Blyde River Canyon, now called Motlatse Canyon Provincial Nature Reserve, is the most attractive natural sight in Mpumalanga, South Africa, with scenic stops that offer an unforgettable experience.
The outstanding natural sight is the world’s 3rd largest canyon and the largest green canyon on earth, covering 26 kilometers and 750 meters.
It has impressive rock formations with a view of the Drakensberg escarpment stretching towards the Blyde River into the Blyderivierpoort Dam.
With the mention of history, top attractions, and a complete guide on planning a trip in this post, one can plan to explore the Blyde River Canyon.
A brief history of the Blyde River Canyon
Blyde River Canyon traces its history to over 200 million years ago when the Gondwanaland bust apart, separating Antarctica and Madagascar of Africa.
The breakage was a result of the narrow sea that extended west of Pretoria. Over the years, the sea left behind a deposit of sand and dolomite that formed sediments that later became the canyon.
The canyon connects the Lowveld to its neighboring area while offering shelter and agricultural opportunities to the locals. However, 29,000 hectares of the canyon, mapped out in 1965, is the present-day shielded Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve.
How the name Blyde River Canyon came about
Blyde means ‘joy, happy or glad.’ The name of the Canyon came about in 1844 when a team of Voortrekkers from Dutch led by Hendrik Potgieter camped at the canon while waiting for their members from Delagoa Bay (present-day Mozambique’s Maputo Bay).
The joy of having their team members return knows no bounds, and that is why they gave the canon Blyde River Canyon meaning ‘River of Joy.’
Nevertheless, authorities in charge of the province changed the name of the Blyde River to Motlatse River in 2015. Blyde River Canyon is now officially called Motlatse Canyon.
Motlatse River in Pulane language (a language of the MaPulane people who first occupied the place) means ‘the river that is always full.’
13 Top attractions at the Blyde River Canyon
Blyde River Canyon has many features that form top attractions in the Canyon and the country at large.
From the Echo caves to the Kadishi Tufa Waterfalls, let’s explore the top attractions at the canyon.
1. God’s Window
God’s Window is one of the most prominent attractions at the Blyde River Canyon, and it looks almost like the biblical Garden of Eden.
Based on the charming natural beauty of the spot, people gave the peak of the Panorama Route the name ‘God’s Window.’
Located on the Southern part of the Canyon, the attraction provides a view of the Lebombo Mountains, the Lowveld, and the Kruger National Park.
2. Echo Caves
Echo Caves are among the most primitive caves on earth, stretching 40 kilometers into the ground. Some, however, have underground chambers with a height of about 60 kilometers.
The name ‘Echo Cave’ came about from the stalactites that echo fantastically from the cave.
3. Kadishi Tufa Waterfalls
The Kadishi Tufa Waterfalls are the second-highest on earth. The waterfalls are indeed a treasure to behold as they look almost like a weeping face, and little wonder they are called the ‘weeping face of nature.’
4. Bourke’s Luck Potholes
One of the treasures to behold at the Blyde River Canyon is the gigantic rock Bourke’s Luck Potholes. The potholes came about from the pebbles that meet at the Treur River and the Blyde River.
The Bourke’s Luck Potholes are plunge pools and wells of cylinder shapes carved from the spinning waters. It is essential to mention that the name of the potholes was after a gold miner ‘Tom Bourke’ who believed there could be gold on the potholes.
The spot offers an 80-meter lichen trail, a museum with information about the canyon, a café, and varieties of fauna and flora to explore.
5. The Three Rondavels
The Three Rondavels looks like a native house. It is a beautiful spot with a peak that has a grass top and a circle shape.
Locals at the Blyde River Canyon often call The Three Rondavels’ three sisters’. Others call it ‘the chief and his three wives, traced to previous occupants of the place.
6. The Pinnacle
The Pinnacle is a metamorphic rock engraved naturally and standing freely in the forest. The rock formation that looks almost like a skyscraper is an outstanding view.
7. Lowveld View
The Lowveld Viewpoint is another attraction at the Canyon to explore. It offers an eye-catching view of the Blydepoort Dam to the slopes around the forest down to Three Rondavels cones.
Mariepskop is the highest peak at the Blyde River Canyon, with 6,378 feet by 1,944 meters. It got its name from Maripe mashile, who was chief at Pulana in the 19th century.
9. Lisbon waterfalls
The best time to explore the Lisbon waterfalls is around October to March, as the water flows the hardest.
10. Berlin Falls
Berlin Falls is another waterfall to explore at the Blyde River Canyon, and you should visit the waterfall from around October to March.
Other attractions at the Blyde River Canyon include;
11. The Museum of Man
12. Treur River Falls
13. Belvedere Hike
The best way to explore Blyde River Canyon
There are so many things to do at the Blyde River Canyon, and it is essential also to enjoy those activities to the fullest.
You can start your exploration by taking a drive from the Panorama route and then hook up to top attractions in the Canyon like the Bourke’s Luck Potholes, Three Rondavels, and God’s Window.
While taking the drive, ensure you observe signposts starting from the Graskop village to the northern part of R532.
Alternatively, you can use a helicopter tour or hike to the attractions. You can wander by yourself or take a hiking trail. The most popular in the Canyon is the Blyde River Canyon Hiking which takes about five days.
Accommodations available at the Blyde River Canyon
Blyde River Canyon offers are various options of accommodation to visitors, including lodges and guesthouses. Most of these accommodations are walkable from attractions.
Notable among the list include the self-catering Thaba Tsweni, umVangati House, A Pilgrim’s Rest, and Thaba Tsweni Lodge.
Nevertheless, the most popular include the Bona Intaba Game Lodge, Blyde River Canyon Lodge, Umvangati House, and Blyde River Wilderness Lodge.
Bona Intaba Game Lodge is a four-bedroom accommodation all en-suite with an African theme. The lodge provides a stunning view of the Blyde River Canyon, among others.
Blyde River Canyon Lodge is a luxury lodge with tastily furnished rooms equipped with gardens, a botanical reserve, and a swimming pool.
Umvangati House has private suites that offer a clear view of the mountain and complimentary breakfast, and more.
Blyde River Wilderness Lodge has accommodation ranging from self-catering cottages, luxury rooms, self-catering rondavels, and standard rondavels.
Wildlife at the Blyde River Canyon
Blyde River Canyon has varieties of wildlife that you can explore. The vervet monkeys, crocodiles, grey rhebuck, chacma baboons, Hippopotamus, oribi, bushbuck, rodents, bushbabies, and reptiles, somango monkey, waterbirds, seed-eating birds, insects, bushpig, otters, and Kudu.
The best time to visit the Blyde River Canyon s when?
No matter the time of the year you visit the Blyde River Canyon, you will enjoy the entire environment. However, the best time to visit is around March to June and again from August to November because of the humid weather.
What is the cost of visiting the Blyde River Canyon?
The prices for seeing the various attractions at Blyde River Canyon differ but most often. It cost R50 for each person and R5 for a car.
Is the Blyde River Canyon open?
After the lockdown from the coronavirus pandemic, some natural sites and attractions are open for tourism, including the Blyde River Canyon.
Based on the statement made by Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA), attractions at the Blyde River Canyon such as Pinnacle, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, Three Rondavels, and God’s view will open from June 23, 2020.
Where in Mpumalanga is the Blyde River Canyon?
The Blyde River Canyon is inside the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, now officially called the Motlatse Canyon Provincial Nature Reserve. It is located in the Drakensberg escarpment region east Mpumalanga, South Africa.
What is the third-largest canyon in the world?
The third-largest canyon in the world is the Blyde River Canyon, found in South Africa.
How much does it cost to enter God’s Window?
God’s Window, the most popular attraction at the Blyde River Canyon, requires an entrance fee of R10 to see the place as it also has a restroom and shops.
One of the most exciting things about the Blyde River Canyon is that you can explore the attraction on land, air, or water.
Take a Microlight or hot air balloon to see the viewpoints on air. Also, you can hike to various points or take a boat trip.
Blyde River Canyon holds many natural sites and history that attract thousands of tourists all year round.
Visitors range from adventure seekers to students on an excursion, people on a family vacation, to mention a few.