Mpumalanga province offers its visitors everything from sedate ballooning and hiking, to daredevil slalom canoeing, bungee jumping, and war games.
Mpumalanga province offers its visitors everything from sedate ballooning and hiking, to daredevil slalom canoeing, bungee jumping, and war games. But, most importantly, Mpumalanga isn't a tourist trap. Its adventure sports are not artificial attractions designed to suck foreign currency out of visitors. Everything from mountain biking to paragliding is designed primarily for South Africans, which means that you get the 'real deal' -- genuine adrenaline at decent prices.
Mpumalanga's dramatic escarpment and 700m cliffs on the Blyde River Canyon provide the best hand gliding and paragliding sites in South Africa, with unparalleled winter flying conditions. The province's strong thermals and high cloud-base have repeatedly secured Mpumalanga the national paragliding championships, while some neighbouring provinces such as Gauteng regularly stage their provincial championships in paragliding meccas such as Barberton and Ngodwana. The province is also a haven for hand gliders, micro lights, parachutists, and small aircraft enthusiasts, while the world's top hot air balloonists have made the safari capital Hazyview, home.
The province's forestry town, Sabie, is regarded as southern Africa's mountain biking nirvana with trials that offer both competitive and casual mountain bikers a wide range of expertly guided or well marked self-guided mountain bike trails. The local biking association also hosts the South African National Mountain Biking Championships every September, as well as a string of other 'friendly' events that lead up to the gruelling 10-hour day / night 'Noon-to-Noon' championships.
The nearby Sabie River gives adventurers a more laid-back rafting experience, with regular breaks for 'bum sliding' down shallow waterfalls, and swims in the river's many pools. Travellers in search of a 'bushveld' raft safari should head for the province's largest river, the Oliphants River, or 'river of Elephants', where they will find a combination of excellent game viewing and exhilarating white water rafting along Mpumalanga's largest rapids. Rafting is best during the wet season, between late November and mid April.
Anyone looking for a novel way to explore the region's pristine ravine forests and hidden waterfalls should go 'cannoning'. Small groups are guided down any of the hundreds of streams feeding rivers such as the Sabie, Blyde, Crocodile and Oliphants for a combination of abseiling, canoeing and swimming.
Explorers usually abseil their way into wild secluded valleys, and then work their way downstream by leaping from rock to rock, sliding down mini rapids on their backsides, and at times leaping from waterfalls into clear pools, before swimming to beached canoes or kayaks for the final leg home. Exhausting but exhilarating!