Nestled in the heart of South Africa, the Blyde River Canyon (officially known as the Motlatse Canyon) is a breathtaking natural wonder that should not be missed. As one of the largest canyons on Earth, and potentially the largest “green canyon” in the world, the Blyde River Canyon Reserve stretches along the winding path of the Blyde River, offering stunning views of sheer cliffs dropping 800 meters into the riverbed.
The fresh mountain scenery and panoramic views of the Klein Drakensberg escarpment give the area its nickname, the “Panorama Route.” Viewpoints such as God’s Window and Wonder View offer a glimpse into the magnitude of the natural beauty that can be found here. Visitors can also admire the towering “Pinnacle,” a single quartzite column rising out of the deep wooded canyon, and the “Three Rondavels,” also known as the “Three Sisters,” three massive spirals of dolomite rock that rise out of the canyon wall. The domed heads of the “Three Rondavels” are covered in lush green vegetation, while their sides are stained with fiery orange lichen. From this viewpoint, visitors can also see the expansive Swadini Dam in the distance, marking the end of the reserve.
One of the most phenomenal geological phenomena in South Africa can be found at the meeting point of the Blyde River and the Treur River. The “Bourke’s Luck Potholes” have been formed by water erosion over thousands of years, creating strange cylindrical sculptures carved by swirling water. The smooth red and yellow rocks contrast with the dark pools, making for a truly unique sight.
The Blyde River Canyon also boasts a wide variety of plant and animal life, influenced by the extreme climate, range of altitudes, and various soil conditions. Visitors can spot klipspringer and dassies in rocky areas, grey rhebuck and the rare oribi in the grassland, and bushbuck and bushpig along the luxuriant riverbanks. All five of South Africa’s primates can also be found in the reserve, including the somango monkey, nocturnal greater and lesser bushbabies, chacma baboons, and vervet monkeys.
In addition to the diverse array of land-dwelling animals, the rivers and wetlands of the Swadini Dam are home to hippopotamus, crocodile, waterbirds, and otters. Birdwatchers will also delight in the nearly every type of habitat that attracts birds can be found in the reserve, with all three South African species of Loerie present.
The Blyde River Canyon is not only a visual feast for the eyes, but also offers a range of hiking options for outdoor enthusiasts. One of the most popular trails is the Blyderivierspoort Hiking Trail, also known as the Blyde River Canyon Trail. This trail starts at God’s Window and can be completed in either three or five days, with the last two days being optional. The trail covers a distance of 60 km and requires reasonable fitness. It is recommended to book in advance, particularly during school holidays.
The Blyderivierspoort trail takes hikers through the third largest canyon in the world, offering a variety of geographical features and lush vegetation. Along the way, hikers may encounter a diverse array of animals. It’s best to go in a group on an organized trip as the route can be challenging and at times takes hikers through private farm land and nature reserves. However, experienced hikers can also undertake the trail self-guided. Overnight accommodation is provided in huts.
Another popular hike is the Hippo Trail, which is roughly 18 km from start to finish. It’s best to start early to complete the hike while it’s light. Hikers need to obtain a permit from the Forever Resort, but please note that the resort is closed on Sundays. The trail offers a fun challenge and the opportunity to spot an abundance of wildlife and birdlife, including hippos, but hikers are reminded to be cautious and not to disturb any animals encountered along the way.
Finally, the Kadishi-Tufa trail is a must-see for nature lovers visiting the area. This trail starts outside chalet no 64 and ends near the lower viewpoint on the road. It takes hikers through a ravine alongside the Kadishi River, with its numerous waterfalls and pools. It’s a pretty popular trail, and for good reason, as it offers a unique and breathtaking experience.
The Blyde River Canyon offers a variety of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy. One of the most exhilarating ways to experience the canyon is by taking a helicopter flight from the exclusive Lion Sands Private Game Reserve. Guests are collected from and returned to the Lion Sands helicopter pad, and are treated to a spectacular view of the northern Drakensberg, which is home to some of South Africa’s most well-known geographical landmarks.
The helicopter flies west towards the Drakensberg, providing a close-up view of the Three Rondawels and the Blydepoort Dam. As the helicopter rises out of the canyon, it passes over the Berlin and Lisbon falls on route to a secluded picnic spot next to the Pinnacle. Here, guests can enjoy a delicious picnic while taking in the breathtaking views that stretch as far as the Kruger National Park in the east.
After lunch, the helicopter flies past God’s Window, Wonder View, Panorama Falls, and over the town of Graskop before heading back to the Lion Sands Reserve. This helicopter flight provides a unique and unforgettable way to experience the beauty of the Blyde River Canyon.
The Blyde River Canyon is a natural wonder that should not be missed. As the third-largest canyon on the planet and the largest green canyon on Earth, it is a sight to behold. The verdant greenery that covers its slopes and nestles in its crevices is truly awe-inspiring.
One of the best ways to experience the Blyde River Canyon is by taking a boat cruise. The interpretation tour is conducted by a knowledgeable guide who will take you to the most beautiful spots, including the Three Rondavels, three iconic mountain heads that stand tall and erect, and the Kadishi Tufa Waterfall, which is a rare living waterfall that is around 660 feet (or 200 metres) high, making it the world’s second-largest tufa fall. A tufa fall refers to millions of years of calcium build-up that forms a hard outer shell, with the water running beneath it.
During the tour, you may also have the opportunity to explore parts of the area on foot, breathe in the fresh Limpopo air, and take photographs against extraordinary backdrops. The area is also home to a diverse array of animal and bird life, making it a paradise for bird watchers.
When embarking on a boat cruise, be sure to bring along plenty of high-factor sunscreen, comfortable shoes, and a cap to protect your face and eyes from the sun. Drinking water will be provided on the tour, and there is a little curio shop at eKhaya Bush Villa for those who want a keepsake of their Blyde River Canyon adventure.
The Blyde River Canyon offers a wide range of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy, including the Echo Caves. These mysterious caves are located just outside Ohrigstad on the Panorama Route and were discovered in the 1920s by the owner of a local farm. After exploring the cave, the discoverer realized that this was a gift from nature hidden among the gentle undulating hills of the Mpumalanga escarpment.
The Echo Caves are some of the oldest caves in the world and have been declared a Historical Monument. They are named for the local people who used one of the stalactites as a drum to warn of any approaching Swazi. The caves extend for some 40 km and the sound traveled for surprisingly long distances, allowing the people to take refuge in the caves.
Guided tours of the Echo Caves are available every day of the year and last about 45 minutes to an hour. These tours are suitable for all ages and take visitors through 2 km of tunnels to view impressive stalagmites and stalactites. The caves also feature new discoveries such as the Madonna and the Crystal Palace. The Echo Caves are less well-known than other limestone caves, which means that fewer people visit them, giving visitors a chance to enjoy this amazing underworld with just their guide.
For the more adventurous, a special tour can be organized to go deeper into the cave. The end of the cave has not yet been found and it is said that the end of the Echo Caves is somewhere close to the Strijdom tunnel. However, it should be noted that this tour is not recommended for people with claustrophobic problems.
The Blyde River Canyon offers a wide range of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy, one of which is a visit to Perry’s Bridge Reptile Park in Hazyview. This park provides visitors the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of South Africa (and indeed, the world’s) most venomous snakes, as well as large constrictors, crocodilians, lizards, tortoises, and frogs.
Perry’s Bridge Reptile Park
Perry’s Bridge Reptile Park is conveniently located just 14km from the Phabeni gate and Numbi gate entrances to the world-renowned Kruger National Park and on the panoramic route to the Blyde River Canyon. This makes it a perfect stop for anyone visiting the Lowveld.
The park also has a variety of other animals to view, including anacondas, reticulated pythons, black mamba, green mamba, rattlesnakes, boomslang, gaboon adder, and cobras, amongst many others as well as poison dart frogs, iguanas, the ancient leopard tortoises, and huge Nile crocodiles. The enclosures are designed to mimic the animals’ natural environment, providing a more enjoyable lifestyle for the animals and a greater viewing pleasure for visitors. The gardens are a bird haven, attracting many local species including spectacular purple crested touracos and resident woodland kingfishers.
After visiting the park, visitors can complete their experience by visiting the curio shop, relaxing in one of the many restaurants offered at Perrys Bridge, writing home from the internet cafe, or enjoying a beverage at the brewery. There are also shopping opportunities for locally produced quality crafts and curios, an art gallery and a Belgian Patissiere combined with a wine shop. A small playground for children is also provided.
In addition to the reptiles, Perry’s Bridge Reptile Park also offers visitors the chance to meet and interact with other animals such as potbellied pigs, goats, peacocks, ducks, and geese. Children will especially enjoy this aspect of the park.
Perry’s Bridge Reptile Park offers an exciting and unique experience for visitors to the Blyde River Canyon, providing the chance to learn about and interact with a wide variety of animals in a natural setting. It’s a great addition to any trip to the area.