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South Africa succeeded in its mission to host the FIFA Soccer World Cup at the second attempt, and enjoyed the crowds packing out its brand new stadium in 2010.

Mbombela is a 40,000 capacity, flexible sport, entertainment and conference venue built 7 kilometres to the north of the city. This is a significant infrastructure investment which will radically improve the facilities available to the local population in an enduring fashion.

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Nelspruit is a city of 80,000+ people, situated in the Mpumalanga Province of northeastern South Africa (formerly the Eastern Transvaal), of which it is the capital. It is the largest urban area in the Lowveld, and features all of the amenities you would expect of a centre serving a regional population of several million.

Mbombela Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature><br />
  <span class=Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature

Located on the Crocodile River (known as the Krokodil in Afrikaans), Nelspruit lies 330 kilometres (200 miles) east north-east from Johannesburg and a mere 60km (40 miles) east from the Mozambique border. The nearest township is KaNyamazane, a few kilometres in the same direction.

From Nelspruit it is straightforward to make a foray south to visit Swaziland, or to visit the Cradle of Mankind in and around Barberton. Day trips or longer excursions into Mozambique are also a good option; the N4 toll road extends all the way to Maputo.

Views of Nelspruit Mbombela

Nelspruit is a convenient centre from which to explore the southern Lowveld and the busier part of the Kruger National Park- the city is at the southernmost corner, closest to the Johannesburg-Pretoria conurbation and is therefore the point of entry to the Park for many South Africans. Accordingly, there is a high density of both gates to the Kruger within 30-50km (Numbi Gate, Paul Kruger, Crocodile Bridge, Malelane) and restcamps less than 150km away within the Park itself (Berg-en-Dal, Pretoriuskop, Crocodile Bridge, Skukuza etc).

Brief History

During the Boer War, the Nelspruit area served briefly as the seat of government for the South African Republic, an independent Afrikaner state.

The town was formally founded in 1905 by three brothers of the Nel family who grazed their cattle here during the winter months. Interest in the region had been fuelled by the construction of a station in the fertile Crocodile River valley in 1892, built on a farm owned by this family. Their legacy lives on in the town's name: Nel's stream.

The area attracted traders and farmers because of the natural richness of the soil, plentiful water supply for irrigation and level valley floor. Though cursed with malaria in the first half of the twentieth century, Nelspruit has nevertheless grown to be one of the largest producers of tobacco, litchis, mangoes, bananas, avocados, and many varieties of nuts in South Africa.

The area attracted traders and farmers because of the natural richness of the soil, plentiful water supply for irrigation and level valley floor. Though cursed with malaria in the first half of the twentieth century, Nelspruit has nevertheless grown to be one of the largest producers of tobacco, litchis, mangoes, bananas, avocados, and many varieties of nuts in South Africa.

Nelspruit is now also a key manufacturing hub for north-eastern South Africa. Major industries include the canning of citrus fruit, paper production, furniture manufacture and timbermills.

Avocados growing near Nelspruit

Things to do

In Nelspruit, the excellent Lowveld Botanical Gardens stands out as worthy of a visit; there are recreations of a number of African biomes and a new canopy walkway that gives you a heightened perspective over the bush.

Nelspruit has a large, modern shopping mall (the Riverside) with an excellent Woolworths supermarket with great food supplies, and the national chains Pick'n'Pay, Boardmans and Queenpark amongst others. The area around Nelspruit and White River is particularly strong on interior design and craft - check out the locally-available Lowveld Living magazine for ideas.

Next to the Riverside Mall are an eight screen multiplex cinema (Nu Metro Theatres are on +27 (0)13 752 5767) and the Emnotweni Casino, featuring 298 slot machines of different denominations, twelve gambling tables and a restaurant.

There are three performance venues here which increasingly attract acts of national stature: the Blue Moon music venue (12km outside town on the Uitkyk Road), the Barnyard Theatre at the Casterbridge complex (bring your own picnic hamper), and Nelspruit Civic Theatre.

Nelspruit will continue to increase its national profile as it prepares to build the new Mbombela stadium to host both first and second rounds of the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

As the major regional centre, Nelspruit is a hub from which a number of activities can be organised.

  • Abseiling is available at the Ekhukhanyeni Outdoor Centre close to Nelspruit, and also near the Sudwala Caves. Combined kloofing and abseiling can be organised at the Blyde and Sabie Rivers, and at the Berlin Falls.

  • Anglers will be rewarded with tilapia, carp and yellowfish in the local Crocodile and Sabie Rivers, and a jaunt further afield towards the Mozambique border to Komatipoort is likely to yield tigerfish.

  • Agricultural tours of the Research Institute for Tropical and Sub-tropical fruit include an interesting nursery with produce from all over the world, a rare collection of farm implements from the nineteenth century, and laboratories studying mango, litchi and nuts. It is 2km from Nelspruit.

  • Boating is available at Hulala Lakeside Lodge outside White River, with pedaloes, canoes and bass boats on offer. Take a leisurely boat ride onto the Da Gama Dam.

  • The Birdlife Lowveld Birding Society is very active, and offers regular trips to meet at places of local ornithological interest or local game reserves. Call +27 (0)13 753 3238.

  • Hot air ballooning is an early morning activity north of Nelspruit in the Hazyview/ White River area rounded off by breakfast (Champagne is optional).

  • Croc River Enviro Park (en route to White River) is the largest reptile park on the continent with a wide variety of local and exotic species. There are picnic spots adjacent to the river and a touch farm and playground for kids.

  • Nelair Charters offer scenic flights ("flips") lasting between 30 minutes and 2 hours, and extending up to the Blyde Canyon and Pilgrims Rest. You can also arrange to stop off in Graskop and Hoedspruit if there are local activities that take your fancy.

  • The area is spoilt for golf courses. The European PGA Tour comes to Leopard Creek. Nelspruit's Matumi Club is a town course with beautifu views. And some golf takes place within game reserves including the Skukuza course within the Kruger Park

Matumi Golf Course, Nelspruit
  • Paintball takes place periodically on the Lowveld Showgrounds.

  • The only orange winery in South Africa is at Rottcher Winery on the road north to White River; it is also a working macadamia nut farm. There are scheduled tours of the facility, and an adjacent equestrian centre enables you to go off and explore the countryside on horseback. There is also a restaurant here.

  • There is a Shangaan Cultural Village close to town which offers a series of one hour guided tours during the day which conclude at the picturesque Marula Crafts Market. In the evenings, music, dance and drama accompany a cande-lit dinner at which a traditional meal is served.

  • A number of guides run Township Tours featuring visits to local tribal chiefs, sangomas (medicine men) and shebeens (informal drinking holes). Also visit local schools, try out the cuisine or see traditional dancing.


Just after the turn of the century a new airport was opened, capable of receiving larger jets from foreign locations, although this has yet to develop into an a intercontinental scheduled destination. Package charters do arrive from overseas, and there are regional departures to Livingstone in Zambia and the northern coat of Mozambique. Nevertheless, many people's first point of arrival in the Lowveld will be on internal flights into this Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport. Both full-service and budget airlines fly in from Johannesburg and Cape Town; charters arrive from all over the country.

Flight information is provided by FlightStats, and is subject to the FlightStats Terms of Use.


The airport is on top of a rocky promontary outside town, as you can see from this map. As such, you get good views over the bush and local Lebombo hills on descent, and a spectacular landing on a shortish single runway.

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