Nelspruit is the gateway to the southern section of the Lowveld and is known as the Sunshine Capital of Mpumalanga. Lying in amidst the fertile valley of the Crocodile River, it is a landscape of lush hills, rocky outcrops, fertile soils and a variety of green vegetation all year round. it is a fast growing city with a population of around 23 000 and is the main shopping and supply areas for the majority of the smaller towns situated around it. It is also a prime agricultural area with a provides perfect conditions for the production of citrus and tropical fruits such as banana, avocado’s, mango, macadamia and pecan nuts.
Its location creates a perfect scenario for easy access within a day’s excursion from any one of the regional towns and villages, should one want to explore its facilities and activities on offer.
Apart from the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA), the main tourist attractions in the region include the National Botanical Gardens, Sudwala Caves, the Emnotweni Casino, a wide range of health and beauty spa’s and the jewel of Nelspruit – the Jane Goodall Chimpanzee Eden.
The following is a description of the most popular tourist attractions in the Nelspruit region:
The Lowveld Botanical Gardens
The botanical gardens are situated just outside of Nelspruit in the Riverside area and is home to an exceptionally rare collection of plant species as well as the first man-made rain forests. It is a definite itinerary item for any plant lover or for one simply interested in the amazing chlorophylled world around us. It is 159 ha of garden straddling both the Crocodile and the Nels Rivers that converge together into a serene pool. The gardens have been established around the rivers as the central focus and includes potholes in the Crocodile River, formed over centuries of water flow as well as a scenic waterfall along the Nels River, just prior to the convergence of the waters. In addition to the approximately 550-600 indigenous species found naturally within the garden, an additional 2000 species have been added, of these 1000 being indigenous to other regions in South Africa and the remaining 1000 being plants of exceptional interest or value.
The Sudwala Caves are the oldest known caves in the world and thus should without doubt be included on any visitor’s itinerary when in the Nelspruit area. The caves are situated in Pre-Cambrian dolomite rocks and have been calculated to have formed over some 3 000 million years ago. Fossils found within the caves depict what is now known as the first oxygen producing plants to evolve. There is a tourist route through the caves which takes you into the largest dolomite chamber in the world, knows as Owen Hall, and is a natural amphitheatre that is about 70m in diameter and 37m high. In addition to the caves there is also a Dinosaur Park, curio shop and a restaurant situated at the caves.
Jane Goodall Chimpanzee Eden
The Chimpanzee Eden is the first and only chimpanzee sanctuary in South Africa. It is set on a 1000 hectare game farm and is home to chimpanzees that have been misplaced from their natural habitats. Established by the Jane Goodall Institute as the South African sanctuary, it has outlined its commitment to the rescue and care of chimpanzees who find themselves in need of refuge. Being the only one of its kind within the South African borders, this venue is invaluable in its ability to bring the world and the plight of the chimpanzee close to visitors and residents of the region through education, tourism and modern technology.
Situated alongside the major shopping mall in Nelspruit, the Emnotweni Casino is the only major casino in the Lowveld. For those feeling the need to loose themselves in sparkling lights, poker chips, decks of cards or “one arm bandits”, the casino is the place to be. If you are either needing to earn a few more pennies to take you on another outdoor adventure, or feeling like you have had a little too much natural sunlight and are in need of strobes and inflorescents, a visit to the casino can be fitted into your plans and itineraries.