Grass & Wetlands
Bordered in the South by KwaZulu-Natal and in the East by Swaziland, lies the Grass and Wetlands region of Mpumalanga. This whole region is one of extreme natural beauty, dotted with its hundreds of lakes and rivers. The Grass and Wetlands region is a magnet for bird watchers from all over the world. Numerous horse and hiking trails are available starting from Carolina and Volksrust – most of these are day trails, though there are several two-day trails where trailers stay overnight in a trail hut.
Perhaps the two most popular venues in the Grass and Wetlands region of Mpumalanga for birding enthusiasts are Chrissiesmeer or Lake Chrissie, the largest freshwater lake in South Africa, and Wakkerstroom, a small town near to the KwaZulu-Natal border. Near to Chrissiesmeer you can also find a giant footprint embedded in rock – this matches a similar footprint to be found in Canada. Locals also re-enact an Anglo-Boer battle that was fought near to Lake Chrissie. There are a number of sites of historic interest in the vicinity of Chrissiesmeer, notably the Dumbarton Oaks Hotel built in the late 1800s, and Billiard Cottage, which was transported by ox wagon all the way from Bloemfontein and served as a recreation mess for British soldiers in the 2nd Anglo-Boer War.
Wakkerstroom attracts birding enthusiasts from all over the world, and there are lakes and pans in the Mpumalanga wetlands where hundreds of flamingo can be seen. Primarily though the whole of the Grass and Wetlands region is an important farming and forestry region. Much of the area abounded with indigenous hardwoods like yellowwood and kiaat, and where this has become depleted large plantations of pine and wattle have been planted. The South East around Piet Retief developed into a very important center for the timber industry, with woodworking developing as a secondary industry.
The whole of the wetlands region is host to any number of outdoor pastimes – fishing, sailing, boating, water-skiing are some of the more obvious pastimes associated with the water of the region, but there are other activities, some quite unusual, that one can indulge. Examples of these are the “frogging” expeditions and stargazing weekends. There are numerous venues for 4x4s, quads, horse trails and hiking, and for exploring the sites of ancient pictures drawn on rocks by the San people. You can also visit the lost Legoya nation’s huts, still standing 1000 years after they were constructed.
Unknown to many, the Barberton area has four 'secret' nature reserves, each of which is dedicated to the conservation of a single rare species of flora. Locations are kept secret n an effort to protect plant samples from would-be plant thieves. Three species of aloe and one of cycad are given special protection in these reserves.