11 Hoedspruit Activities while on your African SafariA Vista of Bush & Mountains
Your stay in Hoedspruit is going to be full of adventure, thanks to the enormous variety of things to do, places to visit and sights to see in and around this bustling little town.
Hoedspruit – A Vista of Bush & Mountains
This is the safari capital of South Africa, so it comes as no surprise to find out that there’s a wealth of safari activities on Hoedspruit’s doorstep, offering you the chance to view the Big Five – elephant, rhino, buffalo, leopard and lion – and a host of other amazing African wildlife species. There’s also some incredible tourism attractions on offer in this beautiful corner of South Africa, so let’s have a look at 11 of the best things to do while you are on your African safari… 1. The Kruger National Park The legendary Kruger National Park is literally a stone’s throw from Hoedspruit, with most of the town’s surrounding private game reserves open to this fantastic conservation icon and forming part of the Greater Kruger National Park. There are guided day tours into the park in open safari vehicles or you can choose a self-drive option in your own vehicle, taking one of the many exciting Big 5 drive loops inside the park and exploring this fascinating African wilderness. There are two entry gates a short drive from Hoedspruit – the Phalaborwa Gate is 75km to the north in the neighbouring town of Phalaborwa, and the Orpen Gate is a short drive south east. The Phalaborwa Gate gives easy access to Letaba Camp, which is an ideal lunch or coffee stop on a full-day tour. The Orpen Gate is within easy distance of Satara Camp, where you can stop and take advantage of the amenities on offer at the camp shop, restaurant and rest rooms.
Kruger Park Day Tours
Maps of the park are available at the entry gates, but if you choose a guided day tour your route will be planned by your guide and you can sit back, relax and watch the Kruger’s incredible scenery roll by, game spotting as you go. Your qualified guide will tell you all about the eco-systems inside the park and the plants and animals which call it home, explaining their behaviour and habits and the role they play in the environment. With some 93 species of mammals, more than 500 bird species and 118 species of reptiles, the Kruger National Park is packed with things to see and find out about. It’s also 2-million hectares in size – that’s almost 20,000 square kilometres, which is the size of some small countries! 2. Panorama Tour Up above the Abel Erasmus Pass atop the Drakensberg Escarpment lies the aptly named Panorama Route, which takes in the breathtaking mountain scenery and numerous viewpoints down into the “lowveld” – the vast region beneath the escarpment which stretches to the Kruger Park and Mozambique beyond.
Panorama Scenic Tour
You can take a guided tour along the Panorama route or opt to self-drive, but whichever you choose, the route is packed with exciting things to do and see. First up is the Blyde River Canyon – the second largest canyon in Africa, after the Fish River Canyon. Carved out by the Blyde River as it pushes its way down to the lowveld to join the Olifants River, the canyon is surrounded by towering peaks of impressive red sandstone. It is 25km long and an average of 750m deep. It’s highest peak – Mariepskop – is 1944m above sea level. There are several outlook points along the route of the canyon where you can stop and admire the spectacular scenery, including the famous Three Rondavels, and browse purpose-built curio stalls run by local communities. Further along the route is Bourke’s Luck Potholes – a fascinating geological anomaly formed at the confluence of the Blyde and Treur rivers where the swirling waters have carved huge circular shapes out of the sandstone rock, forming open caverns and potholes which have to be seen to be believed. Bourke’s Luck visitor’s centre gives a good insight into how these formations were created and also gives information on early human habitation and the wildlife of the area. It’s the ideal point from which to start your walk around the potholes, which takes a minimum of one hour to fully appreciate this interesting place. Some 5km north of Bourke’s Luck Potholes is the famous Lowveld Viewpoint, which offers breathtaking views from the top of the escarpment, at a height of 1219m above sea level, down over the Blyde River as it cuts its way through the valleys below and the Blydepoort Dam in the distance. One of the most popular stretches of this route is the R532 which makes its way from the picturesque town of Sabie past a selection of beautiful waterfalls, including Sabie Falls, Mac Mac Falls and Bridal Veil Falls to God’s Window – another spectacular viewpoint. Lunch can be taken in the pretty town of Graskop, located on the edge of the escarpment at the head of the impressive Kowyn’s Pass which takes you back down to the Lowveld. The historic gold mining town of Pilgrim’s Rest is also a short distance from Graskop. It was established in 1873 when the first gold strike in South Africa was made.
Moholoholo Animal Rehabilitation Centre.
With daily tours at 9.30am and 3pm each day, the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre is located beneath majestic Mariepskop and the Drakensberg Escarpment and is home to a range of abandoned, injured and poisoned wild animals which are sadly unable to be returned to the wild. These animals are given a permanent home here and become “ambassadors” for their species, allowing members of the public to experience these incredible creatures at close quarters while learning about the threats and problems facing South Africa’s wildlife today. The Centre also runs a successful Serval Breeding Project with more than 160 of these endangered cats successfully reintroduced to areas where they have become extinct. Moholoholo is also actively involved in leopard research and also works with a number of vulture species that are monitored daily at the centre’s “vulture restaurant”. Trips to Moholoholo can be arranged for you or you can choose to drive yourself to the centre, which is a short 30-minute drive from Hoedspruit. 4. Eating out in style Hoedspruit is famous for its range of wonderful restaurants, coffee shops and eateries, with perhaps its most well-known – Sleepers – housed in the town’s original station building where freight trains still regularly run past it. Sleepers is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers a range of delicious dishes from home-made pizzas to prime cuts of steak, with both indoor and al fresco dining options – outside, under the canopy of old acacia trees, or inside in the old station’s waiting room where the decor makes use of historic sign boards and old newspapers which have been used to paper the walls. The Hat and Creek offers fine dining in an open and semi-open restaurant offering breakfast, lunch and dinner options. The decor is more modern and chic and the menu is full of interesting fusion dishes such as seared salmon salad. There is an extensive wine list to complement the menu and free wifi to boot. If you are interested in Italian, then opt for Cala la Pasta at the Kamogelo Centre, or try The Thirsty Giraffe Pub and Grill out on the Phalaborwa Road for a proper bush pup experience and a legendary prego roll (a spicy, peri peri steak burger!) For coffee you must visit the Fig and Bean at the Rock Fig Centre – their home made cakes and desserts are not to be missed! Or head out to Three Bridges on the Phalaborwa Road, just before the bridge over the Olifants River, where the lunches are long and leisurely overlooking the river. Then there’s the Cotton Club Cafe out at 24 Degrees South, on the R531 close to the escarpment, with its lovely gardens, views of the mountains and delicious menu offerings. And you can shop there to boot, with a range of curio and gift shops on site, as well as a range of classic cars and motorbikes. 5. Hot Air Ballooning Hot Air Ballooning is most certainly one of the best ways to experience the majesty of this region’s fantastic scenery. Rated : Top Hoedspruit Activity The balloons soar over terrain that is a mixture of farmland and private nature reserves at the foot of the Drakensberg Escarpment which forms a natural amphitheatre, providing safe shelter from prevailing winds. From the air you can appreciate the amazing geography of this region, set against the magnificent backdrop of the mountains and the Blyde River Canyon. Hot Air Balloon
Hot Air Balloon
You arrive before sunrise and enjoy coffee while watching the eight-storey high balloon being inflated and prepared for your flight. A safety briefing follows before you get airborne in time for sunrise over the Kruger Park. During the flight your height above ground will vary from just skimming the treetops to as high as 600m, as your pilot changes altitude to find favourable wind directions and speeds. Flights last approximately an hour and landings take place at a suitable landing site along the route, where the ground crew are either waiting or arrive shortly after touch down. After the flight there is sparkling wine and fruit juice to celebrate. 6. Cruising the Blydepoort Dam You can enjoy amazing views of the Blyde River Canyon from the Blydepoort Dam on a wonderful guided cruise of this amazing body of water, where the Blyde River is temporarily halted on its journey to join the Olifants River. Blyde Dam Boat Cruise
Blyde Dam Boat Cruise
The cruises, which operate from the Swadini Nature Reserve a short drive from Hoedspruit, take in the Kadishi Tufa waterfall and the magnificent Three Rondavels and allow full appreciation of this amazing “green” canyon, with its lush, tropical vegetation which covers the sloping canyon walls. The Kadishi Tufa, at 200m, is the second tallest tufa waterfall in the world. A tufa fall is formed over millions of years as calcium builds up, forming a hard outer shell, with the water running beneath it. The rock face at Kadishi Tufa has been eroded by millennia of constantly flowing water and now resembles a weeping face with the water its endless tears. An abundance of wildlife can be spotted from the boat, with kudu and other antelope which make the canyon their home the most prevalent on land, as well as hippo and crocodile in the dam itself, of course! While you cruise your guide will tell you about the natural history of the Blyde Canyon and explain how it came to be and you can spot some of the amazing indigenous bird life, including the African fish eagle. 7. Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre A visit to the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre on Kapama Private Game Reserve offers you a fascinating insight into rare, vulnerable and endangered animal species and animal conservation efforts in the area.
Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre
Guided tours run regularly each day and kick off with an introductory presentation explaining the work of the centre and how funds raised through tourism directly contribute to conservation projects. Following the presentation, you embark on an in-depth two-hour tour of the centre on an open safari vehicle, finding out about its cheetah breeding and rehabilitation program and other projects the centre is involved in. The centre is home to a number of animal species including cheetah, wild dog, lion, wild cat, ground hornbill and sable antelope. 8. Microlighting There’s nothing to beat the thrill of taking to the air in a microlight and experiencing the magnificent scenery around Hoedspruit from one of these amazing flying machines. Seated behind your qualified pilot you are as free as a bird, open to the elements, with awe-inspiring views of the Drakensberg Escarpment and the bushveld at its base, which is home to African wildlife species that can often be spotted from the air. A wide range of microlight flights are offered in and around Hoedspruit, ranging in length from 10 minutes to an hour or more. Some offer the chance to fly from Hoedspruit to Graskop, where you stop for coffee and muffins, and back, over the Blyde River Canyon and the incredible scenery of the area. Others take in the Big 5 game reserves where you can spot game from the air. 9. Helicopter flips and scenic flights Taking a helicopter flip or scenic flight in a small plane from Hoedspruit gives you the opportunity to fully appreciate the dramatic scenery and wilderness areas which surround it. From the vast expanses of the Kruger National Park and the rich diversity of the private game reserves which border Hoedspruit to the towering peaks of the Drakensberg Escarpment and the lush green vegetation of the Blyde River Canyon, the views from the air are simply breathtaking and allow for amazing photography. You may also be lucky enough to spot wildlife from the air! An experience not to be missed, there is a variety of trips and tours on offer to suit all budgets. 10. Horse riding Whether you’re a bird watcher, animal lover or just here for the ride, a horse back trail is the perfect way to experience the bush in its most natural form. African Dream Horse Safaris are based on Hoedspruit Wildlife Estate and offer a range of outrides on the estate along game drive routes through the bush, where a variety of wildlife can be seen. This is a great way to experience the bush, as wild animals do not react to the horses, carrying on with their usual activities, allowing you to view them in a completely different, more relaxed and personal way.
The estate is home to giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, waterbuck, nyala, impala, kudu, steenbok, duiker, warthog and leopard to name a few, and while the chances of seeing all of these on one ride can never be guaranteed, riders enjoy the sense of anticipation of what might be around the next corner! The trail follows a river, along which are two dams, where you can often find various species of game quenching their thirst. You don’t have to be an experienced rider to enjoy the thrill of exploring the bush on horseback, as all levels of rider are catered for. 11. Hiking and kloofing There is a rich variety of guided and non-guided hiking trails ranging from half a day to 5 days in length in and around the Hoedspruit area, both along ancient Lowveld pathways and up in the Drakensberg Escarpment, around the Blyde River Canyon. Mount Manoutsa, at the foot of the Abel Erasmus Pass, offers two 9-hour hiking trails. The Blyderivierspoort Hiking Trail is also nearby, but bookings are essential on this 3 to 5 day trail. Kloofing is a form of extreme hiking, taking in streams, waterholes, waterfalls and water-filled caves along the way. There is a great kloofing trail at the Strijdom tunnel, halfway up the Abel Erasmus Pass, that will allow you to explore caves and walk along a stream that builds up to a tufa waterfall, you can also jump into waterholes along the route.