Although South Africa has so much to offer in the way of wildlife and culture for tourists to enjoy, I would also recommend taking one day away from this and having a drive around the AMAZING scenery! On the western side of Kruger National Park, in eastern South Africa, you can find the Blyde River Canyon and other areas of incredible natural beauty that are definitely worth seeing.
The panorama route is a famous route and is very well signposted, so you are able to do it yourself; or there is also the option of guided tours that are run by local experts who can tell you all about the local flora and fauna. Oooo we do love an educational trip. Below is a rough guide on how to see almost everything in one day, if you are going to drive yourself.
Getting To The Blyde River Canyon
Leave early and head straight up to the top of the canyon, and then work your way down. This is how we did it and it worked very well, so you are covering the most distance in the early morning and can make the most of the daylight.*
To begin, you will enter into the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve and then follow the signs to “the Three Rondavels” look-out point. There is a small fee to enter (about R200 per vehicle) and there is ample parking when you reach the top. There are also some market stalls, toilets, cafes etc, so you can spend as long as you want there. We were kicking ourselves that we hadn’t thought to bring a picnic, as it would probably have been the most scenic picnic anyone has ever had!
There are two viewing spots, about 100 metres apart. The first is the Three Rondavels, which are also known as “the Three Sisters,” they are rock formations which look like traditional huts, and are very famous in the area. The other viewpoint is of the canyon itself, which has a beautiful blue winding river going through it. We spent a good hour or so here, and it was quite busy so expect to wait in order to get a non-obstructed photo, but it is very much worth it!
*You want to try and avoid being stuck on these roads at night, as this is a known tourist route and can be a bit ‘thefty’ at times, so keep your wits about you! Take necessary precautions, don’t stop for anyone and keep your doors locked etc, and you’ll be fine!
Potholes Filled With Luck
Another quick piece of advice – check the opening times of the places you want to see and make a list, because I REALLY wanted to see “God’s Window and Pinnacle,” but it was not open and I didn’t check and not to be dramatic but I am going to regret it for the rest of my life. How can a waterfall or canyon be CLOSED?? I know. Just a fact of life.
Moving on, wiping away tears, the next stop was “Bourke’s Luck Potholes,” which is another very cool rock formation that is essentially a nightmare if you suffer from trypophobia (fear of holes). However, from a geological point of view, it is very impressive that over thousands or even millions of years, this has been formed just from running water.
An entertaining group of monkeys will keep you busy by stealing your food and sitting on your car. We were also serenaded by a local choir at the entry to the potholes, which set such a friendly atmosphere and put us in a good mood for the rest of the day. The centre has a gift shop and plenty of information to read about the geography of the area, and you don’t have to be an expert to understand, luckily, they dumbed it down a bit for people like me! The potholes are quite rocky so wear sensible shoes and be cautious if you have a fear of heights! The walking route takes you over scenic bridges and next to waterfalls, so you can get up close and personal to the rock formations. It is beautiful!
Ending The Day With A Fall
Next on our list were the waterfalls. There are so many in the area and we were running out of time, so we stopped off quickly at one which was on our way back to camp. We parked at Lone Creek Falls, one of the largest in the area. We could hear it from the car even though we had parked around 500m away from it!
It takes you through a lovely jungle-type path to get to the viewpoint, which essentially is a platform jutting out of the cliff, with barriers, so that you feel very close to the waterfall itself. It was so refreshing to just stand there getting sprayed by the water! And, as it was the end of the day we had it all to ourselves! As night fell, we headed home.
The panoramic route did not disappoint. We didn’t get to see everything we wanted to, but even just driving around the area is fascinating. The scenery changes so quickly and it is a truly unique part of South Africa!