Big Swing – Graskop, South Africa

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

I stopped by the 68 metre freefall not one bit interested in trying it myself.



17 February 2012 | Nicolene Smalman:

Hefty fines have been imposed on the company that owns the Big Swing, and two employees who managed the tandem jump in which Ms Jo-Anne Samuels was killed on October 3, 2009. She undertook the jump with her husband, Capt Hendrik Samuels.

The couple plummeted to the bottom of the gorge of about 60 metres, where they struck a rock at great speed. …

Big Swing court case reaches a result

Pinnacle Rock, South Africa

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

The first stop for most tourists touring Blyde River Canyon is closest to Graskop — Pinnacle Rock.

Cost to park is $1. Ask for a receipt or the gate keeper may pocket your money.

The Pinnacle … is not all that impressive.


I enjoyed, however, hiking around the falls up on to the escarpment. Lovely views.





more photos

day hiking the Fanie Botha

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

I would have loved to trek famed multi-day Fanie Botha Trail in South Africa.

But the best I could do was to day hike sections:

• Lone Creek Falls
• Bridal Veil Falls
• Mac Mac Falls
• Mac Mac Pools

Lone Creek Falls, a National monument, is yet another of the dozens of impressive waterfalls close to Graskop, South Africa.



Nearby are the equally impressive, but much more popular, Bridal Veil Falls.

I parked at Ceylon Hut on the Fanie Botha, then ran to Bridal Veil. The trail here is signed for mountain bikes, as well.




From the base of the falls, there’s a rough scramble up the escarpment. Scenic and challenging.

Mac Mac Falls is another National monument. I’d been warned the weather here is often misty and/or rainy. But this was the only day I got the typical slogging in the fog.


Parking at Mac Mac Falls, I hiked both directions on the Fanie Botha. Towards President Burger Hut (… yep, that’s the real name) is was mellow forest trail.


Towards Graskop Hut you walk the top of a cliff. It must be very scenic, when the clouds are not so low.


I’m assuming those are the Mac-Mac Pools. :-)

I obviously did not hike far enough to reach the best of them.


Fanie Botha Trail, South Africa


A wonderful hike – well maintained, easy to follow, varied, great facilities and they even gave me the best possible weather without a drop of rain in the middle of the rainy season but the most remarkable thing was I didn’t see ONE other person on the entire trail…?


115km of hiking

3 days and 3 nights

Over 2500m of elevation gain …

Mix of mountains, rain forest, waterfalls, pools, ridges, creeks, pine plantations, long grasses and more!

Starting/end point: the town of Sabie (few hundred kms from Jo’burg and Pretoria in NE South Africa) …

Smorgasbord of South African Beauty – Fanie Botha Hiking Trail

Luny posted a good map.

click to see large version

click to see large version

Starting points are either at the Ceylon Hut (on Ceylon Plantation), or the President Burger Hut (at Mac Mac Forest Retreat), or the Graskop Hut (near the town of Graskop) and parking is available at these points only.

It’s easy to section hike the Fanie Botha, especially with those big loops.

South African Hikes:

Maritzbos two day trail, total distance 17.1 km

Maritzbos circular three night trail, total distance 30.1 km

Bonnet/Mac Mac Pools two day trail, total distance 39 km

Hartbeesvlakte two night trail, total distance 30.1 km

Mount Moodie/y four night trail, total distance 58.8 or 49.5 km

Fanie Botha five night trail, total distance 71.8 or 62.5 km

Go magazine has a terrific trip article by Anim van Wyk and photographer Lawrette McFarlane:

Opened in 1973, the Fanie Botha Hiking Trail between Sabie and Graskop is the first formally designated trail in the country. …

Be careful on the bridge over the Mac-Mac River in the rain – it’s very slippery.


You hike past the spectacular Mac-Mac Falls – a national monument – on Day 5.


Who was Fanie Botha?

In the 1960s, one Paul van Zyl did a master’s degree on the Appalachian Trail in the United States of America – a trail that stretches over 3500 km in the east of the country. On his return to South Africa he convinced Fanie Botha, then minister of forestry, that hiking trails were a way to make better use of plantations.

Botha’s plan was to develop one long trail from the Soutpansberg all along the escarpment to the Cederberg in the Western Cape. This dream was never realised.

On 11 and 12 May 1973, about 30 hikers hiked the 45 km from the Lone Creek Falls over Mount Anderson to the Mac-Mac Falls, where Botha then officially opened the trail.

Botha promulgated legislation for the national hiking trail system and enabled the establishment of the National Hiking Trail Council in 1975. He could be called “the father of hiking” in South Africa.

There are four huts on the trail:

Ceylon Hut. This was the name of one of the first plantations in the former Transvaal.

Maritzbos Hut. It’s named after the Maritz family to which this piece of land once belonged. They felled trees to make supports for mine shafts.

Stables Hut. It used to be a mule stable. Mules are still used to drag out felled trees.

President Burgers Hut. It’s named after the president of the ZAR between 1872 and 1877.

The grand old man of Mpumalanga

If you want to sleep in the huts, contact Komatiland ECOTourism, Komatiland Booking office, Nelspruit:

Telephone: (013) 754 2724
Fax: (012) 481 3622

related – Philip Jacobson VIDEO highlights

Bourke’s Luck Potholes

EVERYONE drives South Africa’s Blyde canyon highways carefully, dodging potholes. Yet EVERYONE stops at the Bourke’s Luck Potholes:

Sustained kolks in the Treur River’s plunge pools have eroded a number of cylindrical potholes or giant’s kettles, which can be viewed from the crags above. It was named after a local prospector, Tom Bourke, who predicted the presence of gold, though he found none himself. The pedestrian bridges connect the various overlooks of the potholes and the gorge downstream. …





It really is a well done tourist attraction.

more photos

Parking permit required. ($5)

Fitzroy and Cerro Torre

My hiking partner from Manaslu last year is in Patagonia.

He got some (rare) good weather at Fitzroy.

Mike Howarth:

Riding in to El Chalten there before me stood the Fitzroy massif bathed in sunlight. Monte Fitzroy, Cerro Torre, Poincenot, Inominata and many more …


After two days of fine weather, clear views of Fitzroy and Cerro Torre my business here is done. Autumn begins and its time to head north and begin the next leg of the journey; The Carretera Austral.

El Chalten: Fickle Weather and Enchanting Granite