Grassland is a very old and complex system of plant communities and because the grassland biome occurs only in South Africa, there are many unique plants and animals found within the Ekangala Grassland Biosphere Reserve. There are more than 100 unique species in the Mpumalanga grassland, many of which are rare and /or threatened.
Mpumalanga, or the place the sun rises, as it means literally, is an incredibly diverse region of South Africa which borders onto Swaziland and Mozambique.
The main draw in this area is the Panorama Route, taking in the Blyde River Canyon which cuts through the Drakensberg Escarpment. The Pinnacle, Gods Window, Bourkes Potholes, the Three Rondavels and a number of waterfalls and points of interest line this scenic drive.
Whilst many just stop over for a night in Hazyview enroute to the Kruger National Park, there is a multitude of activities on offer especially for the thrill seeker, with abseiling, mountain biking, horse riding, hiking and many more.
A visit to Pilgrims Rest, a former mining town brings to life how things used to be in the area which at one point was dominating by mining. Further South Barberton offers more insight into the gold rush phenomenon.
Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve
The Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve runs for nearly 30km and is an especially scenic journey in a car. There are numerous stopping off points along the route at which you can take some incredibly scenic photographs providing you have picked a clear day. That said, exploring the area on foot is highly recommended. There are a number of organised trails on offer to suit both the novice and experienced hiker.
The Elephant Sanctuary has three operations in South Africa, at Plettenberg Bay, Hartbeespoort Dam and Hazyview. The sanctuary provides a half way house for elephants in need of a temporary home. The long term aim is to release the animals it houses into an environment where they can be more independent once they are older. A visit to the sanctuary includes a full educational experience as well as personal interaction with the elephants.
Lowveld National Botanical Garden
The Lowveld National Botanical Garden plays host to a variety of species, many that are rapidly disappearing from the tropical forest areas of the country. A particularly interesting feature is the South African Forest which contains fascinating vegetation. The Garden plays a critical role in the conservation of rare species and was a key contributor in establishing the cycad gene bank.
Founded by the primatologist Jane Goodall, Chimpanzee Eden is home to chimpanzees that have been misplaced from their natural habitat. Mans closest relative is given sanctuary to live out the rest of their lives in safety and to give them the necessary attention to recover from any traumas that they have experienced in the past. Visiting the sanctuary gives visitors the opportunity to learn more about the species and to watch their behaviour and interactions in a semi-wild environment.
Songimvelo Game Reserve
Ekangala Grassland Biosphere Reserve
© ecoTravel Africa 2011
The volcanic rock, known as the Barberton Greenstone Belt, in the Somgimvelo Game Reserve provides evidence of what the surface on Earth must have been like long ago. The Reserve is also home to a variety of wildlife, plants and habitats.