The forestry museum in Sabie, in Mpumalanga province, records the history of South Africa’s timber industry in many interesting ways. It also maps the relationship between people and trees, the ecological value of forests and sustainable methods of running a timber industry. Above all, it’s a fun way to learn about wood.

Did you know?

Sabie’s forestry museum contains a ‘painting’ made from matches tracing humans’ efforts to harness fire and light.

An American traveller passing through the town of Sabie in Mpumalanga province on a rainy day might easily think he was back in his home country, in the state of Oregon.

Huge trucks laden with fresh-cut timber share the streets with local bakkies (pick-up trucks) and visitors in SUVs heading for the nearby Kruger National Park.

Sabie retains a small-town attraction; the people are tourist-friendly and the town itself is placed in a marvellous setting among forests and plantations.

From Sabie, you can get to the historic mining town of Pilgrim's Rest or to White River, and further afield to notable attractions such as the Mac Mac Falls, Bourke’s Luck Potholes and the Three Rondavels. The three attractions take their famous names from the late 1880s, the era of big gold discoveries in these parts.

But today it’s all about ‘brown gold’, and the fact that the area around Sabie is the largest human-made forest in South Africa.

More than half of the country’s timber comes from the Sabie area. The industry was originally created to provide wooden supports for underground mines in the area, but has evolved to provide wood for furniture, paper and general consumer products.

The Komatiland Forestry Museum in Sabie takes visitors back to the start of the local timber industry, through the generations and up to the present day. It explores the role of trees in nature, harvesting procedures, what timber is used for, and steps the industry is taking to make it all environmentally friendly. There is also information on humans' relationship with indigenous forests and their contribution to quality of life.

There are some interesting displays at the Komatiland Forestry Museum.

Highlights of South African history are recorded on the concentric rings of a 250-year-old yellowwood disc, while the history of match production is displayed, along with a small replica of a Pretoria-based Dutch Reformed Church, made entirely out of glued-together matches.

An old frame saw, miniature wooden shoes carved by a South African (Anglo-Boer) War prisoner on St Helena, and a handmade Irish gypsy clothes peg that dates back more than a century are displayed along with historical timelines recording the growth of the timber industry in South Africa.

It's worth noting that the museum offers conferencing facilities for up to 50 delegates, including catering on request.

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