On 2nd July 2018, UNESCO declared the Barberton-Makhonjwa Mountainlands as South Africa's 10th World Heritage Site and Mpumalanga’s first!
Long recognised by geologists as having World Heritage potential, the Barberton-Makhonjwa Mountainlands was placed on South Africa’s World Heritage Tentative List by UNESCO in June 2008.
The site comprises 40% of the Barberton Greenstone Belt, one of the world’s oldest geological structures. The Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains represents the best-preserved succession of volcanic and sedimentary rock dating back 3.6 to 3.25 billion years, when the first continents were starting to form on the primitive Earth. It features meteor-impact fallback breccias resulting from the impact of meteorites formed just after the Great Bombardment (4.6 to 3.8 billion years ago).
The site incorporateS the spectacular Barberton-Makhonjawa Geotrail, where striking and informative roadside panels have been installed along the 40km tarred road between Barberton and the Swaziland border post at Josefsdal / Bulembu. A dozen attractively landscaped geological lay-bys and viewpoints have been built, illustrating spectacularly how the earth evolved from a lifeless, hot steaming planet, to having an environment that supports life. The geotrail provides visitors of all ages with a really enjoyable and educational out-door experience, guaranteed to provide new and fascinating insights into how life on earth began.
For the non-geologists, there are magnificent views, winding roads, unique bird species, butterflies and plant species such as the endemic Barberton Protea (Protea curvata). After the Cape floral kingdom, the Barberton Mountainland has the next highest biodiversity index.
The site also incorporates one of Mpumalanga’s hidden gems, the Songimvelo Nature Reserve, one of South Africa’s largest provincial reserves situated amongst magnificent rolling hills and steep mountains with the Komati River winding through it.
A World Heritage Site in Mpumalanga will provide a global marketing boost for tourism that can reach even beyond that of our established National Parks. The economic benefits for a region or site, appointed as a World Heritage Site are substantial. The international recognition and raised marketing value of a site resulting in (amongst others) tourism development opportunities; sustainable employment opportunities; associated infrastructure, social and welfare service upgrades to cope with increased tourist volumes within the region; and international acclaim.