The Highlands Meander is situated in the higher reaches of the escarpment and it is positioned between the Cultural Heartland and the Panorama Route regions of Mpumalanga. It is situated only two to three hours from Gauteng and includes the towns of Belfast, Burgersfort, Dullstroom, Lydenburg, Machadodorp, Waterval Boven and Waterval Onder with a couple of tiny villages in between.
The Mpumalanga Highlands Meander winds amongst majestic mountains that plummet into bushveld, rolling hills, pristine rivers and spectacular kloofs. The imposing mountains and rivers of the Mpumalanga Highlands presents the opportunity for adrenaline junkies offering activities such as rock climbing, abseiling, canoeing, hot air ballooning and paragliding to mention just a few.
The Highlands Meander offers a heady mix of outdoor adventure like off-road trails and cliff-climbing combined with gentler pursuits like trout fishing and hiking. Or you could just park off behind a telescope and watch the amazing night skies as the universe displays its sparkly jewels.
South Africa's Highlands Meander begins on the outskirts of Belfast, a charming high-altitude grassland village on the R540 towards Dullstroom where you can stop and admire a number of historic old wood and iron buildings.
But if you feel like draught beer and pan-fried trout in the high country, then the charming town of Dullstroom beckons. They call this area the trout triangle - a land where fly-fishing rules. But the world of trout fishing is not the only reason to visit the area: three indigenous species of crane call the region home: the blue, the crowned and the wattled cranes and astounding wild flowers proliferate. This is also where, if you are very, very lucky, you may glimpse South Africa's only breeding community of black leopards.
But there's more! There are still some old-timers in the district who make their own moonshine. These ‘stokers’ still use their original decades-old kettles to brew witblitz (literally meaning ‘white lightning', a potent form of schnapps) for visitors to taste - but make sure you have a good hangover remedy at hand!
Next stop is the Kwena Basin, two valleys nudged up against the Steenkampsberg range, halfway between Lydenburg and Belfast. This quiet part of Mpumalanga had been a crop-and-cattle farming area for decades. Now tourism is in the basin, complete with off-roaders, weekend honeymooners and star watchers who take to the heavens via giant telescopes.
Continue on Mpumalanga's Highlands Meander to beautiful Emgwenya (Waterval Boven), where rock climbers gather and have created special names for each ascent route of the many crags in the area. "Dances with Wombats", "Nuns on the Run", "Atomic Aardvark", "Shrine of the Sea Monkeys", "Route of All Evil", "Curse of the Armadillo" - they all vie with "Gretchen Goes To Nebraska" for most evocative ascent route title.
The region is rich in natural and historical heritage, including the nearby Elands River Waterfall (the second longest in Mpumalanga), the historical NZASM railway tunnel and the Dutch-built Five Arch Bridge. Not to mention the countless Anglo Boer War sites in the region, and the last home of the President of the Boer Republic, Paul Kruger’s house at nearby Waterval Onder.