Wild Frontier of Mpumalanga
it the Wild Frontier of Mpumalanga and take a trip back in time to the days of the Barberton gold rush and beyond in a landscape of ancient mountains where leopards and hyenas track their prey through woodlands and ravines haunted by the ghosts and ruins left by long-forgotten tribes.
In 1902, Jan Smuts described the Wild Frontier of Mpumalanga’s Mkhonjwa mountains as ‘one of the virgin corners of the continent, garnished with some of the most magnificent scenery in all Africa’. Fortunately, nothing has changed: the Wild Frontier is a natural time machine going far back into historical and geological time.
DID YOU KNOW?
Barberton is the only town in South Africa to have a plant named after it: the Barberton daisy.
Bordering on Mozambique, Swaziland and the southern extremity of the Kruger National Park, the Wild Frontier of Mpumalanga’s nucleus consists of the historic towns of Barberton, Komatipoort, Kaapmuiden and Badplaas. Barberton in particular is perhaps the quintessential frontier town, site of South Africa’s first gold rush in 1884. You can spend a couple days just exploring the museums and monuments, including the first South African stock exchange and the Victorian houses along Heritage Walk.
From Barberton on out, old wagon roads take you past the ghost mining town of Eureka into one of the world’s most ancient landscapes. The Makhonjwa Mountains enjoy the status of a ‘Centre of Biological Endemism’, thanks to the plant and animal species nurtured by protected mountain catchment areas. Mountainlands Nature Reserve, just 10 minutes from Barberton, is the centre of a proposed World Heritage Site as the hub of the Archaean Greenstone Belt, containing rocks and life forms more than 3 billion years old. Some of the finest Mpumalanga camping sites are here.
The mountainlands also contain Songimvelo Game Reserve, Mpumalanga’s biggest at 50 000 hectares. Buffalo, kudu, giraffe, elephant, white rhino, brown hyena and leopard are among the creatures roaming its grassy plains, woodlands and forested ravines, which are interspersed with rock paintings and archaeological remains dating back as far as 400 BC.
Explore at your own pace – the Wild Frontier has among the best Mpumalanga caravan sites. Drive slowly, especially in the rainy season, and watch out for local Swazi cattle.