Mpumalanga, ‘the place where the sun rises’, teems with fascinating flora and fauna, rich wildlife, and panoramic scenery. The Drakensberg Escarpment divides Mpumalanga into two. The western side is Highveld, or high-altitude grassland, while the eastern side is Lowveld or Bushveld, a low altitude subtropical region close to the warm Indian Ocean. It is mainly flat and rocky. The central area of Mpumalanga is forested and very mountainous.
Mpumalanga is a popular tourist destination. Part of the Kruger National Park is here, with provisions for watching game, trail hiking, biking, horse-riding, bird-watching, river rafting, and trout fishing. The Mac Mac Waterfalls’ cool, crystal-clear waters make for an irresistible hideaway. The Blyderiviersport Nature Reserve offers spectacular views of the Blyde River Canon and its many bird species. The Sudwala Caves are also worth a visit. Its caverns were once shelters during the prehistoric times, and they are among the oldest of their kind in the world.
Mpumalanga is also known for its interesting local culture and history. The province was overrun by fortune-seekers during the frenetic gold rush of the 1870s, and many towns sprang up here. If you’re keen to see what life was like back then, the old towns of Barberton and Pilgrim’s Nest are worth a visit. Mpumalanga’s fascinating indigenous culture is also alive and well in its Middleveld region, home to the Ndebele people.
The capital of Mpumalanga is the town of Nelspruit in the Crocodile River Valley. Its fertile land and pleasant subtropical climate make Nelspruit a vital agricultural centre for South Africa. It is world-renowned for its tropical fruit harvest, especially mangoes, bananas, avocados, and citrus fruits. Orange farms abound and macadamia nuts and tobacco are also grown locally. There is also a thriving timber, paper production, and furniture manufacturing industry.
Nelspruit’s streets are lined with a proliferation of flowers, plants and trees. Stalls and quaint curio shops sell fresh produce, leather goods, hand-woven rugs, and woodcarvings. The city also has conveniently located hotels and parks. It has two airports—Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport and Nelspruit Airport. Plans are currently underway to build a new soccer stadium for the upcoming 2010 FIFA World Cup, as Nelspruit will host some of the matches.