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Badplaas, a historical overview

Badplaas, today known as eManzana, is a town set in eastern Mpumalanga, South Africa and although relatively small, it has much to boast about. It lies between Machadodorp and Carolina. It is known for the hot mineral baths set in the bowl of the Dhlumudhlumu Mountains. It is also on route to the world renown Kruger National park and a short distance to the Songimvelo Game Reserve. In addition, it has a network of underwater tunnels set in the Nkomazi Game Reserve that attract recreational and technical scuba divers from all over the world.

The size of the town of Badplaas is 37.96 square kilometres. It was built in 1876 on the Seekoeispruit, which means “place of much thunder,” in the foothills of the Dhlumudhlumu Mountains, near a sulphur spring that spews forth 30,000 litres of hot water (at about 50 °C) every hour. There are other sulphur springs in the area, including one at Mkhingoma on the Mkhomazana river.

Badplaas has a temperate highland tropical climate with dry winters and is located at an elevation of none metres (0 feet) above sea level. The yearly temperature in the district is 22.53°C, which is 1.31% higher than the national average. Badplaas receives 72.35 millimetres of rain per year and has 121.17 wet days. It is a very popular tourist destination.

Historical overview

The backdrop to Badplaas is a range of hills known as Dhlumudhlumu, which means “place of much thunder” in Swazi. Swazi tribesmen were the first to find the hot spring, which they named “eManzana,” which means “healing waters.”
It is stated that in about 1876, the Swazi chief presented this spring in gratitude to a hunter, Jacob de Clerq, who later established a store nearby and improved the spring to allow visitors to use due to its reputed medical virtues.

Badplaas was a key halt on the wagon route to the Lowveld, where Boer farmers had established themselves. These inhabitants exploited the Badplaas grassland for summer grazing, which provided relief for their cattle from the coastal plain’s summer heat and sickness. Some remnants of these wagon trails can still be seen in the surrounding area.

Badplaas developed as a key stopover and supply point on the waggon route to and from the Highveld after gold was discovered in Barberton. During the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902, General French went through the district on his way to Barberton, where a Boer commando was active.

Skurweberg Pass, enroute to Badplaas

One scenic route to reach Badplaas, is over the Skruweberg Pass coming from Machadodorp. Meaning “rough mountain” in Afrikaans, the Skurweberg Mountains are a series of ancient Sandstone Outcrops. It is the remains of the seabed from the time of the bygone Super-Continent of Gondwana, at least 180 million years old.

The Skurweberg Pass is a steep, tarred, and contemporary route over the Skurweberg Mountains located on the rim of the Drakensberg Escarpment. The pass is popular with motorcycle riders due to its curved nature, however it does feature one or two curves that can be dangerous at high speeds. It is relatively steep, with an average gradient of 1:17, and drops 448 metres in total. Unfortunately, at present the pass has three bad spots where the road has sunk away. Although motorists can still use the pass, it can be dangerous if not aware of the bad patches.

The Skurweberg is particularly beautiful, and tourists utilise the Pass not just to get from Machadodorp to Badplaas, but also to enjoy the surrounding scenery. The Wathaba Wilderness Area is a mountainous area with waterfalls, streams, pools, and overgrown kloofs. Mosses, lichens, ferns, and approximately 90 native tree species can be found here.

The Pass begins in the south, just north of Badplaas, and winds through a large Kloof formed by the Komati River’s flow. The beginning ascent is strenuous, with the route hugging the mountain and quickly gaining altitude. The Num-Num Trail, the centre of which lies in the Skurweberg Mountains, begins on one of these tight curves – five days of wonderfully picturesque hiking. A bit further on, the gravel road leading to the beginning of the Wathaba Hiking trail climbs the eastern edge of the Kloof. From here, the Pass straightens out a little before continuing to ascend quickly. The ‘Uitkomst Farm’ is located at the summit.
Definitely worth the drive.

Recreation at Badplaas

The hot spring in Badplaas is without a doubt the area’s greatest recreational attraction. When gold was discovered in the De Kaap Valley near Barberton, the spring became extremely popular. Prospectors would visit the springs on weekends to relax after a long day of digging for gold.
The government claimed the springs on November 6, 1893, with the intent of developing a health resort for public use in perpetuity. It was established in December 1947. For a time, the Protea Group managed this Aventura Resort, however it is now owned and managed by the Forever Resorts Group.

Tourists from all over the world flock to the area, making it a popular vacation spot. Visit the Forever Resorts any time of year, and you won’t run out of things to do once you’ve had your fill of the warm waters, splashed around in the pools, and tested your daring on the water attractions and slides.
Why not challenge your loved ones to a race around the go-kart track, a game of paintball, or a round of putt-putt golf? You may also get up close and personal with the resort’s wildlife in its game reserve on horseback or on an open safari vehicle, bringing you one step closer to nature than you ever imagined was possible.

The resort has everything you could possibly need for a relaxing vacation, and there is plenty to do in the surrounding area as well. Komati Springs is an inland dive location where adrenaline enthusiasts can go scuba diving. At Vygeboom Dam, you can launch your own boat or jet ski, or you can rent a picnic boat for the day or a house boat for the night if you wish to enjoy water sports without getting wet.

From Badplaas, you may take a picturesque drive to the Songimvelo Game Reserve, and the only spot on Earth where you might view the rare woolly cycad. Because of the tough terrain and limited parking, horseback safaris have grown increasingly popular as a means of exploring the game reserve and getting up close to the animals. The wildlife rangers themselves ride horses when on patrol. The wildlife reserve is also home to a wealth of archaeological sites, including ancient stone circles and Bakoni terraces.

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