The Blyde River Canyon (recently renamed the Motlatse) is the
third deepest canyon in the world (after the Grand Canyon in the
western U.S. and Namibia's Fish Eagle Canyon). It ranks as one of the
most spectacular sights in Africa.
This great Escarpment is the kind of place where brochures and guide
books run out of original adjectives to describe the fresh mountain
scenery and magnificent panoramic views over cliffs rising 600m-800m
from the river bed. The entire canyon extends over twenty 12.5 miles in
Blyde Canyon cuts through the Drakensberg Mountain Range, one of the
seven major mountain systems in Africa. The botanical wonders of these
high altitude afromontane forests can be witnessed while walking some
unforgettable trails laid out under the forest canopy.
Beneath the Canyon the
Blyde River also yields the
unique and critically threatened Lowveld Riparian Forest, which now
covers only 100 hectares in extent.
Blyde River is dammed at the
mouth of the Canyon to create the Blyde Dam at
Swadini. Enter the Canyon
from the Lowveld (the bottom, signposted to Swadini), head to
Blydesrivierpoort, and you can take boat trips across the Dam to the
spectacular Tufa waterfalls, arrange canoeing, rock-climbing or
abseiling activities, or simply hike into the great outdoors.
There is an information centre at the end of the road with excellent
views over the dam; prior to this there are viewpoints and (approaching
from Aventura Swadini), the waterfall trail up to the Kadishi Tufa is
signposted around halfway along on the right, followed by a path down to
the dam wall on the left.
Blydesrivierpoort is a dead-end, and you will need to return to the
Lowveld in order to head up for a view down from the top. Climb up onto
the Escarpment through the Strydom Tunnel (signposts direct you towards
After the tunnel, at the Abel Erasmus Pass, there is the opportunity to
see one of the rarest birds in the world. The presence of the Taita
Falcon in South Africa was discovered only in the 1990s. There is
currently a nesting pair in the mountains opposite the curio sellers at
the Strydom Tunnel (look for the sign painted onto a rock simply
advertising the 'Place of Bird').
Map of the Panorama Route
There are then some spectacular sights in quick succession as you follow
the road along the rim of the Canyon (turn left onto the Panorama Road
(R532/ R534) at the top).
Three Rondavels are huge rock spirals rising out of the far wall of the
Where the Blyde and the Treur Rivers meet, water erosion has formed one
of the most remarkable geological phenomena in the country, known as
‘Bourke’s Luck Potholes’.
thousands of years, surreal cylindrical rock sculptures created by
whirling water, have formed a series of dark pools which contrast
spectacularly with the streaked white and yellow lichen-covered rocks.
Following the road and the Treur River south, there are further
spectacular viewpoints: Wonder View, God’s Window and the Pinnacle.