The Blyde River Canyon is the third largest canyon in the world, after the Grand Canyon in the United States and the Fish River Canyon in Namibia, and is the largest 'green canyon' due to its lush subtropical foliage, with the deepest precipitious cliffs of any canyon on the planet. One of the most-visited attractions in South Africa, the Blyde River Canyon is 26 kilometers in length and is, on average, around 800m deep. The Dam itself, when full, is at an altitude of 665m (2182 feet). The Blyde River Canyon Reserve extends along the Blyde River Canyon's winding path, which at every turn offers more and more impressive views over sheer edges dropping 800m into the riverbed.
BLYDE RIVER CANYON NATURE RESERVE
The Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve clothes the Canyon's winding path, which at every turn offers more and more spectacular views of the Drakensberg escarpment as it plummets to the Lowveld. The Blyde River Canyon empties into the Swadini - or Blydepoort - Dam, which has a number of resorts on its banks, and unencumbered views back up the escarpment. The entire Blyde River Canyon has a number of world-renowned attractions and activities. God's Window and Wonder View hint at the magnitude of the scenery, the 'Pinnacle' is a single quartzite column rising out of the deep wooded canyon and the ‘Three Rondavels' - three huge spirals of dolomite rock rising out of the far wall of the Blyde River canyon, stained with fiery orange lichen - are spectacular. At the meeting point of the Blyde River (river of joy) and the Treur River (river of sorrow) water erosion has created one of the most phenomenal geological phenomenon in South Africa - the ‘Bourke’s Luck Potholes’.
FLORA AND FAUNA
The rich and varied plant life supports an equally rich and varied fauna. Klipspringer and dassies find food and shelter in rocky areas. The grassland supports grey rhebuck and the rare oribi as well as rodents, reptiles, seed-eating birds and plenty of insects. Kudu prefer the cover of wooded bushveld and bushbuck and bushpig move amongst the luxuriant growth on the riverbanks. All five of South Africa's primates - somango monkey, nocturnal greater and lesser bushbabies, chacma baboons and vervet monkeys - can be see in the The Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, as can hippo and crocodile, and the birdlife is significant.
There are a number of hiking trails in the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, with day walks as well as multi-day hikes with rustic stop-over huts. For the more adventurous, a whitewater trip on the Blyde River is a must, with grade 3-4 rapids to keep you busy, and the optional overnight on the river bank at the feet of the Three Rondavels.