Nelspruit

by Peter Baxter  

Nelspruit

This is the capital city of Mpumulanga, part of what in South Africa is known as the Lowveld, which is the low lying, signature bush country that is the quintessential Africa that most people come to find, and is the main jump off point for Kruger National Park.

Nelspruit is a busy little city with an infectious energy and a friendly ambience, not particularly attractive, and with no urban charm to report on, but nonetheless a very visitable place and an important economic center of South Africa.

From a travelers point of view Nelspruit is well serviced with most of local brand name hotels, several backpackers lodges, guest houses and upscale lodges. It is an important tourist center mainly because of its proximity to the southern gates of Kruger National Park, but also because it is the nearest substantial South African city to the Mozambique border. It is situated just below the northern Drakensberg, and such destinations as Blyde River Canyon, Pilgrims Rest and the Sudwala Caves.

From a service point of view Nelspruit, like most South African cities, is well provisioned, with all the usual standards of communications, hospitals and shopping precincts. It has a handful of good restaurants and pubs, but for the dedicated urban traveler there is not much of vital interest. It is principally a focus of the local farming/agricultural industry, which, thanks to the towns situation between several different eco-zones, is very varied.

Climate

Nelspruit enjoys a typically sub-tropical climate with summer rains (late November to mid-February) and a cool and dry winter period (late-May to late-August). Winter temperatures are usually pleasant, ranging from11ºC to 23/25ºC, with summer temperatures rising to between 25ºC and 35ºC in summer. Summer is usually quite humid, and in the lower reaches uncomfortably so.

When To Go

Winter is always the best time to visit the region. The main destination locally is Kruger National Park, and winter game viewing is always rewarding thanks to the fact that during the dry season game is more likely to congregate around permanent waterholes. Temperatures are more comfortable in winter and humidity is low.

The Christmas School holidays is always a busy time in all South African national parks, so this is a period worth either avoiding or ensuring that advanced bookings are made.

Travel Warnings

Crime: Nelspruit and Mpumulanga generally share the same dangers of street crime and muggings as the rest of South Africa. Don’t be fooled by the easy going atmosphere. Keep your wits about you and remember that South Africa is one of the most dangerous countries in the world. There are certain areas in Mpumulanga that are more dangerous than others, although nowhere is particularly safe on the streets after dark, so seek and follow local advice on the matter of crime and general safety wherever and with whomever you go.

  • Leave important documents in a safe place. All hotels, lodges and hostels offer safe lock up facilities
  • Seek safety advice from you hospitality establishment wherever you are
  • Avoid walking anywhere after dark, particularly in urban areas, and particularly in the CBD of any of the larger cities and towns
  • Don’t leave anything of value in your car overnight
  • Incidences of car hijackings in South Africa are high Always be aware of your surroundings, particularly at night
  • Don’t stop on any of the freeways for more than a few minutes, and in the instance of a breakdown, call for help
  • Health

    AIDS: Any kind of casual sexual encounter in South Africa, as with anywhere in the world these days, is to be discouraged. South Africa has one of the highest infection rates on the planet, about 1 in 4 of the population, so obviously extra caution is necessary when visiting any destination on the sub-continent.

    In most of South Africa tropical diseases are rare. While Nelspruit enjoys a sub-tropical climate, incidences of malaria are rare, although there lots of mosquitoes about, and repellent is a must. As a matter of policy a course of anti-malarial drugs are advisable, particularly if you intend traveling furthernorth up the coast.

    Travel Doctor clinics are to be found in all the major centres where you can get health advice on malaria, yellow-fever, AIDS and any other tropical diseases, and acquire all the vaccinations and prophylactics necessary for your extended journey.
    Tap water is usually safe to drink.

    Sunburn risks are high so hats, long sleeved T-shirts and sun screen are a must.


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