Day 2: The Three Rondavels and the Blyde River Canyon
Yes I know you all wait for the lions and the big 5, but since I am planning this trip for my overseas guests, I want to take it easy so you all can properly acclimatise first. Lions ARE coming!!!
First let me brag ab it about South Africa’s stunning landscapes. The photos shared except for the one panorama one are all my own, please do not steal them, I am so proud of them.
Get your own camera ready and let’s drive on to the amazing Blyde River Canyon, a significant natural feature of South Africa, located in Mpumalanga, and forming the northern part of the Drakensberg escarpment. I have been to the Grand Canyon in the USA, and the Blyde River Canyon makes a worthy competitor. It is 16 miles (26 km) in length and is, on average, around 2,500 feet (762 m) deep. The Blyderivierpoort Dam, when full, is at an altitude of 665m (2182 feet). The Canyon consists mostly of red sandstone. The highest point of the canyon, Mariepskop, is 6,378 feet (1,944 m) feet above sea level whilst its lowest point is slightly less than 1,840 feet (561 m) above sea level. This means that by some measure the Canyon is over 4,500 feet (1,372 m) deep.
While it is difficult to compare canyons world-wide, Blyde River Canyon is one of the largest canyons on Earth, and it may be the largest ‘green canyon’ due to its lush subtropical foliage. It has some of the deepest precipitous cliffs of any canyon on the planet. It is the second largest canyon in Africa, after the Fish River Canyon, and is known as one of the great wonders of nature on the continent.
Blyde means “glad” or “happy” in Dutch, a name derived from a voortrekkers‘ expedition. The ‘happy river’ was thus named in 1844, when Hendrik Potgieter and others returned safely from Delagoa Bay to the rest of their party of trekkers who had considered them dead. While still under this misapprehension they had named the nearby river where they had been encamped, Treurrivier, or ‘mourning river’.
The Blyde River canyon supports large diversity of life, including numerous fish and antelope species as well as Hippos and Crocodiles, and every primate species that may be seen in South Africa (including both Greater and Lesser Bush Babies, Vervet Monkeys and Samango Monkeys). The diversity of birdlife is similarly high, including the beautiful and much sought Narina Trogon as well as species such as the Cape Vulture, Black Eagle, Crowned Eagle, African Fish Eagle, Gymnogene, Jackal Buzzard, Whitebacked Vulture, Bald Ibis, African Finfoot, Knysna Lourie, Purple-crested Lourie, Gurney’s Sugarbird, Malachite Sunbird, Cinnamon Dove, Emerald Cuckoo, Red-backed Mannikin, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Olive Bush Shrike, Green Twinspot, Taita Falcons (very rarely sighted, a breeding pair lives in the nearby Abel Erasmus Pass), Cape Eagle Owl, White-faced Owl, Wood Owl, Peregrine Falcon, Black-breasted Snake Eagle, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Long-crested Eagle, Jackal Buzzard, Lanner Falcon, Red-breasted Sparrowhawk, Rock Kestrel and others.