Blyde River Canyon is the third largest in the world and second deepest in Africa. Known as the “River of Joy”, its towering cliffs rise nearly 800 meters above the winding valley, providing backpackers and day hikers with epic views of the Drakensberg Mountain Range and the lush natural forests that make a trek through Blyde breathtakingly scenic.
Lucky visitors to the canyon may spot a pair of Taita Flacons—one of the most rare bird species in the world—near the Abel Erasmus Pass. Travelers can also get up close to some of South Africa’s other natural rarities too, like Three Rondavels viewpoint, where massive rocks spiral out of canyon walls. Hundreds of years of flowing waters have created Bourke’s Luck Potholes, natural rock sculptures that are recognized as one of the country’s most memorable geological formations.
Located within Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, Bourke’s Luck Potholes were formed by centuries of swirling whirlpools at the confluence of the Treur and Blyde Rivers, eroding away the sandstone bedrock. Named after Tom Bourke, an unsuccessful gold prospector working in the area, this natural attraction comprises a series of interconnected cylindrical pools divided by sandstone outcrops. Viewing platforms and bridges cross above some of the best formations, and depending on the time of day, river levels and mineral content in the water, the view of the holes and multi-colored sandstone changes.
Since 2006 this rustic sanctuary stationed in the picturesque Umhloti Nature Reserve just outside Neispruit, has been a hub for conservation, education and eco-tourism. Chimpanzees that have been orphaned, displaced from natural habitats or survived the bush meat trade find a new home in Chimp Eden’s semi-wild enclosures. Three groups of primates currently reside at the sanctuary, and easy to access viewpoints make it easy for visitors to observe their interactions. Travelers can book an institute tour and enjoy lunch at the Chimp Eden restaurant before exploring the locally sourced crafts in the sanctuary shop.