Words and photography by Jethro Manuel.
A picturesque town amidst rolling forests on the Sabie River banks in Mpumalanga, South Africa, Sabie is an outdoor enthusiasts’ dreamland! Waterfalls, camping beneath the stars, horse riding and hiking trails await. It is located 360km’s east of Johannesburg and 64 km’s west of the world famous Kruger National Park.
When visiting an absolute gem in South Africa, camping is the best option. The set-up of tents and camp chairs; soft grass between the toes and the morning smell of coffee brewing on the gas stove is woven into our genes ( mine at least) from when us humans were hunter gatherers and lived off the land. Yes, I am slightly pro nature, but it damn sure beats four walls of a bed and breakfast!
Cascading Waterfalls are just as majestic as in the movies. They contain a mystical magic about them and at times appear to have their own personalities.
Lone Creek Falls is a National Monument and is the most well known in the area. A quick walk through the indigenous forest and you are greeted by the behemoth spitting on you with soaking spray and a chill in its breath. The 68m drop is truly breath taking which leaves one with a sense of duty to enter the water and enjoy its presence. Be warned: Your planned leisurely swim will quickly turn into a ‘dip’ of about 10mins (most likely 5 min) due to the freezing temperature of the water.
Sabie is a waterfall haven with the likes of Sabie River Falls, Bridal Veil, Mac Mac, Maria Shire, Horseshoe and Forest all within a short drive of each other. Get exploring!
This was by far my favourite activity. I saddled up on my horse whose name was Chief and along with a few friends proceeded to cross the Sabie river and trot alongside it while waving to those tubing and camping along the banks of the river. This slow walk eventually became mundane due to the fact that one of our members, was terribly scared of being on a horse and thus coerced all of us into walking at snail’s pace; my horse was having one of it.
My friend and I decided to canter and eventually gallop on the way back (with permission from our guide of course). Heels locked in the stirrups, toes facing upwards and the eventual heel kick. The adrenaline flowed through my veins and I felt invincible! That was until we crossed the river on the way back and 3 of our horses decided to race each other back to the stables.
My dream of being in the movie Blazing Saddles was short lived as Chief become the Chieftain and started galloping straight towards a tree with gusto. I pulled on the reins and shouted ‘Chief Chief’ but to no avail. My heart was pounding and my life flashed before my eyes! In a split second he glided towards the right and we passed the tree with a lump in my throat. My cowboy dreams have subsequently been put on hold for now.
Sabie is famous for its mountain biking and alpine hiking trails. We did a succinct version of the Bridal Veil Hiking Trail which meanders up along the right hand side of the falls before the gradient takes its toll and forces one to use those skinny calf muscles to reach the Jeep track above. En route you’ll be immersed in lush dense forest and will pass streams, waterfalls, insects and plants that are worthy for investigation by the South African nature loving TV show called 50/50.
There are countless walking/hiking trails which range from easy walks of only a few hours to gruelling hikes over several days. There is a trail to cater for everyone so get moving.
The origin of this viewpoint’s naming is not very clear but whoever had the vision of this deserves an award for descriptive accuracy. This viewpoint is situated in the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve and God himself will be proud of what he has accomplished and created.
A short walk to the viewing deck provides a panoramic view of the indigenous Lowveld which is more than 900m below where you are standing. The forests’ stretch as far as the eye can see and the clouds appear to be so close that you just want to lean forward and touch them. Neither a thousand pictures nor this article can even remotely do this view justice; its physical presence needs to be felt.
Pot Luck Boskombuis (Bush Kitchen)
The name ‘Boskombuis’ meaning ‘bush kitchen’ in Afrikaans says it all. Situated along the R532 between Graskop and Bourke’s Luck Potholes, it’s off the beaten track and is nestled alongside the Treur river.
This open air ‘lunch only’ restaurant serves popular local dishes such as steak with pap and veg all made on an open fire. There’s no electricity therefore all supplies are fresh and prepared daily. Be prepared for wooden logs for seating, tin mugs and plates for eating and drinking all the while chatting about the incredible bushveld setting you are in. This view alone will make up for the ‘warmish’ drink you might receive and the fact that your back may start to hurt mid – way through your meal.
Authentic local cuisine, friendly service and a jaw dropping setting to match, Pot Luck Boskombuis is a must on the bucket list!
P.S. A visit to the outdoor lavatory is quite an experience.
When it comes to immersing yourself in the wild, dining riverside, camping and trailing through green alpine regions, Sabie proves truly spectacular.