StoryPlus

Monday 19 August 2019

South Africa’s Mpumalanga: A spectacular place to lose yourself in nature

Rachael Taylor Fawsitt

As cities throughout the globe continue to grow, time stands gloriously still in the South African region of Mpumalanga. Preserved in its natural state, it is home to some of the world’s most breath-taking scenery.

It is easy to understand why travellers and nature-lovers continue to flock to the region – with waterfalls of dizzying heights and the largest green canyon in the world, there is so much for you to experience once you arrive.

An area of outstanding natural beauty

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David Quihampton

Even those who spend most of their time in Mpumalanga continue to be in awe of its beauty. David Quihampton, who is a qualified tourist and nature guide, is one of those lucky people. His guided tours combine his two passions, offering both a cultural experience and an exploration of the natural surroundings. 

“I tour through Mpumalanga as well as doing reserves. 90pc of the time I’m in Kruger National Park on what are called Panoramic tours. One of the areas covered on the tour is the Blyde River Canyon, which is the third largest canyon in the world. I also cover all the history of the province.”

The Panorama route incorporates some of South Africa’s greatest natural wonders such as the Lisbon Falls, Graskop Gorge and Bourke’s Luck Potholes. It also includes a hike to an area known as God’s Window. The views are so impressive from here that you can see Mozambique on a clear day.

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For those looking to embark on the road trip of a lifetime, the Panorama Route is a great place to do it. The journey starts in Johannesburg and spans around 2000km all the way to Kruger National Park. The open road and Bushveld terrain offer a scenic route like no other in the world.

South Africa is famed for its stunning waterfalls and crystal rock pools. Taking a trip across the Panorama Route allows for many stops along the way to take in some of these magnificent natural wonders. The Lisbon Falls is the highest in the region and plunges 94km. It attracts adventurers and photographers from across the globe.

Viewpoints are also plentiful along the Panorama Route. They are the perfect place to park up and take in the breath-taking panoramic views across the region’s canyons, rivers and mountains.

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David has always been drawn to the life of a guide and had a deep curiosity about nature from a very young age. Getting into guiding, where he could educate people around nature conservation, was the perfect fit.

“I looked into it, found I quite liked it and decided to get into it. I’ve been in the industry for 23 years now and guiding in Kruger for 15 years in open safari vehicles. I enjoy everything about my job. Every day is different and it’s not a monotonous routine. When you’re dealing with different international clients, you have something new every day, so I quite enjoy that.”

Tailoring activities for each group

Part of the reason David’s day to day life is so varied is because each tour depends on the people who take them and what they want to get out of the experience.

“What the day will look like obviously depends on what they are doing. If they are doing a safari they are up very early. That also depends on whether they have accommodation inside the Kruger or outside. It could be any time from 4.30 in the morning. You can spend a half a day or the full day in the park and you get home in the late afternoon.”

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Those looking to seek out the big five will have lots of opportunities in Kruger park, as well as being able to spot lots of other amazing creatives, according to David. 

“We have the big five here (elephants, lions, leopards, rhinoceros and Cape buffalo) plus cheetah and wild dog. There are over 147 different mammal species within the park grounds. A lot of people may think that living amongst wild animals is dangerous, when it’s not like that. Going into the reserves and viewing these animals close up and personal actually blows people’s minds.”

Working that closely to nature doesn’t come without its surprises, but David says that it’s his experience as a guide that gets him through potentially sticky situations.

“I’ve had a few close calls but nothing really dangerous that I couldn’t handle,” he recalls with a laugh. “One of the instances being an elephant on the bonnet! Most of the time elephants give mock charges and with my experience in dealing with them, I know exactly what the situation is all about.”

More facilities but the same great experiences

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Visitors to the area will be happy to know that there are now more resources available, which makes travelling a little easier. However, lots of elements have remained untouched.

“The region has changed a little bit. Especially Kruger - it tends to get a little busier, but the vegetation is still very much the same. The number of resorts has increased which means that there are more chances to get accommodation, and obviously with that, restaurants have been opening as well. There’s a large variety of different cuisines here in South Africa.”

Mpumalanga has lots of excitement to offer, but David says its all about the nature and the experiences people can enjoy when they get there. 

“A lot of people say it’s a once in a lifetime experience - you definitely have to come see Kruger. It has such a large selection of different biomes - there are about nine within Kruger. You’ve got all these different environments you can experience as you drive through, I don’t think there’s many other reserves or park that have something like that.”

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