Ten things to do in Mpumalanga this winter

Escape the chill this winter by scheduling a visit to the temperate Mpumalanga Lowveld, which is a mere three-and-a-half hours’ drive from Johannesburg and Pretoria.

With such a short distance to travel, Mpumalanga is also ideal for a short weekend break to rejuvenate the soul during weeks of frost, veld fires and beige landscapes.

Here’s a list of ten awesome activities that the region has on offer:

1. Graskop Gorge Lift Co
A new attraction on Mpumalanga’s Panorama Route is the Graskop Gorge Lift Co, which boasts Africa’s first viewing lift. The lift travels 51m down the face of the Graskop Gorge and into the forest below where you will delight in the 600m circular trail, consisting of elevated boardwalks and suspension bridges.

The centre also has a restaurant and bar, contemporary African art gallery, colourful African fashion clothing shop, curio shop and community craft market. Visit, www.graskopgorgeliftcompany.co.za for more information.

2. Misty Mountain’s Long Tom Toboggan
Enjoy the ultimate ride of your life and ‘excite your soul’ on Misty Mountain’s Long Tom Toboggan – the longest toboggan run in Africa, with an impressive 1.7km track.

Simply hop on board your cart and prepare to take a deep breath when you reach a speed of 45km an hour during your three-minute ride, which twists and turns through wild flowers and beautiful forest on part of Misty Mountain’s breath-taking 280-hectare South African Natural Heritage Site.

You can also enjoy a delicious meal before or after your ride!  For more information, visit www.longtomtobbogan.co.za.

3. Experience the thrill of Skyway Trails
Skyway Trails offers two fun-packed adventure activities – the Aerial Cable Trail and the Rope Adventure Park.

Skyway Trails has the longest aerial cable trail in Mpumalanga, situated in 300 ha of pristine, indigenous mountain forest. The 1.2km trail is made up of eight slides and follows one of the permanent flowing tributaries of the Sabie River.

For the more energetic, enjoy a unique and fun-packed experience on the awesome Rope Adventure Park, with two courses and 34 exciting obstacles – including balancing beams, rope bridges, swings and more – ending on a 50m zipline. For more information, visit www.skywaytrails.com.

4. Shiloh Coffee Estate
Perched on the banks of a tranquil lake in the Sabie River Valley is Shiloh Coffee Estate.  This new establishment serves locally grown coffee, complimented by delicious home-baked cakes, waffles and quiches.

Enjoy the abundant birdlife active around the lake including some unusual species, such as Pygmy Goose and Half-Collared Kingfisher.  For more information, contact +27 (0) 79 290 9567.

5. Aviation Adventures Flying Club
Numbi Airfield in Hazyview is home to the Aviation Adventures Flying Club, which offers membership to the public, entitling them to scenic flights in South Africa’s Bantam B22J microlight.

Flights range from 10 to 45 minutes over wonderful scenic country, including the Sabie River Valley, Da Gama Dam, Sabaan River Valley and dams in the White River area. For more information, email wallydaveen@mweb.co.za.

6. CMDA Celebration of music
A weekly show performed every Wednesday by students of the Casterbridge Music Development Academy, who study fulltime at the Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre in White River, features some of the greatest South African music, including the best of Miriam Makeba, Mango Groove, The King Kong Show, Johnny Clegg, Lucky Dube and others.

It is a must-see event for all music lovers and tourists who wish to gain an insight into South African music. For more information, contact +27 (0) 13 751 3135.

7. Mariepskop Hiking Trail
On the eastern side of the Drakensberg Escarpment, facing away from the Blyde River Canyon, is Mariepskop. At 1945m above sea level, it’s the highest peak in the northern Drakensberg Escarpment and on a clear day you can see the Indian Ocean and Maputo in Mozambique.

Once a military base with restricted access, a natural wilderness has been allowed to thrive. Mariepskop contains well over 2000 plant species, greater than the whole of the Kruger National Park, and far exceeds Table Mountain’s plant diversity. For more information, call +27 (0) 15 7932581/3.

8. Horse Trails
Enjoy a guided horse trail through rolling grasslands, pine forests and along the edge of the breath-taking escarpment in Kaapschehoop, a town well-known for its first discovery of gold in South Africa in the late 1800s, its feral horses, interesting rock formations and swirling mist. For more information, contact +27 76 108 0081.

9. Madilika Craft Centre
Authentic crafts can be purchased at the Madilika Craft Centre in Justicia, which borders the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve.

Beads are the lifeblood of the centre and the source of the unique giftware that sets this shopping experience apart from traditional souvenir shops surrounding safari parks. For more information, contact +27 (0) 79 509 0292.

10. Rock climbing: Waterval Boven
Did you know that rock climbing enthusiasts from around the world flock to the mountains around Nelspruit/Mbombela to hang out and satiate their cravings for spine-tingling, vertical adventures?

Mpumalanga’s Waterval Boven (100km from Nelspruit/Mbombela) and the Blyde River Canyon (150km from Nelspruit/Mbombela) appear at the top of the list of the best South African rock climbing spots. For more information, contact +27 (0) 13 257 0363.

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