The last time I visited Mpumalanga on holiday I must have been about 15 years old. It was with my parents and we visited God’s Window, The Three Rondavels and Potholes.
I have a very vivid memory of my grandmother walking out of a very misty God’s window drenched in rain/mist… We had walked far ahead of her and upon realizing we had left her behind, I ran back to her. She was ambling along, almost as if there was really no rush.
She was thoroughly enjoying the falling dew on her face and body – straight out of God’s window.
Mpumalanga is magical! Almost in a way you cannot describe. The route traveling out of Gauteng to Mpumalanga can get boring for a little stretch but once you hit the scenic route with the forests, you almost don’t want it to end.
The forests are a marvel all by themselves, then come the winding mountain routes and the small towns to stop and rest. We stopped at Milly’s in Dullstroom for some trout pies before proceeding on to our destination, Protea Hotel by Mariott’s Kruger Gate.
It has been such a long year with the pandemic still in our midst and it felt so good to just breath some different air for a change.
After a 5-hour road trip and having depleted our road trip playlist, we were received with a very warm welcome at the hotel and reception swiftly checked us in and we began the leisurely walk to our rooms.
The hotel is surrounded by the Kruger National Park and from time to time we would spot buck, right in our suite’s backyard.
One of the nights whilst sitting outside having tea, hubby said “I think I see leopard eyes, let’s go inside.” I don’t think it was anything other than his imagination running wild with him.
With temperatures at 30+, of course our first stop would be the pool side. I exchanged my jogger pants for a swimsuit and kimono, and we were off to the infinity pool deck that overlooks the Kruger National Park. The cocktails were flowing, and the nibbles were just what was needed to keep the puckishness at bay before dinner.
We were told that the wildlife, especially elephants frequently made appearances by the poolside deck and if you’re lucky, they would oblige and offer you the most perfect picture opportunity. We weren’t so lucky on day 1.
We ran so late at the poolside (because water baby, me could not resist the urge to get in the water).
Dinner is set in an almost boma like setup called the Lapa Restaurant under the stars and around a campfire. You almost feel like the only thing missing is a lion walking about in our midst, which wouldn’t be ideal really. LOL
After dinner we retreated back to our room for a night cap and some time to take in some of nature and running water.
Well, running water because our suite had its own private pool and all… EVERYTHING!
Hubby and I had psyched each other up on the day prior about how we would both do the Big Swing at the Graskop Gorge Lift Centre. Weeelllll… Suffice to say, it didn’t happen.
I literally chickened out. As we walked in, I saw one person jump and the anxiety gripped me, but watching all those people jump sure did allow me to live vicariously through them.
We opted to head down to The Forest, enjoy a walk through and catch a glimpse of the brave ones bungee jumping.
Here’s some extra information about The Lift and Gorge and all the activities.
The Lift & Gorge: Experience the viewing lift takes visitors 51 metres down the face of the gorge into the forest below, where wooden walkways & suspension bridges meander along a 600 metre trail through the indigenous forest with interactive exhibits.
Big Swing Jump:
Now incorporated into the Graskop Gorge Lift Centre, the Big Swing is the world’s highest cable gorge swing. The experience is very different to a bungee- jump because participants are strapped in an upright position in a full safety harness. Being upright enables them to enjoy the magnificent views – that is if they can keep their eyes open as they do a 70-metre freefall at 140km/h in under three seconds.
Slide/Zipline: If you still want to get your heart racing but think the Big Swing is too extreme, can fly across the gorge on a 130m high-wire zipline.
The Forest: Whilst the lift, which travels 51m down the cliff face of the Graskop Gorge, was a feat of engineering skill to construct, it is the Afromontane forest below that is at the heart of this development. In South Africa, Afromontane forests cover only 0.5% of the country’s land area. They occur in pockets along mountain ranges in well-watered areas, including ravines and south-facing slopes. Under the vivid green canopy of trees lies a lush wonderland filled with a spectacular variety of plants, animals, insects and birds.
We then enjoyed some leisure time, walking through and visiting the Community Craft Centre and shopping it up with the artisans. Support this industry when you travel please. It’s predominantly women and we know the women are the backbones of communities.
The Lisbon Falls
After the walkthrough, we grabbed a quick snack and some cappuccino at the Lift Café and headed off to our next stop, The Lisbon Falls. I’d never heard of them and they are beautiful.
I don’t even think images capture them well. I hope I don’t get into trouble for this, but we went onto a side path by the rocky pools that create the little mini rivines that later become the falls and walked towards the tip of the falls and that’s where we took this picture:
Next stop was Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, God’s Window.
This place has such magnificent views, canyons, rock formations and waterfalls, God’s Window is truly an area of breath-taking scenic splendour.
As You stand at the top of God’s Window, you literally look over these amazing panoramic views of the Lowveld more than 900 m down into lush indigenous forest clad ravine. The view is magnificent and something you wish you could bottle up and take home.
It is no wonder that Mpumalanga is known as Paradise Country.
We woke up to an overcast day in the Kruger, rainy season. We’d had some rain the night before that had cooled down the temperatures. And much to our relief. We had a mid-morning Kruger National Park Game-drive. It was amazing having overcast weather, so we weren’t hot and bothered, but the downside was that the animals were all retreated and were probably all cuddling up with their Baes. But we managed to spot a leopard, giraffes, some waterbuck, buffaloes and elephants. That was enough to make me happy.
We even caught a chameleon… Who even anticipates seeing a chameleon??!!!
We headed back to Skukuza for some late breakfast and headed back to the hotel to get ready for our poolside massage.
I cannot tell you how the massage was… The masseuse said I snored through it. YIKES! I was depleted! Lockdown fatigue.
After that we headed back to the poolside and to our luck, we were welcomed by an elephant waiting just for me (yes me) to get my photo opportunity. I was so excited and happy! It was such a beautiful sight!
We had dinner in our room on that night and I rounded off my night and ushering in the new month with a bath, some tea and journaling.
The next day we would be out of there and back to life as we know it.
Some observations I made though were that we need to support our tourism economy where we can. The people in our outlying towns depend on the tourism and artisan communities. It is also evident at times when you are being served at the restaurants or hotels that there is a struggle – a “I had no choice and this job chose me” at certain times. Let’s be kind and speak life to those that serve on us and wait on us. We need to try be more human about this reality of our country.
In 2018, Tourism in South Africa contributed 1.5 million jobs and R425.8 billion to the economy, making it the largest tourism economy in Africa, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) annual review of the economic impact and social importance of the sector released in 2019.
In June it was estimated that 28% of South African accommodation providers may not survive the COVID-19 crisis, amongst the top 3 provinces was Mpumalanga – also one of two (Limpopo being the other) with the most locally and internationally sought-after game viewing opportunities.
So as things normalise or rather, as we shift into a new normal. Masks, sanitisers, social distancing and plenty more handwashing, let’s remember to be kind, to be patient and to explore SA a lot more.
Gratitude to Protea Hotel by Marriott Kruger Gate for the amazing hospitality during our stay
PS. I loved meeting and connecting with all my followers that were at God’s Window, Lisbon falls and The Gorge Lift when I was in Mpumalanga. Love yall!