Blyde River (Motlatse) Canyon – South Africa

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Blyde River Motlatse Canyon
Blyde River Motlatse Canyon Nature Reserve

The Blyde River (MotlatseCanyon is the third largest canyon in the world and lies within the eponymous Nature Reserve of the Republic of South Africa, with an area of ​​290 km 2. Blyde River Canyon stretches for 50 kilometers from the northern border of the small town of Graskop ( Graskop ) in the province of Mpumalanga ( Mpumalanga ) to pass the Abel Erasmus ( the pass of Abel the Erasmus ) in the Drakensberg Mountains, below the confluence of the Blyde and Treur rivers.

Blyde River Motlatse Canyon 2
Blyde River Motlatse Canyon Nature Reserve


Blyde River (Motlatse) Canyon is the result of centuries of erosion, when the waters of the Blyde River cut a deep (up to 800 meters) gorge through the thickness of red sandstone. The Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve is undoubtedly one of the most interesting and spectacular geological features in South Africa. From the edge of the canyon, visitors have stunning views of the layered rock walls of the canyon all the way to the Lowveld plain.

The geological structure and climate of this high plateau have contributed to the formation of many waterfalls, many of which are very beautiful and accessible, for example, the Kadishi Tufa Waterfall) 200 meters high. Others are hidden in the depths of one of the world’s largest artificial forest plantations of pine and eucalyptus, located next to the Nature Reserve.

Blyde River Motlatse Canyon 3
Blyde River Motlatse Canyon Nature Reserve

The famous Panorama Route runs along the bends of the canyon and allows you to see major natural wonders such as the Bourke’s Luck Potholes, the Three Rondavels, the Pinnacle Rock and “God’s Window”. “Three Rondavel” or “Three Sisters” (the Three Sisters) Are three massive spiral pieces of dolomite rock that rise up against the far wall of the canyon.

Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve

It looks like someone took a giant paintbrush and splashed bright colors on the rocks in all shades of orange and green – the domed peaks are covered with green lichen, and the lichens on the side walls are fiery orange. From the “Three Rondavels” area you can see the huge Swadini Dam at a distance of 1.6 km, which marks the end of the reserve. The Pinnacle Rock is another quartzite column that rises from the bottom of the wooded part of the Blyde River (Motlatse) Canyon and successfully complements the already delightful general panorama.

Blyde River Motlatse Canyon 4
Blyde River Motlatse Canyon Nature Reserve

At the confluence of the Blyde River Motlatse Canyon (River of Joy) and Treur (River of Sorrow) rivers, water erosion has created an amazing geological formation. In the Bourke’s Luck Potholes, rushing streams of water have labored for thousands of years to form fantastic cylindrical sculptures, grottoes and rounded pools. Smooth red and yellow stones contrast beautifully with the dark water.

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Blyde River Motlatse Canyon Nature Reserve

The God’s Window is the most famous of the many vantage points on the Panoramic Route, offering breathtaking views of the Drakensberg Mountains and their surroundings on a clear day, all the way to Kruger National Park and neighboring Mozambique. When you look “through God’s window”, there is a feeling of immeasurable happiness that you had a chance to see this incredible beauty, because our life is measured not by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments when we catch our breath.

Blyde River (Motlatse) Canyon Nature Reserve: How to get there

The nearest international airport is in Johannesburg – “Johannesburg OR Tambo International Airport” . To get to the Blyde River (Motlatse) Canyon Nature Reserve, you need to go from the international terminal at Johannesburg Airport to the domestic terminal. From here you can take a flight to one of four settlements – Hoedspruit (Hoedspruit), Nelspruit (Nelspruit), Phalaborwa (Phalaborwa) or Skukuza (the Skukuza). You should be prepared for the fact that from the named cities to the Blyde River Canyon you will have to get by taxi or car.

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Blyde River Motlatse Canyon Nature Reserve

Aircraft to Khudspruit fly three times a day – at 10.15, 12.15 and 12.20. Flight time – from 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes. Tickets cost from 140 USD. Khudspruit lies 53 kilometers from the reserve, a taxi will take you in 1 hour and 20 minutes, the trip will cost 40-55 USD.

Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve

Four planes depart daily to Nelspruit, the first of which departs at 9.00, and the last at 15.30. There are 5 more flights, but they fly only on certain days of the week – at 7.00 (Mon-Fri), 9.30 (except Wednesday), 16.30 (Sun), 17.15 (Mon-Fri) and 18.05 (except Saturday)… The flight time is from 40 to 50 minutes, the ticket price is from 90 USD. The taxi fare from Nelspruit to the reserve is from 100 to 130 USD, the distance is 134 km, the travel time is about 3 hours.

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Blyde River Motlatse Canyon Nature Reserve

There are two flights from Johannesburg to Phalaborwa – at 11.45 and 15.30. Moreover, the first flight is operated daily, and the second – only from Monday to Friday. The flight time is 1 hour 10 minutes, the ticket price is from 130 USD. From Phalaborwa to Blyde River Motlatse Canyon Nature Reserve – about 125 km, a taxi will cost from 95 to 120 USD and will take about 2.5 hours.

There are two daily flights to Skukuza – at 10.00 and at 13.20. Travel time 50 minutes, ticket price – from 110 USD. From Skukuza to the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve – just under 210 km. The journey by car will take about 4.5 – 5 hours, fuel will cost 20-30 USD. The cost of car rental in Skukuza is from 25 USD per day.

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Blyde River Motlatse Canyon Nature Reserve

Renting a car at Johannesburg Airport will cost about the same. If you are going to travel by car to Blyde River Motlatse Canyon, then you have to cover a distance of approximately 470 kilometers, which can take up to 6.5 hours.

Life Hacks in Blyde River (Motlatse) Canyon

Blyde River (Motlatse) Canyon Nature Reserve is open to the public all year round. Winter months are considered a good time to travel – from the beginning of June to the end of August, when there is no sweltering heat, but in the summer period (October – March) there are significantly fewer rainy and cloudy days.

The entrance to the reserve is free.

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Blyde River Motlatse Canyon Nature Reserve

The main attraction of the Blyde River (Motlatse) Canyon Nature Reserve is the magnificent views. Therefore, the main activities of tourists are hiking and horseback riding, cycling, boat trips to the Blyde Dam and fishing. The routes are laid out in such a way as to be easily overcome by people of any age and skill level. To the services of fans of extreme recreation – rafting, hot air ballooning and helicopter flights. Whichever type of vacation you choose for yourself, be sure to stock up on sturdy boots, a camera and binoculars, as well as swimwear, sunscreen and a hat.

Please be aware that malaria is at risk in some areas of Mpumalanga Province. Remember to get all the necessary vaccinations before leaving.

One should visit the picturesque town of Graskop, which is worth a try delicious local pancakes and buy original souvenirs of local craftsmen.


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