Although the centre of South Africa’s fuel from coal production and home to the world’s largest underground coal mining complex, Cosmos Country explodes with colour when pretty pink and white cosmos flowers bloom in late summer. Lying in the south western part of Mpumalanga against the Free State and Gauteng borders and includes the towns of Secunda, Delmas, Leandra, Bethal, Standerton, Balfour and Greylingstad.
GRASS AND WETLANDS
The Grass and Wetlands region is unequivocally a birding paradise that lures bird watchers in their droves. The route includes South Africa’s largest freshwater lake at Chrissiesmeer. Chrissiesmeer also boasts a mysterious giant footprint in rock that matches one in Canada, and hosts an annual frog watching festival in summer and stargazing festival in winter. A fierce Anglo Boer War battle that was fought at Chrissiesmeer is also re-enacted annually. The route borders Kwazulu-Natal and Free State, as well as the kingdom of Swaziland, which is the last absolute monarchy in sub-saharan Africa. It is also home to the 1 000-year-old ruins of the lost Legoya people and San paintings. The route also includes the farming communities of Carolina, Hendrina, Ermelo, Volksrust, Piet Retief, Amsterdam, Breyten, Lothair and Morgenzon.
Mpumalanga’s Highlands Meander is a nature lover’s paradise, boasting South Africa’s premier fly-fishing mecca, some of the sub-continent’s rarest birds, best rock climbing, and most spectacular wild flower displays — all just two-hours drive from the metropolitan centres of Gauteng and Mozambique. It is also home to Africa’s only breeding community of wild Black Leopard, who haunt the wild mountain ravines and streams that characterise the Highland Meander. The region’s diversity and string of quaint historic towns have made it a popular weekend hideaway for well-heeled city sleekers, who flock to hamlets such as Dullstroom for South Africa’s best trout and fly fishing. The town’s stone lodges nestle along cool trout dams and streams, where bright yellow arum lilies and 120 other species of indigenous wild flower carpet the region in a kaleidoscope of colour every spring.
Just next to the Highlands Meander is The Panorama, which abounds with breathtaking views from natural wonders along the eastern slopes of the escarpment. There is God’s Window and the world’s third largest canyon and biggest green canyon, the Blyde River Canyon. There are also the astonishing Bourke’s Luck Potholes and three rondawels. The towns of Lydenburg and White River are gateways to the route, which takes visitors through the quaint towns of Pilgrim’s Rest, a living museum dating back to the hey days of the gold rush, as well as Sabie, Graskop, Ohrigstad and Hazyview. Nature enthusiasts will discover cascading water falls while adrenaline junkies can get their next rush by bungee jumping, white water rafting or going on rigorous 4×4 trails. More gentler pursuits include hot air ballooning, walking trails and gold panning.
The Cultural Heartland immerses visitors in colourful Ndebele culture and winds through the north western towns of Witbank, Middelburg, Siyabuswa, Groblersdal, Marble Hall and Roossenekal. The Ndebele people are world famous for their vibrant house painting, bead work and crafts, all of which are on display at cultural villages in the region. The Heartland also has a Boer War route ideal for history buffs. Instead of the more traditional game viewing on offer further east, the Heartland offers game viewing by boat at the Loskop Dam Nature Reserve. The The Witbank Dam is the largest municipal dam in the southern hemisphere, with a catchment area of 3 540 square kilometres. A large portion of the region is fantastic for water sports like skiing and windsurfing. The Heartland also offers parasailing, golfing and scenic hiking and 4×4 trails. Visitors can also see the mining and farming industry as never before by going on industrial and agricultural tours to collieries and farms, while plant enthusiasts will find that the lanatus cycad is indigenous to the region and that a plethora of wild flowers like arum lilies transform the area into a magical garden during summer.
Lowveld Legogote is home to the seat of the provincial administration in Nelspruit, wild horse town of Kaapsehoop, creative and eccentric White River, and vibey township KaNyamazane. Here you will find the oldest dolomite caves the world – Sudwala Caves – a mesmerising butterfly garden and a botanical garden with an enormous collection of cycads and African rainforest. Indulge in quad and mountain biking, paragliding, microlighting, cultural tours to authentic villages and game viewing.
THE WILD FRONTIER
The Wild Frontier is a cradle of life with geological discoveries and some of the oldest forms of life discovered on earth, dating back more than three billion years. The imposing Mkonjwa mountains are said to be of the oldest in the world. The region borders Mozambique, Swaziland and the southern tip of the Kruger National Park and takes visitors to the historic towns of Barberton, Komatipoort, Kaapmuiden and Badplaas. Barberton was the centre of the local gold rush and the façade of Africa’s first stock exchange, which was built in 1887, still stands. The region holds enormous sentimental value for the people of Mozambique whose president, Samora Machel, died when his plane crashed south of Komatipoort at the height of apartheid atrocities in South Africa. A monument has been built in a small village to commemmorate his life and the lives of those who died in the crash with him. The Wild Frontier’s heritage trails, hiking and 4×4 trails certainly take visitors on a journey of discovery or one of pampering at hot springs and hydro spas at Badplaas.