The name Phalaborwa is an ancient Sotho word which means “better than the South”. Phalaborwa is situated perfectly as a central gate to the Kruger National Park. Due to its exceptional “year round heat” – with very mild winter temperatures ever experienced, it is known as the town of two-summers, thus making Phalaborwa a perfect tourism destination any time of the year.
There are many other things that Phalaborwa is famous for, one of the most internationally renown that it is home to the world famous Amarula – the well known liqueur made from the local and indigenous tree called the Marula tree.
Apart from the strong presence of wildlife and tourism in the town of Phalaborwa, it is also one of the mining mecca’s of the region and more specifically hosts the deepest open caste copper mining pit in the country and the second largest in the world. Mining has been a strong part of the history of the town and the ba-Phalaborwa people. They originated from further north – in the Zimbabwe regions, and were pushed down south by warring fractions, eventually settling in the Bushbuckridge area. It was here that they started doing iron-work and produced iron tools that they were then able to trade with various other tribes and travel parties in order to secure themselves a steady flow of provisions.
During one of the tribes regular scouting parties further north, a large amount of iron ore was discovered on Loolekop, just outside present day Phalaborwa, that would be able to provide for all their smelting needs. Thus the tribe, once again, moved, this time further north and gave their new place of settlement the name Phalaborwa, because it was better than the south from where they had just come.
There are two koppies (small mountains/ hills) in the region that are called Sealane and Kgpolwe that have recently been declared national monuments due to the presence of visible traces of very early primitive settlements.
More recently to that, huge deposits of minerals have been discovered in the region and in 1958 the modern town of Phalaborwa was established to support the thriving mine industry that has developed the town as it is today. What was once the hill called Loolekop and the originally settling place of the ba-Phalaborwa people, is now the second largest open caste mine in the world. The wealth of minerals in the Phalaborwa region is said to have developed as a result of volcanic eruptions 2 million years ago. Although the volcanic cone no longer is in existence the remaining pipeline has delivered untold wealth and variety of minerals including phosphates, copper, gold, vermiculate, mica and irconium. All of the mines today have limited life expectancy left and within the next 5 – 30 years the mines will all be closed down. As a result, Phalaborwa has been working in earnest to further establish its next beneficial treasure – that of tourism.
There are a number of exciting activities to undertake in Phalaborwa and they include the following:
The Amarula Lapa is the factory and home of the world famous Amarula Liqueur. The indigenous and wild fruits of the Marula tree are harvested annually during Marula season by the local women in the communities and they are then produced into Amarula that has managed to take the world by storm and is now available in many different countries around the world. At the Lapa you will be shown how the fruits are harvested, and the liqueur is distilled and you will be allowed to taste the product in its various forms and stages. It is definitely worth a visit and the product is a wonderful gift to take home for friends and family.
Sunset Cruise Boat Safaris on the Olifants River
The Olifants River runs between a number of different game reserves as it winds its way down towards the Kruger National Park. Just outside the Phalaborwa section, the river runs alongside the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve and the wilderness section of the Phalaborwa Mine and is briefly halted in its way by the construction of a barrage or weir that helps supply constant water to the mines from the river. As a result a large dammed up area of the river has developed which has lended itself perfectly to the development of Sunset Cruises on River Boats up and down the length of the dammed portion of the river. While on the Sunset Cruise there is the opportunity to see any number of wild animals of which elephants, buffalo, hippo’s and crocs are the most common. After the boat cruise, dinner can be enjoyed on the river’s edge while listening to the sounds of the African night.
Golfing at Hans Merensky Golf Course
Hans Merensky Golf Course is an 18 hole championship course bordering on the edge of the Kruger National Park. The greens are often home to any number of wild animals with golfers having to give way to lion kills on the greens and fairways, elephants browsing in the rough or crocodiles basking in the bunkers. It is a definite visit for the keen and experienced golfer.
Aerial View Point of Copper Mine
There is a fantastic view point that has been established allowing for visitors to have a great view of the copper pit – it is the second largest open caste mine in the world and is quite mind blowing to see.
Gate entrance to Kruger National Park
Phalaborwa is one of the only towns situated directly at one of the entrance gates to the Kruger National Park. This makes access into and out of the park exceptionally easy and makes for a perfect venue for a day trip into the Kruger.