The Majestic Green Canyon – Blyde River

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The Majestic Green Canyon – Blyde River

A travel guide about a road trip from Sabie Park along the Panorama Route in South Africa to see three points of interest of the Blyde River Nature Reserve: God’s Window, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, and Three Rondavels.

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By the time we had stayed at Sabi Park a couple of days, we had spotted so many wildlife in Kruger National Park. I wonder if you are interested to learn more about my game viewing experience in Kruger, check out A Day on Safari. Where I have shared some trivia about the Big Five and so many more.

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Originally, we planned to visit the Kruger every day during our stay in Kruger; (well, to make sure we have enough time to view as many animals as we can because there was no guarantee that you would see any of them in the first couple of visits. Check out Something about Kruger for more tips and a travel guide.) Lucky enough, we did. We saw the lion, wild dogs, leopard, buffalo, rhinoceros among many elephants, giraffes, Nyala, waterbucks, kudus, alligators, and some fascinating birds. By that time, we were thinking if we would spend a day somewhere else in the area just to take a breather. We had a car, and we have read about the beautiful Blyde River Canyon on the travel pamphlet. In fact, we also heard a few good recommendations from the fellow travelers in the lodge – and so, there we went!

It was our plan to visit the Three Rondavels viewpoint which is about 110-150km away from Sabie Park’s lodges or resorts depending on where you are staying. The entire excursion took almost a day because we hit a few “checkpoints” on the way and the Three Rondavels was our last stop.

Blyde River Canyon - 2 God's Window

God’s Window

We took off in the morning; We kind of had a leisure road trip that day, checking out the roadside vendors and taking pictures on the side of the road. From Sabie, where we started, to the Three Rondavels, it is part of the Panorama Route: a scenic road in South Africa connecting several cultural and natural tourist points of interest. 

I wonder if you know, Blyde River Canyon is the second largest canyon in Africa, and one of the largest on earth! It is also the largest “green” canyon on earth due to its lush subtropical foliage, making it one of the great wonders of nature in the world. 

Blyde River Canyon - 4 God's WindowGod’s Window was our first stop. There are a few scenic trails that overlook the Lowveld and the Drakensberg escarpment. The cliffs plunge over 700 meters from the vantage point! Here the entire area is created when warm moist air rising from the Lowveld cools and its moisture combines at a high altitude of over 1,500 meters, resulting in high rainfall and cool and often overcast summers, and relatively cold winters. On a clear day, it is possible to see up until the border of Mozambique! 

It is called God’s Window because of the rock – an actual rock that looks like a square window yet it was set on a private farm and due to quarry operations and tree plantation farming, the government moved the sire to the edge of the escarpment.

Blyde River Canyon - 1To my surprise (well, it shouldn’t be), God Window’s is quite popular among tourists and there were many street vendors at the entrance selling souvenirs and arts & crafts. We were shopping and I found that I lost my travel wallet when we got back in the car! Fortunately, I only put one credit card and a small amount of US dollars in my travel wallet, all I needed to do is just to make a long-distance call to the bank and that was it. 

We were heading to our next stop and it was about time for lunch. While we were on the road and there weren’t many places to eat. Another 40 minutes of driving, interestingly we saw a small sign on the side of the road that points to a place called Potluck Boskombuis. It turns out that the restaurant is a hidden gem. 

Blyde River Canyon - 6 Potluck BoskombuisWith only a few tables, the restaurant is an intimate outdoor space with the view of the Treurrivier that leads to the Treur Falls. At the entrance, there was a small booth that sells some t-shirts, modern art paintings, and pots. Turns out the Boskombuis owns an art studio and a hiking trail booking office as well. While “technically” the restaurant is located in the middle of nowhere, the food was really good and I had no complaints to enjoy a meal with such a refreshing view.

Bourke’s Luck Potholes

Bourke’s Luck Potholes is located nearby, this is also where the Lichen hiking trail is, and the Belvedere Day Walk is open to visitors with permits only. The stone-paved trail is an easy walk that is suitable for people of any age. 

Blyde River Canyon - 15 Bourke's Luck Potholes

Back to the potholes. These are a series of natural geological formations that were formed by centuries of water flowing through the landscape. The potholes occur where the Treur River joins the Blyde River at the start of the Blyde River Canyon. In a continuous manner, the force of the water in these two rivers, combined with the particles of sand and rock that the river’s transport, wears cylindrical potholes into the sandstone bedrock. The potholes and plunge pools of the Treur River are an interesting sight. 

The potholes were named after a local prospector, Tom Bourke, who predicted the presence of gold, though he found none himself. 

Blyde River Canyon - 16 Three Rondavels

Three Rondavels

While we technically spent the whole day in the Blyde Canyon Natural Reserve, the Three Rondavels is notably the best viewpoint of the Blyde River Canyon. What exactly tourists are supposed to look at? The Three Rondavels are three round, grass-covered mountain tops. With the majestic canyon down below, it makes amazing pictures, especially during sunset.

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The view didn’t disappoint. The names of the peaks commemorate a 19th-century chief, Maripi, and three of his wives. The flat-topped peak adjacent to the rondavels is Mapjaneng, “the chief”, who is remembered for opposing invading Swazis in a memorable battle. The three big round rocks are named after his three wives – Magabolle, Mogoladikwe, and Maseroto.

The isolated Thabaneng hill is regarded as a sundial that its shadow indicates the time of day. Luckily, we were there during sunset and the lighting on the rocks was just magnificent. 

What is “Rondavel”? Rondavels are houses and huts of the indigenous people. The canyon is called “Three Rondavels” because the three huge and round rocks have a good resemblance to those structures. 

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While it was not exactly on my plan (I was planning to see the animals!) I didn’t even hear about the canyon before I landed South Africa and… yea, I lost my wallet that day on the road. Still, I was happy that I did this road trip because it’s not far from Kruger, and the view was just so amazing. We also explored some interesting places and the weather was just so perfect. I am not sure if I have said it before, but to me, it is still true that the unplanned adventures always have a deeper impression on me. The memories that I had on that day still come back to me so strong when I look at the pictures.… 

In case I have to sum it up… “yea, it was such a good day”.

And on our way back to Johannesburg: a sweet homestay in White River, and the view from the small plane that we took. 🙂

 

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39 thoughts on “The Majestic Green Canyon – Blyde River

  1. Fantastic journey report! just in awe of the Three Rondavels viewpoint – is it possible to go there to catch either the sunset or sunrise? simply amazing! and love the pictures!

    1. It is a big country and there are many places to explore ~ I think you will enjoy some of the best places in South Africa.

    1. Thanks and interesting that you noticed – because many Canyon (like the Grand Canyon) is bald – and this Canyon is GREEN.

    1. Thanks and glad that you like it. The actual rock is already removed so it couldn’t be seen except the wonderful view.

  2. Whoa! Those potholes are pretty amazing. This looks like an amazing adventure with fantastic views and loads of wildlife to see. How brilliant!

    1. Me neither before visiting South Africa and then I did. Guess there are so many amazing places in the world that we have to explore.

  3. Oh wow, I had no idea that place existed! It reminds me of the Grand Canyon, only super green! South Africa is already on my bucket list, now I want to go there even more!

  4. That is a beautiful place. I love the creek and those rock formations. You can’t beat the beauty of nature.

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