Mpumalanga is a province of South Africa. The name means “east”, or literally “the place where the sun rises” in the Swazi, Xhosa, Ndebele and Zulu languages. Mpumalanga lies in eastern South Africa, bordering Swaziland and Mozambique. It constitutes 6.5% of South Africa’s land area. It shares borders with the South African provinces of Limpopo to the north, Gauteng to the west, the Free State to the southwest, and KwaZulu-Natal to the south. The capital is Mbombela (Nelspruit).
The Drakensberg escarpment divides Mpumalanga into a westerly half consisting mainly of high-altitude grassland called the Highveld and an eastern half situated in low-altitude subtropical Lowveld/Bushveld, mostly savanna habitat. The southern half of the Kruger National Park is in the latter region. The Drakensberg exceeds heights of 2000 m in most places, with this central region of Mpumalanga being very mountainous. These regions have alpine grasslands and small pockets of Afromontane forest. The Lowveld is relatively flat with interspersed rocky outcrops. The Lebombo Mountains form a low range in the far east, on the border with Mozambique.
The Lowveld is subtropical, due to its latitude and proximity to the warm Indian Ocean. The Highveld is comparatively much cooler, due to its altitude of 2300 m to 1700 m above sea level. The Drakensberg escarpment receives the most precipitation, with all other areas being moderately well-watered by mostly summer thunderstorms. The Highveld often experiences severe frost, while the Lowveld is mostly frost-free.
Winter rainfall is rare, except for some drizzle on the escarpment. The differences in climate are demonstrated below by the capital, Mbombela, which is in the Lowveld, an hour from Belfast on the Highveld.
Some major tourist attractions include the Kruger National Park, Sudwala Caves and the Blyde River Canyon. Many activities including the big jump, mountain and quad biking, horse trails, river rafting and big game viewing are endemic to the region. This is “Big Five” territory. In 2008, a Haute Cuisine route was formed, trickling from Mbombela down to Hazyview. The Lowveld Gourmet Route covers the four top fine dining restaurants the area has to offer. The restaurants include Summerfields Kitchen, Oliver’s Restaurant and Orange.
The diverse and special flora and fauna of the province enjoys protection in a range of nature reserves, including:
- Blyderivierspoort Nature Reserve
- Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, previously known as Gaza-Kruger-Gonarezhou Transfrontier Park. This international game park brings together some of the best and most established wildlife areas in southern Africa. The park is managed as an integrated unit across an unprecedented three international boundaries which includes the Kruger National Park (South Africa), Limpopo National Park (Mozambique) and Gonarezhou National Park (Zimbabwe).
- Sabi Sand Game Reserve, which is built up of numerous private reserves: Nottens Bush Camp, Idube Safari Lodge, Chitwa Chitwa Game Lodge, Djuma Game Reserve, Exeter Game Lodge, Inyati Private Game Reserve, Leopard Hills Private Game Reserve, Lion Sands Private Game Reserve, Londolozi Game Reserve, Mala Mala Game Reserve, Savanna Private Game Reserve and Ulusaba Game Lodge.