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TThe forestry museum in Sabie, Mpumalanga, 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.
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 3 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 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 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 (Second 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.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
SA Forestry Museum
Phone: +27 (0)13 754 2724
How to get here
Sabie lies approximately 370km east of Johannesburg and 55km north of Nelspruit, on the R537 or the R37. The museum is located on the corner of 7th Avenue and 10th Avenue in the town of Sabie.
Best time to visit
Lowveld weather is temperate – Sabie is a year-round destination.
Forestry Museum hours: Monday to Fridays, 8am to 4.30pm; Saturdays, 8am to 12pm. It is closed on public holidays and Sundays.
Things to do
Pilgrim’s Rest, Graskop, Dullstroom, Lydenburg and White River are all excellent day-drive destinations.
Tours to do
The most popular tour is to the Kruger National Park. Sabie is part of Mpumalanga's Panorama Route, a rewarding self-drive experience that exposes you to most of the highlights of the province.
What will it cost?
Entrance to the museum is R10 per person.
Length of stay
The museum is worth a half-hour visit.
What to pack
When visiting Sabie in summer, make sure to pack a raincoat in case of sudden showers.
Where to stay
Sabie has lots of accommodation. Check the Sabie Tourism website for choices.
What to eat
Sabie has a good selection of pubs, pizzerias, family restaurants and more formal dining spots. Visit the Sabie website for details.
Rallies, forest fairs, trail running, white water rafting, tubing, horse riding, hiking, mountain-bike races and marathons – Sabie is a busy little town. Check the calendar of events on the tourism website.
Arts and crafts from the many specialist shops and roadside vendors.