Waterval Boven and the Elands Valley
The picturesque town of Waterval Boven lies at the head of the Elands Valley, nestled among the Drakensberg mountains in Mpumalanga. This scenic area is characterized by the dramatic cliffs of the escarpment, cascading waterfalls and tumbling rivers and streams. The indigenous plant life plays host to a wide variety of bird species and a rare Cycad is found here together with an endemic species of small scaled Yellowish. The climate is relatively stable – summers are generally hot with afternoon thundershowers and warm evenings while winters are characterized by crisp clear days and cold nights.
The imposing sheer red sandstone cliffs stand guard over the Elands River Valley, which is home to no less than three national monuments – the old ZASM Railway Tunnel (212m long) which used to house the only funicular railway system in the country; the Five Arch Bridge, a bit further down the Elands River which was built of imported dressed stone in 1890 and the Krugerhof Museum in Waterval Onder which was the last home of President Paul Kruger. The mountains hold the graves of many Boer and British soldiers who fought here giving rise to a popular ghost story involving a certain British soldier and his Boer mistress. Local legend also has it that the Kruger Millions are buried somewhere in these mountains, although no one’s saying exactly where!
The peace and tranquility of the region may lead one to believe that this is just another sleepy hollow but the mountains are a veritable playground for outdoor enthusiasts and the activities on offer include rock climbing, abseiling, horse riding, river rafting, hiking and mountain biking. More sedate alternatives include fly-fishing (both in dams and along the Elands River), bird watching, swimming, rifle shooting and bowls. The village plays host to annual events such as the Rock Rally Climbing Competition and an annual trout fishing festival. It also serves as the starting point of the popular Elands Valley Marathon.
Waterval Boven offers the visitor an array of accommodation facilities including guest cottages, chalets, lodges (with B&B and self catering options) and a holiday resort as well as restaurants and a pub. Down in the Elands Valley, visitors will find B&B’s, guest farms, country inns and a five star lodge. There are also more local restaurants and pubs where visitors can enjoy typical country hospitality and maybe even bump into some of the interesting local characters.
Access via road and rail is relatively simple with Waterval Boven being situated just off the N4 toll route which passes through the Elands Valley on its way to Nelspruit, The Kruger National Park and eventually Maputo.