Mpumalanga’s scenic Panorama Route will soon have a new Adventure Hub that will give visitors to the area even more to do!
The development is part of the second phase of the Graskop Gorge Lift Co, the first phase of which opened in December 2017.
Renowned for its spectacular beauty and many natural attractions – such as the Sabie, Lisbon, Berlin and Mac Mac waterfalls; God’s Window; the Blyde River Canyon; Bourke’s Luck Potholes; and the Three Rondawels – the Panorama Route is on the north-eastern section of the Great Escarpment of the Drakensberg.
“While it is an established tourist destination for domestic and international tourists, few new tourist developments in recent years meant that the area developed a bit of been-there, seen-that reputation. Compounding the matter was the scant attention paid to the maintenance of the many existing natural attractions by the local authorities,” says Oupa Pilane, one of the directors of the Graskop Gorge Lift Co.
The opening of the viewing lift that transports people 51m down into the gorge for a magical forest experience, brought new life to the region, says Pilane, who is also the president of the Kruger Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism.
In its first year, 128 000 people visited the site and 63 411 paid to go down the lift and into the forest below.
Work is now under way to bring the second phase of the development on line. This includes a suspension bridge linking the southern side of the gorge, where the lift is situated, with the northern side, which houses the Big Swing. A walkway will be built around the edge of the gorge as an alternative means of access to either side.
The Adventure Hub will include a number of activities: the lift and forest experience, the 70-metre free-fall Big Swing, the 130m zipline, guided electric bike trails through the wonderful scenery on the northern side; walking trails and mountain bike trails.
The Big Swing centre is to be given an overhaul, while additional walkways, interpretation boards and seating areas will be created to expand the existing 600m forest trail at the bottom of the gorge.
In addition, mountain bike trail experts and a resident-driven conservation group will help rehabilitate and create new trails along the part of the Jock of the Bushveld hiking trail known as Fairyland because of its magical scenery and several sandstone formations eroded into fanciful shapes. Fairyland is comprised of open grassland and a small indigenous forest.
“We will continue to uphold our commitment of making this beautiful area more accessible without damaging the environment,” says fellow director Campbell Scott, a tourism entrepreneur and wildlife enthusiast.
He is excited about the possibilities offered by Fairyland to explore the Panorama Route’s majestic beauty. “People will be able to walk or cycle all way to the Pinnacle Gorge, through some wonderful vegetation.”
On the infrastructure side, the viewing lift will be fitted with an air-conditioner and glass doors, the road leading to the Graskop Gorge Lift Co entrance will be reworked to allow for increased traffic, and new perimeter fencing will be installed. Inside the property, a casual outdoor food area will be created to complement the Life Café, which serves sit-down meals.
“We are working hard to uplift the Panorama Route’s tourism experience and will continue to work with various stakeholders to increase the region’s visitor numbers. We trust that by creating an adventure hub that entices people to spend more time in the area, we will indirectly benefit the tourist towns in close proximity,” says James Sheard, the third director and owner of nearby Misty Mountain and the Long Tom Toboggan.
“The Panorama Route is great as a stopover to the Kruger Park but with its magnificence and many world-known attractions, it should be a destination in its own right,” says Sheard.