I have been fortunate to spend the last few days on the Nelspruit/Sabie/Graskop route, dropping off our own brochures and forging relationships with the other attraction operators and accomodation facilities in this beautiful area. It has really opened my eyes - after nearly 13 years of living in the Lowveld, I didn't realise just how many amazing things there are to do, and beautiful attractions there are to experience, all so close to Nelspruit!
Some of them I have driven past almost daily - how many of you knew we had a waterpark at Riverside mall, built by the same guys who did U-Shaka? A bit smaller in scale, for sure, but what a fun way to keep the kids busy on a hot Lowveld day after vising Perry's Bridge Reptile Park in Hazyview - (and a great excuse for mum and dad to keep cool too!). Visit Mafunyane.com for all the details!
Closer to home, right beside Perry's Bridge Reptile Park in the Perry's Bridge Centre, is Skyway Trails treetop challenge, a short rope course built to European standards, and designed to provide fun and build confidence - great for the kids, but great for teambuilding as well! Skyway Trails also offers a full length canopy tour which is well worth the time - drive through from Nelspruit, visit us, then pop on over and say hello to the guys there! And enjoy lunch at Spur, Kuka or Topolinos as well!
Chimp Eden is one of Nelspruit's wildlife attractions, just out of town on the Barberton Road. Make sure you visit their website first, as their tours operate at scheduled times and you don't want to be disappointed by arriving too late. The chimps are amazing, and the stories behind their arrival at the sanctuary may just break your heart a little....but it will be warmed by the care and compassion they so visibly receive today.
Heading out of Nelspruit and up to Graskop, stop off at the tripsza office to catch up on all of the opportunities available to you. Pilgrim's Rest is, of course, just up the road, and you can experience yesteryear by hiring costumes and enjoying a photoshoot at Kuzzulo's Emporium!
Graskop itself is the "hop-off" point for the stunning Panorama Route - the waterfalls of Sabie, God's Window, The Pinnacle, Bourke's Luck Potholes, and the Blyde Viewpoint are all just a short drive from the busy little town (with it's amazing curio shops!), and is just up the road from Hazyview where you will, of course, find us!.
Do you know of any "local secrets" to the best things to see and do around Nelspruit, Sabie and Graskop? If so, please let us know in the comments section below, we love to be able to give our guests great advice!
Oom Len is our largest,and best known, resident. People often comment 'that has got to be the biggest crocodile I have ever seen!'. He has been with us since we opened our doors in 2008.
We first received the call from Mpumalanga Parks Board, saying that they had captured this enormous crocodile in Malelane, where he had been eating cattle at a veterinary quarantine camp...no wonder he was so big! I remember driving through Hazyview and passing the MTPA vehicle, trailer behind, and doing a triple take (if that is possible) when I saw the size of this magnificent creature. I did a u turn and raced back to the park gesticulating wildly to Rick that he must see the SIZE of this croc!!!!! I was so excited...and knowing that his alternate fate was to have been someone's trophy....glad to give him a big pond with a beautiful girlfriend (Princess) where he could live out his life safely.
Upon his capture he measured in at 4.1 meters.....not the longest croc BUT he weighed 980kg - and that is what makes him SO impressive, not his length but his bulk.
He was extremely shy for the first few months, at the first sign of anyone near his pond he slid into the water and sank to the bottom. These days he is a confident gentleman and completely unphased by the presence of people.
He is named after one of our biggest supporters and friends, whom sadly is no longer with us. But we know he was so happy to have a crocodile named in his honor, and Oom Len's gentle presence is a reminde of his generosity and support on a daily basis.
We don't know Oom Len's age, nor can we imagine the life that he has led and the amazing things he has seen....but we hope this iconic,magnificent predator will be with us for many years to come.
If you want to utter a name that strikes fear into the heart of most people, simply whisper “Black mamba” - for their reputation is legendary. Yet most of it is shrouded in folklore and misunderstanding. For instance - many people tell the tale of being pursued on horseback by a black mamba - yet the maximum speed of a black mamba is around 20km per hour, and they can only maintain that for a very short time, while the maximum speed of a horse exceeds 70km per hour - guess that explains why you hear of very few people actually being CAUGHT by those pesky horse chasing mambas?
The black mamba is the second longest venomous snake in the world, after the King Cobra. It falls into the family “Elapidae” which have fixed, front fangs. Their name is not from the colour of their scales, but from the colour inside their mouth which is obvious when they gape.
Tthe black mamba is in fact a shy,nervous snake, who will try to avoid people. However, back one into a corner and try to chop its head off....well, yes, its likely to react in a way you might not like....nothing too surprising there! As with all snakes, the safest thing for both you and the snake is to leave it alone whenever possible.
That being said, black mamba venom is a potent and fast acting neurotoxin (more information on that in the “snake” section) and any bite must be treated as a medical emergency.
You can read Rick's account of his Black Mamba Bite - it happened several years ago during the course of what should have been a regular call-out, and highlights the fact that the snake was not at fault. As with 90% of all bites in this country, the mamba was backed into a corner and felt intensely threatened. To top it off, it was "in the blue", ie about to shed its skin and hence its vision was greatly reduced.
If you'd like to learn more about how snakes REALLY behave (instead of how the local guy at the pub who claims to know EVERYTHING about them....and then proceeds to fill your head with hogwash....says they behave!) then join us at 11 am or 3pm for one of our demonstrations. Just another thing to keep you busy when you are visiting Mpumalanga, but our visitors tell us it is well worth the time spent! Please be aware, our dems are only held if the weather is accomodating, as our facility is outdoors! You can also download the app on your ipad or Android tablet by scanning the QR code here:
A big problem we sometimes face at Perry's Bridge Reptile Park is simply getting people through the door! Someone will come along with their partner or kids, and you can almost see them squirm as they approach. Then they get to the till.....and decide they "just can't do it". Yet those that do, and particularly those that watch one of our demonstrations, often report that they feel much better once they leave because many of the misconceptions that they had have been addressed.
What is the difference between fear and phobia? A phobia is essentially a very persistent, strong fear, which is often unreasonable, even in the sufferer's own mind. This intense fear can be pyschologically, and even physically, debilitating. The good news is, that many phobias can be reduced in their intensity or even banished completely if the correct approach is taken!
This recent article from Psychology Today addresses arachnophobia, but the principles can be applied to other similar phobias such as a fear of snakes (Ophidiophobia). We even had a lady who was terrified of tortoises - that was a first for me but it DOES have a name according to my best friend Google: "chelonaphobia" (makes sense, as the family including tortoises, turtles, and terrapins is "chelonia").
Of course, Hazyview has possibly more than its fair share of spiders, due to our warm humid climate - but its reassuring to know that very few spiders in the world have the capacity to inflict serious harm to a healthy adult human. Meanwhile they are helping us to keep in check another locally abundant resident.....the mosquito!
There was an amusing conversation at Perry's Bridge Reptile Park yesterday :) Rick had just finished his demonstration, and an interested lady commented "its all very well and fine to say good things about snakes, but what about SHARKS!!" . Little did she know that we had just returned from a trip to Cape Town and Gansbaai, where I ticked one off my bucket list - cage diving with the Great White Sharks!
What an incredible experience! And that, from me, who as a child was scared of the shadows in our pool in case they "might be sharks". Jaws sure has a lot to answer for!
My heart was literally pounding as I stepped onto the deck and we headed out to sea. While I have huge admiration for sharks, their beauty, and their place in the ocean, this is perhaps the closest to a phobia that I have. Fortunately the build up was quite slow, it was around 40 minutes before we saw the first shark approach, and I was not asked to be in the first cage - so I was able to observe for awhile, and by the time it was my (our) turn to climb into the water I was feeling pretty comfortable.
The visibility in the water wasn't great that day, but that didn't in any way detract from the experience...."divers DOWN" "divers LEFT" "divers FRONT" were the directions shouted as we submerged and looked, hopefully in the right direction! The ultimate memory burned into my mind was when a particularly large "big boy" (at least he was big for me!) managed to grab the decoy and came at top speed towards the cage, literally ending with the tip of his schnoz poking between the mesh!!! We could have picked the food out of his teeth, quite literally.
Visibility on deck was awesome! You can see Rick's pictures here:
While there have been concerns voiced about the practice of shark diving, like most things I think it has two aspects. When a shark is "finned" for soup, the economic return is $100, and the animal is returned in excruciating pain, thrown back into the water to drown as it can no longer swim, and dying in misery. With shark diving, each shark is worth around $2million (notice $, that is NOT a mistake!) to the community - and so there is strong motivation to conserve them even amongst those who don't recognise their intrinsic worth. There is also the opportunity to do research - the group I was with was noting fin markings and taking other data recordings throughout our trip - and of course the chance to educate huge numbers of people (32 people on our trip, with two trips going out per day. There were 5 operators all doing similar numbers - and that is Gansbaai ONLY).
I wish we had the opportunity to educate so many people about snakes! What a difference that could make......
So, if you would like to know more about snakes, please come along and visit us in Hazyiew, there are loads of activities in the area so make a day of it! And don't forget, we are open Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Years Day!
So, you've decided to visit the beautiful Lowveld, and you are wondering what to do, what to do?!
Number 1 on anyone's list is probably Kruger National Park - its what we're famous for, after all! And it truly is amazing. Bear in mind though, you are not going to the zoo, so having a "checklist" that you want tick off might end with you being disappointed. Rather approach every sighting as a new, exciting opportunity - hopefully for a great photograph, and definitely for creating memorable moments. Stay safe, don't do anything that places you or the animals in danger, drive slowly. Make sure you are carrying lots of drinks in the hot summer, as it can be quite a distance between rest sites - and also bear in mind that this also means a long time between toilet stops!
Number 2, well, I would be remiss if I didn't put Perry's Bridge Reptile Park in here! I won't say anything else, everything you need to know is right here on the website and you can always contact us if you have any further questions!
Number 3 - did you know that Blyde River Canyon is the third largest canyon in the world, and the largest green canyon? That makes it an absolute must-see - though visibility is affected by weather so look for a beautiful clear day if you want a beautiful clear view - and WHAT A VIEW it is! There are lots of stops along the way, including Burke's Luck Potholes, Three Rondavels, The Pinnacle. The little town of Graskop is home to the famous Harrie's Pancakes, a great (but busy) lunch stop, and historic Pilgrim's Rest is just a stones throw away.
Number 4 - on the subject of geological formations, Sudwala Caves is on the other side of Sabie, and is set in beautiful surroundings. The tours leave every half hour, you will be accompanied by an informative guide, and the formations in the cave are spectacular. There is also a dinosaur park on site which is great for kids!
Other things to do....
Skyway Trails, an aerial cable trail through the forest, as well as a fun rope course right next door to us!
Induna adventures and Nkosi river rafting - two adventure specialists (think rafting, quads, horses, ziplines....)
Elephant interaction - two operators! A few people comment that it is an expensive activity - but it is such an incredible experience that you should try to fit it into your budget.
And....having just returned from the Cape, where a shark experience with 32 other people set us back R1300 each, I think the prices charged locally here are in fact, very reasonable!
And on that note, hope to see you here soon :)
Christmas in the Lowveld - Hazyview goes from "Lazyview" to "Crazyview" in just a few short days! Having worked in the lodge business for many years, here is my "2 cents worth" if you are planning to visit the Lowveld over the December/January holiday season, be it Nelspruit, Hazyview, the Panorama Route, or any of the surrounding areas.....GET IN EARLY!!! While we at Perry's Bridge Reptile Park are fortunately not subject to number restrictions, many activities are and at this time of year they are often fully booked, sometimes weeks in advance. Think game drives, river rafting, Skyway Trails, Elephant sanctuaries....all of these activities can only handle a limited number of people, and if your holiday enjoyment is dependent upon their availability, make sure you pre-book....NOW.
I could not believe the number of people that used to phone me from the lodge gate on Christmas eve to find out if we have accomodation for the next three nights please? At 9pm in the evening, often with small kids in the car, they were now bleary eyed and desperate, and my best advice was to keep driving to Nelspruit where some of the bigger hotels might still have some space. Christmas dinner at a restaurant in Hazyview? Do your research - only a very few are open, and most will be booked far ahead of time.
Kruger Park itself has gate restrictions which see droves of people turned away over the busiest days of the holidays - the rules change regularly as to whether you can book your day entry pass in advance, so check directly with SANParks - if you can't then make sure you arrive WELL BEFORE the gate opens at 5.30 am - I have had clients arrive at 4.30am and STILL find themselves waiting in a queue!
Of course, all of this isn't meant to put you off visiting this beautiful part of the world, rather to suggest that a little bit of preparation will ensure that your trip to this little piece of paradise runs smoothly and you get the well-deserved break you are looking for.
If you have any questions about our opening hours over this period, please consult the website, or give me a call directly on 0847311563!
PERRY'S BRIDGE REPTILE PARK WILL BE OPEN CHRISTMAS DAY, BOXING DAY, AND NEW YEAR'S DAY!!
Carolyn Budai, owner and passionate animal person.