South Africa: Blyde River Canyon

Blyde River Canyon is the third largest in the world and one of South Africa's scenic wonders. Set against the Greater Drakensberg Escarpment, the Blyde River Canyon area encompasses some of the most dramatic scenery in South Africa. Unique geological features at Bourke's Luck Potholes, Three Rondavels and Gods Window are not to be missed.

The scenery of the 25 000 ha reserve is unsurpassed, its vegetation both varied and lush and the rich selection of birdlife includes a breeding colony of the rare bald ibis.

The Blyde River Canyon can be reached from Graskop via R532. The Canyon starts at Bourke's Luck Potholes and ends at the Three Rondavels.

A public road runs along the long western boundary and there is easy access to beauty spots like The Pinnacle, God's Window with its kloof-framed view of the Lowveld, Bourke's Luck, and a lookout point pointing on The Three Rondavels. These are unusually shaped hillocks that are also visible from the Aventura Blydepoort Resort, a short distance to the north. Where the swift-flowing Blyde River is joined by the Ohrigstad River from the west engineers built an unobtrusive dam wall in a bottleneck below the confluence to form the Blyde Dam.

Wildlife in the canyon area is as varied as the habitats. There are mountain reedbuck on the escarpment, dassies on the canyon walls, hippo and crocodile in the Blyde Dam, and impala, kudu, blue wildebeest, waterbuck and zebra on the Lowveld plain near the canyon's mouth.

At Bourke's Luck a network of pathways and footbridges allows visitors to explore the potholes (some of which are 6 m deep) at the confluence of the Blyde and Treur rivers. The Potholes are very impressive rock formations that were shaped millions of years ago by erosion. The bizarre swirl holes developed when the once rapid river carried masses of sand and debris.

More places of interest in South Africa

Addo Elephant National Park | Cape Town | Hluhluwe & Umfolozi | Knysna | Kruger National Park | Orange River | Oudtshoorn | Pilgrim's Rest | Pretoria | South Drakensberg | St Lucia | Tsitsikamma National Park | Zuurberg National Park