3 Quirky Places to Stay in Mpumalanga's Wetlands Region


Jail Bird: Chrissiesmeer

Not many people can say that they've stayed in a former jail cell. If you're looking for unusual experiences to check off your bucket list, then this is surely one. The two adjoining, repurposed sandstone jail cells are cosy and have been decorated in a homely manner. The self-catering Jail Bird uses the former charge office as a fully-equipped kitchen and dining area and has an en-suite bathroom.



 Fancy a stay in the repurposed Jail Bird in Chrissiesmeer? Photo credit: Iga Motylska


It's located in the heart of Mpumalanga’s grasslands and wetlands region in Chrissiesmeer, which has two large freshwater lakes and over 320 pans. The wetland is home to nearly 200 bird species, making it one of South Africa's foremost birding destinations. It's a popular weekend retreat and city slickers visit to do the 60km self-drive birding route. Chrissiesmeer is also famed for the annual Frog Festival and Wild Flower Festival in December and January respectively. The little town is known for stargazing and is loved by photographers who can take spectacular long exposure photographs of the Milky Way as there is little light pollution.



Chrissiesmeer wetlands region has two large freshwater lakes and over 320 pans. Photo credit: Iga Motylska



Chrissiesmeer is located in the heart of Mpumalanga’s grasslands and wetlands region. Photo credit: Iga Motylska


Double Decker Bus: Carolina

You've driven in a bright red double decker bus many a time, but have you ever spent the night in one? Parked on the lawn outside of Antiques deli and coffee shop, you'll find  the quirkiest accommodation in all of Carolina and possibly Mpumalanga. The open-plan bus is equipped with a kitchenette, dining area, bedroom and bathroom. It's well equipped for the summer months with a fan and heaters for the cooler winter months. The bus sleeps four and is ideal for a family getaway, besides  the deli is a few steps away from your door.



 Stay in this red double decker bus in Carolina. Photo credit: Iga Motylska


The region surrounding Carolina is best known for the Komati Gorge Wildlife Reserve, which is popular for hiking, rock climbing and horse riding as well as fishing, canoeing and mountain biking. Then there’s game spotting and fishing at the nearby Nooitgedacht Nature Reserve, the nearby ghost town of Bonnefoi, and the concentric stone-walled ruins of the Bakoni civilisation – the tribe that inhabited the area for 500 years until the early 19th century.



The riverside beach at Komati Gorge Nature Reserve in Mpumalanga. Photo credit: Iga Motylska                                  



There are hundreds of concentric stone-wall ruins that were built by the Bakoni civilisation in the Carolina region. Photo credit: Iga Motylska    


Welgelegen Manor: Balfour

Welgelegen Manor was designed by none other than Sir Herbert Baker – the same architect who designed the Union Buildings and Groote Schuur Hospital, among numerous other historic buildings across South Africa. The classic English manor house is set among a rose garden and has been transformed into a five-star guest house. Here you can play croquet or a game of lawn tennis before retreating to the pool deck for sundowners.



Welgelegen Manor House was designed by famed architect Sir Herbert Baker. Photo credit: Welgelegen Manor House  


Balfour is peaceful, so book a private tour of the surrounding region where you'll learn about the history of the surrounding region that also stretches to Greylingstad, Val and Villiers. Otherwise take a walk among the surrounding koppies or visit Fortuna Resort nearby where you can swim, try your hand at fishing, go quad biking or play a round of putt-putt golf with the kids.



Fortuna Resort offers accommodation, fishing, quad biking and other recreational facilities. Photo credit: Iga Motylska            



Fortuna Resort near Balfour in Mpumalanga. Photo credit: Iga Motylska

Contact Details:


Jail Bird: Chrissiesmeer
Address: 136 Percy Street, Chrissiesmeer
Gps-26°16'41.0340"S, 030°13'12.2412"E, (-26.278065, 30.220067)
Tel:(017) 847-0078
Cell:082 929 1219 

Double decker bus guesthouse at Antiques at Voortrekker Street 
Address:73-75 Voortrekker Street,Carolina
Gps:-26°04'00.3000"S, 030°06'40.5720"E,(-26.066750, 30.111270)
Website: www.antiquessa.co.za
Tel:(017) 843-2127
Cell: Neels Oosthuizen 083-701-3606  

Nooitgedacht Dam Nature Reserve
Gps: -25°59'02.9616"S, 030°05'09.2328"E,(-25.984156, 30.085898)
Tel: (017) 843-2603
Cell: Werner Muller 083-779-9216  
Cost: R20/vehicle, R30/adult    

Komati Gorge Nature Reserve
Gps:-25°53'37.8924"S, 030°17'00.9564"E,(-25.893859, 30.283599)
Website: www.komatigorge.co.za
Email: komatigorge@telkomsa.net
Tel: (017) 843-1497 / (017) 843-3920
Cell: 082-927-1336 / 082-800-7442          

Private tours (Highveld Visitors Centre) 
Address: Corner of Taute Street and Kerk Street
Gps:-26°31'33.5748"S, 029°59'12.4296"E, (-26.525993, 29.986786)
Website: www.highveldconference.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/highveldconferencecentre
Email: info@headsonbeds.co.za or conference@headsonbeds.co.za
Tel: Athol Stark (017) 819-4707 or (017) 819-4709
Cell: Athol Stark 082-786-7959

Welgelegen Manor
Address: Farm Rietbult (R51/Balfour Road)
Gps: 26°38'17.9"S, 28°35'39.0"E, (-26.638300, 28.594167)           
Website: www.welgelegenmanor.co.za
Email: info@welgelegenmanor.co.za
Tel: (017) 773-9000
Cell: 083-281-1706 

Private tours of Balfour, Greylingstad, Villiers and Val region         
Cell: Rita Britz 082-550-5540
Email: info@valhotel.co.za   

Fortuna Resort                                                                   
Address: Fortuna Private Resort (Balfour Dam), Balfour
Gps: -26°75'83.24"S, 28°30'33.50"E, (-26.59534, 28.50930)
Website: www.fortunaresort.co.za
Email: info@fortunaresort.co.za
Tel: (017) 773-9021 


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