The Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, Mpumalanga
Did you know?
The Blyde River Canyon is the third largest in the world and has been renamed the Molatse River Canyon.
The 29 000ha Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve nearly 2 500m of red sandstone and is one of South Africa's most remarkable geological features. The Blyde River Canyon, is the third largest canyon on Earth and is situated below the confluence of the Blyde (joy) and Treur (sorrow) rivers.
This Mpumalanga nature reserve stretches for 60km from just north of the little town of Graskop, up to the Abel Erasmus pass. You'll get stunning views of the Escarpment from legendary viewpoints such as God's Window, where on a clear day, you can see as far as Kruger Park and Mozambique.
Other natural attractions include Bourke's Luck Potholes, where Tom Bourke, a 19th-century gold rush prospector, is said to have made his fortune. Water erosion over millennia has carved cylindrical sculptures from the canyon's red and yellow rocks which are interspersed with rock pools.
From the canyon look out eastwards to the Three Rondavels or Three Sisters, three massive spirals of dolomite that rise from the far wall of the canyon. A single quartzite column - aptly named the Pinnacle - rises from the wooded canyon, offering more spectacular vistas.
The environment varies from high mistlands to the drier and warmer lowveld around the Blyde River Dam. You'll find more than 1 000 species of flora in the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, including several species of endangered cycads, and, in spring, carpets of wild flowers. Try to visit at least one of the nearby several beautiful waterfalls.
Bird and animal life is abundant in the reserve. Spot Verreaux's eagle, the rare bald ibis which nests on the cliff ledges, and all 5 species of South African primates, including vervet and samango monkeys, chacma baboons and both species of bushbaby.
Situated along the Panorama Route and easily accessible from the west of the Kruger National Park and the towns of Sabie and Nelspruit.
Organised tours of the Blyde River Canyon Hiking Trail, God's Window, 3 Rondawels, The Pinnacle, Bourke's Luck Potholes, visitor's centre and the Blyde River Dam are available.
Pack sturdy boots, cameras and binoculars, as well as swimming gear, sunscreen and hats. A sense of adventure will also stand you in good stead.