This is a must for your South African travel bucket list

Blyde River Canyon experience

By Renate Engelbrecht

Wednesday, Dec 21

If you’ve never been, the Blyde River Canyon should undoubtedly be on your bucket list for 2023. No jokes. On a recent media trip, our itinerary included a boat trip on the Blyde Dam and we were taken into the curious world of natural wonder – something I’d long forgotten about and a spot many of us don’t visit enough. I’d been to the area with my family when I was still young, but I can’t remember it being so breathtakingly beautiful. And that, a mere 40-minute drive outside Hoedspruit.

Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve

The Blyde River Canyon is the third biggest canyon in the world, and the reserve features four different biomes: Grassland, savanna, tropical rain forest and fynbos. The canyon is also the largest green canyon in the world, thanks to its unique and lush subtropical foliage, and it boasts the deepest precipitous cliffs of any canyon globally. Due to its impressive rain forest biome, it’s home to Samango monkeys – a primate you’re not likely to find in the nearby Kruger National Park. You might also spot some hippos in an area that the guides refer to as Hippo Valley, and crocodiles also call this home. The reserve falls under nature conservation, hence no fishing is allowed. Well, no fishing by humans at least. Obviously, it’s heaven for the fish eagles in the area and numerous other bird species – including Trumpeter Hornbills – have made the canyon their home.

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Our boat trip guide, Simion is one of the most passionate local tour guides I’ve ever met and his knowledge about the Blydepoort Nature Reserve area’s history, the different biomes and the cultural heritage is mind-blowing. The boat trip takes you on a canyon safari like no other, cruising on the Blyderivierspoort Dam which is located in the Blyde River Canyon. Simion explained that two rivers – the Origstad River and the upper Blyde River – meet here. From the 30-seater pontoon boat you are able to spot Mariepskop mountain, also known by the locals as Moholoholo Mountain, which means great one. The boat then takes you close to the Kadishi Tufa waterfall with its 40m-deep cave. This waterfall is hidden at the end of the Blyde Dam and it’s one of the few living tufa waterfalls in the world. It’s also said to be the world’s second tallest Tufa waterfall, dropping 200m from its limestone shelf. These types of waterfalls take millions of years to form and this one is particularly unique since the caves that it has formed create the appearance of a crying face.

Blyde River Canyon

Amidst views of the waterfall and the famous Three Rondawels – which form part of the greater Drakensberg escarpment – you can also spot beautiful Baobabs on the overhanging slopes.

Did you know?

Locals believed that when a baby was born prematurely, they had to bathe it in water filled with the bark from a Baobab tree to help the baby grow. They would never let the water touch the baby’s head, though as they believed that the head would then also enlarge.

In addition to the actual canyon and the Three Rondawels, other natural wonders to see in the Blyde Canyon Nature Reserve include the Bourke’s Luck Potholes, Pinnacle Rock and God’s Window.

Where to stay close to the Blyde River Canyon

Safari Moon Luxury Lodge is located in the Hoedspruit Wildlife Estate and is a short drive away from the Blyde River Canyon. It’s a lovely place to explore Hoedspruit and its surrounds from, offering a tranquil environment to come back to and relax at.

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