lion Kruger National Park Mpumalanga

Lions are one of the “big five” animal attractions in the Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga. Image: Adobe Stock

Heritage and Tourism Month: Four must-visit sites in Mpumalanga

Dig out your binoculars, pack the snacks and head off to explore one of South Africa’s most beautiful provinces.

lion Kruger National Park Mpumalanga

Lions are one of the “big five” animal attractions in the Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga. Image: Adobe Stock

Now that lockdown permits inter-provincial travel, you may like to explore the province of Mpumalanga, “the place of the rising sun”, in the north east of South Africa.

Mpumalanga is one of South Africa’s favourite tourism destinations with its beautiful mountains and forests. And don’t forget that it is the home of wildlife’s “big five”.

As the country marks September as tourism month as well as Heritage Month,  Mpumalanga is a definitely a destination to consider.

According to South Africa Gateway, the province has a large percentage of Siswati-speakers (27.7%).

Mpumalanga tourism attractions

Here are four of the top tourism attractions in the province for visitors:

Giraffes are among the wildlife found in the Kruger National Park. Image: Adobe Stock

1. Kruger National Park

The Kruger National Park is one of the continent’s best-known and largest parks. The then-president of the Republic of South Africa, Paul Kruger, established it the 1898.

Known as “the Kruger” it is a home to more than 753 species of animals and 1 982 species of plants. The park is also home to the country’s big five animals, namely lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo and rhino. This is a strong attraction for locally and international tourists.

The park is also a great choice due to its diverse forest landscapes and rivers.

Although numbers this year will be lower than average, it generally welcomes nearly one million annual visitors through one of 11 gates, according to its website.

A visit is a prime tourism activity to consider after these past few months of lockdown in the country.

The Kruger also has excellent infrastructure and accommodation with 15 private safari lodges, 12 rest camps, five bush-veld camps and two bush lodges.

Image via Facebook/Sudwala Caves

2. Sudwala Caves

The Sudwala Caves is one of only two show cave sites in Mpumalanga (the other is the Echo caves near Orighstad).

The Sudwala caves contain some of the world’s oldest dolomite rocks. Geologically the caves began forming around 240-million years ago.

They contain fossils of some of the earliest life-forms on earth, stromatolites, and have the biggest stromatolite domes so far found in the world.

In times of war in the 1800s Pedi Chief Somcuba and his people periodically used the caves as a refuge.

Sudwala or “Sidwaba” was the name of the person the chief left to protect the cave entrance against the warriors of Swazi King Mswati.

One of the cave managers notes that the caves are “safe to enter and mysterious”. He said the hour-long tour of the caves includes a visit to an outdoor educational nature garden with hikes, picnic spots and an antelope walking around.

Sudwala Caves are 8km from the N4 highway outside Mpumalanga’s capital city, Mbombela.

God's Window in Mpumalanga
God’s Window in Mpumalanga offers some of nature’s most majestic views. Image: Adobe Stock

3. God’s Window

God’s Window in Graskop offers a viewpoint to one of the world’s greenest canyons with its high cliffs surrounded with shrubs, trees and other wild life.

It is in the Mpumalanga lowveld within the Blyde River Canyon nature reserve and offers the best view of the canyon.

The Drankensberg escarpment is a small part of the cliffs which are around 250km long. The area featured in the film The Gods Must Be Crazy.

There are also activities like mountain bike trails and hiking in the region.

Image: Matsamo Cultural Village

4. Matsamo Cultural Village

Heritage Month is a time to learn other cultures, so the Matsamo Cultural Village should definitely be on your list of places to tour in September.

Matsamo Cultural Village is a place where you get to practise and learn more about the culture of Swati people.

The village was formed in 2014 with the purpose of teaching, entertaining and promoting the Swati culture. It is near the kingdom of Eswatini border in Jeppe’s Reef.

Guests can watch dance performances and enjoy traditional music and food as they listen to the history of the Swati people.

Matsamo also provides tour guides to showcase huts and other traditional spaces, and visitors can interact with villagers in their day-to-day activities.