take you back to days gone by with narratives of our earliest beginnings as
you witness rock paintings and stone age rock tools in a cave within the valley.
Hint: For further reading about the bushmen of the region read "Lake Chrissies's Bushman Past" published by Professor Ton Sanders (2013) and "The Disappearing Bushmen of Lake Chrissie" published by E.F Potgieter (1955).View More
Keep your eyes open as you drive there from Carolina, along the R36, as you will see the sandstone Grobler Bridge – built in 1897 and now a national monument – on your right.
Another lesser-known fact of the region is that of the internationally-acclaimed Everard group of artists, who lived in the nearby hamlet of Bonnefoi. Although it has been abandoned since, a private tour paints the picture of the ghost town at its peak in the 1900s – and you can imagine the goings about of the manor house, hotel and post office. Painter Bertha Bonnefoi (nee Everard) is buried in the Carolina cemetery.
This peaceful, countryside retreat in Mpumalanga’s grasslands and wetlands region is an ideal family getaway and a birder's paradise. Chrissiesmeer is the place to go to get away from it all and the friendly locals will make you want to extend your stay.View More
with cultural, natural and geographic attractions.
Hendrina is situated in the heart of cosmos country, where autumn brings with it blankets of cosmos flowers – it’s truly a sight to behold. While Hendrina is predominantly a mining and farming town, that was founded in 1914 on the farm Grasfontein, its location midway between Johannesburg and the Kruger National Park has made it a favoured rest stop, but perhaps Antiek-Sjiek has something to do with that too. This antique collector’s treasure trove is found in a house that dates back to the 1920s, soon after the town was established. Each room tells a different story and visitors can delve through crockery, silverware, musical instruments as well as Singer sewing machines and jewellery. The beer garden is ornamented with an ox wagon, petrol pump and vintage car that stands alongside the farming equipment used to till the soil of neighbouring farms. The restaurant serves Afrikaans farm-style food, where one can savour everything from homemade bread and vetkoek to milk tart and other traditional delights. The gift shop will ensures that no-one leaves empty handed, even if it’s just padkos for the rest of the journey ahead.
Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian lawyer and human rights activist, featured prominently in South Africa's liberation struggle during the 20th century. He is best known for adopting a passive resistance campaign, called Satyagraha, and concerned himself with the plight of Indian residents and merchants in South Africa. Their movement was restricted by the apartheid government, they could only reside in areas demarcated for Indians and could not freely move into the Transvaal. Gandhi, as the founder of the Natal Indian Congress, also called upon Indians not to register under the Black Act or to pay the grossly expensive £3 tax, which if they did not comply with would result in their repatriation to India.