Although South Africa’s Mpumalanga province is better known as “the place where the sun rises”, it is also the place where the waterfalls. Renowned for its magnificent natural wonders and panoramas guaranteed to beautify your Instagram feed, the province boasts a higher density of waterfalls than anywhere else in Southern Africa. Impressive waterfalls flow over steep cliffs on this edge of the Drakensberg escarpment. Set amid dramatic landscapes, each one is enchanting in its own unique way. Most of them are located between the towns of Sabie and Graskop, while others are in close proximity to these two towns.
The Berlin Falls, in the historic Blyde River Canyon area, is the second-highest waterfall in the province after the nearby Lisbon Falls and one of the most spectacular. It is also a national monument. A stone plaque confirming the waterfall’s national status from 1983 can be seen when you visit the falls.
A leisurely meander along the aptly named Panorama Route will take you to the falls. It is possible to self-drive there. Once you have parked your vehicle in the demarcated parking lot, you can walk to the observation platform via a descending walkway. Be careful in rainy weather, as the paving stones may become slippery. There are safety barriers preventing one from falling all the way down, though.
Around 80 meters (or 260 feet) high, the Berlin Falls is shaped like a huge white candle when in full flow. Water from the Sabie River falls through a natural sluice in the rock, plunging down for several meters in a narrow channel (like a candle wick), then widening into a broader torrent (like a candlestick) before eventually crashing dramatically into a deep, round jade pool. The sheer, rugged, red cliffs and sprawling green forests and hills which surround the basin, provide a striking contrast, especially when seen from the observation platform.
The waterfall is at its most impressive during spring and summer (October to March), when the water flow is at its highest. High volumes of summer rainfalls ensure that this part of the country has the best waterfalls in Southern Africa.
Look out for South Africa’s national flower – the protea – especially, the endemic Blyde River protea (Protea Iaetans), a beautiful and vibrant blossom. Normally seen in the Cape Floral Kingdom, it is also found in this region.
If you are a birding enthusiast, you’ll be pleased to know that there is diverse birdlife in the area, including several species of raptors, especially along the cliffs around the falls. It is advisable to take your binoculars and birding guides with you.
There is a small entrance fee to view the falls, as it is situated on forest land. Visitors to the falls can explore the area on foot, and even enjoy a picnic overlooking the falls. It is not possible to go to the bottom of the falls, though. There are also curio stalls in the complex where local artisans sell handmade arts and crafts.
In case you are wondering why a waterfall in South Africa is named after a German city, there is a simple reason for this. Like the Lisbon Falls, the Berlin Falls was named by European gold prospectors seeking their fortune during the Barberton Gold Rush in the 19 the century. Feeling nostalgic, they named the individual waterfalls after places in their home countries.
Once you’ve admired the falls to your heart’s content, you can explore the surrounding region. There are several other charming waterfalls in the area, breath-taking vistas like God’s Window, the Blyde River Canyon – which holds the title of the world’s greenest canyon, the Bourkes Luck potholes rock formations, and the world-famous Kruger National Park game reserve.
Thank you to Sara Essop of In Africa and Beyond for permission to share the photograph.