If you’ve decided to tackle the Kruger Park on your own – a decidedly do-able proposition (see SA Logue’s Make Your Own Way to Kruger for more) – then ensure your do-it-yourself-safari ends at Kruger’s Phalaborwa gate (closest camp: Letaba), so you don’t miss the Blyde River Canyon on the drive back to Joburg.
The canyon is one of Africa’s largest – and has to be one of the world’s most spectacular. Its highlight is the view of the Three Rondavels – outcroppings of rock that look like giant sculptures of African huts. It’s flat-out gorgeous. (Sorry for that.)
Getting there isn’t terribly straightforward, because the roads aren’t well-marked from the Phalaborwa gate. The trick is to aim for certain towns as you wind through Mpumalanga Province’s rural roads: head to Mica first, then point your car toward Ohrigstad over the Abel Erasmus pass – but don’t actually go to Ohrigstad, take the R532 turnoff to Graskop just after the pass. The R532 follows the most scenic parts of the canyon.
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Once you’ve taken your fill of the views, and have arrived at Graskop, you can continue south along the same R532 to the N4 (which takes you back to Joburg), or head west on the R533 to Lydenburg, via the quaint tourist town of Pilgrim’s Rest, and thence on the R36 to the N4 (the route I favor, because Lydenburg has more lunch options than any other stop between Graskop and the freeway).
- If you leave Letaba camp when the gates open (around 6 a.m.), and exit Kruger at Phalaborwa, you can expect to arrive in Jo’burg about 12 hours later, factoring in several stops for food, bathroom and scenery.