This Nature Preserve, also known as the Blyde River Canyon Nature Preserve, holds the distinction for being the site of the third largest canyon in the world. Twenty-nine thousand hectares in area, it is located in northern Mpumalanga and is managed by the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency. The nearest city is Graskop. The Park is a one hour drive on a well maintained road from Hazyview. There are three features of special interest in this huge Reserve, growing in popularity. Entry fees are ZAR 10, 00 for adults and ZAR 5.00 for children under twelve years of age.
At the confluence of the Blyde and Treur Rivers are the amazing Bourke’s Luck Potholes. From pedestrian bridges one can look down below to see the white stone of the potholes. The potholes derive their name from that of a gold prospector named Tom Bourke, the official discoverer. He never found any of the prized golden stuff, but he was correct in his prediction that gold would one day be found in the vicinity. The Reserve’s conservation headquarters are located near the main viewing area.
The escarpment known as God’s Window is at the southern end of the Reserve, 9.2 kilometres north of Graskop on the R534 road. The canyon consists of sheer cliffs with the bottom 700 meters below. On clear days one can see the Mozambique border and the Lebombo Mountains.
Over the edge of this escarpment actor Nixau, portraying a Bushman named Xi, threw a troublesome Coca-Cola bottle near the conclusion of the motion picture The Gods Must Be Crazy, released in 1980. Xi has never been here before and since there is a low cloud cover obscuring the canyon, he believes it to be the edge of the world. Upon disposing of the bottle that had originally fallen unbeknownst to him from an airplane, he is given a hero’s welcome by his family. Not far from where the actor stood is now a car park and viewing platform. To get the best views one must climb several stairs.
Boat cruises are available in Blyde River Canyon.
The third most prominent feature in the Reserve are the Three Rondavels. They look a good deal like the thatched roof rondavels used as homes by many people in rural areas even today. Beyond the three knob-like shale and quartzite domes is a flat topped ridge named after Mapjaneng, the chief of a tribe that challenged Swazis invading his land in a great battle in the 1800s. The Three Rondavels near Mapjaneng are named Magabolle, Maseroto and Mogoladikwe,These were the best known of the Chief’s many wives.
Locally produced souvenirs are for sale at the Reserve and if one is quiet and patient one can see the malachite sunbird and other beautiful examples of birdlife within the trees. Call the Reserve at 27 (0) 13 759 5300.
For Further Reading
Delius, Peter. 2007. Mpumalanga, History and Heritage. University of KwaZulu-Natal Press. 522 pages.
Graskkop, Mpumalanga, South Africa. Things to See and Do
Pathfinda Blyde (Motlatse) River Canyon Nature Reserve, Mpulalanga.