Mount Sheba Nature Reserve | South Africa Travel Tips & Reviews | Africa Point
Mount Sheba Nature Reserve
Cape Eagle Owl, South Africa
Mount Sheba Nature Reserve
View of Blyde River Canyon, South Africa
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Mount Sheba Nature Reserve


Listen to the soulful cry of the Jackal Buzzard and the African Crowned Eagle as they soar high above; feel the peace of the African bush wash over you and touch your soul.  Walk through the ancient rainforest and cool off in a rock pool – Welcome to Mount Sheba.


Best time to visit:

This is a year-round destination. Summers can be very hot, so visit from April to October if you plan to do some serious hiking; the weather will be cooler and there is less chance of thunderstorms. 

How to get there:

A four-hour drive from either Johannesburg or Pretoria, or a one-hour flight to Nelspruit Airport followed by a 90min drive.
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Walking on the Wild Side...

Set against a dramatic backdrop of mountains, valleys and indigenous rainforest, the Mount Sheba Nature Reserve is one of South Africa’s best examples of Mother Nature at her finest.  The large 1,100 Ha reserve is situated in Mpumalanga, above the historic gold-rush town of Pilgrims Rest, and is surrounded by magnificent scenery and many natural and historic attractions.  The Reserve is acknowledged to be one of the finest destinations in the country for birding and is also home to the endangered samango monkey, commonly spotted by walkers and hikers.  Discovering the wonders of Mount Sheba on foot, either on a gentle ramble or on a guided overnight hike is an African nature experience to treasure.


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Bird-watching, Photography, Nature walks and other Highlights

Bird Watching

Mount Sheba Nature Reserve is made up of several different habitats, ranging from thick afromontane rainforest on the steep hillsides below the soaring cliff faces, to thorny thickets below and wide stretches of grassland on the upper slopes and plateau, providing the perfect environment for top-class birding. The diversity of these habitats means that dozens of bird species are at home here, from a selection of typical South African escarpment birds to some local specialities.  At the higher altitudes you can expect to see African Emerald Cuckoo, African Cuckoo Hawk, Cape Eagle Owl and Gurney’s sunbird, among others.  (There are 4 different species of sunbird in the Reserve).  Soaring high overhead are the sharp-eyed raptors, drifting effortlessly on the thermals as they hunt their next meal; among them you can expect to see Jackal Buzzards (common sighting), Cape Vulture, Peregrine Falcon, African Crowned Eagle and several others. Some of the smaller species that you will find as you walk through the varied habitats are the Redwing Francolin, Cinnamon Dove, the Knysna Lourie and Knysna Touraco.

The Marco’s Mantle and Waterfall Walks are especially good for some early morning birding.



The abundance of flora and fauna in the Reserve make it an absolute Mecca for wildlife photographers.  The Reserve is large enough to get away from the crowds and find the perfect spot to set up your tripod and get that perfect shot.  Not only can you snap a wealth of birdlife, but the resort also boasts a wide diversity of unusual plants, (including several species of Protea)  and some scarce and endangered animals such as the Samango Monkey and the Red Duiker.


Nature Walks

Mount Sheba Nature Reserve has an impressive network of marked walking trails throughout the varying habitats.  Some of these are no more than a pleasant stroll while others are quite strenuous.  Overnight guided hikes can also be arranged.  Besides the birdlife, you will come across a wide range of plants and small animals on your walk – look out for Oribi, Klipspringer and Red Duiker, while at night you may even be lucky enough to see an African Wild Cat.  There are lovely rivers with swimmable rock pools and waterfalls, all waiting to be discovered.  A perfect way to enjoy a day trip is to take along a picnic to enjoy in this pristine natural setting.



Other Activities

The Mount Sheba resort offers guided walks in the Reserve, trout fishing excursions, mountain bike trails and waterfall picnics.   There are also trails where you can see gold digging sites and wagon trails that date back to the early 1900’s. 


Pilgrims Rest

Just 17km away is the historic gold-rush town of Pilgrims Rest which was established in 1873 when alluvial gold was discovered there.  Today the entire town is a National Monument and you can learn all about the exciting times of the gold-rush on a guided walking tour of the town.  While you are here try your hand at some gold-panning!


Blyde River Canyon

The Blyde River Canyon is the third largest canyon in the world, approximately 750m deep and 25km long, where millions of years of erosion have carved surreal rock formations out of the mountains of the Greater Drakensberg Escarpment.  The main features of the Canyon that you should not miss are God’s Window and the Bourke’s Luck Potholes.



Accommodation in Mount Sheba Nature Reserve

Imagine spending a night or two in this pristine environment far from the intrusions of city life where you will wake up to the sound of Nature’s alarm clock – the dawn chorus of birds. 

The Reserve has a 4-Star lodge with comfortable rooms and suites, all set in the beautiful and peaceful gardens.  There are also some self-catering cottages, perfect for families.  If you prefer to stay outside the Reserve there is a choice of interesting accommodation in near-by Pilgrims Rest where you could stay in one of the beautifully restored old buildings that date from the town’s gold rush days – full of character and atmosphere.



How to Get There

Mount Sheba Nature Reserve is an easy and mostly scenic drive from either Johannesburg or Pretoria and will take you about 4 hours.  You could also take a local flight from Johannesburg to Nelspruit Airport and then drive from there, in which case the drive will take just 90min, if you can resist all the temptations to stop along the way!



Best Time to Visit

Mount Sheba is a great destination to visit all year round.  The summers, from November to March can be very hot indeed and this is also the rainy season where afternoon thunderstorms are quite common.  The best months to visit are probably from April to September, when it is cooler and there is less chance of rain, although during the winter months it can be cold at night.


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