The greater Escarpment of Mpumalanga is one of the most important tourist areas of Southern Africa. The Escarpment stretches from the Limpopo Province in the North and follows the Drakensberg Mountain Escarpment to Swaziland in the South. Views from the edge of the Escarpment are quite spectacular, the ground dropping almost vertically for up to 2000 metres. On a clear day it is possible to see beyond the Kruger National Park and over the Lebombo Mountains into Mozambique.
On the inland side of the escarpment lie a number of important trout fishing resorts, including Belfast, Dullstroom, Lydenberg, Machadodorp and Waterval Boven. In 1871 the region was flooded with settlers – diggers, fortune hunters, and all the followers-on that miraculously appear with the discovery of gold. The restored gold-mining village of Pilgrims Rest makes a fascinating stopover with its museums and restored buildings. The gold rush instigated many stories, the most famous of which is Jock of the Bushveld, a story about a dog and its owner that has become world famous. A little to the South of Pilgrims Rest is the scenic village of Graskop, which makes an ideal base for exploring the surrounding areas. Just outside the village are the Panorama Falls, one of the more spectacular waterfalls of the Escarpment. Sabie village to the South of Graskop is nestled in a deep valley among some of the largest man-made forests on Earth. The town sits below Mount Anderson, the highest peak of Mpumalanga at 2284 metres. A whole day can be spent visiting the many beautiful waterfalls of the Sabie region.
Along the edge of the Escarpment overlooking the Lowveld to the East are several areas that are a “must” for the visitor. There are Worlds, the Three Rondavels – natural rock outcrops on the edge of the Escarpment, Bourke’s Luck Potholes and the Blyde River Canyon, the world’s third largest canyon. Just a few kms to the West of Worlds End are the Echo Caves, where evidence of the early inhabitants of the area has been found. There has been much evidence of the presence of the San people some 25,000 years ago. There are a large number of rock art sites and stone arrow heads and simple tools from the Stone Age confirms their early presence.
There are plenty of pursuits for the adventure tourist on the Escarpment as well. White Water Rafting takes place, mostly in summer, on the Blyde River. Canoeing and Kayaking is offered at riverside resorts, though prospective participants should be prepared to take their own equipment. There are numerous sites for Rock Climbing in the mountains of the Escarpment, and routes can be obtained from the Nelspruit Mountain Club. It is most important that rock climbers should register where they propose to climb before commencing the climb. This is purely for their own safety and is most important. The weather can change quite rapidly on the mountains of the Escarpment and climbers should be prepared for this possible eventuality. Hikers can also make excellent use of the numerous hiking trails throughout the region. Hiking trails are being developed and added to frequently to satisfy the demand. Mountain Biking is a fast growing sport which can be carried out on the Escarpment , and the forests around Sabie offer some challenging and picturesque trails, many of which have been marked out in the plantations.
Accommodation of all types can be found on the Escarpment, from camping sites to bed and breakfasts, from luxury lodges to hotels. As the area is so popular it is a good idea to plan and book ahead if you can.
© Michael J Mason 2009