South Africa is a country filled with hidden treasures. Natural and manmade gems that tourists flock to are everywhere and yet there are so many magical places to explore that are off the beaten track. One such place is Mbombela in Mpumalanga Province.
Just over 100 km from the Mozambique border and 300 km from Johannesburg, lies Mbombela. This sparsely populated city is the capital city of Mpumalanga and is a popular place to visit by both locals and overseas tourists. Originally called Nelspruit, the town was founded by three brothers called Nel 1895. The settlement was where they grazed cattle in the winter months.
The development of the Netherlands-South Africa Railways that transported gold for Witwatersrand to what is now Maputo in Mozambique helped the town grow. Further growth occurred when Gold was discovered in places such as Pilgrim’s Rest and Barberton. Today the town is well established and has some surprising attractions for visitors as well as a frequently used soccer stadium.
The wildlife and animals of South Africa are always a huge attraction for tourists. Mbombela is home to Chimpanzee Eden and this is a wonderful place the entire family will enjoy. Set in a wonderful 1800-hectare reserve, hundreds of displaced and abused chimpanzees have been given this sanctuary to call home. This is the only chimpanzee sanctuary in Africa visitors can get up close to some of the most mischievous and overlooked animals on earth. The centre is not only a sanctuary for chimps but educated people about the animals and their habitats.
Every province in South Africa has A botanical garden of some kind and Mpumalanga is no different. The Lowveld Botanical Gardens is a superb place to visit that is very much centred around two rivers that flow through it, the Crocodile River and the Nels. With its unique habitat and some amazing cascades with their tranquil pools, this is a superb place to explore habitat and environment that is fast vanishing from the South African landscape.
Caves are great tourist attractions all over the world and the Sudwala Caves are some of the oldest known caves on the planet. The Sudwala caves are home to the oldest dolomite chamber in the world, the Owen Hall extends a massive 70 metres in diameter and reaching 37 meters height. Thought to be over 3 million years old the caves extend well over 40km making them one of the most remarkable tourist attractions in South Africa.
South Africa’s very own mini Jurassic Park, Sudwala Dinosaur park is a real hidden gem to visit. Unlike Jurassic Park, Sudwala Dinosaur park does not have real dinosaurs but the replicas are some of the most astounding anywhere in the world. Kids will love this place and it will be something they will always remember about Mbombela.
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We visit De Hoop Nature Reserve - a World Heritage Site offering world class land-based whale viewing, just 3 hours from Cape Town. This is also one of the best places to discover rare and endangered mammals and fynbos, is a bird watchers paradise and is home to more than 85 species of game.
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