Loader
 
 
Region Overview
 
 

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.

 

Towns

Amersfoort

Amersfoort

Amersfoort, which is named after a city in central Holland, welcomes curious Dutch tourists eager to learn about its beginnings as a Dutch Reformed Church settlement. Yet the town, located in the Vaal River basin, also tells tales of the hidden Kruger Millions and the Afrikaans heroine Racheltjie de Beer.
 
Despite its fairly small size the farming town of Amersfoort has its fair share of history to showcase to all who visit. It was established in 1876 when two Dutch farmers in the region donated 426 hectares of land that stretches along the banks of Schulpspruit River, located in the upper reaches of the Vaal River basin, for the establishment of a new Dutch Reformed parish. Reverend Frans Lion Cachet named the parish after the farmers’ hometown of Amersfoort – a city in central
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.
 
Although it doesn’t see as much traffic as it used to when it was built in 1896, the sandstone Paul Kruger Bridge that arches over the Vaal River – found on the outskirts of town, along the road between Amersfoort and Ermelo – has also been proclaimed a national monument. One aspect of the life in Amersfoort that hasn’t changed much is that the town is surrounded by vast open spaces that are predominantly used for sheep rearing and maize farming. The surrounding terrain is ideal for an off-road driving and biking experience. The 600-hectare Country Trax site has everything from sand tracks, steep uphill ascents and downhill ruts to water passages, rocky terrain and gravel tracks. It’s monster truck heaven for any 4x4, bundu-bashing junkie.

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.

View More
 
Amsterdam

Amsterdam

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.

View More
 
Badplaas

Badplaas

eManzana, formerly known as Badplaas, has much to boast about – hot mineral baths set in the bowl of the Dhlumudhlumu Mountains; a short distance to the province's largest game reserve, Songimvelo; and a network of underwater tunnels set in the Nkomazi Game Reserve that attract recreational and technical scuba divers from all over the world.

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.
 
Everything you'll need for a fun-filled holiday is situated at the fully-equipped resort, but the region also has much to offer if you want to explore further. Not too far from Forever Resorts is the Cradle of Life Reserve, which is known for its predatory cats, such as: white lions, tigers, jaguars, pumas, leopards, cheetahs as well as Siberian wolves and hyenas. Visitors are enthralled by the feeding drive, but the game drives are just as popular.
 
Adrenaline junkies find thrills in scuba diving at the Komati Springs inland dive site. For those who enjoy water-based activities, but don’t want to get wet, hire a picnic boat for the day or house boat for a night at Vygeboom Dam; alternatively, you can launch your own boat or jet ski.
 
Take a scenic drive from Badplaas to the Songimvelo Game Reserve, which is Mpumalanga's largest game reserve and the only place in the world where you may see the rare woolly cycad. The terrain is rough and difficult to access by car, which is why the game reserve has become so popular for its horseback safaris that allow visitors to get up close to wildlife.

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.

View More
 
Breyten

Breyten

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
 
Carolina

Carolina

Carolina is on the doorstep of the Komati Gorge Wildlife Reserve and the Nooitgedacht Nature Reserve, which are frequented for birdwatching, game spotting and various adrenaline-pumping outdoor activities. Yet few know that it’s also the resting place of internationally-acclaimed painter Bertha Bonnefoi of the Everard group of artists and that one can stay in a repurposed double decker bus.
 
What better place to have sundowners than from atop the illuminated sandstone cliffs of the Komati Gorge Wildlife Reserve, as you observe the Komati River carve its way through the valley. The Komati Gorge Wildlife Reserve is characteristic of Mpumlanga’s highveld grasslands, which makes it popular for birdwatching and game spotting. From hiking, rock climbing and horse riding to fishing, canoeing and mountain biking there’s so much to see and experience during a visit.
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.
 
On a private tour of the surrounding region you will learn about the intriguing Bokoni civilisation or 'the forgotten people of Mpumalanga' as they are known, who inhabited the area in for 500 years until the early 19th century. They ruled over large portions of Mpumalanga's escarpment and built concentric stone-walled enclosures, roads and terraces that have made the area of particular interest to archaeologists and historians.

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.
 
Yet another natural attraction on Carolina’s doorstep is Nooitgedacht Dam within the 3420ha Nooitgedacht Nature Reserve. This grassland biome protects the Moist Sandy Highveld grassland veldtype and is home to small predators and several game species, making it popular among campers. Remember to bring your fishing rods along with your binoculars as there is an abundance of carp, bass and barbel in the 756ha dam.
 
While there's so much to explore in the region, do visit Carolina too. It is believed to have been established as a trading post in 1886 on Groenvlei and Goede Hoep farms, but another story tells the tale of Cornelis Coetzee who offered parts of his farm, Steynsdraai, for the estabishment of the village, but only on the condition that it be named after his wife. Although the town was almost completely destroyed during the second Anglo-Boer War, it was rebuilt shortly afterwards and still has a few of its original sandstone buildings around the church square.
 
Hint: For an unusual experience stay in the red double decker bus along Van Riebeek Road that has been repurposed into a guesthouse.

View More
 
Chrissiesmeer

Chrissiesmeer

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
 
Ermelo

Ermelo

Ermelo played a pivotal role in South Africa’s liberation struggle as it was a stop over for the ANC’s Umkhonto weSizwe members who were travelling to Swaziland and Mozambique, and it also experienced forced removals during the 1960s. But the surrounding region is also brimming
with cultural, natural and geographic attractions.

View More
 
Hendrina

Hendrina

Hendrina's location midway between Johannesburg and the Kruger National Park has made it a favoured rest stop for travellers, but perhaps Antiek-Sjiek, an antique collector's haven, has something to do with that too.

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.

View More
 
Morgenzon

Morgenzon

Morgenzon, meaning ‘morning sun’ in Dutch, is a sleepy farming town situated along the banks of the Osspruit River, midway between Standerton and Ermelo. It's the place to visit if you're looking for peace and quiet to unwind from city life.
 
Morgenzon was laid out before the First World War, in 1912, on the farm by the same name that was donated by De Jager, a farmer in the area. Although the locals narrate a different story: that no name had been agreed upon on the eve of the town’s official establishment and as the morning sun rose over the horizon and time was running out it was decided that the town would be named after the rising sun and as a symbol of new beginnings. A few of the nearby farms have been around for much longer, since the 1880s, and five generations down the line their descendants still till the soil to harvest maize and farm cattle and sheep.

View More
 
Perdekop

Perdekop

When in Perdekop it's compulsory to go horse riding, but don't leave before you visit Roodedraai Museum – one of South Africa's largest collections of Anglo-Boer War memorabilia.
 
The small town of Perdekop, meaning 'horse hill' in Afrikaans, is 1889 metres above sea level and owes its name to an environmental oddity that occurred in the days when horse sickness prevailed. The hill was the only high-lying place that was free of the dreaded horse sickness. Farmers would bring their horses to the hill when the disease broke out in the lower lying areas of the region. To this day, horse outrides and horse riding are done in the nearby hills.

View More
 
Piet Retief

Piet Retief

Set in the surrounds of pine forests near one of South Africa’s largest dams you’ll find Mkhondo – the gateway to KwaZulu-Natal Province and Swaziland. Heyshope Dam, found on the Assegaai River and surrounded by pine forests, is one of the biggest dams in the province as well as the country and it’s only 30km away from Mkhondo, formerly known as Piet Retief. Pack a picnic basket, your fishing rods, swimming costume and tents as you head off for a day trip or relaxing weekend break along the water’s edge. With a shoreline of 120km, you’ll surely find a suitable spot to reel in fish. The dam has a reputation as the best place in the country to fish for largemouth bass, but you’ll also find carp and yellowfish in its waters. Locals and seasoned fishermen will tell you to take a boat onto the water if you want to increase your catch. The dam provides a peaceful retreat in nature and is a well-loved place to play sports with your family and friends or settle down with a good book.

View More
 
Volksrust

Volksrust

It was in Volksrust that human rights activist Mahatma Gandhi and his wife, Kasturba, were arrested on numerous occasions, alongside other Indian protestors, for peacefully marching against the Black Act and Immigration Law. Gandhi’s Satyagraha Campaign resulted in the Gandhi-Smuts agreement of 1914 and better living conditions for Indians.

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.

View More
 
Wakkerstroom

Wakkerstroom

Wakkerstroom, which is set in a peaceful valley overlooked by Ossewakop Mountain, is a world-renowned destination. As the second oldest town in the province, Wakkerstroom is brimming with history that is only rivalled by its natural splendour.
 
The region is home to three major bird habitat types, namely wetlands, grasslands and forests. Birders journey to Wakkerstroom with the hopes of spotting the rare Rudd's Lark, Botha's Lark and other endemic birds from the four bird hides in the tranquil setting of the surrounding wetland reserve. If you're not too clued up on bird watching though, one of the very knowledgeable local guides can help you identify each species.

View More