The shadow of Mariepskop stretches long and inviting, a siren call for adventurers and nature enthusiasts alike. As the clouds weave their patterns, occasionally granting a peek into the vastness beyond, the horizon seems to whisper tales from ancient times, especially when the distant view reaches as far as Maputo on clearer days.
Please note: We’ve included the prices as a guideline – but although they were correct at the time of travel, they’re liable to change at the owner’s discretion. Please confirm with individual establishments before booking.
Mariepskop’s allure isn’t merely in the trails carved over time or the vistas that challenge the very definition of beauty. It lies in the tales, the legends, and the stories of those who hold it dear.
Guide Thabelo Sekome, with his vast knowledge and deep-rooted connection to the land, often speaks of his early enchantments with the trees of the mistbelt forest, the giants like the Outeniqua yellowwoods and the Transvaal oak. Yet, for every tourist in awe of Mariepskop from afar, few take the challenge to stand upon its peak, soaring at an impressive 1,945m.
Beyond its natural allure, Mariepskop stands as an ecological marvel, teeming with life, history, and significance. As of August 2021, this mountain found its place as an integral part of the expanded Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve.
The journey up its slopes is nothing short of transformative. Surrounded by radiant protea blooms, the endemic Helichrysum mariepscopicum, and the tales of battles fought and won, every step on Mariepskop is a step through time.
However, like many treasures, Mariepskop faces its set of challenges. From the shadows of illegal logging to the threats of poaching, the mountain’s guardians grapple with preserving its essence for future generations. Yet, like Thabelo’s tales of family legends and the mountain’s protective spirit, the stories keep hope alive.
With over 1,400 plant species, a landscape that transforms from fynbos to mistbelt forest within moments, and water sources that quench vast regions, Mariepskop is a testament to nature’s grandeur.
5 Ways To Explore Mariepskop
1. Take a Hike
Step into the wild heart of Mariepskop with trails like the enchanting Bush Pig Trail. While the paths are rich in wonders, signage is a tad elusive. Consider joining an expert guide, especially if you aim for the summit. For those keen on a more structured journey, consider Thabelo Sekome’s expertise or the offerings from Hoedspruit Hiking Club. And for a touch of luxury, Sable Tours offers unique ascents complete with champagne breakfasts.
2. Rent an e-bike
While only seasoned cyclists might dare to conquer Mariepskop on pure pedal power, Blyde Bikes in Hoedspruit offers a delightful alternative: e-bikes. These powered companions make the ascent more approachable, but don’t be fooled – the journey still promises thrilling inclines. Charting a course from the forestry gate, riders face a challenging 560m elevation over a 5.4km stretch. As you revel in the descent, a gentle reminder: mind those brakes.
Contact: [email protected]
3. Run it
Each year, the storied Kruger to Canyon trail run unveils an adventure beginning in the shadows of the Mariepskop school. This route resurrects forgotten paths, brought back to life with the wisdom of the area’s seasoned forestry guards and time-worn maps. Along the journey, runners are treated to breathtaking vistas of the Lowveld and mesmerizing cascades of waterfalls. This isn’t just any run: it’s a rigorous ascent into the canyon and a subsequent climb back, where nature’s obstacles – like intricate roots and slippery rocks – add to the challenge. Spanning either a 25km or 42km distance, this event invites participants to truly experience the heart and soul of the majestic Mariepskop mountain.
Contact: Tel 082 791 7069, www.kruger2canyonchallenge.co.za
4. Go boating
Embark on a 90-minute voyage along the captivating shores of the Blyderivierspoort Dam. Draped in a verdant cloak of wild figs, rubber euphorbias, milkwoods, and enticing waterberries, the shoreline reveals nature’s artistry at its finest. Constructed in 1972 at the meeting point of the Ohrigstad and Blyde rivers, this dam gracefully caresses the foothills of Mariepskop. It presents a serene gateway to the lush vegetation at the canyon’s base, promising an experience worth every penny.
Contact: Tel 081 487 2267, www.blydecanyon.co.za
5. Take to the skies
Elevate your senses with a mesmerizing helicopter flight over the Lowveld’s grandeur. Departing from Hoedspruit Civil Airfield, this aerial escapade offers a bird’s-eye view of the Blyderivierspoort Dam near Swadini, the iconic Bourkes Luck Potholes, and the majestic Three Rondavels. As you glide over cascading waterfalls, rugged cliffs, and verdant grasslands, the canyon’s vastness unfolds beneath you. While direct entry into the canyon remains restricted, this aerial voyage promises the closest vantage point to an eagle’s panoramic perspective. Starting at R10,465 for a one-hour visual feast, this experience accommodates up to three adventurers per flight. Dive into the sky and let the landscape narrate its tale.
Contact: Tel 083 615 7605, www.hopeforwildlife.africa
Accommodation in Mariepskop
1. Kruger Cliffs
Nestled amidst nature’s grandeur, our contemporary self-catering units promise a seamless blend of comfort and wilderness. Each haven boasts its splash pool, a refreshing outdoor shower, and unobstructed, awe-inspiring mountain vistas. Experience the magic of solitude and nature only with us.
Price: Starting at R1,590 pp pn, indulge in the luxury of self-sufficiency. Special rates for young adventurers under 12 at just R795
Contact: Tel 063 787 9779, www.krugercliffs.com
2. Forever Resorts
Embrace the scenic allure of the Panorama Route, perched at soaring altitudes along the canyon’s edge. Swadini presents budget-friendly retreats for the wandering soul. Delve into the cosy comforts of a one-bedroom chalet starting at R1,350 pn.
Contact: Tel 015 795 5141, www.foreverswadini.co.za
3. Umvangati House, Mariepskop
Discover the perfect fusion of contemporary design and mountain charm at Umvangati House. Here, every window unveils nature’s canvas, with sophistication subtly woven into every detail. Starting at R4,315 per room, step into a sanctuary where luxury is a silent promise. Elevate your stay only at Umvangati.
Contact: Tel 081 237 9706, www.umvangati.co.za
This article first appeared in the January 2022 issue of Getaway Magazine.
Words by Dianne Tipping-Woods
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