Mpumalanga – The Place Where the Sun Rises

In 1995, the province known as Eastern Transvaal changed its name to Mpumalanga, which literally means where the sun rises. It is here that the sun rose on humankind, as the oldest remains known to man are found here, making Mpumalanga truly the cradle of humankind. If you are seeking a tourist destination unlike any other, Mpumalanga is the place to go. It is one of the most diverse historical, cultural and scenic areas, and home to one of the biggest and most famous wildlife reserves in the world.

Hundreds of ancient rock art sites from the San indicate the existence of the bushman before even the Nguni migrated down from the north. The region was defined by different clans’ borders, which changed as they formed alliances with other clans. For centuries the Mpumalanga people were nomadic warriors, traveling the area in search of land for their cattle and safety for their clans.

It is here that the legends of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba come from, as well as stories of Jock the Bushveld, Staffordshire bull terrier whose hunting exploits made him famous.

Because of the very diverse past Mpumalanga has, it now has a very diverse culture. There are native beadwork, crafts and house paintings that show the history of the peoples that live in this town. Accommodation is easily found in all areas of the region in hotels, bed and breakfasts, lodges, and spas. Along the hiking trails there are huts and cabins along the way for the more adventurous.

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Mpumalanga is home to Kruger National Park, one of the biggest wildlife reserves in the world. Here you will find 147 different species of mammals, 114 reptiles, 507 species of birds, 49 species of fish, and also many plant species. There are many rest accommodation camps, overnight hides, and lodges in the park. Take a 4×4 expedition into the park or one of the many smaller sanctuaries nearby for the ultimate wildlife adventure.

If it is historic attractions that interest you, Mpumalanga has much to offer. Pilgrims Rest is a living reminder of the region’s gold rush history during the 19th century that defined the modern state of South Africa today. It’s a quaint little town whose history dates back to the 1870s when gold was discovered on a farm named Ponieskrantz. It soon became a thriving town and was named a National Monument in 1986. There are still digging sites outside the town with a gold-panning demonstration and a re-creation of how a gold camp would have looked. If you’re stay lasts more than the day, a stay in a Victorian style establishment is a must.

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There are many natural attractions that the visitor must see when coming to Mpumalanga. Here you will find the third largest canyon in the world, The Blyde River Canyon, which also hosts the second tallest Tufu waterfall in the world. In Blyde River Canyon is also God’s Window, a famous rock formation, and the Bourkes Luck Potholes. Another must-see natural attraction is the Sudwala Caves, some of the oldest caves in the world. They were discovered in the 19th century by Swazi Prince Somquba. They are more than 30 kilometers long with 600 meters accessible.

So no matter what kind of adventure you seek, whether it be historic, or cultural or if you seek the beauty of nature or the wildness of the animal sanctuaries, the unique diversity of Mpumalanga is a vacation you will not regret, and never forget.


by Justin Womersley