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Mpumulanga

South Africa

Bordered by Mozambique and Swaziland in the east, and Gauteng in the west, Mpumalanga is situated mainly on the high plateau grasslands of the Middleveld, which roll eastwards for hundreds of kilometres.

In the northeast, the land rises towards mountain peaks and then terminates in an immense escarpment. In some places, this escarpment plunges hundreds of metres down to the low-lying area known as the Lowveld.

It is the perfect South African destination. From the Highlands Meander to The Panorama, through the Cultural Heartland to the Wild Frontier, this destination offers everything from fly-fishing to bungee jumping, game viewing to historical towns; the 'big five' to cascading waterfalls, Mpumulanga has it all.

The Highlands Meander is a nature lover's paradise, offering fly-fishing, bird watching, horse riding, rock climbing and hiking trails. Dullstoom is a popular hideaway for the city slickers, as it is a mere 2 hour drive from Pretoria and offers the best fly-fishing in South Africa. Also rich in history, visitors can take a walk through the historic ZASM tunnel, through which the trains used to pass, and see the beautiful waterfalls along the Eland's River. From here onto Waterval Onder where President Kruger lived for a month before he fled into exile in the 1900's, these picturesque little towns offer peace and tranquility.

The Cultural Heartland boasts the colourful culture of the indigenous peoples, famous for their vibrant house painting, bead work and crafts, all on display at cultural villages throughout the region.

Explore the local Shangaan culture at the famous Shangana Cultural Village, a short hop away from the town of Hazyview. This user-friendly cultural village offers visitors the opportunity to interact with the local Shangaan people and to enjoy a taste of traditional cuisine. In Mpumalanga, the Nyani Shangaan Cultural Village is also an option, as is Matsulu Village - a traditional Ndebele Village.

The little town of Pilgrim's Rest offers a step backwards into South Africa's history, complete with themed museums, restored buildings, and the notorious Victorian-inspired Royal Hotel. A short drive from Pilgrim's Rest lies Graskop, famous for its scenic waterfall.

Crystal Springs, near Pilgrim's Rest is a good base to explore The Panorama. God's Window, the third largest canyon in the world, and The Blyde River Canyon, the largest green canyon in the world have breathtaking views. Offering some of the most scenic views in South Africa, these colossal canyons are famous for their dramatic window on the world.

Not to be missed is The Bourke's Luck Potholes and three Rondawels. The Mac-Mac Falls, where the Mac Mac River splits into two and the columns of water plummet side by side for 65 metres into a pool in the gorge below; and the mighty Berlin Falls, the most spectacular in Mpumalanga, where the water cascades 80 metres over a cliff and into a deep green pool below are just two of many magical falls in the area.

Nature lovers will discover giant waterfalls and adrenaline junkies can get their fix bungee jumping, white water rafting or explore the 4x4 trails. For those who prefer a less vigorous adventure can experience hot air ballooning, walking trails and gold panning.

The Kruger National Park is a wildlife experience that ranks with the best in the world. Here you'll experience exquisite panoramic views, mountains, rivers, trout fishing and birding opportunities, eco-tourism, adventure and the rich offerings of the local Ndebele and Swazi cultures.

The southern part of the Park is more lush and wooded, compared to the central and northern areas which are drier and have the largest concentration of game. Whether you are enjoying a day trip through the Park or staying at one of the various camps, you are sure to see Lion, Elephant, Giraffe, Zebra, Rhino, Buffalo, Wildebeest, Springbok, Impala and much much more. For those of you who are lucky enough to see the shy leopard, be sure to have your digital camera ready.

A highlight are the Sudwala Caves. After a steep drive up to the caves, magnificent views are the first thing you will notice. The entrance to the caves themselves is quite well hidden. A tour into the caves is not to be missed, although only a small portion (500m) is open to the public - it is thought that the caves carry on for many kilometres. Many dripstone and flowstone formations can be viewed in the cave, the Screaming Monster is probably the most well known dripstone formation in the caves. Inside the caves stromatolites can be seen, these are fossilized colonies of blue-green algae which are thought to be one of the earliest identifiable forms of life in Southern Africa, dating back some 2000 million years.

It's always difficult to visualise just how old the Earth is - we can't count to one million, let alone get our heads around how long ago 3,400 million years is. But if you go to Barberton, you'll be able to see some of the world's oldest rocks that formed 3,400 million years ago. They were around when the first life forms, bacteria, began to develop and not too long ago a fossil of that bacteria was found near Barberton - estimated to be around 3,200 million years old. You can take a walk through these Achaean rock formations on the Fortuna hiking trail, which also boasts 100's of species of trees.

Mpumalanga's unique geography, proximity to Mozambique, and expanses of pristine bush have helped shape a unique culinary heritage that includes an often dizzying variety of game meats, ocean fresh prawns, freshwater trout, unusual African wild spinach and vegetable dishes, spicy sauces, and offbeat traditional delicacies such as mopani worms or gushe.

The region's natural abundance and large agricultural sector also allow local restaurants and lodges to offer 'country-style' cuisine featuring the freshest exotic fruits and vegetables, with a special emphasis on nuts, avocado, mango, litchi, melons, papaya, pepperdew and fruit preserves.

Mpumalanga - which means 'place where the sun rises' - is one of South Africa's tourism hotspots, loved by both local and international visitors for its beauty and diversity.

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