Mpumalanga: Place of the Rising Sun
Mpumalanga – simply translates to “place of the rising sun”, and it certainly lives up to its name. This South African province is where the southern part of Kruger National Park (KNP) belongs, as well as the provincial capital: Nelspruit.
As some of you may already know from my previous posts about South Africa, I didn’t end up visiting KNP during my time in the country, however, I did spend a few days in Nelspruit, staying 3 nights at the lovely Mercure Nelspruit Hotel and doing some day tours with Tours DeMornay! Needless to say, it is a lovely part of South Africa, and if you’re visiting the southern half of KNP, then you’ll most likely be driving through Nelspruit.
Getting To/From Nelspruit
My time in this city started when I left Karongwe Reserve near Hoedspruit and made my way south with the help of Thula Seats transfer services. They mainly serve the two areas with mini van shuttles, and were very efficient. It is a convenient service to offer, since the journey is about 3 hours or so, and useful if you don’t hire a car (which I didn’t do, so for me it was a Godsend). Ironically, even though these two cities are the main ones near KNP and the main gateways to most game reserves in the eastern part of the country, there aren’t many transfer services available for some reason. Thula Seats were amazing at helping me coordinate my transfers in between both cities and were seamless from beginning to end. If you aren’t planning on hiring a car while there, definitely look them up for your transport options. They are very reliable and affordable, and the communication and help they offer was great!
Upon my departure, I needed to get to Johannesburg – a 6 hour drive away. Not the most convenient of course, but that route is serviced by a few shuttle companies that do the roundtrip drive daily. I chose to go with Ashton Tours transfer service. They gave me the pick up location, which was 2 km from my hotel, was on-time, and had comfortable seats in their mini van, which I rode shotgun in. It’s a bit of a long ride since it’s basically all highway, but we did stop 1-2 times along the way for food and bathroom breaks. Once in Johannesburg, I got dropped off at the airport on time and with no issues!
They also offer more than just transfer/shuttle services, so check them out if you are looking for a tour operator in the area as well!
Where I Stayed In Nelspruit
Once I arrived in Nelspruit, I settled into my room at Mercure Nelspruit Hotel. The location of this hotel is very convenient, sitting right across the street from a huge mall – Ilanga Mall, where you can find anything you need: two major grocery stores, pharmacy, ATMS’s and a bunch of other stores.
The rooms are simple yet clean and functional. The hotel lies right off a main road, so it does have some street noise, but definitely nothing to complain about. I stayed in a room that had a little kitchenette, although it was lacking utensils to cook anything. Everything else was just fine, with a living room area and tv, a kitchen table, and two comfortable double beds. There was also a nice bottle of organic South African wine awaiting my arrival :), which definitely was a nice touch!
The common areas include an outdoor pool and BBQ area, sitting lounges, a bar and a restaurant. The breakfast buffet was decent compared to other hotels I’ve stayed at, and definitely plentiful with some good options to start the day including continental items such as fruits, yogurts and cereals, along with hot options such as eggs, meats etc.
The property is very safe, with a gated entrance and a high fence around the whole area. Definitely a wise choice if you’re not looking for a crazy luxury hotel, and if you want comfortable convenience close by to everything you can possibly need!
Things To Do In Nelspruit
I spent two days bouncing around some lovely places with the one and only Tours DeMornay. A South African owned business, Mornay does everything he can to make your tours special! I was lucky to be taken by a lovely guide, Johan, to several places in the surrounding areas, such as Jane Goodall’s Chimp Eden, Blyde River Canyon and the Panorama Route, and Sudwala caves, plus some lovely stops along they way at some nice quiet areas, where trees and waterfalls were found. Johan did an amazing job at telling me stories about the areas we would be driving through, the history behind everything, and some facts about what the country is today. We drove past some slums which was actually very sad to see – and usually not something people see when visiting, although equally important to see in my opinion.
A safe haven for orphaned and rescued chimpanzees, the work that Jane Goodall has established here is remarkable. These animals have personalities of their own, yet beautiful and equally vulnerable in the wild, just like many animals around the globe. A visit here will not only support the ongoing work they do, but will also open your eyes to the real problems these animals face. If a visit isn’t possible, there are other ways to donate through their website as well.
The staff will take scheduled groups around the property and outside of the chimp’s enclosures and feed the animals (mainly fruits and nuts) while they explain facts about the resident chimps and by watching their behaviour amongst themselves.
See for yourself here in the short video I took while visiting!
One of the world’s largest and greenest, Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve and the panorama route are a definite sight to see in the Mpumalanga region! The canyon – measuring 25km in length, is made up of red sandstone. The Three Rondavels offers one of the best views of the canyon, although it gets quite crowded! There are other lookouts along the route as well, and vendors line up the parking areas selling African handicrafts and souvenirs.
The views are outstanding, and depending on the time of year you visit, will vary in color according to the season. It is very lush and green after the rainy season! Flying over the canyon was equally as beautiful, and gave a bird’e eye view – something I always welcome!
I’m not much of a cave person in general (it has to be very impressive for me… like a glacier cave. Just my personal opinion), but many would find this to be impressive, as it certainly is! I did the crystal tour which takes you 2000m into the cave. you’re provided with a helmet and headlamp as it’s very dark inside. I’ll leave you be the judge if you want to visit here or not! I found the view to be very nice and relaxing, as the cave is perched on a hill with stunning vistas! There’s also a restaurant onsite and they also have venues for weddings or events.
The caves are said to be 240 million years old, and made up of carbonate rock such as limestone and dolomite. You can see some stalagmite and stalactite formations as well inside the cave. For all the detailed and scientific information, please visit their website.
Not so much gardens in the flowery sense, but more like a nice forest to walk through. There’s a nice outdoor restaurant where families come to picnic in a nice open park, and the rest is a walk through of suspended walkways and cliffs with beautiful scenery and canopies. This place wasn’t high on my list, but definitely worth a visit if you’re seeking some peace and quiet and love natural settings!
All in all, Nelspruit is a good base for day activities, or a stop-over on your way to Kruger! There’s plenty to see and do in the area, and KNP is only an hour’s drive or so away!
Thank you to all my readers who stop by and enjoy my blog, your support is always what keeps me going!
Until next time! Stay tuned for more fun adventures!
Love & Light,