Since I’ve started my travel journey, most of my trips have been to the most exotic island getaways; places that I personally wouldn’t be able to afford if the costs were coming out of my own pocket. This time around I was invited to join a few other local bloggers on a trip to Mpumalanga. I had actually been dying to go there this year so this was perfect! The plan was to road trip to the lush province and explore the hidden gems in and around the regions of Mpumalanga.
Soaking up the culture, meeting the locals and of course getting up to some touristy activities was on the agenda. We did quite a lot over the the week so I am going to break down my experience into 3 blog posts.
Dunkeld Country & Equestian Estate
After a comfortable two and half hour drive from busy Braamfontein, in our Nissan Duke cars provided by First Car Rental, we arrived in Dullstroom. Our first stop, Dunkeld Country and Equestrian Estate. This was where we would be starting off our #myMpumalanga adventure! The lovely staff on the estate had a jam packed itinerary prepared for us for the two days that we were to spend there.
The estate offers 19 fly fishing dams, 2 on-sight restaurants and bars, horse riding other adventure activities. I even spotted a heated pool and tennis court on our way to our achery session. While the rest of the group went horse riding around the estate, a few of us went to learn how to hit the bullseye. Archery definitely looks much easier than it actually is. But after aiming and failing dismally to hit the target, we eventually figure out the trick to it all. Posture and straightening your firing arm. With that and your stomach in and chest out, you are ought to hit your target!
After discovering my new found talent, we joined the rest of the group for some sunset fly fishing, an activity I was completely useless at. It takes a lot of patience and finesse. As horrible as I was, I must say my fly fishing look was on point! None of us managed to catch dinner that night lol! For sunset we went back to our Equestrian Self-catering units to prepare for sundowners and dinner. These units are perfect for families visiting the estate. There 2 and 3 bedroom units available units with spacious lounge areas with a fireplace, tv with DSTV. Each unit has a private patio and braai area overlooking the entire estate.
We had the yummiest cocktails while watching the sunset then headed to dinner were we all gathered around the fireplace with a glass of wine. I had a the grilled lamb chops (my ultimate fave meal) with a macadamia cream sauce. Just delicious.
We took a ride down to the Trout Hatchery at on the Dunkeld Estate. This incredibe development on the estate is a state of the art breeding facility. It is the largest of its kind! In this environmentally friendly and sustainable operation, they breed the trout for their own and neighbouring dams. They export the fertilized trout eggs to the Northern hemisphere. It was the most amazing thing to experience, watching the freshly hatched eggs, to the big mommy’s swimming around in the tanks. Tours are on offer at the small fee of R50, but due to very strict healthy restrictions, prior arrangements need to be made, so booking in advance is essential. It’s a mind blowing experience and definitely one not to be missed!
We left Dunked Estate which I left me very sad as I had the best time there and feel in love with the beautiful horse pictured above, I named her Hipster because she just looked so quirky and different to her other friends. Our next stop was Misty Mountain to ride Africa’s longest Toboggan. Due to my unreasonable fear of heights and speed, I decided to give that a skip. After a thrilling ride for the rest of my travel buddies, we headed to Sabie Breweries. Who knew that the Sabie River water is good for producing beer? We had a quick tour of the brewery before sampling some of their craft beers. I’m not a beer drinker but my fave of the lot was the Dunkle, a German lager with a smooth, malty flavour.
Our resting place for the evening was Africamps at Mackers in the Hazyview area. I’m not a fan of camping at all because the first thing that comes to mind is a small tent and a blow up bed. This was not the case AT ALL! This was the ultimate glamping experience. We shared a tent each and inside it was divided into two rooms, a double bed in each, a bathroom with a shower and loo, a cute little kitchen, living & dinning area and a deck overlooking the Sabie river that was our lullaby when we turned in for the night. How amazing? We had a delicious braai with some of the locals. We indulged in salad, meat, peppermint crisp dessert and a glass of wine in front of the fire. Bliss.
We had a very early start to our morning as we wanted to catch the sunrise at God’s Window. At 5am we were up and on the road. We started off our morning with a light jog up to God’s Window, such a spiritual and peaceful moment. We took in the views from the top for about an our, said our prayers and headed out. We stopped for un impromptu breakie at the famous and original Harrie’s Pancakes. I had the chocolate chip, peanut butter & banana pancake with a warm cup of hot chocolate. We then a quick stop at the Graskop Gorge Lift Co. located on the Panorama Route. The viewing lift (slowly) goes down about 50 meters the gorge and into a forest. We walked on wooden walkways through the indigenous forest along a 600 metre trail stopping to read the cutest quotes on the beauty of nature.
Our final stop for day three was Jaci’s Safari House. This colourful safari house came with two private chefs that kept us well fed throughout or stay, a butler and game ranger and the whole house to ourselves. We were treated to high tea, dinner under the clearest sky and a private guided game drive.
I’ve been on several game drives in my life but none compares to my recent one with our friendly game driver, Andrew. About 30 minutes into our drive with Andrew, our private game ranger, from Jaci’s Sabi House, we spotted a leopard quenching his thirst at a nearby dam. We watched him drink his water for a few minutes not expecting him to get up and make his way in our direction. We were parked pretty close to the dam so Tingala, the leopard, walked straight in our direction. He looked me dead in the eyes and walked toward our safari truck. I nearly passed out. I genuinely thought he was going to jump in with us. I was so shook, I couldn’t even pick up my camera to capture this moment. Quick, sudden movements during a moment like this aren’t advised anyways so I just had to live in the moment and pray that nothing hectic happened. As soon as he got to the back wheel, he walked behind the truck and straight past us into the bush. I’m pretty sure my heart stopped for that brief minute or two. I was SHOOK. There was a Nat Geo team capturing this beautiful creature. So what did we decide to do? Follow them as they followed Tingala into the bush. And good thing we did. We followed him for a few minutes as he approached a sunny spot were he decided to be kind enough to pose for pictures for a good 45 minutes, giving us all of the angles, honey. What an incredible, once in a lifetime experience during our #myMpumalanga adventure I’ll never forget that day.
If the first three days of our 5 day road trip were anything to go by, I already knew that the rest of our trip was going to be magical. Read what we got up to during the last two days in Mpumalanga in the next blog post!