Gateways to the Kruger Lowveld
Dullstroom is a charming village nestled in the Mpumalanga Highlands, an easy two-hour drive from Johannesburg and situated almost exactly halfway to the Kruger National Park.
As a gateway town to the Kruger Lowveld region, Dullstroom is home to the highest railway station (2077 metres above sea level) in South Africa and is the country’s unofficial trout fishing capital.
A traditionally sleepy and lesser-known village, Dullstroom sprung to fame in 1989 when the R1-million prize money for Finders Keepers was found in a clock above the bar at the Dullstroom Inn.
Trout were first introduced to the area in the early 1900s, and today most dams in the area are stocked with rainbow and/or brown trout, and natural breeding occurs in many of the area’s rivers.
Dullstroom is well-known for its clear and abundant dams and very popular outdoor activities. Besides fly-fishing, hiking and mountain-biking an array of other adventure sports are on offer. The town also offers an Ernie Els designed championship golf course, Highland Gate.
This quaint, tourist town boasts numerous excellent restaurants, including the often fully-booked Mrs Simpsons; coffee shops; a craft-beer brewery and world-renowned whisky bar; interesting pubs and country shopping. Dullstroom supports a significant arts community, and is a popular escape for artists, writers and musicians.
The surrounding area is also home to a large number of endemic bird species, and upwards of 150 species have been counted. The Steenkampsberg is one of a few places in the world where all three South African species of crane (blue, crowned and wattled) occur together.
The busy and fast-growing hub of Hoedspruit is situated just north of the border to Mpumalanga. It is an important gateway to the Kruger Lowveld region and to the Kruger National Park.
Hoedspruit, an Afrikaans word meaning Hat Creek, is a small tourism and agriculturally-orientated town, nestled between the Kruger National Park and the Blyde River Canyon. Surrounded by the largest privately-owned conservation area in the world, Hoedspruit is one of the major agricultural contributors in the country, specialising in mango and citrus production.
Myriad scenic drives and activities are on offer, but it's largely through its wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centres that Hoedspruit has made its name. Interesting activities in Hoedspruit include the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre and the Kinyonga Reptile Centre.
If you’re not in the mood to drive to Hoedspruit, simply fly in! Hoedspruit’s Eastgate Airport has the second longest runway in South Africa (after Upington) and was earmarked for a NASA shuttle landing in the 1980s.
Community tourism and the promotion of the Shangaan and Pedi lifestyles or the opportunity to support and help impoverished communities is developing enormously and adding a fantastic variation and well-rounded holiday experience for those visiting or passing through the town.
You can also drive from Hoedspruit up to the canyon, passing through the impressive gorges and mountains on the Abel Erasmus Pass, take a boat trip at Swadini Dam and visit the Kruger National Park via Orpen Gate.
Waterval Boven (Emgwenya) / Machadodorp (eNtokozweni)
If you are travelling along the N4 highway towards the Kruger Lowveld, slow down when you reach Machadodorp (now renamed eNthokozweni) and take some time to explore this historical town and its surrounds.
Take a break at the famous Milly’s, which has a restaurant overlooking a large trout dam and a farm stall selling trout, homemade jams and preserves and a variety of souvenirs.
The town was originally named after Joaquim Machado, a Portuguese engineer involved in the construction of the Pretoria Delagoa Bay (now Maputo) railway line. The town was the Transvaal Republic’s capital briefly after President Paul Kruger’s escape from Pretoria.
In the hills surrounding the town one can still see the remains of Bokoni settlements, dating back some 500 years.
The Machado Toll Plaza on the N4 highway lies 5km east of Machadodorp and 3km beyond that the N4 splits, giving travellers the option to follow either the Eland’s Valley or Schoemanskoof routes.
Waterval Boven/Emgwenya lies 5km from the spilt on the Eland’s Valley route. Originally established as a marshalling yard and locomotive depot on the railway line to Delagoa Bay, the town is surrounded by historical railway bridges and tunnels.
These days the steam trains have gone, but the area is well-known for its scenic beauty, a favoured trout fishing spot and being a world-renowned rock climbing destination.