Tranquil and welcoming - I found the service at restaurants, our guesthouse and even in the shops extremely helpful and welcoming - nothing was an effort. I would recommend a stop at Casterbridge Centre, which was a great surprise. The coffee/gift shop at the Garden Pavillion (near Uplands College) is quaint and the owners are wonderful. White River has all the essentials, but with a big town like Nelspruit just 20 minutes away, you can spend a few days travelling in the area without any inconvenience.
Jean van Wyk South Africa
A quaint town - My boyfriend and I do a trip every December to areas around South Africa. With Safarinow at my fingertips we decided to visit Mpumalanga with our first stop being the quiet little town of White River. Having never been there, driving through the sprawling city o Nelspruit, there was nothing better than driving into the small region of White River with it's clean streets and friendly folk. We stayed at a lovely place just outside town called Lyttle Irving. After crunching our way across the Macadamia nut shells, we were shown to our room, guided by the owner and her three friendly dogs.
The room was beautiful with a huge bath in the corner of the room. After settiling in after a long drive up from Durban we decided to go into town for dinner. We went down to a local pub where we each enjoyed a delicously cold guinness and a satifying meal.
The following day we drove to Sudwala Caves along one of the many pictureresque passes in the area. As we are both geologists, we geeked out at the beautiful rocks and scenery and thoroughly enjoyed the tou of the caves. We slowly journeyed back to town where we went for a fantastic lunch at the modern and very lush restaurant of Magnolia. Lunch was fabulous and after we stopped in at the very clean and well stocked supermarket at one of the small strip malls to get some steaks to braai for dinner that evening.
The courtyard at Lyttle Irving was a perfect location for a braai on an amazing December evening; the chickens came out to bid us good evening whilst the roses in the garden soaked up some delicious evening sun.
We had to leave the next day to travel onto our next town of choice and although we stayed at 5 quaint towns in Mpumalanga; now one of our favourite destinations, we loved White River and couldn't recomend this town more!
Lauren Hoyer South Africa
White River: A Small Town with a Cosmopolitan Soul - My husband and I moved to White River three years ago to set up umSisi House and umSisi Cottage in the Jock of the Bushveld Conservancy in the Peebles Valley. Although we’d been in the Lowveld area for ten years we had relied on Nelspruit (the provincial capital) as our closest town and didn’t know White River well at all. It was always just a sleepy little town, slightly out of our way, where we went to buy nuts (cashews, macadamias, almonds, peanuts and a whole array of other goodies) for our guests or transited on our way through to the Kruger National Park. So are we pleased we made the move? The answer is a resounding ‘YES!’, and our guests would agree.
The town of White River is the pretty floral gateway to the Kruger Lowveld region and can be found just north of Nelspruit in Mpumalanga. Mpumalanga itself is South Africa’s most easterly province known as ‘the place where the sun rises’ and is bordered by Mozambique with its pristine beaches to the east and the beautiful Kingdom of Swaziland with its African traditions and culture to the south. It is a lush, land-locked province, filled with deep ravines, verdant valleys, crystal-clear streams, magnificent waterfalls and plenty of wildlife. In fact, the Kruger Lowveld region is considered to be the heartland of South Africa’s classic safari territory. And it boasts one of the best climates in South Africa as well!
White River also has a rich history of pioneers and explorers, and is evocative of that bygone era of romance and adventure so often associated with Africa. Historical sites and villages, old wagon routes and monuments aplenty mark the lives of the characters that came here seeking their fortune. The town is named after the White River (a tributary of the Crocodile River) that flows through the town. The name itself is a translation of the siSwati ‘emansimhlope’ meaning ‘white waters’ and refers to the milky appearance of the water caused by the high presence of kaolin.
But it’s not just the rich history, sense of adventure and cosmopolitan people that make White River such a wonderful place to live, or visit. It is the location. And the locals (myself included) know its secret: while game viewing in the world renowned Kruger National Park and its private reserves may be considered to be the main attraction of the Kruger Lowveld region, there are also many other excursions and activities to enjoy within this area of spectacular natural beauty. So when visiting us in White River remember that the immediate area abounds with things to do and you will need a number of days to explore it all. We are without doubt the perfect destination for a once in a lifetime wildlife and adventure holiday.
Here are some of the excursions and activities we are so proud of:
• The Kruger National Park boasts 147 species of mammals, 507 bird species, 114 reptile species, 34 amphibian species, 49 fish species and approximately 336 tree species within 4,5 million acres (2 million hectares) of natural bush. White River offers close proximity to three gates into the park: Numbi (the original entrance), Phabeni and Paul Kruger which takes you through to Skukuza (the park HQ). Explore the park in your own vehicle or hire an open game-viewing vehicle and guide to take you out on a day safari.
• The Panorama Route is best known for its secret history, cultural heritage and dramatic landscapes as it passes through the rugged northern Drakensberg Mountains. The most spectacular stretch of the Panorama Route is the Blyde River Canyon (proclaimed as a nature reserve in 2004) with its dramatic mountain scenery and panoramic views over the escarpment. The 25,000 hectare Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve starts at ‘The Pinnacle’ and follows a winding path for 26 kilometres via ‘God’s Window’ and ‘Bourke’s Luck Potholes’ to the ‘Three Rondawels’. It is the third largest canyon in the world with a drop of 800m (half a mile), the second largest canyon in Africa and the only green canyon in the world boasting a rich diversity of plants. If you don’t want to drive through the canyon there are a number of hiking trails (between 2 and 8 kilometres long) available. The Panorama Route also offers the ‘Waterfall Route’ which takes you to seven of the region’s finest waterfalls and the towns of Sabie, Graskop and Pilgrim’s Rest. And don’t forget the Big Swing at Graskop where you can conquer your fear at an altitude of 1493 meters above sea level and freefall at a speed of 80 kilometres per hour on one of the world's highest gorge swings.
• The town of Hazyview (30 minutes away) is the adventure activity capital of the area where you can zip along Africa’s longest Skyway Trail, interact with elephant orphans, tube, raft or canoe along the Sabie River, float high above the treetops in a hot air balloon, visit a traditional Shangaan village and come face to face with a dizzying array of deadly snakes at Perry’s Bridge Reptile Park.
• The Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre on the outskirts of White River offers a unique lifestyle experience for the whole family with its shops, motor museum, theatre, cinema nouveau, wellness centre, exclusive gym with personal trainers, restaurants set in tranquil gardens and petting zoo for the kids. Some must visit shops are Africa Joy, Equilibrium and Willowbrook Linen.
• The Kruger Lowveld region is home to many of the best golf courses in South Africa and they're not without their wildlife either. Chose from a number of golf courses and be sure to pack your golf clubs and binoculars!
• The opportunity for mountain biking around White River is endless. Enjoy the fresh mountain air and lush vegetation on an invigorating bike ride.
Slightly further away but not to be missed are:
• Nelspruit’s Lowveld National Botanical Gardens which offer a beautiful 159 hectare garden dominated by rugged, rocky river scenery and home to over 600 naturally occurring plant species and a further 2000 that have been introduced to the garden. There is also a charming tea garden.
• Jane Goodall’s Chimp Eden (a home for chimps that have been misplaced from the wild) on the road to Barberton (the site of Africa’s first stock exchange).
• Hoedspruit Research and Breeding Centre on the road to Hoedspruit conduct unique research on endangered species such as cheetah (including the king cheetah), African wild dogs and lion.
• Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre just outside Klaserie is a haven for the rehabilitation and care of sick and injured animals and birds.
• Sudwala Caves and Dinosaur Park in the heart of the Mankele Mountains are considered to be some of the oldest dolomite caves in the world. Take a guided tour through the main caves or book to do the Crystal Tour.
• Kaapsehoop Horse Trails operate above the quaint gold mining village of Kaapsehoop in the Berlin Forest.
So when you’re next looking for a holiday destination come to White River in Mpumalanga, a town with a cosmopolitan soul, that offers something for everyone.
Amanda Bond Gunning South Africa