Article updated on February 18, 2022
Text: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen
Photographs: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen
“Hug the rock! Just hug the rock!” I keep telling myself as the white waters in which I float like a cork violently smash into a big boulder downstream coming at me fast. The first rock that my gecko (a small one-person raft) went for had me capsize, as I naturally leaned away from it to try and minimise the damages. Approaching the boulder I hold on tight to my gecko as I am exploring one of South Africa’s most scenic rivers: the Sabie River.
The reason why Sabie was founded as it provided fresh water and a safe resting area for travellers and gold diggers, today the Sabie River may still be Sabie’s most precious resource. However, its primary forest got sacrificed for the development of the town between gold digging and timber needed to build houses of new settlers. Fast growing eucalyptus and pine trees were planted leading to what has become world’s largest man-made forest that is obvious to the visitor as one drives around and to the scenic Blyde River Canyon.
But the pristine primary forest still exists and the only way to discover it is from the white waters of the rivers surrounding Sabie. Whether canyoning (also called kloofing in South Africa) or geckoing, both allow a thrilling exploration of the untouched and wild banks covered in an explosion of green shades and bright flowers in which birds nest and hunt from.
Wading through the crystal clear waters while canyoning to the magnificent and powerful 65-metre high Mac Mac Falls, the narrow canyon is a fabulous playground. Sliding down trees to go around high waterfalls, climbing up roots, jumping into swimming holes, and sliding down natural toboggans, we slowly make it to a narrow gorge ending with a high waterfall. The pressure of its powerful waters on our heads before the strong current catapults us out is nothing compare to the blow of the Mac Mac falls that we experience from up close.
As we make our way up from the falls, dripping in our wetsuits and with helmets still tight on our heads, we eventually merge with the tourist path leading to the observation deck overlooking the Mac Mac falls from a distance. Puzzled then amused looks make us laugh. From here, there is no way to even imagine the beauty of the wild waters flowing down below and the surrounding pristine forests we have just explored…
- To explore the Sabie area, refer to Kestell Adventures, the excellent outfitter who offers canyoning, geckoing and more.
- If you feel like a more laid back way of experiencing the waters of Sabie, go to the Mac Mac pools where you enjoy the swimming holes.
- An even more laid back way of experiencing the crystal-clear waters of the Sabie River is to stop by the Sabie Brewing Company where home-brewed ales are crafted with passion.
- We warmly recommend you to stay at The Wayfarer’s by Chris and Merle in Sabie, whose excellent advice can be followed eyes closed. In their lovely and very comfortable bed & breakfast, you will be surrounded by Chris’ wildlife photographs and endless resources about the area and Kruger.
- Check out this interactive map for the specific details to help you plan your trip and more articles and photos (zoom out) about the area! Here is a short tutorial to download it.