The Kruger Lowveld region of Mpumlanga has some spectacular scenery. The area around Sabie, Graskop and Pilgrim’s Rest in particular form part of the Panoramic region and one visit to this area will explain why. Bevan and I recently spent some time adventuring through this area.
The town of Sabie is the first town that you will find along Mpumalanga’s Panorama Route, if you drive from Nelspruit. Although initially developed as a gold mining town during the gold rush era of the 1880s, the town’s economy today depends on forestry. The cultivated hills between Sabie and nearby Graskop form one of the largest man-made forests in the world.
These forests blanket the rolling hills and steep valleys of the Panorama Route – a route well-known for its spectacular scenic beauty. The seemingly endless green gives way to countless streams which plunge down cliff faces in breathtaking waterfalls. Patches of indigenous forest intersperse the plantations and everywhere you look, there is green! The town is also close to other major attractions such as God’s Window, the Blyde River Canyon and the Long Tom Pass.
The landscape around Sabie has some pretty incredible places to explore. Most notably, there are the waterfalls. Rain that falls on the slopes around town gathers into streams that plunge down steep waterfalls into the valley below. These waterfalls are easily accessible from Sabie and well-worth a visit. Although we visited during a persistent drought that has hit much of the country the streams were still flowing and there was water for the waterfalls.
There are three waterfalls that are but a few minutes’ drive out of town. They are Bridal Veil Falls, Lone Creek Falls and Horseshoe Falls. Visitors pay a nominal entry fee on arrival. In return though there is access to clean ablutions, well-kept picnic sites and pathways and a security guard on site. This means that you can enjoy your visit with peace of mind, and without having your experience marred by litter or other such things.
Of the three falls close to Sabie, I think our favourite was Lone Creek Falls. This waterfall was absolutely breathtaking in its size. A labyrinth of walking paths means that visitors can view the falls from every possible angle and can find a quiet corner from which to enjoy it for themselves, away from tourist crowds.
The town of Sabie itself is just big enough to have pretty much everything you need without being so big that a visitor will get lost. We took some time out on a hot afternoon to visit the Sabie Brewing Company. The abundant water in the hills around town is so pure that it is used unfiltered in Sabie Brewing Company’s craft beers. Shaun gave us a behind-the-scenes tour of the microbrewery and we learnt exactly how much of a science brewing award-winning craft beers can be!
The famous Long Tom Pass
Long Tom Pass, so-named for being the site where the Boer Long Tom Cannons were last used in action, traverses the hills around Sabie and offers spectacular views of the area’s surrounds. About twenty minutes’ drive out of Sabie up the Long Tom Pass is the Misty Mountain Lodge. This lodge offers another attraction that takes advantage of the steep terrain of the area, this time to speed its single-man toboggans down a steeply winding course. Bevan and I enjoyed feeling like children again as we raced down this course, tucking into every corner like Formula 1 racers!
A haven for outdoors enthusiasts
For anyone who loves the outdoors, there is always something to do in Sabie. The forestry areas have plenty of trails open to hikers, mountain bikers and runners. As well as the waterfalls, there is the memorable multi-day Fanie Botha hiking trail or a number of day hikes through patches of grassland and indigenous forest too. Be sure you’ve got your day hike essentials before you head out. Let’s not forget the trout fishing that takes place in the crystal clear streams around town too.
The route from Sabie towards Graskop, Pilgrim’s Rest and on towards Hazyview is a very popular tourist destination and a corridor that provides access to the southern regions of Kruger National Park. We are continuing along this route in the next few days and I have a feeling there will be plenty of gems that we uncover as we go!
We would like to thank everyone who helped us along the way on this leg of our Ultimate South African road trip – Nomkhosi from Kruger Lowveld Tourism who gamely took us on with relatively short notice, as well as Misty Mountain Lodge, Sabie Self Catering Apartments and Floreat Riverside Lodge for hosting us while we were in town. Thank you also to the Sabie Brewing Company for a great time in town. This is one area we would definitely like to come back to!