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Panorama Route (North on R532)

This scenic route commences along' the R532 at the top of Louis Trichardt Ave., signposted Ohrigstad, which goes directly to the Blyde River Canyon, while the scenic route R534, a 15,4km loop along the escarpment, branches off to the right at 2.2km and rejoins the R532 at a point 8.1km from Graskop.

Pinnacle Rock is a tall column of weathered quartzite littered with bright aloes. It rises 30m above the indigenous forest in the surrounding Driekop gorge. A source of the Ngwaritsana river cascades through the dark depths of the narrow cleft on the right at the head of the gorge.

God's Window at an altitude of 1730 m, offers magnificent views across the Lowveld, Kruger National Park and the Lebombo mountain range in the distance. The nature reserve at God’s Window includes a rain forest and beautiful Aloe gardens scattered with large outcrops of sandstone, weathered into haunting prehistoric shapes. A trail leads through the rain forest along the escarpment edge towards Wonder View affording panoramic views over a vast expanse of the Lowveld.

Lisbon Falls are a spectacular 95m treble cascade that tumbles into the dark green pools far below. Lisbon creek is typical of the area where early diggers panned for gold.

Berlin Falls were named after the farm on which they are situated and are 45m high. They originated as a result of the differential weathering resistance of the local rocks. The scene should not be missed as there are some excellent vantage points revealing the entire drop.

From Berlin falls the route passes through dense pine plantations and some 33km from Graskop, eventually links up with the course of the Treur river and the upper reaches of the Blyde River Canyon. The tall rock faces of the canyon are coated with beautiful orange and yellow lichen, which glow strongly in the late evening light.

Voortrekker Monument commemorates the epic journeys of both Louis Trichardt and Andries Hendrik Potgieter in their attempts to establish trade contacts with the Portuguese in Delagoa Bay. The trek under Louis Trichardt ended in disaster, when after having crossed the Lowveld, their oxen started to die from the Nagana disease caused by the Tsetse fly, while fever caused by the malaria mosquito began to make its appearance amongst the Voortrekkers. Determined to reach Delagoa Bay before they all succumbed in the wideness, they pushed on in haste. They reached Delagoa Bay on the 13th 0! April 1838 and it seemed that their difficulties were over, but one after the other contracted the fever. Twenty seven died including Louis Trichardt. It was a sad ending to such a heroic journey. Seven years later another attempt was made by the Voortrekkers under the leadership of Andries Potgieter. Coming from a southerly direction, their path was blocked by the Drakensburg mountain range. During their efforts to cross the mountains, Kasper Kruger, father of Paul Kruger, found a negotiable route, which to this day is known as Casper's Nek. They then reached the escarpment and outspanned in the vicinity of the present day town of Graskop. Faced with the daunting descent to the Lowveld, Potgieter decided to leave their wagons and families behind, arranging that those left behind would return to their homes without them after a stipulated period. when the agreed departure date came, with no sign of the explorers, they named the river where they were camped, Treur (Sorrow), believing that the party had succumbed in the wideness. A few days later, while fording another river, they were overtaken by Potgieter and his party who had successfully made the journey to Delagoa Bay and signed a trade agreement with the Portuguese on the 22nd of July 1844. Such was the joy on being reunited that the river was named Blyde (Joy).

Bourke's Luck Potholes at the confluence of the Treur and Blyde rivers is one of the most remarkable geological phenomena in the country .Through millions of years, the swirling whirlpools which occur at the confluence, have caused water born sand and rocks to grind deep cylindrical potholes into the bedrock of the rivers. At the visitors centre, some of the interesting nature and socio-historic features of the reserve are on display. The potholes are named after Tom Burke who recognised the gold potential of the area. He became involved with the mining enterprise which owned the properly. However, there is an element of irony in the name, as the main find of gold was not on their ground but on the opposite side of the river.

Blyde River Canyon. A scenic spectacle, the Blyde River Canyon lies within the 35,000 hectares of the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, a 57 km belt which runs north from Graskop along the escarpment. Owing to variations in altitude, temperature and-rainfall, a great diversity of vegetation occurs. On the high-lying southern section which has a high rainfall, extensive grassy slopes and dense areas of rain forest with yellow wood, boekenhout, forest silver trees, etc. and ferns are to be found. The central area has mixed Sour Bush veld and thorn trees, while the northern area and foothills are known as the Lowveld Sour Bush veld.

Lowveld View Site is on a flat rocky mountain top at an altitude of 1219m and appears to be 'only a little lower than the canyon peaks. Paths lead to the edge of the 16 km canyon, an awe inspiring view. Fat below the Blyde river foams and tumbles along the rocky canyon floor winding like an enormous green snake and eventually flows into the Blydepoort Dam. Dense vegetation with moss and ferns fill the deep krantzes and the upper rocks are covered with vivid lichen.

Three Rondavels View Site affords magnificent views of the famous peaks of quartzite and shale, known as the three rondavels while the Blydepoort dam lies calm arid serene far below. The poort or mouth of the canyon lies between Swadini and Mariepskop, which was once the scene of a great battle between Swazi raiders from the south and local Bapedi and Mapulana tribesman, who used the flat crest of the mountain as a place of refuge and a fortress whenever they were attacked. The Bapedi and Mapulana tribes became tired of the continual Swazi raids and under the leadership of Chief Maripi Mashile, they climbed to the top of the mountain peak opposite Swadini and bombarded the Swazis with large boulders in what became known as the battle of Moholoholo, 'the great, great battle '. The Swazis were heavily defeated and thereafter the mountain was named Maripi in honour of the Mapulana chief.

Abel Erasmus Pass when gold was discovered in the northern Lowveld, this led to the proclamation of the Selati gold fields and the establishment of Leydsdorp in 1890. A road was soon constructed from Lydenburg via Ohrigstad and down the mountain to the new village. This road was constructed under the supervision of the Native Commissioner of Lydenburg, Abel Erasmus. The road winds up into the mountains, crossing cultivated valleys and grassy plains with views of the old road on the right, as it winds through a valley and rejoins the tar road. The pass is without doubt, one of the best areas for viewing Lichens. The rocks are coated with a panoply of yellow Lichens complimented by huge rock figs, with thick roots strangling the sheer faces. The road continues and winds along a ledge above a sheer drop into the tree filled gorge on the left, across from which a waterfall can be seen plunging down the precipitous tree lined sides to the river below. The road descends to the entrance of the 132,3m tunnel, named after a former Prime Minister, J.G. Strijdom and was opened on the 8th of May 1959.

Panorama Route (South on R532)

Natural Bridge This phenomenon was probably caused by the river weathering away the softer rocks as far as the hard quartzite. The river which is a source of the Mac Mac river, rises south of Hebron, flows past the old prospecting pits before passing through the natural bridge. Continue on the R532 bearing left at the turn off to Pilgrim's Rest

Maria Shires Waterfall In honour of pioneer, Maria Shires (Born Taylor) 1814 to 1875, whose mortal remains lie buried close by. She was the mother of Joseph Brooke Shires (Junior) a pioneer commercial forester of this region, who planted the first Eucalyptus and Wattle at Onverwacht (now Brooklands) in 1876 and of Ann Maria McLachlan who was presented with the Burgers Cross by President Burgers for her devoted nursing services to the Mac Mac digger community. Her son in law, T. McLachlan together with James Sutherland and Edward Buttons discovered the first gold in the region of Spitzkop on the 14th of May 1873. He later found many other valuable minerals in the region. A truly distinguished pioneering family who opened the way for the gold and tree wealth of today.

Forest Falls These beautiful broad falls, 10m high, on the Mac Mac river, can only be viewed by walking the 3.5km Forest Falls Nature Trail, which starts at the Green Heritage picnic spot.

Jock of the Bushveld, Mac Mac diggers and Transport Riders Memorial. When prospector, Tom McLachlan acquired the farm, Geelhoutboom, gold was found in every stream and the human stream of prospectors followed and were soon busy with shovel, sluice box and pan. This was the richest strike so far and attracted miners from all over the world. Jansen, the Landrost of Lydenburg visited the diggings and under pressure from experienced diggers, organised a digger's committee and appointed an American, Major W. MacDonald as Gold Commissioner. As the members of the Volksraad could not possibly visualise the developments taking place in the area and had only a vague idea as to its location, Jansen suggested that President Burgers should visit the goldfields, which he agreed to. Burgers proved very popular with the naturally suspicious digger community. For a start, he spoke excellent English and the diggers had heard that his wife was Scots. when the President looked over the claim holders, he noticed the predominance of Scottish names, bearing the prefix 'Mac' and said "I am going to call this place Mac Mac". The role of the transport rider, in providing supplies and equipment to the digger communities should not be overlooked. These transport riders, mostly young man of adventure, were a breed of their own and hauled their wagons and oxen over terrain faced with many hazards and hardships. One of these, Percy Fitzpatrick, later became a well known South African politician.

Mac Mac Falls were declared a National Monument on the 18th of February 1993. Cement pathways and stone steps with safety railings have been provided to gain access to the beet view points, from where one can see the two uninterrupted cascades plunging into the deep densely wooded chasm, with the river twisting 65m below. The Mac Mac diggers were responsible for rearranging the face of the earth a little, by changing the single waterfall into the double waterfall as we see it today.

Mac Mac Pools is a popular picnic area, shaded by a clump of trees on the edge of the shallow rocky river, which drops into a series of rock pools. There are shelters, braai facilities, toilets, picnic spots and a nature walk. The nature walk works its way to the base of the Mac Mac falls, providing magnificent views of the falls from below.

Sabie River Gorge and Falls are situated under the new Sabie bridge which was built on the curve so as to blend in with the natural attraction of the gorge. View site parking is on the right hand side before crossing the bridge. There is a short walk through the Williams Memorial Gardens to view points overlooking the gorge down which the Sabie river plunges 73m.

Bridal Veil Falls which resemble a bride's veil, can be reached by taking the old Lydenburg road until the gravel forestry road on the right at approximately 3km. Mondi Timbers sawmill, one of the biggest in the Southern hemisphere, is situated on the corner at the turnoff. Continue on this gravel road, passing the Ceylon Forest Station on the left and over a narrow bridge to the five road junction. Bear right at the junction (do not turn right) and keep to the main road. Further on a track forks to the right and leads to a stream 300m down the track, the falls can be seen above and ahead. It is advisable to park on the rise and follow the rough track to the left beyond the stream. This track winds through thick vegetation up to the falls which drop 70m into the centre of an amphitheatre at the head of the valley.

Horseshoe Falls are situated 4km on a signposted gravel road off the Old Lydenburg Road. The cascade type falls form a perfect horseshoe when the river is in flood and have been declared a National Monument. This is also the site of one of the first sawmill in Sabie.

Lone Creek Falls are situated 9km from Sabie on the old Lydenburg road. A lovely short walk of 200m through the thick vegetation of the gorge reaches a pool, into which a slender cascade of water plunges over a ledge from a height of 68m. The falls have been declared a National Monument. The Long Tom Pass which links Sabie with Lydenburg, is one of the most spectacular mountain passes in the country, With a summit of 2169m, it is one of the highest major roads in South Africa .From Sabie the road climbs more than 1000m before descending 670m to Lydenburg. The road sweeps smoothly over sharp climbs and descents and it is difficult to appreciate that this pass was once a fearsome natural obstacle. It was also the scene of a running battle between the Boers and the English in September 1900. A replica of a Long Tom canon stands in the pass, reminding visitors that the pass was named after the Long Tom canons used in the battle there during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902).

Devil's Knuckles It is not certain where the 'Knuckles' originated from. In 1873, a German. Dr Cohen indicated on a map he made with a pedometer between Delagoa Bay and Lydenburg, the name Devil's Kop. It seems fairly certain that the name was given to these sharp prominences on the watershed by the early settlers. The 'knuckles' were extremely difficult to navigate as they consisted of a narrow ridge (Watershed) between the precipitous valleys on the north and south connecting the escarpment on the west with that on the east. Signs of the original road can still be seen around and over the 'knuckles '

Mauchsberg' This mo1Ultain was named after the German teacher and amateur geologist, Karl Mauch ( 1837-1878 ), who in 1865 arrived in Natal from where he set out on several journey's of discovery throughout southern Africa, mostly on foot. During his journeys, he made careful geological and geographical surveys, studied the flora and fa1Ula and discovered gold in the Transvaal, including the Witwatersrand. He made maps of every region between Kimberley in the south, Marico in the west, the Soutpansberg in the north and Delagoa Bay in the east. His map of the old Transvaal was correct in every respect and even indicated where coal would one day be mined.

Animal Cement Park is situated about 9 km from Lydenburg. There are number of concrete wild animal statues created by the artist, Dick Heysteck.

Robbers Pass offers magnificent scenery, especially when descending into Pilgrim's Rest valley. This pass originally known as Pilgrim's Hill, was renamed after the coach was held up and robbed of 10,000 Pounds worth of gold bullion, by two masked men in 1899. The gold was never found. In 1912, Tommy Dennison, once the barber and later the laundryman of Pilgrim. s Rest, made an attempt at a repeat performance of the escapade. Unfortunately for poor Tommy, there was no gold on the coach that day, only coins from the bank, which the disappointed Tommy took anyway. The next rooming he appeared in the village as usual and at all the shops where he owed money, he stopped and settled his debt in half crowns. He paid 160 to the Royal Hotel bar and it was here that the police arrested him. He was sentenced to five years in Pretoria Central Prison, a sentence which most of the villagers felt was a bit heavy. Upon his release after four years, Tommy returned to Pilgrim's Rest and opened a garage, which to the huge amusement of the residents, he named 'The Highwayman's Garage.

The town of Graskop is perched on a spur of the Mauchsberg at an altitude of 1493 metres and dates way back to 1837, when Andries Potgieter passed through with the Great Trek in search of greener pastures in the north. In his memoirs, he mentions leaving the womenfolk in the area now known as Graskop, which means grassy peak, while he went down the escarpment in search of a route to Delagoa Bay, now Maputo.In the 1850's, the Graskop area was a farm owned by Abel Erasmus, an adventurous character involved in hunting, prospecting and imposing law and order in the area. He was known among the local tribesman as Dubala Duzi ' He who shoots at close range'. Graskop is also famous for Jock of the Bushveld which dates between 1885 and 1887. Paradise berg is where Sir Percy Fitzpatrick established his paradise camp, and two chapters in his book, namely' Paradise camp and the Leopard' and 'The Baboons' are set in this area. In 1873, gold was discovered in nearby Pilgrim's Rest and by 1911 a railway to the area had become necessary. Graskop was the nearest settlement accessible by rail and by 1914 the railway was completed and the town of Graskop blossomed. In 1972, the mining activities at Pilgrim's Rest ground to halt and today the railway line is used to serve the large timber industry in the area. Graskop has since developed into the focal point of tourism for the escarpment. Contact Us


At the time of their proclamation, both the Sabie and Shingwedzi reserves were very poorly developed.

Only in 1916 with the appointment of the Game Reserves Commission under chairmanship of JF Ludorf, the possibility of tourism was raised for the first time in the official report of 1918. This commission, which also placed significant emphasis on the possible merging of the two reserves and to proclaim it as a national park, made it clear that the primary objective of the two reserves was the conservation of nature. The development of tourism facilities could also be considered as it would not necessarily be in conflict with the primary objective. As motivation for this point of view, emphasis was placed on the educational and research opportunities that the reserves offered, and in this respect especially the opportunity that the general public would be offered to see nature in its pristine state.

First tourists

Initially, nothing came of these recommendations, and it was only in 1923, when the South African Railways (SAR) implemented a tour to the Lowveld and bordering Maputo (then Lourenco Marques) in Mocambique, that the potential of the reserves as tourist attraction was again discussed. An overnight stop in the Sabie Reserve at the Sabie Bridge (now Skukuza) was only included in the itinerary from a convenience point of view and not because it was felt that the game would offer an attraction. It required much motivation from Stevenson-Hamilton to convince the Commissioner for Railways that the inclusion of a day excursion through the Sabie Reserve would enhance the attraction of the so-called “round-in-nine” railway excursion.

Stevenson-Hamilton’s pleas resulted in the excursion were scheduled so that the trains would travel from Komatipoort to Sabie Bridge during daylight hours. Stevenson-Hamilton arranged that a game ranger would accompany the tourists on this leg of the excursion and also overnight with them at Sabie Bridge. At Sabie Bridge there were no facilities for tourists and they slept on the train. The game ranger would brighten up the evening around large campfires while sharing interesting anecdotes with them. This arrangement was apparently very successful and it was very popular with the tourists.

At the time of the proclamation of the Kruger National Park in 1926, the idea of tourism was already established. During the first board meeting of 16 September 1926, the value of tourism as a source of revenue was also recognized. To promote tourism while simultaneously earning revenue, it was decided that a main road, with various secondary roads for game viewing would be built. The idea was that guides would be appointed to accompany the tourist, for which a fee would be payable. It was also decided that a fee would be charged for the taking of photographs. A third source of revenue would be the writing of articles which would be either offered for sale of would serve to attract foreign tourists.

The lack of accommodation facilities in the park created a significant problem. Early in 1927, the South African Railways (SAR) approached the board with the request to erect quarters and to rent it to them (SAR). Nothing came of this scheme, and in the same year, the board, through the mediation of Stevenson-Hamilton, reached agreement with the SAR to work on a joint strategy for the development of the tourism industry. The board accordingly agreed to the building of roads, rest huts and other facilities, provision of guides and protection services and to refrain from promoting independent traffic. The SAR, in exchange, undertook to provide all transport, by rail and road and to launch advertising campaigns, catering services and to pay the board a percentage of the income received.

To initiate this scheme, four two-track roads were initially provided; from Crocodile Bridge to Lower Sabie (built by CR de la Porte), from Acornhoek to the Mocambique border (via Satara), from Gravelote to Makubas Kraal (near Letaba) (latter two were built by TEBA) and White River to Pretoriuskop.

In August 1927 the board decided to open the Pretoriuskop area for tourists. This concession would however require that prospective tourists first needed to acquire a permit (which could be obtained from the secretary of the board in Pretoria, the warden at Skukuza or the game ranger at Pretoriuskop stationed at Mtimba or from White River) and tourists needed to return on the same day as no overnight facilities were provided and that only revolvers would be carried for personal protection.

The arrangement to acquire permits was confusing for many visitors and they often passed Mtimba (Post of Ranger Wolhuter) without reporting. In 1929 the Board appointed A Moodie as agent at Moodies Kloof to issue permits until 1931, when a full-time gate official, Captain M Rowland-Jones, could be appointed at Numbi Gate.

By the end of 1927 various additional proposals were considered or made by the Board in order to increase tourism traffic. The Board rejected a proposal from the SAR to build a hotel at Sabi Bridge regarding it as “unpractical”. A proposal was also presented by the SAR for the provision of suitable vehicle crossings over the Crocodile River. In turn the Board requested the SAR to open the railway bridges over the Crocodile, Sabie and Olifants Rivers for motor vehicles, to make the train service on the Selati Railway more convenient for tourists and officials of the Board, and to accept responsibility for the building of a road from Crocodile Bridge to Satara and Acornhoek.

First tourist facilities

It was only in 1928 that the provision of amenities for tourists commenced with sincerity. The first three so-called “rest huts” were built at Satara, Pretoriuskop and Skukuza (then still known as Reserve or Sabie Bridge). Simultaneously, six additional huts were also planned. These huts, or rest huts, each consisted of a set of huts or rooms with a carport. Of the six planned additional huts, nothing came of it, but in 1929 two rondavels with a radius of six metres and ten with a radius of a little more than four metres, were erected at Skukuza and two additional rondavels were built at Satara. Rest camps of the size of Skukuza were envisaged for Pretoriuskop, Satara and Letaba. Two smaller rest camps with six rondavels each were planned for Balule (then still known as Olifants Camp) and Olifants Poort (better known as Gorge) near the confluence of the Olifants and Letaba.

Construction on the rest camp at Olifants Poort already commenced in 1929. The activities were continued in all sincerity in 1930 and besides the two additional rondavels in Skukuza, four were erected at Pretoriuskop (where there were already four), fifteen at Satara, twelve at Letaba, six at Balule, one at Olifants Poort and four at Malelane. At Lower Sabie a five-bedroom guesthouse of wood and steel, which previously served as the ranger Tom Duke’s quarters, was restored and made available to tourists.

All the rondavels that were built during that time were according to the so-called “Selby” construction style (which can currently still be seen in Balule camp). Paul Selby was an American mine engineer who also served on the Board. He designed a hut with a gap between the wall and the roof and also a small hole in the top half of the original stable door. The hole in the door was meant to serve as a peephole to see if there were any dangerous animals between the huts before alighting from their rondavels – at that time the rest camps were of course not fenced. These Selby huts rapidly enticed criticism as they were too cold in winter, too dark as a result of lack of windows and also because people could peep in through the holes in the door. They also provided easy access to mosquitoes! From 1931, all new rondavels were provided with windows.

In the early thirties great progress was made with provision of additional tourist amenities. The old guest house at Lower Sabie soon proved a failure as a result of it dilapidation. It was decided to vacate it and rather build a few huts on the banks of the Crocodile River. Eight rondavels were built at Crocodile Bridge in 1931. The guest house was demolished in 1932. In 1931 use was also made of tents for the first time. These tents, each with four beds, were initially commissioned at Skukuza and subsequently at Satara.

Besides the rest camps already mentioned, six other rest camps were established during this period. In 1931, construction was commenced at the Rabelais Gate. In 1932 the first huts in the new rest camp at Punda Maria were built. They were of the traditional wattle and daub type as cement could not be afforded at that stage. A small rest camp was also built at Malopene in 1932.

A small temporary rest camp comprising tents was erected in 1933 next to the Tsende River at Mabodhlelene. It was only in use for a few months, before construction of Shingwedzi rest camp was commenced as a replacement. Initially this camp also consisted consisted only of tents. In 1935 the first three-hut units, comprising three rooms, were completed. The roof and external wall structure of these huts as well as others built subsequently, are still in use today. In 1932 the first ablution block – a unit with four bath and four shower cubicles – was built in Skukuza. During the same year the rest camps were fenced for the first time.

There was experimentation with a new hut design in 1935. At Skukuza, Crocodile Bridge and Letaba, the so-called Knapp- huts were erected. These were square units with corrugated steel roofs, of which the walls were built of large hollow cement bricks. These huts were not liked, they were unsightly and the erection thereof was ceased. The last two rest camps that were opened to tourists before 1946, were Lower Sabie and Pafuri. After the closing and later demolishing of the guest house at Lower Sabie, it was decided to build a new rest camp. The first buildings of this new rest camp were designed by architects Gerard Moerdyk and were completed in 1936. This comprised three units with six bedrooms each and was laid out in a U-shape. A tent camp was opened in 1939 on the banks of the Luvhuvhu River, where the current Pafuri picnic spot is. A year later it was closed due to flooding and mosquito problems, to only be re-opened after the war.

In many ways the development of the tourism business in the Kruger Park is very similar to that of wildlife management. The Board was involved in a new and unique development for which there were no clear principles or guidelines. Decisions were initially taken haphazardly, and in many cases lessons were learnt through trail and error. As an example, when the first rest huts were built in 1928, it was not considered that rest camps would possibly be established. In 1929 when councilor Oswald Pirow pointed out that the few buildings would not at all meet the needs once visitor numbers increase, he directed as follows: that in future no new huts would be erected, but rather that areas of approximately 100 x 100 metres be fenced and that a corrugated roof structure be erected somewhere near the centre with a container providing boiling water. He felt that such a construction would meet the requirements for a rest camp as visitors preferred to camp out than to stay in huts. The Board agreed with this thinking and accepted the proposal – which was retracted in the same year.

The Boards close link with the Transport Services in establishing the tourism industry has already been reflected. In 1930 the Board undertook to build a rest camp for the SAR in the vicinity of Skukuza, once its own building program had been completed. As a result of the hectic building program, the Board could not meet this commitment and in 1931 the undertaking was withdrawn.

Notwithstanding that hot water is taken fore granted in all public facilities in rest camps today, it was certainly not the case in the early years. Only after the completion of the road between Punda Maria and Letaba, a request was tabled to the Board that ablutions in both camps needed to provide hot water. The road between the rest camps was not only very long but also dusty. (This road for most of the distance ran over dusty black peat soil and could not be graveled during construction). The then chairperson of the Board, Senator Jack Brebner, was not all pleased with the proposal and turned it down on grounds that it was just an unnecessary luxury. The discussion was continued and in 1933 it was granted with some resentment on condition that tourists would pay one shilling (10c) per bath.

“First tourism manager

The Board could not immediately implement the recommendation. It nevertheless led to the appointment in 1948 of the first tourism manager HC (Van) van der Veen, as well as in 1946, initiation of amendments to the National Parks Act – enabling the Board to take over all trade activities in the Kruger National Park. In 1945 the trade contract was awarded to “Kruger Park Services”, until the Board eventually took over all trade activities in 1955.

First liquor sales to tourists

An application in 1946 by the contractor to acquire a liquor license was summarily refused by the Board. It was but the first of many similar requests to the Board that fell on deaf ears – until it was eventually decided in the sixties to make liquor available to tourists.

One of issues that the Board had to attend to in the early years, was the type of accommodation to be provided as well as the layout of the rest camps. Already with the planning of the new Pretoriuskop by architect Moerdyk, more definite attention was given to the aspects such as aesthetics, and to deviate from the barracks-like outlay with huts in straight rows. The issue of the type of roofing to be used resulted in dispute amongst the Board members, with some being opposed to thatch on grounds that they offered refuse to vermin. This matter was resolved in favour of thatch roofing.

Hotels or not?

A further issue resulting in the Board “scratching its head” was that of hotels. As early as in 1927 a proposal for building a hotel at Skukuza was rejected on grounds that it would be impractical. In 1930 an application was received from Messrs Mostert and Potgieter of Johannesburg to build a hotel in the Park. This application was also declined, but merely because at that time there were no plans to build hotels in the Park.

With the high pressure on the Board to urgently provide more accommodation, an appeal was again made to erect a hotel of some 300 beds. This appeal even had the backing of The Star. The chairperson of the Board, senator Jack Brebner, was resolute in his opposition and pointed out that hotels would not be profitable as the Park would only have an ‘open’ season of six weeks per year.

In 1935 the thought of hotels even had support from the Board. Councilor Papenfus pointed out that should the Board erect its own hotels, it would be able to exercise full control over them. His proposal was supported by councilor WA Campbell, but made no impression on the chairperson and it was summarily rejected.

In 1939 a businessman by the name of Lawson enquired about the Boards position on hotels on the Park boundary and specifically whether the Board would consider making additional gates available in case of such boundary hotels. The Boards took a far more compromising position and was supportive of the principle on condition that the hotels would maintain a dignified reputation and that the Board would not suffer any losses due to tourists being lured away from the Park. As a result of these negotiations it was decided that additional gates would be provided along the Nsikazi River and at Toulon to assist Lawson. He was planning to erect two hotels, one at Plaston and the other on the farm Toulon. When Lawson requested the Board whether his guests could pay reduced admission fees on second and subsequent visits, once his hotels are in operations, the Board rejected it outright. This state of affairs resulted in the business not being viable and nothing came of these plans.

Due to lack of funds experienced during the early development years, the Board gladly accepted donations from willing private individuals and institutions. Already in 1929, Councilor WA Campbell, who was previously owner of Mala Mala on the Park boundary, donated an amount of £150 (R300) for a “rest house”. He later made more donations and one of the rondavels funded from such donations was converted to a museum currently in Skukuza rest camp.

Supply of Fuel

As a result of the location of the Park and the long distances that needed to be covered to get there, the provision of fuel was crucial from the beginning. The Vacuum Oil Company already requested the Board in 1929 to sell Pegasus petrol in the rest camps. The Board agreed to this request and by agreement the petrol would be sold at 30c a gallon (±4,5 litre) (just more than 6c a litre!), of which the Board would receive 5c. Finality of the agreement could not be achieved immediately. During this period the warden pointed out that petrol was only needed at Satara and Letaba, as ex-ranger T Duke, owner of the Bantu Shop at Skukuza, intended to also erect a petrol pump. The rest camps at Crocodile Bridge and Pretoriuskop were near enough to petrol pumps outside the Park. In the meantime Shell also applied to sell petrol in the Park.

By August 1930 Pegasus petrol was already available at Satara and Letaba. When Texas, a third oil company, also applied to sell its product, the Board decided at the end of 1930 that the product of only one company was to be sold in the Park. A final decision was not taken and the matter was referred to the executive subcommittee for further consideration. The initial decision could not be adhered to and it was decided to market only two types of petrol, Pegasus in Letaba and Satara and from 1931 also at Crocodile Bridge, while Shell Company received approval to sell its products at Skukuza and Malelane. Apparently Shell did not erect any fuel pumps at Malelane and in 1934 it was reported that Atlantic petrol was sold there and later also at Pretoriuskop, even though the request by Atlantic to sell its fuel across the park, was turned down.

Rules and Regulations

When the Park was opened to tourists in the late twenties, there were rather few rules and regulations besides that bringing in firearms were prohibited. When overnight facilities were created in the reserve, tourists were not even compelled to return to the rest camp at night. They could casually make their camp fires in the bush and then spend the night there. It soon became evident that this state of affairs would result in mischief and in November 1930 the first list of regulations, compiled for the Board, by AA Schoch, was published.

These regulations in many ways formed the base for the regulations currently in use and included, inter alia, the following: tourists were limited to rest camps at night, drives could be undertaken from half an hour before sunrise until half an hour after sunset, cars were limited to roads, a speed limit of 25 miles per hour (40km/h) was implemented, it was an offence to damage any objects and littering was also prohibited.

By 1932 it was pointed out to the Board that the regulations did not have much meaning of they could not be enforced. The Board then decided that as from 1933 a car (or motorcycle) patrol would be implemented in order to that would care of law enforcement. This idea was later abandoned as there were insufficient funds to implement the patrol service.

Automobile Association (AA) and Royal Automobile Club (RAC)

In 1932 the Automobile Association (AA) offered to station a road scout at Skukuza to undertake road patrols. The Board was obliging on condition that the AA official would not interfere with the external contractor offering a vehicle repair service at Skukuza. The AA and the external contractor could not reach a satisfactory agreement, thereby preventing the patrol service from being implemented. To counter this problem, the external contractor’s agreement was accordingly amended in 1934 resulting in the AA being able to implement its service. This service was implemented during the tourist season of 1935, with the undertaking that this would not only be an auxiliary service, but that the AA official would also assist with enforcement of the regulations.

The executive subcommittee of the Board felt so strongly about the abovementioned aspect that they even suggested that the AA approach the Department of Justice so that their official could be appointed as a special police constable. This patrol service rapidly appeared to be a great success, and in 1936 the Royal Automobile Club also applied to implement a similar service. The application was approved and it was decided that the AA would attend to the area south of the Olifants River, while the RAC would patrol the area to the north thereof.

While the first scheduled service to the Park was only implemented during the late sixties, the Armstrong Siddeley Development Company already applied in 1930 to offer such a service. The initial application was met with approval, but when the Board requested a more formal proposal, the matter came to a halt.

Luxuries” – or not, for tourists

In 1936 the issue of hot water for baths/shower came under discussion again when it was decided to provide such “luxury” to various other rest camps. This again led to differences in opinion and it was again reasoned that it was an unnecessary luxury, and besides that the Board did not have the funds for the required installation. The issue was again postponed and it was not until 1939 that such installations were brought about – and on condition that gents were only entitled to hot and cold showers, and that hot water for bathing for ladies was available daily between 17:00 and 21:00!

Notwithstanding the rate at which provision of tourist accommodation progressed in the early thirties, it could not meet the demand. In 1934 the SAR and the Transvaal Publicity Conference made an urgent plea to the Board to provide more accommodation. Under this pressure it was even proposed to SAR to park a number of coaches at Skukuza to serve as sleeping quarters. This proposal could not be executed as it would have been illegal.

To obtain funding for more accommodation, the South African Publicity Conference, as well as the Publicity Associations of Pretoria and Johannesburg, directed a requested to the Government in 1935 for a donation of £50,000 (R100,000) to the board for this purpose. For the expending of such an amount the addition of 150 additional beds for Pretoriuskop rest camp (with the existing 150 beds) and a new rest camp for Lower Sabie that would accommodate 200 visitors, was viewed a highest priority. Over and above these new developments, all existing huts had to be made mosquito-proof.