Mbombela – Gateway to abundance | iinfo TZANEEN

Mbombela – Gateway to abundance
By Bobbi Gerber
Is it any wonder that the town, Nelspruit (the original name) has earned Mbombela its city status? Over the past few years it has expanded noticeably, not only in size but also in significance. It was one of the selected cities to build a sports stadium to host some exciting matches during the FIFA Soccer World Cup tournament facilitated by South Africa in 2010.
The city is a busy thoroughfare for travellers from different directions en route to the Kruger National Park (KNP) or Mozambique via the last outpost, Komatipoort, a hot little town hugging both the Lebombo Border Post and Crocodile Bridge Gate of the KNP.
Some cities don’t have airports - Mbombela has TWO. The Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA) opened in 2001. It is the gateway to the iconic Kruger National Park, the Greater Limpopo Trans Frontier Park, wildlife areas in Mozambique and Zimbabwe as well as many Lowveld destinations. International destinations include Livingstone in Zambia and Vilankulos in Mozambique.
The KMIA has customs and immigration facilities, banking, ATMs, VIP lounges and car rental depots. It is an ICAO approved International Airport accommodating Boeing 737, 747, 767 and the Airbus series. It is situated 25km from the city and handles about 250 000 passengers annually. Information regarding the airport on +27 (0)13 753 7500.
The Nelspruit Airfield located just outside the city is the original airport, owned and operated by the municipality. The majority of the more than a hundred aircraft based there are privately owned. There are, however, also several commercial aircraft. The airport is slightly limited in its potential with a runway length of 875m (2870ft) compared to the 3,1km runway of its aforementioned counterpart.  
Close encounters with Creation’s best
Only a hop and a skip from Mbombela, are some of the country’s most picturesque and unique sites. Apart from the ever-popular sanctuary for indigenous fauna and flora – the Kruger National Park (always colourfully populated by people from all over the world), other places highly recommended to visit are: the Blyde River Canyon, Bourke's Luck Potholes, the Echo and Sudwala Caves, God's Window, the Mac Mac and Horseshoe Falls, the Three Rondavels, Sabi Sands Game Reserve, Horseshoe Falls and the Lowveld National Botanical Garden.
The Blyde River Canyon Reserve extends along the Blyde River Canyon's winding path, offering impressive views over sheer edges dropping 800m into the riverbed. The spectacular mountain scenery and panoramic views over the Klein Drakensberg escarpment aptly gave the area its name: the 'Panorama Route'.
All five of South Africa's primates can be seen in the The Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve:  the somango and vervet monkey, nocturnal greater and lesser bushbabies and chacma baboons.
The ‘Three Rondavels' (also called 'Three Sisters’) are three huge spirals of dolomite rock rising out of the Blyde River canyon. On a clear day one can see in the distance the extensive Swadini Dam, which marks the end of the reserve.
Where the Blyde (joy) and Treur (sorrow/mourning) Rivers meet, water erosion has created a spectacular geological phenomenon. The ‘Bourke’s Luck Potholes’ have taken thousands of years to form strange cylindric sculptures carved by swirling water. A must on the itinerary.
Due to the high rainfall, masses of waterfalls are dotted in the area. The Mac Mac and Horseshoe Falls are beautiful to look at and delightful to cool off in if visited in the hot and humid summers. Some waterfalls are hidden deep within some of the largest man-made forestry plantations in the world, with row upon row of pine and eucalyptus trees.
The aptly named Horseshoe Falls are in the shape of a horseshoe and offer an exquisite sight. Both abovementioned waterfalls have been declared national monuments. Mac Mac has twin falls that plunge 70m into a gorge below. Mac Mac was not always split in two. Gold miners during the gold rush blasted the original single stream in an effort to reach the gold-bearing reef over which it drops. The best time to see the falls in full glory is during summer, this part of the country’s rainy season.
In the 1920’s the owner of a farm went in search of his cattle which had inexplicably disappeared. His search was richly rewarded with the discovery of the mysterious Echo Caves. Guided tours through 2km of tunnels reveal impressive stalagmites and stalactites. The Echo Caves are the least well known of the limestone caves.
A special tour deeper into the cave is on offer for the more adventurous, but beware, sufferers from claustrophobia! The end of the cave has not been found, but is allegedly somewhere near the Strijdom tunnel.
The Sudwala Caves are regarded as the oldest known caves in the world. A crystal tour for the more adventurous involves an excursion into the bowels of the earth, 2000 metres into the cave, to a dazzling crystal chamber.
The Lowveld National Botanical Garden just outside Mbombela offers a picturesque pastime with rugged, rocky, river scenery, with more than 600 indigenous plant species. 2000 more have been introduced. Two rivers run through the garden and merge in a waiting pool. The Crocodile River enters gushing through a narrow, pot-holed rock gorge, while the Nels River, (the reason for the town’s original name) cascades down a waterfall from the west. The river banks are dominated by evergreen forest belts, with the eastern bank of the Crocodile River a tropical African rainforest, a first for the garden. It represents the rapidly diminishing rain forests of central and west Africa.
In conclusion: there is no reason to be found to be bored in and around magical Mbombela!

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