Long Tom Pass is a high-altitude pass through the Drakensberg Mountains that marks the start of the Panorama Route in Mpumalanga. There couldn’t be a better gateway to one of the most picturesque regions of South Africa. The elevated position of Long Tom Pass provides a perfect vantage point from which to enjoy the natural beauty. And what is more, this pass has a whole lot of history and interesting stops to boot!
Long Tom Pass History
The Long Tom Pass was originally used by pioneer wagon drivers transporting goods between Lydenburg and Mozambique. This was a dangerous route with hairpin bends and very steep sections, not forgetting the threat of attack from wild animals.
Today, the pass gets its name from the Boer’s 155mm Creusot Long Tom guns. It is the site where these guns were last fired towards the end of the Second Boer War (during the Boer retreat from Lydenberg under pursuit by British forces, 8-11 September 1901). Having a longer range than any of the British guns at the time, the Boers used their Long Tom guns as field and siege guns during the Second Boer War (11 October 1899-31 May 1902), to great effect. They played a key role in the Sieges of Ladysmith, Mafeking and Kimberly.
Four of these guns were purchased by the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (the Transvaal), and were in service as field guns between 1897-1901. Altogether, the weight of the gun was 6500 kg and required a team of 16-20 oxen to pull the gun on its wagon. It had an effective firing range of 9000 m and a maximum firing range of 9880 m. As ammunition for the Long Tom guns ran out, they were destroyed by the Boers one by one to prevent the guns from falling into British hands.
A monument commemorating the site of last service of the Long Tom guns has been set up on the Long Tom Pass, with a replica of one of these famous guns.
Drive the pass
The Long Tom Pass is on the R37 between Lydenberg and Sabie, in Mpumalanga. Beginning at an elevation of 1456 m above sea level, and climbing an additional 682 vertical metres to an elevation of 2138 m above sea level, it is a high-altitude pass and can sometimes be shrouded in heavy mist. Driving it on a clear day though, you can enjoy its 26+ km of spectacular views over the mountains (dominated by the Mount Anderson and Mauchsberg peaks) and forests of the area.
Don’t forget to stop at the Long Tom Monument commemorating the site of the last use of the famous Boer field guns. The monument is approximately 21 km from Sabie and includes a replica of one of the Long Tom guns (the originals having been destroyed by the Boers).
If you feel like hurtling down the mountain slopes, much like the shells of the Long Tom guns themselves, definitely try the Long Tom Toboggan! Situated at Misty Mountain Lodge (open to day visitors), this is fun for the whole family. The toboggan ride includes a lift up to the top of a nearby hill from which you can enjoy the views and fresh mountain air, and then a speedy ride back to the bottom on a single-man toboggan.
Map of the Long Tom Pass
Explore more of the Panorama Route
The Panorama Route, between Lydenburg and the border of the Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces north of the Blyde River Canyon, is an area of incredible natural beauty. It is home to the largest man-made forest in the world, a plethora of spectacular waterfalls, patches of indigenous forests and the Blyde River Canyon, the third largest canyon in the world! It is the perfect destination for nature-lovers, hikers and outdoors enthusiasts. Its charming towns, colorful history and wealth of outdoors attractions make it the perfect place to spend a few days before heading on to the famous Kruger National Park.
We’d especially recommend exploring the multitude of waterfalls between Sabie and Graskop. Many of these waterfalls have picnic sites and make for a great day out. The Mac Mac Pools near Graskop are especially good for families with children that want to swim. Then of course there are some incredible landscapes to enjoy. Check out Blyde River Canyon and the Three Rondavels, and definitely stop off at God’s Window. There are plenty of hiking trails in the area too, including the multi-day Fanie Botha hiking trail. Plus plenty of restaurants and sights around town, the Sabie Brewing Company being one of our favourite stops in Sabie!
Long Tom Pass Accommodation
For something special, we’d recommend staying in one of the mountain lodges along Long Tom Pass. Try Paardeplaats Nature Retreat, or Misty Mountain Lodge for its charm and incredible mountain views. Misty Mountain Lodge is also home to the Long Tom toboggan.
There is also plenty of accommodation nearby, in Sabie and surrounds. If you’re looking to explore the Panorama Route, we’d suggest basing yourself in Sabie or Graskop for the variety and accessibility of attractions from these towns.