Category Archives: Kruger Lowveld Tourism

Appalling road conditions in Mpumalanga: A threat to economic development and jobs

Oupa Pilane, the President of the Kruger Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism (KLCBT), is pleading with the Mpumalanga Provincial Government to take tourism seriously and to start by fixing the roads, especially on the Panorama Route which is the jewel of tourism in the province.

The Panorama Route is not only one of the most popular tourist routes in Mpumalanga, it is also home to thousands of youth who are employed at various establishments along the route.

“The Panorama Route has the potential to create even more desperately needed jobs, especially for the youth in our province. It is a low-hanging fruit that can be maximised to create new and inclusive enterprises that will see more of our previously disadvantaged people taking an active role in the tourism industry,” says Pilane.

However, despite its potential to create thousands of jobs, the Panorama Route is one of the most neglected by government when it comes to the condition of the roads.

“Tourists do not want to come to the region because of these road conditions and those that are employed fear losing their jobs as the businesses they work for lose income as a result,” says Pilane.

The KLCBT has engaged government numerous times on this issue, especially the departments of economic development and tourism and public works, roads and transport.

“Our requests have fallen into deaf ears. Minor sub-standard interventions were attended to but due to the poor quality of work, the roads have become even more dangerous than they were before. We continue to receive negative feedback from visitors – both domestic and international – about the conditions of our roads,” says Pilane.

Many bicycle and motor sport events have been cancelled or put on hold due to the roads, which is also having a detrimental effect on job creation in the area.

“Our province’s reputation as the country’s inland tourism destination of choice is being jeopardised by the inability of the Mpumalanga Provincial Government to play their part. This has to be corrected,” Pilane stresses.

Mpumalanga’s tourism sector has welcomed the call by the President of South Africa to join hands and work together to reduce the level of unemployment in our province.

“We cannot do this alone and therefore urgently request the Mpumalanga Provincial Government to step up and partner with us to create a shared vision that will see our province grow and flourish and not stagnate,” Pilane concludes.

Around the Kruger Lowveld in seven days

With school holidays around the corner, Kruger Lowveld Tourism has put together an exciting seven-day itinerary of the region, with plenty of wonderful places that you and your family can visit to truly explore the region. 

DAY ONE

Kaapschehoop 

Travel a mere 28km from Nelspruit/Mbombela to the picturesque town of Kaapschehoop. This tourist village is famous for its free-roaming feral horses, quaint eateries and inviting atmosphere. Try your hand at horse riding or perhaps enjoy a calming hike.

Barberton

Head down to the historical town of Barberton, where prospectors once flocked to seek their fortune. Visit the ghost town of Eureka City, established after the discovery of gold. Try your luck at gold panning, go on a guided heritage walk or try paragliding. There are also excellent 4X4 trails through beautiful landscapes.

Alternatively, experience the Barberton Makhonjwa Geotrail which gives an insight into the origins of the Earth over three billion years ago. The self-drive trail runs for 40km, from Barberton to the Bulembu Border of Swaziland. A dozen laybys and viewpoints illustrate how the earth evolved.

DAY TWO

Nelspruit/Mbombela

The beauty and splendour of the Lowveld National Botanical Garden awaits. This is where the Crocodile and Nels rivers meet and form a breath-taking waterfall. The garden is home to one of the largest collections of South African fig trees. Also in Nelspruit/Mbombela, Jane Goodall has committed herself to the conservation of Africa’s large apes and has created a sanctuary for chimpanzees rescued from captivity. Situated just outside the city on the R40, the sanctuary is open daily for educational tours.

White River 

Have a snack or choose from unique retail stores at Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre, which is alive with a contemporary art gallery and unique restaurants. In the same vicinity is the extraordinary Bagdad Centre, which has fast become a firm Lowveld favourite with a vast selection of restaurants to choose from. If you’re lucky, you might catch the Bagdad Farmer’s Market, which is held every second weekend of the month.

Hazyview 

Known for its banana plantations, Hazyview features panoramic views of the Kruger Lowveld and has more than its fair share of the region’s accommodation establishments. Activities range from quad biking, river rafting and ziplining to birding and golfing.

Something extra… See how brave you are at the Perry’s Bridge Reptile Park or have your future told by a ‘seer’ at the Shangaan Cultural Village.

DAY THREE 

Kruger National Park

Drive 42km on the R536 from Hazyview to the park’s Paul Kruger Gate, where you will be welcomed by the dominant bust of Paul Kruger, President of the Transvaal Republic until 1900, who proclaimed the park.

Stop at Lake Panic, just off the H11, and you might have an interesting sighting. Visit the Skukuza Nursery, located 4km from Skukuza, which has over 185 plant species ranging from trees and shrubs to aloes and other succulents.

Check in at reception and top off the evening with a braai or make use of the camp’s restaurant facility. 

Something extra… Enjoy an exhilarating night drive, offered by the park. 

DAY FOUR 

Hoedspruit 

Exit the Kruger National Park through Orpen Gate, but not before stopping at Tshokwane Picnic Spot on the H1-3. From Orpen Gate, Hoedspruit lies a mere 32km away.

Hoedspruit, an Afrikaans word meaning Hat Creek, is a small tourism and agriculturally-orientated town that’s fast becoming a hub of restaurants and niche shopping and has an eclectic mix of residents – from hunters to ‘swallows’. The town has a variety of activities on offer, but is mainly famous for the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre and Kinyonga Reptile Centre.

Surrounded by the largest privately-owned conservation area in the world, Hoedspruit is one of the major agricultural contributors in the country, specialising in mango and citrus production.  Community tourism and the promotion of the Shangaan and Pedi lifestyles or the opportunity to support and help impoverished communities is developing enormously and adding a fantastic and well-rounded holiday experience for those visiting or passing through the town.

DAY FIVE 

Panorama Route 

This is the world’s third largest canyon, but the largest green canyon in the world.

Blyde River Canyon offers a plethora of breath-taking waterfalls and wonderful feats of nature, from the Three Rondawels, Burke’s Luck Potholes, Lowveld View and God’s Window to the Berlin Falls, Lisbon Falls, Wonder View and the Pinnacle.

It is for all of these natural attractions that the Panorama Route, on which the canyon is located, is famous!

The Blyde River Canyon is 25km in length and is, on average, around 750m deep. It has some of the deepest precipitous cliffs of any canyon on the planet and is known as one of nature’s great wonders on the continent.

It provides the perfect hiking landscape and various adventure activities.

DAY SIX 

Graskop 

A friendly town with a great atmosphere, Graskop is home to excellent restaurants such as the famous Harrie’s Pancakes. It is also home to the unique Berlin and Lisbon Waterfalls. The Graskop Gorge Lift Company, located in the gorge, offers a 51-metre viewing lift which transports visitors to the bottom of the gorge and into a wonderland of unspoilt forest beauty.

Pilgrim’s Rest 

Brimming with historical buildings and quaint restaurants, Pilgrim’s Rest is a national monument and plays host to the World Gold Panning Championship. A ghost tour is a must and so is a visit to the cemetery and Robber’s Grave.  A gem from the gold rush era, Alanglade House provides a journey back in time.

Sabie

A mecca for hiking and mountain biking, this town is nestled amongst tranquil forests and is the perfect retreat. Top attractions include Lone Creek Falls, Maria Shires Falls and Mac Mac Falls. The SAFCOL Forestry Museum is dedicated to the timber industry and the gold mining which spawned it.

DAY SEVEN 

Lydenburg/Mashishing 

On the R37, 22km from Sabie on the Long Tom Pass, lies the replica of the Long Tom Cannon which marks the site where, in September 1900, two of the cannons were used for the last time in the South African War.

Further up the road is the Misty Mountain Long Tom Toboggan, the first of its kind in South Africa.

Continue your journey to Lydenburg and visit the Lydenburg Museum, where replicas of the Lydenburg Heads are kept. You can also visit the Voortrekker School and the Voortrekker Church, both are historical buildings.

Dullstroom 

Dullstroom is renowned for its abundant dams, teeming with trout. It boasts excellent restaurants and interesting pubs. This village plays host to many artists as it is a popular escape for those in the arts.

Something extra… Visit the Dullstroom Bird of Prey and Rehabilitation Centre.

For more information about Kruger Lowveld Tourism, visit www.krugerlowveld.com.

Get your free 2018 Kruger Lowveld Visitors’ Guide

Kruger Lowveld Tourism’s 2018 Official Visitors’ Guide to the region, which now features a pull-out map in the front of the guide, is now available!

The guide – an appetiser to the Kruger Lowveld region – not only offers sound travel advice and interesting travel tips, but this year also features an exciting seven-day itinerary including Kaapschehoop and Barberton; Mbombela, White River and Hazyview; the iconic Kruger National Park; Hoedspruit; the Panorama Route and Blyde River Canyon; Graskop, Pilgrim’s Rest and Sabie; and Lydenburg and Dullstroom.

“The itinerary provides visitors to the region with tips on various things to do and see in these areas, whilst our 10 scenic routes section showcases the absolute beauty and grandeur of the Kruger Lowveld,” says Lisa Sheard, KLT’s Executive Director and Marketing Consultant.

This year’s guide book also shares exciting information about the top adventure activities in the area, including the recently launched Graskop Gorge Viewing Lift; Skyway Trails; the Long Tom Toboggan; Avian Adventures Flying Club; and Gap Tours and Transfers.

And, of course, there’s everyone’s favourite section – 10 Little Gems – which showcases yet another ten tourism products that are unusual and exciting from the Mariepskop Hiking Trail and the CMDA Celebration of Music, to the Madilika Craft Centre, the Country Farm Stall and Orchid Nursery and the Kruger National Park’s Tshokwane Trading Post and Picnic Site.

“This year we have also included five extraordinary things to do in the Kruger Lowveld, from an exciting artists’ route and extraordinary places to sleep in the Kruger National Park to rock climbing in Waterval Boven,” says Sheard.

The back of the guide serves as a directory of many of the preferred products and services that you can book in the Kruger Lowveld region, from accommodation and restaurants, to various tours and adventures.

The 2018 Official Visitors’ Guide is available at Kruger Lowveld Tourism head office and information offices around the region. Come and get yours now! For more information, visit krugerlowveld.com or contact 013 755 1988.

Kruger Lowveld Tourism’s priorities for 2018

Kruger Lowveld Tourism (KLT) has its sight set on various strategic priorities for 2018, following a brainstorming session with the regional tourism body’s president and executive management.

According to Lisa Sheard, Kruger Lowveld Tourism Executive Director, KLT’s priorities this year include engaging with government and other stakeholders responsible for the region’s road infrastructure, exerting pressure to find an urgent long-term solution to saving Pilgrim’s Rest, putting together a tourism think tank, and the urgent upgrading, revitalisation and innovation of the region’s public attractions.

“We believe these are all salient issues that need to be prioritised this year to ensure that we are able to grow tourism to the Kruger Lowveld region,” says Sheard.

“When it comes to the state of the region’s road infrastructure, good roads are essential if we are to see a growth in tourism numbers to the region, and tourism employment within the region,” says Oupa Pilane, the President of Kruger Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism.

“There’s a huge backlog and government budget urgently needs to be reallocated to improve the main access routes into the region, for example the R540 from Belfast to Dullstroom to Lydenburg/Mashishing and the R36 from Lydenburg/Mashishing to the N4 at Schoemanskloof. Our internal network of roads along and around the Panorama Route also need to be urgently improved,” he adds.

Sadly, no progress has been made in finding a solution to the dire Pilgrim’s Rest situation, despite the recent engagement of another set of consultants. The town’s future remains uncertain.

“We need to find an inclusive long-term solution that will not only benefit tourism but will also ensure that the previously disadvantaged are brought in as active participants and owners. An innovative approach will put the town on a sustainable road to prosperity, reinvention, vastly-improved numbers and quality tourism offerings that will ultimately result in increased tourist numbers. If no local solution is forthcoming, Kruger Lowveld Tourism will again have to elevate the matter to national level,” says Pilane.

According to Sheard, Mpumalanga is in desperate need of a ‘Tourism Think Tank’ – a group of experienced tourism practitioners from the public and private sectors – to elevate the tourism agenda and to bring meaningful benefits to our communities. In addition, the region’s public attractions need urgent upgrading, revitalisation and innovation. “For example, our lowest hanging fruit is the Panorama Route where existing tourism numbers are high, but facilities are outdated and crusty. One could follow the example of the new Graskop Gorge viewing lift, which is bound to increase the length of stays in the region,” says Sheard.

“It’s imperative that we get the so-called ‘flagship projects’ like the Skywalk and Cable Car near God’s Window and the Cable Car in Blyde River Canyon beyond the drawing board and into the development phase. These projects have been ‘in the pipeline’ for far too long now. Enhancing commercial tourism offerings areas around the Barberton Makonjwa Geotrail, so that investment brings jobs and tourism numbers to that area, should also be prioritised and the Swazi authorities should be pushed to tar the road from Josefsdal to Piggs Peak,” she adds.

Kruger Lowveld Tourism says that the development of small, medium and micro enterprises needs to be escalated to bring rural communities into the mainstream tourism net. “Projects need to be conceptualised and researched for implementation as soon as possible,” says Pilane.

“Tourism safety and security remains an important element of any tourism agenda and we will also continue to pressurise law enforcement authorities to improve their efforts in this regard,” he adds.

Kruger Lowveld Tourism will meet with mayors and municipal managers from all local municipalities across and surrounding the region in 2018, in a bid to escalate tourism up the IDP agenda. It will also request meetings with the MEC for Tourism and the MEC for Roads to further engage on all of these matters.

For more information about Kruger Lowveld Tourism, visit www.krugerlowveld.com.

 

The Socio-economic Case for Tourism in Kruger Lowveld / Ehlanzeni

By: Lisa Sheard, Executive Director: Kruger Lowveld Tourism

The CEO of South African Tourism, Sisa Ntshona, stated in an article in the Beeld newspaper on 4 December 2016, that tourism hasn’t realised a fraction of its potential in South Africa because the government still doesn’t believe in it. Continue reading The Socio-economic Case for Tourism in Kruger Lowveld / Ehlanzeni