Mpumalanga is South Africa’s second smallest province after Gauteng. The name means “the place where the sun rises” in the Swazi, Zulu, Xhosa and Ndebele languages. Part of the Drakensburg Escarpment runs through the province and the Kruger National Park is also partially situated there.
One of the province’s major cities, Witbank, was renamed eMalahleni in 2006, referring to the city’s and province’s history of coal production. Mpumalanga’s coal mines account for over 80 percent of coal production in South Africa, most of which is utilised in the production of electricity and synthetic fuels. The area is also mined for other minerals such as gold, copper, silica and platinum. The area also has a prominent agricultural industry with wheat, sugar cane and citrus farms situated throughout the province.
Mpumalanga has the Haute Cuisine Route, a series of fine dining restaurants, which runs from its capital and was established in 2008. The province is also the home of many of South Africa’s wildlife species including the Big Five and has spectacular natural views of the savannah. The area is also famous for bird watching and adventure tourism.
Land size: 76,495 square kilometres
Population size: 4,229, 300 people
Population race breakdown: 90.7% black African, 7.5% white, 0.9% coloured, 0.7% Indian/Asian
Languages spoken: 27.7% Swati, 24.1% Zulu, 10.4% Tsonga, 10.1% Ndebele, 9.3% Northern Sotho
Top 3 Nature and Game Reserves in Mpumalanga
Lowveld National Botanical Gardens
The evergreen botanical gardens feature a lush man-made African forest along the Crocodile River. The botanical gardens are the home of over 2,000 plants species and the largest collection of cycads in Africa, with the dry bushveld section of the gardens featuring various indigenous South African plants. The gardens are located close to other tourist attractions such as the Kruger National Park and Blyde River Canyon.
Sabi Sabi Game Reserve
The Sabi Sands is one of the numerous private game lodges in the area. The award-winning reserve is named after the Sabie River, along which European hunters first established a camp in 1830. The name was derived from the Tsonga word “tsave” which means fear or danger and stems from the large population of crocodiles and hippos in the Sabie River. The thirty year old lodge has accommodation, safaris and other activities available for guests.
Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve
Blyde River Canyon is the third largest canyon in the world, is known as the “largest green canyon” on Earth, and is situated against the Great Drakensburg Escarpment. The reserve’s Panorama Route includes Three Rondavels, God’s Window and Pinnacle Rock. God’s Window, in particular, is one of the most scenic viewpoints of the lowveld region which lies 700 metres below the cliffs. The 33 kilometre long gorge is one of the most popular birding spots in South Africa and is a well-known adventure destination.
Top 3 Places to go to in Mpumalanga
The small town looks like an open museum with most of its architecture dating back to the late 1800s following a gold rush in the 1870s. The town remained greatly unchanged for almost a century and became a tourist destination in the 1970s after mining was shut down in 1971. It was later proclaimed a provincial heritage site. The national monument is a tribute to the early gold panning days of the nineteenth century.
The provincial capital, formerly known as Nelspruit, is located along the Crocodile River and is supported by tourists as it is a major stopover point between Johannesburg and the Kruger National Park. The town has numerous restaurants, shops and entertainment locations. It is also the home of Emnotweni Casino, the Alkmaar Motocross Raceway and two airports (The Nelspruit Airfield and the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport).
The small agricultural town was named after the wives of the original Blesbokspruit Farm which was situated there, Elizabeth du Pooy and Alida Naude. The town harvests maize, sorghum, rye, sunflowers and potatoes. Up until 2007 the town hosted the Annual National Potato Festival and it is famous for being situated near the origin of the great Olifants River.
Mpumalanga is a quiet and sunny province, ideal for wildlife viewing, bird watching and experiencing the majestic panoramas of the Blyde Canyon. Visitors can also learn about the area’s gold mining history and walk through preserved hundred year old towns such as Pilgrim’s Rest.