5 Fun Breaks
1. In the shadow of giants
For those of you who enjoy going your own way and can’t find a spot in the Kruger National Park (KNP), Elephant Walk Retreat, is the place to be. Situated on the banks of the Crocodile River and a stone’s throw from Crocodile Bridge Gate, it offers self-catering accommodation and an opportunity to enjoy the wild outdoors of the park only a short drive away.
Upscale, rustic-chic cabins and more basic chalets feature en suite bathrooms and full kitchens or kitchenettes. Some chalets share outdoor communal kitchens. Cabins add amenities such as flat-screen TVs, private balconies and open-air bedrooms with mosquito netting. Most units offer river views.
Amenities include secure parking, and an outdoor pool surrounded by a fenced-in area dotted with shaded dining tables on brick patios. Guided game drives are available for a fee. Sip on wine and enjoy snacks while taking in the gorgeous view of the river from your chalet veranda. You are bound to spot elephants and other animals coming to drink in the morning or late afternoon.
If you want to go on an afternoon game drive, it will cost you R76 per person per day, payable on entry into the KNP. Time spent in this prime destination is well worth the money. We thoroughly enjoy our afternoon drive and are lucky enough to see most of the Big 5.
Afterwards we are off to dine at the lively Tamborina Restaurant in Komatipoort. The Portuguese establishment has a varied menu and seafood is noteworthy. We opt for the delicious fish and chips, and the chilli sauce is amazing!
Get in touch
Contact Elephant Walk Retreat on
013-793-7543, 083-414-4683 or visit www.elephantwalk.co.za.
Email Elephant Walk Retreat on firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Tamborina Restaurant on
013-793-7057 or 082-325-5720
2. Reach for the sky
If staying at home, reading Johanna Lindsey novels has you bored and chomping at the bit, then the sky is the limit. Get out of your headspace and find adventure at the Aviation Adventure Flying Club outside Hazyview. Situated at Numbi Hotel, Wally and Duveen van Welie run the show at Numbi Airfield.
Proudly South African and weighing in at a mere 220kg, we sign up for a trip in a Bantam B22 microlight. Wally is our delightful pilot and has more than 6 000 hours’ experience under his wings. Apart from taking tourists on sky-bound adventures, he also has a weakness for golf.
“Being on a commercial flight is a mode of transport, but going on a flight in a microlight is to experience real flying,” grins Wally. The big plus of being in a light, open craft is you experience the swirls and twirls of the air around you.
The view of Sabie Valley from the sky is breathtaking and the full scope of the valley spread out before us leaves us in complete awe. Wally points out landmarks like the Northern Drakensberg and the thin green ribbon of the Sabie River.
They fly most days, weather permitting, and a typical flight time varies from 10 to 45 minutes. Longer flights can be specially arranged on request. Booking is essential.
Get in touch
For bookings, tours and tickets, contact 013-737-8191 or 082-574-2345
If you’re more leisurely inclined and prefer to partake in a gentler activity, then an afternoon’s sundowner outride is just for you. Horse Whisperers, situated on the R40 outside Hazyview, is home to healthy, happy-looking animals.
The surrounding tranquil landscape is more than enough to calm your senses and makes you realise that the best thing about the Lowveld is that it offers magnificent views and the great outdoors.
Our guide, Learnmore Nyasha, is eager to get underway as we ride to the viewpoint and dam. He takes us through dense indigenous bush and along working farms to get there. Nature soothes our senses and there is a sense of peace out here. The horses are well trained and not your average “trail donkey”.
We’re informed that our mounts have been instructed to respond to voice commands, harsh gestures like heel kicking and rein slapping are not allowed. The view from the dam, over the Hazyview and Sabie valleys, is inspiring and we enjoy a cooling swim with our horses before setting off on the short ride back.
The round trip is two to three hours and we enjoy snacks and cold drinks before saddling up for our return to the stables. Rides can be adapted to shorter periods or for the more experienced, they offer more technical trails with well-trained horses.
The animals on the farm come from varied backgrounds and owners. Some were trail-riding horses in a previous incarnation, while others are ex-showjumpers or unwanted pets. They have all been adopted and are being taken care of by Marina Visser and her capable staff. Marina, owner and operator of Horse Whispers, is an experienced trail guide, conservationist and animal behaviourist.
4. Steaming along
If an action-packed adventure is not for you, take a drive to Waterval Boven and Waterval Onder. These historical villages along the N4 still have much to offer tourists and travellers. From hiking and climbing excursions to discovering rare sights.
An impromptu wrong turn in Waterval Boven landed us in the old steam-locomotive maintenance yard where we were fortunate to wander among the mammoth steam engines of yesteryear. One of these steamers hauled the last Trans Karoo train from Johannesburg to Cape Town in 1997.
Today these graceful ladies Griet, a 25NC class locomotive, and a 1920s GCA Garratt class locomotive stand hidden from eyesight and succumb to the forces of nature and desperate treasure hunters. We catch up with author and explorer of ancient stone circles in the Lowveld, Michael Tellinger, at the Stone Circle Museum and Restaurant in town. If anything, Michael is more enthusiastic than ever about his rare discovery of ancient civilisations in and around the Waterval Boven, Kaapsehoop and Belfast areas.
As of this month a full-time guide will be available to accompany those interested in the two-hour to half-day tours of the sights. He points out that we should do some research on the history of the Dravidian, Sumerian and Egyptian origins before going along on these tours. Michael also advises that we view the presentations he has made on video to learn more about these mystical structures that date back 100 000 years. To see one of these civilisations, type these coordinates into Google Earth: S 25° 38 07.82 E 30° 21 18.79 or S 25° 39 22.42 E 30° 1703.25. Those serious about the science of stone civilisations and evolution are bound to have a mind-boggling experience.
It is best to be accompanied by Michael and or a guide to these sights as some of the structures are on private land.
The development of the two towns is well linked with the rail system and the stay of president Paul Kruger. His Krugerhof residence is a national monument and can be visited during business hours year-round in Waterval Onder.
The old NZSAM Tunnel next to the Waterval Boven one and a scenic view of the famed waterfall are a must-see. The Elands River is lively and flowing once again thanks to recent rain.
Further along the N4, for bridge crazies like our photographer, Nicolene Olckers, close-up views of the Five Arch Bridge can be seen by taking a short walk from the slipway parking on the N4. If you want to stay overnight and enjoy the outdoors, Aloes Country Inn is a well-known and established venue. Take your fly-fishing gear and try your luck in the pools upstream or step out of your room to the water’s edge. Fly-fishing for trout, seasonally between June and August, is free, but is done on a catch-and-release basis.
Get in touch
For info on steam trains, contact Corrie van Staden on 083-310-2995.
Contact Stone Circle Museum and Restaurant on 013-257-0479.
Contact Aloes Country Inn’s Lorna on 073-600-0991 or Dave on 084-712-1659
5. Board games
Whizzing around in the heat and dust may not be everybody’s idea of fun, but the young at heart and more adventurous among our readers will love this one!
Braving the grassy slopes of Hamilton Parks Lodge, situated on the R40 between White River and Hazyview, you’ll find adrenalin junkies of all ages trying their luck. Mountain boarding was established in the mid-1990s when people developed the activity as an alternative to skiing on snow during the European summer months.
Our board has robust wheels and proper suspension to make navigating grassy downhills or a rough surface easier. Boarders need a general good balance and instructor Quisto van Greunen will have you doing turns and slides soon after his 30-minute demonstration.
After a few slow starts we are soon flying down the grassy slope like pros. This fun activity is ideal for people aged seven to 70. Adventurers can also hire a board and spend the day honing their skills down-hill before enjoying one of the refreshing cocktails at the lodge bar.
Hamilton Parks also offers a go-karting flat track, 4×4 trails, and off-road motorcycle trail rides around the Hazyview, White River and Sabie areas. Beginners are welcome and boards for all ages are available. Once you get the hang of it, you can explore downhill “outrides” in the nearby forest.