10 things you didn’t know about Nelspruit


Nelspruit is considered to be the gateway to Mpumalanga as well as the gateway to the Kruger National Park – so think Big 5, safari adventures, bushveld and the big outdoors. Officially renamed Mbombela two years ago, it’s still fondly (stubbornly) referred to as Nelspruit.

Mbombela means “many people in a small space” and, fittingly, it’s also fully packed with places to see and lots of history.

Places to visit and things to do

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1. The Sudwala Caves

Not for the claustrophobic, these are the oldest caves on earth. You’ll also find the oldest dolomite chamber in the world. Thought to be over 3,000 million years old, these caves have a ceiling made of fossilised, potentially 2,000-million-year-old algae colonies known as stramatolites – one of the earliest forms of life discovered in Southern Africa. Arrange a private tour of the Crystal Chamber – you won’t regret it!

2. The Dinosaur Park

If you’re expecting to re-enact Jurassic Park, you’ll be disappointed. If you’re expecting to learn about the world’s biggest prehistoric reptiles in an outdoor setting – you’ll love it. The kids will love it too. And the best part? You can walk through the park without worrying about being chomped by a live T-Rex.

3. The Chimpanzee Eden

The Jane Goodall Institute has made this tranquil venue their Nelspruit sanctuary and it brings the world of chimpanzees closer to humanity through education and eco-tourism. Go on – meet your primate cousins!

4. Lowveld National Botanical Gardens

Just outside of Nelspruit you’ll find a rare collection of plant species and the world’s first man-made rainforest. Located where the Nels and Crocodile Rivers meet, you’ll encounter one of the biggest cycad gardens on the planet, as well as a large collection of South African fig trees. Another unmissable tree: the famous baobab.

5. Adventure Skydives

Fancy jumping out of a plane and plummeting to the ground below? Go skydiving! You can wet your pants at 10,000 feet in the air – it’s a real thrill!

Food to taste and places to eat in Nelspruit

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6. Costa do Sol

The oldest restaurant in Nelspruit, Costa do Sol still has its original charm and elegance. You’ll enjoy the Italian and Portuguese influenced menu – expect classic favourites and novel combinations, as well as a varied wine list. I solidly recommend you try one of the Portuguese imports!

7. Carisma Cocktail Lounge

If you’re looking for a liquid dinner, this is the place to go in Nelspruit. Your taste buds will become intoxicated by the creations of professional mixologists.

8. Kadai Restaurant

Set your mouth on fire with delicious Indian cuisine. On the menu you’ll find things like hot garlic chicken wings, fish tikka straight from the tandoor, crab masala, and whole fish pollichathu (marinated fish that is then wrapped in banana leaves and pan-fried) – so take a sense of adventure along with your appetite.

9. Old Joe’s Kaia

Well-known for its excellent grub and beautiful wines, meals at Old Joe’s are wholesome feasts with a country flair. Expect local trout, venison and ostrich to appear on your plate and disappear down your gullet. For the vegetarians, fresh vegetables and herbs are harvested from the vegetable garden. You can eat in the lounge-cum-dining area, or outside on the balcony, which is at treetop level. The views are smashing. As are the birds.

If you’re there on business

10. Nelspruit City Lodge

This is the ideal place to set up your temporary basecamp. It’s a central location that’s just off the N4 motorway, a mere 30 minutes from Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport, and it’s just a 2-minute drive to the Nelspruit CBD. With WiFi and a working desk you’ll have everything you need to keep in touch with the office back at home.

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