We all have our travel bucket lists. In actual fact, I have three. One for South Africa, one for Africa and the other for international travel. I have never been to Mpumalanga so both Kruger National Park and the Panorama Route were very high on my South African travel bucket list until I got the chance to tick one of them off recently. A trip to White River for the SATSA conference meant I had a morning for a pre-conference outing and both a half day Panorama Route tour and a morning game drive in Kruger were on the program. I knew whichever one I chose would just be a taste of the full experience and because I've done many game drives before I opted for the Panorama Roue.
Thursday morning and I barely had my coffee when Vusi Khowane of Place of Rock Tours pulled up at the hotel for our Panorama Route tour. Now usually a Panorama Route tour is a full day tour with stops at all the prominent view sites and waterfalls along the route as well as the town of Pilgrims Rest. As a half day tour we basically had time to see the three main sights and to get a taste of what the route has to offer.
We headed north from White River via Hazyview and Graskop towards the Blyde River Canyon. Along the way we passed commercial wood plantations, macadamia nut farms, bananas and other fruits, beautiful views and lots of villages. Our first stop was at the Blyde River Canyon view site. The Blyde River Canyon is said to be the third largest canyon on Earth (after the Grand Canyon in the USA and the Fish River Canyon in Namibia) and the largest "green canyon" due to its lush subtropical foliage.
From the view site you get to see one (or rather three) of the Panorama Route's more famous landmarks, the "Three Rondavels". The Three Rondavels are three huge, round buttresses, thought to look like the huts of the indigenous people, known as rondavels.
The next stop on out whirlwind tour was the famous Bourkes Luck Potholes. This curious geological feature of natural rock formations and pools are caused by particles of sand and rock that gets washed into hollow areas by the swirling streams and have worn cylindrical potholes into the sandstone bedrock over centuries. The Potholes, named after a prospector, Tom Bourke, who hoped to find gold at this site but never did, can be viewed from walkways and bridges crisscrossing the area.
I've seen many photos of the Bourkes Luck Potholes but seeing it first hand was something special. It's really wow and hard to explain to somebody who has never been there so make a plan to get there if you've never been.
Our last stop was at God's Window. As time was starting to press and we had to get back, we opted for the Wonderview view site rather than the main God's Window stop purely because of the time constraint. God's Window offers astonishing views over the Lowveld, named so because it is a good 700 meters lower than the high escarpment along which the Panorama Route runs. On a clear day you can see over theKruger National Park towards the Lebombo Mountains on South Africa’s border with Mozambique. It was a little hazy on my visit but even so it was clear that this must be one of the most beautiful views in South Africa.
Having seen these three Panorama Route landmarks have really wet my appetite to see the rest of the route as well and that is even more reason for me to bring the Damselfly and KidZ some day on a holiday to show them these wonderful attractions... and obviously visit Kruger.