When your love for travel has you finding the most creative ways to make the most out of a four-day trip, in the middle of a pandemic, where travelling seems risky but is much-needed food for the soul. Having had to scrap our plans for a white Christmas in a far-off land, we decided to make the most of our December vacation and tick off some of our bucket list items that happened to be right on our doorstep. Our chosen location was the Mpumalanga Province. Our reason, the love for the Kruger National Park and being adventurers at heart we had some bucket list items that remained unticked from previous visits.
The Kruger National Park
Making the most of a few days in Mpumalanga took us on a memorable journey of sensory explosion. Leaving Johannesburg on Day 1, we headed to the Crocodile Bridge Gate of the Kruger National Park, in the Mpumalanga province, travelling north towards Lower Sabie and Skukuza rest camps, then travelling back south to exit at the Malelane Gate.
Beautiful scenic views of the bush, flowing rivers and blue skies surrounded us as we kept our eyes peeled for a sighting of the elusive “Big Five”. As luck would have it, we were able to get up close and personal with the “Big Five”, as well as some spectacular bird sightings and a few of the more commonly seen herbivores, such as zebra, wildebeest, numerous buck species, hippos and crocodiles. After a beautiful and blessed day of animal sightings, we left the park at the Malelane Gate and headed to our home for the next few days at Belvedere-on-River.
Home Away from Home
Arriving at this incredible and intricately designed hotel, we were transported to the perfect mixture of an island holiday on the outskirts of the African bush. With superb views of the crocodile river from the pool deck and various platforms that surround the hotel, it is the perfect spot to watch the sunrise and set over the African bushveld. Not only are the views out of this world, but the service and food, both breakfast and dinner, were truly spectacular, leaving our mouths watering for more at every meal, even when our stomachs had no more room.
Weaving through the Waterfalls
Leaving the bush and island behind after a two-night stay, we headed off to Sabie, staying in Thandamanzi Self Catering accommodation, which provided a peaceful and tranquil mountain view, with a room uniquely designed in corrugated roof sheeting, for that rustic and never seen before look. The accommodation was the perfect central point location to the Panorama Route of South Africa. Having previously visited the likes of Pilgrim’s Rest, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, God’s Window and the Three Rondavels, our focus on this trip was all the waterfalls, including Mac Mac pools and falls, Pinnacle rock, Lisbon falls, Berlin falls and Sabie falls, as well as a trip to the Graskop Waffle House and The Graskop Gorge Lift Co. Needless to say, we were met with the most spectacular sights and sounds of these waterfalls as we travelled along the Panorama Route, with many photo opportunities and the opportunity to really marvel at the beauty and wonders of this one of a kind country we have the privilege of calling home.
To add to the wonders of our four-night stay in the Mpumalanga Province, we also visited the African Silks Weavery and Showroom Farm. We were given an extensive tour of the entire silk-making process, the silkworm lifecycle, as well as showing real silkworm eggs, the tour also included the three variants of mulberry plantations used to feed the silkworms. It was a very informative and interesting experience, one that we will never forget.
In search of the Austrian Coffee Estate, we got lost in translation and ended up driving through a plantation, but once we found the estate it was worth the driving adventure. The owner gave us a personalised tour, showing us the different sized coffee bushes in the plantation, followed by a demonstration of peeling raw coffee beans to experience the feel and smell, as well as how to replant the beans to ensure the trees continue to sprout and grow. We were given a walkthrough of the entire coffee plant, with detailed explanations on the process of coffee making, roasting and finally the grinding of the coffee beans. Once the tour was complete, we were treated to a fantastic coffee liqueur and then some freshly made coffee.
There is so much to do and so much to see, whether alone, a couple or a family. Remember to take time out to revel in the moments and places that take your breath away. There should always be time for one more memory, one more vacation, one more moment to take your breath away.
By Kirsty-Lee Sharp Eke