The Lowveld Area around Kruger Park
Panoramic Driving Routes and Wildlife Sanctuaries
The Lowveld is a malaria area, so we strongly advise that you check with your doctor to find out what malaria tablets you will need, and when you should commence the course.
If you do not want to have to take malaria tablets then have a look at our guide to safaris in malaria-free areas.
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The Lowveld area around the Kruger Park is beautiful, with attractions including the Blyde River Canyon, the well known 'Panorama Route', elephant and chimp sanctuaries, and a couple of excellent animal rehabilitation projects. The small village of Hazyview is an ideal place to base yourself for a couple of days to explore the surrounding area, and has many excellent guest houses - if you click here this will take you to our selection of carefully selected properties.
Bourke's Luck Potholes
At the start of the Blyde River Canyon, where the Blyde River meets the Treur River, are Bourke's Luck Potholes. Where the 2 rivers converge, rapids and whirlpools occur in the stream. Over thousands of years, water-borne debris such as sand and rock have been caught up in these whirlpools, and have carved spectacular smooth sided cylindrical potholes into the rock bed of the river, some of which are 30m (100ft) deep.
The Three Rondavels
The Three Rondavels are an impressive and much-photographed rock formation, which rise out of the Blyde River Canyon. The 3 conical shaped rocks are so called because of their uncanny resemblance to a row of traditional round thatched huts. A short walk from the car park gets you to the main viewing area. The best time to photograph this scenic viewpoint is late afternoon, when the warm light of the setting sun lights the stone beautifully.
God's Window offers stunning panoramic views over the Lowveld as far as the Kruger National Park. Situated in the 'mist' belt, however, and at an altitude of over 1,200m, means that more often than not, the view is clouded over and all you see is a blanket of grey. The mist belt is created when the warm moist air rises from the lowveld, and condenses at high altitudes. If you are lucky enough to see the view, it truly is spectacular, and only a short walk from the main car park area, so is accessible for the majority of people of all ages and fitness levels.
Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve
The Blyde River Canyon is estimated to be 60 million years old, and is over 25km long and up to 800m wide in places. The reserve is a spectacularly beautiful area, with many waterfalls, lush forest areas, and fascinating geological formations sculptured by years of erosion. There are many walking trails, enabling you to explore thoroughly and find your own private waterfall, or breath-taking view. The reserve is a bird watchers paradise, and also supports a diverse array of wildlife, including antelope, hippos, crocodiles and vervet monkeys.
One of the most spectacular ways to enjoy the stunning scenery of the Lowveld is to drift slowly and silently over it in a balloon.
Whilst it is not possible to take a balloon ride over the Kruger Park itself, the sunrise trips from the Hazyview or Hoedspruit area over the countryside are extremely popular. This is a wonderful experience with magnificent views of the Drakensberg escarpment to the west and the Lowveld to the east. The Sabie River below you winds its way to the distant horizon.
Alternatively, swoop over deep and mysterious gorges, linger above roaring rivers and cascading waterfalls and view the fascinating and dramatic rock formations of the Blyde River Canyon with the Mpumalanga Helicopter Co, who are based in Hazyview.
White water Rafting
The area around Hazyview is well known for its Grade 4 rapids in the untamed tropical jungle of the 700m deep Blyde River Canyon, reputed to be the greenest and third largest canyon in the world. The nearby Sabie River offers a more laid-back rafting experience, with regular breaks for 'bum sliding' down shallow waterfalls, and swims in the river's many pools. Rafting is best during the wet season, between late November and mid April.
Jane Goodall SA Chimpanzee eden
The Jane Goodall SA Chimpanzee Eden is situated just 15 km from Nelspruit, and is the first and only chimpanzee sanctuary in South Africa. The sanctuary is home to chimpanzees that unfortunately need rescuing and caring from their too-often misplaced habitats. The sanctuary was founded by the renowned primatologist Jane Goodall.
Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre
The Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre is recognised as a pioneer in the conservation of rare, vunerable and endangered animal species. The centre is home to cheetah, wild dog, African wild cats, ground hornbills, sable antelope, and many other species in need of care or rehabilitation. Visitors here can enjoy educational daily tours, offering the opportunity to view the animals at close range, but also emphasising the important role that everyone has to play in the conservation of South Africa's wildlife.
Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre
The Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre is a sanctuary for injured, abandoned and poisoned birds and other wildlife, and a must for anyone interested in raptors and birds of prey. Wildlife is brought to the centre from all corners of South Africa, and once healthy enough are re-introduced into their natural environments. Animals who cannot be returned to the wild for any reason are cared for at the centre.
Another important function of the centre is breeding. They have successfully bred and released into the wild many endangered bird and animal species. The Centre is a non-profit organization, relying completely on the support of the public. Tours are twice daily, and begin with a talk on the different birds of prey, and how they interact with each other in the natural environment. A tour around the sanctuary includes the opportunity to have a Cape vulture feed from your hand, meet resident marabou storks, play with baby warthogs, see a male lion at extremely close range, and watch the leopards being hand fed.
Shangana Cultural Village
The traditional villages of Shangana are found just outside Hazyview, on the R535 towards Graskop, and are a little gem well worth visiting. The villages are home to families who invite guests to experience their culture and way of life. Tours are led by trained guides, and begin with a short walk along a winding path through the bush. After gaining permission, guests enter a village where they are greeted by the resident Chief, in traditional dress complete with an impala skin, which he wears every day unless attending an evening festival or meeting with the village elders, in which case the impala is swapped for a leopard skin.
After the guide has explained the history, customs and traditions, guests have the opportunity to meet the Chief's family, and ask questions. The Chief has many interesting stories, including how he fought in a battle and was wounded by a spear - and he has the scar on his arm to prove it!
The mystical kraal of the sangoma, or traditional healer, is next to the village, and the next stop on the village tour. Guests sit around in a circle, and the sangoma shares traditional secrets of how they use bones of different animals to diagnose illness and other problems, and shows the many roots and herbs used as cures and medicines.
On the way out is the Marula Market, the leading market in the region for local craft and curios. All the prices are at local 'Shangaan' rates, so it is possible to pick up a real bargain!
Daytime tours are available to anyone who is passing by, and take about one hour. However, the best way to experience the real village life is to book onto a midday tour or evening festival. The midday tour follows the same format as the daytime tours, but a full traditional lunch is served in the village with the Chief and his family. The flame-lit evening festival tells the story of the Shangaan nation with a cast of choristers, actors and dancers.
For those seeking a unique and memorable wildlife encounter, an Elephant Interaction at either Elephant Whispers or the Elephant Sanctuary is an exciting and touching experience not to be missed. Both offer an elephant experience of a lifetime which will leave you with a renewed respect and admiration for these gentle giants of Africa.
This experience, for both young and old, offers the opportunity to feel their constantly curious trunks, touch their rough skin, exchange trunk greetings and offer tasty treats, while learning about their behaviour and history from the elephant handlers.
The most important part is to ensure the elephants are happy. All the elephants are exercised and stimulated daily, which provides a firm foundation for trust and ultimately a wonderful experience for visitors.