Golden Gate Highlands National Park


Today's GPS, which even calculates the space-time difference between the ground and the satellite giving it information, is sadly not so good at knowing what changes have taken place on the roads it guides you through during the day.

Time-lapse storm brewing at Golden Gate - the beautiful sandstone cliffs of Golden Gate Highlands National Park have weathered many storms over the nearly 200 million years of their existence.  Take a look at the cliffs, and imagine the layers. First the swampy mudstone layer, golden yellow sandstone deposits, and over this a hard layer of basalt capping off the giant cake. 

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And so it was that we arrived from The Victoria Falls ( more of this in our blog' The Cutter of Rock' ) at about 6 pm in Harare, Zimbabwe's capital. From events that followed, it appeared that Mr. Mugabe himself had arrived home from a busy day at the office just a minute or two before we turned into the street where he lived, in an upmarket suburb of Harare.

In winter (this was July) it is dusky to downright dark by this time, and our GPS told us to take a left, which we did. Shortly after this, and from the surrounding walls of tall pine trees lining the road, came a load whistling, or shrieking sound. I couldn't see anything, but slowed to listen, as I thought it could be some species of bird​ I had never heard of before, roosting for the night. My partner wasn't as sure, and thought we should stop and see what it was. I did in fact, almost stop. I paused. Then the whistling shrieks stopped. So I drove on, but slowly. And the bird calls started, all the louder. The trees were dark silhouettes, and I was trying to see shapes of what would be fairly large birds, against the dying light of the sky.​


Now the islands are mostly green jewels, and offer tourists one of the great tropical paradises still left on the planet. Local fishermen, with the sharp sails of their dhows cutting against the skyline, dot the sea wherever they hope the fish are. Bellow the surface, there are a number of great diving reefs, teeming with fish. These are protected, and the archipelago became a national park in 1971.

The area is also home to one of the last surviving populations of dugongs, which browse on the sea grasses. There are sadly only just over 100 left, but conservation authorities and go’s are doing their best to protect the surviving population. Visitors to this island paradise can choose the more, or less, option. The more option is staying at one of the five star luxury lodges on the islands, and being served delicious meals daily.  


The road is good to very good most of the way to Maputo, and you can use a normal two wheel drive sedan. There are a few tolls along the way. If you want to get to some of the resorts around Inhambane, however, you'll need a four wheel drive to get through the beach tracks. Or, you can fly in, and there are several flights a week from Johannesburg. The resorts will do an airport transfer for you. Once out of the city, the road opens up and you travel through South Africa's high veld grasslands. 

After about 250 km, you'll reach an escarpment, and the high plateau falls away to what is called the Lowveld. The scenery and winding passes, some with a few tunnels, are all enjoyable, except for occasional heavy traffic.

In the Lowveld, things get hot and steamy. The outside temperature rises noticeably, and so does the humidity. You will have decended around four thousand feet from the cooler highlands.  The Lowveld is mostly Africa's typical thorn tree bushveld, and is home to the great Kruger National Park and wild animals( see an upcoming Wild Place guide).





Like an emerald necklace dropped in a clear pool, the Bazaruto archipelago of six islands, lies in azure waters near the coast of Mozambique. These islands were formed over centuries, by deposits of sand pushed out to sea by the vast and broad Save river.

We took the Maputo Corridor from just south of Johannesburg. The Corridor is a fancy name for the highway link to Maputo, Mozambique's capital and main sea port, to the sprawling cities of South Africa's interior.