Blyde River Canyon

The Blyde River Canyon is the main attraction of Mpumalanga's Panorama Route. The Blyde River Canyon is one of those areas of the world where one runs out of adjectives to describe the scenic views and breathtaking vistas. Situated on the way to the equally remarkable Kruger National Park, there is no reason not to stop at the Blyde River Canyon and to take in the natural splendour of the area.

Potholes at Bourke's Luck

The Blyde River Canyon is the third largest canyon system in the world and the greenest of the top three. It is situated in the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve in the Klein Drakensberge. The canyon nearly 800 metres or more in some places and stretches for nearly 33 kilometres from the potholes at Bourke's Luck to the mysterious Three Rondavels. Along the western edge there is a national road that allows access to some of the more impressive vistas and the other attractions of the area.

At the 'start' of the Blyde River Canyon are the potholes at Bourke's Luck. In the confluence where the Blyde and Treur Rivers come together, there is an area where millennia of erosion have created a geological phenomenon. Carved into the limestone by the swirling waters and sand are magnificent sculptured swirl holes that are sometimes up to 300 metres deep. The walls of the area are covered in red and yellow lichen, adding to the serene and strange beauty of the area. A visitor's centre details some of the interesting geological features of the area, including how they were formed, and is the start of the 700 metre trail that leads to the potholes.

The road along the Blyde River Canyon stops at various viewpoints on its way to the Three Rondavels like Wonder View and the Pinnacle. Perhaps the most famous of these views is God's Window. This view is perhaps one of the best and offers a panoramic view of the Lowveld that sprawls 900 metres below the point. The sheer cliffs drop into verdant indigenous forest and on a clear day it is almost like you can see into eternity. The area has hiking, mountain biking and horse riding trails for the adventurous. For some of the most impressive sites, visitors will need to trek into the misty rain forests of the area where fewer of the areas many visitors are willing to go.

The Three Sisters

At the other end of the canyon are the Three Rondavels, also known as the Three Sisters. These tall spirals of dolomitic rock majestically rise out of the side of the canyon. They are capped in verdant carpet and the sides of the three spirals are covered in the characteristic red lichen. These three hills signify the end of the canyon and is one of the last of the incredible views.

The centre of the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve is the unobtrusive Blyde Dam. Within the reserve are a number of different habitats. This is mainly due to the variety of altitudes and soil types that are found in such a small areas. The advantage is that visitors will be able to see an incredible variety of animals in a small area. Hippos and crocodiles make the dam their home, dassies and klipspringers live on the cliffs and zebra and buffalo can be found on the Lowveld where the canyons starts to flatten out.

The area is also well-known for hosting all five of South Africa's primates. These include the chacma baboons, vervet monkeys, samango monkeys, greater bushbabies and lesser bushbabies. These primates can be seen throughout the area and sightings are very common.

No words can truly describe the natural wonder of the Blyde River Canyon. The sheer cliffs, undulating hills and peaks and verdant plant life all combine to create an area that could, and has been, mistake for paradise. When you look out from God's Window into the lush valley below of the Blyde River Canyon, it is not hard to see why.


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