How I experienced Mpumalanga #tourismforall

Last week I was privileged to have been invited by Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency to join them on their launch of tourism month. Below is my report back on how I experienced the province of the rising sun…

DAY 1

Airlink

I’ve been to Nelspruit before a couple of times (last trip being in June on a family weekend break), but it’s always been through a self-drive from Johannesburg which takes 4 hours, plus tollgates in the mix. This time around though I flew to Nelspruit through Airlink which drastically reduces the trip to a mere 45 minutes from Johannesburg.

Considering that I boarded the flight in midweek on Wednesday, I was surprised by the huge traffic of passengers onboard…this route is quite busy compared to what I had thought, since it’s regional I had assumed it wouldn’t be busy.

Southern Sun Emnotweni

On our arrival in Nelspruit we checked into Southern Sun Emnotweni, which is part of the Tsogo Sun group and located just behind Riverside Mall. I walked to the mall from the hotel through the mall’s underground parking and directly accessed Emnotweni Casino on the ground floor…which makes life easy for casino patrons looking for hotel accommodation as these two entities are within close proximity to each other. 

Southern Sun Emnotweni

Southern Sun Emnotweni

We were lucky to have been booked at Southern Sun Emnotweni the same day as Bafana Bafana who were on camp for their match against Mauritania. I got a glimpse of some of the squad members such as Sibusiso “Villa” Vilakazi, Keagan Dolly and team PR/Communication Manager Matlhomola Morake…it’s not every day that I rub shoulders with a national team of any sporting code. Pity that on their match day we flew back to Johannesburg and I couldn’t watch them in action at Mbombela Stadium.

My work revolves around the internet, therefore when am on a media tour…I always check if free wifi is offered by the hotel. Southern Sun Emnotweni offers 500MB per guest per day.

DAY 2

Lowveld National Botanical Garden

Having called Wilro Park (Roodepoort) home for many years, I’m familiar with the Walter Sisulu Botanical National Garden located in Ruimsig. I’ve attended many live music concerts with family there and sometimes family picnics to enjoy and appreciate the garden offerings. The waterfall stands out for me as the best feature for that garden. There are walking trails which I had promised myself to try out…and they’re still on my to-do list.

Lowveld National Botanical Garden
Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency chose Lowveld National Botanical Garden as their launch venue for Tourism Month activation. This is where all invited media houses (I fall into this group), trade partners and government officials congregated.

Nokuthula Dladla

Nokuthula Dladla from the Council of the Blind reading braille…she is blind.

From my years of dealing with government sponsored events, the protocol is normally tedious with lots of ego massaging between government officials taking to the stage to deliver individual speeches. I was pleasantly surprised this time around to encounter a brief programme schedule with only the main speaker being the MEC (Finance, Economic Development and Tourism MEC, Sikhumbuzo Eric Kholwane) taking his time to address audience. The Deputy Chairperson of MTPA (Nomaswazi Shabangu-Mndawe) did a very short closing remark. The (Head of Economic Development and Tourism, Muzi Mkhize) was the master of ceremonies and always brief on his task without blabbing on as it’s typical with such gatherings.

Myself walking with Nokuthula Dladla at the garden getting to understand how people with blindness live...

Myself walking with Nokuthula Dladla at the garden getting to understand how people with blindness live…

After the official opening was concluded, the media was taken on a brief walk in the garden to experience first hand the braille reading that caters for blind visitors of the garden. Information shared through the braille helps them understand what’s offered by the garden without relying on third parties. They can touch and feel the different plant species as they walk through the various stages of the garden.

Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre

Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre located in White River is home to a diversity of artisanry outlets, from art gallery, cinema, hotel, gym, fashion designers and more. Browsing through it reminded me of Clarens in the Free State which I visited in May courtesy of SA Tourism on our media road trip to #INDABA2016. The concept of artisans doing their thing in a well-structured environment and not competing with large chain stores for the attention of clients is hugely beneficial for their growth. Here you get to interact with the makers of products and buy unique artisanal goods at your own leisure.

I interacted with a security guard working at the centre just to get first-hand information from a layman…who confirmed that on weekends and public holidays the centre is always buzzing with patrons such that parking becomes a problem. Luckily for us, we got there on a quiet Wednesday and it was a breeze browsing through the different retail outlets.

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Dessert Wine Tasting @ Rottcher Wineries

Apart from being home to Kruger National Park which is the biggest park in South Africa with a diversity of wildlife that generates massive revenues for the country, timber and citrus fruits are grown here on a large scale for export and domestic markets.

Frank Theron, Rottcher Wineries founder

Frank Theron, Rottcher Wineries founder

One enterprising entrepreneur Frank Theron, founder of Rottcher Wineries spotted an opportunity to tap into citrus fruits on a different business angle. Using oranges to make dessert wines instead and not juice or jam as is the norm. Craft Beer Brewers are trending in all corners of South Africa, where they are making beer from micro breweries…using that formula this entrepreneur is bottling his own orange inspired dessert wines.

Orange & Ginger Dessert Win

Apart from the wines that have been his bread and butter for years, he is now diversifying his product range by introducing spirits…starting off with dry gin.

Frank Theron

Elephant Whispers

I previously had an encounter with elephants at Adventures with Elephants in Limpopo.

Elephant Whispers showcases six tamed and trained elephants which were rescued from planned game reserve culling operations by Elephants for Africa Forever.  These elephants are known by their names Tembo, Shamwari, Ziziphus, Medwa, Andile and Lindiwe.

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feeding an elephant

feeding an elephant with pallets

My Highlights

  • Touching them
  • Feeding them
  • Seeing their open mouth

Interesting Facts

  • 22 Months of pregnancy
  • 200-300kg of feed per day
  • An elephant gives birth standing
  • Elephants are domesticated like dogs
  • Can follow instructions from different groomers
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Contact:

Shangana River Club

Here the traditional dancers exposes visitors to the various traditional cultures of South Africa…such as zulu, sotho, tswana, swazi, tsonga and pedi dance. I was taken by surprise as one of the dancers invited me to join them to imitate their dancing. It was my first ever experience and struggled with everything concerned. My colleagues were in stitches as I fumbled around…

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Perry’s Bridge Hollow Boutique Hotel

It was the first time that I came across a hotel offering unlimited internet access to its guests and just for that I’ll certainly return to this property when am in Mpumalanga. Compared to Tsogo Sun with a national footprint, you would expect them to offer unlimited wifi but they don’t. Yet a small player in the field is able to accommodate its guests with free unlimited internet access…kudus to them.

 

DAY 3

The Three Rondavels

According to southafrica.net the Three Rondavels on Mpumalanga’s Panorama Route give a spectacular view over the Blyde River Canyon. Shaped like traditional African beehive huts, the Three Rondavels form three huge pinnacles of rock rising above the canyon below.

The Three Rondavels

The Three Rondavels

The Three Rondavels are at the beginning (or end) of the spectacular Blyde River Canyon drive.

Once known as the Three Sisters, the geological formations known today as The Three Rondavels, are one of the many natural highlights along Mpumalanga’s Panorama Route.

Blyde River Canyon

Blyde River Canyon

South Africans know the rondavel as a traditional beehive-shaped hut built and used over centuries by indigenous people as their homes. If you’ve been or plan to go to the Kruger National Park, you’ll know that some camp accommodation is in rondavels.

The Three Rondavels are spectacular peaks which look exactly like rondavels ­– round and fat, rising to a peaked top, but much, much higher than any traditional dwelling. In fact, when you stand on the viewpoint, 1 380m above sea level with the Blyde River Canyon below, you’ll still be looking up at those three distinctive peaks which tower 700m above the surrounding countryside.

These three geological formations were also once known as ‘The Chief and his Three Wives’. The flat-topped peak was named Mapjaneng (‘the chief’) after a legendary Bapedi chief, Maripi Mashile, who defeated invading Swazis in a great battle near here. The three peaks are named after his three wives (from left to right) – Magabolie, Mogoladikwe and Maseroto.

Bourke’s Luck Potholes

Bourke’s Luck Potholes

Bourke’s Luck Potholes

According to southafrica.net water’s power to shape a landscape is spectacularly displayed at Bourke’s Luck Potholes in Mpumalanga, where centuries of river activity have carved out a dramatic and intricate series of natural rock formations and pools.

Bourke’s Luck Potholes in Mpumalanga province are a series of natural geological formations that seem nearer to art than nature. Formed by centuries of water flowing through the landscape, this natural attraction is made up of inter-connected pools, interlaced with sandstone outcrops.

Bourke’s Luck Potholes

Bourke’s Luck Potholes

The potholes occur where the Treur River joins the Blyde River at the start of the Blyde River Canyon. In a continuing and centuries-old spectacle, the force of the water in these two rivers, combined with the particles of sand and rock that the rivers’ transport, wears cylindrical potholes into the sandstone bedrock.

Over time, some of these potholes merge and new ones form, creating an intricate landscape of deep depressions and outcrops of resistant rock.

Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency

  • Tel: +27 (0) 13 759 5300/01
  • Fax: +27 (0) 13 755 3928
  • Email: info@mtpa.co.za

The Drone

Amongst the journalists who were on tour, we had a colleague who had a drone with him. It was my first time to see a drone in person…

Nkosinathi demonstrating the drone to a tourist we met at The Three Rondavels.

Nkosinathi demonstrating the drone to tourists we met at The Three Rondavels.

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Thumbs up

  1. Unlimited wifi access at Perry Hollow Hotel
  2. Elephant encounter
  3. Seeing a drone in person for the first time
  4. Meeting Mpumalanga based journalists

Thumbs down

  • None

A big thank you goes to Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency for the hospitality.

Author: Muzi Mohale

Hi there, am your host and I blog about the tourism industry in South Africa. You're also welcome to contribute your expert content on matters affecting the industry. You can reach me on muzi[at]tourismedition.com

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