A first boat ride in South Africa...A natural wonder in this lush country...A winning combination...



The day was cloudy, the air thick was thick with a mist and low clouds obstructed our views of the mountaintops at times.  However, we found the Blyde River Canyon breathtaking for the two full hours we spent on a pontoon with 20 other tourists.
Upon arriving at the Blyde River Canyon Lodge, one of the most beautiful resorts we've yet to see, we asked our hostess Portia what activities she'd suggest.  Once we decided, she made all the arrangements for us.
Tom was thrilled to once again be back on water after over seven months since our last cruise.



I was hoping the sun would peek out to improve the quality of our photos.  But, we still had a great time exploring the Blyde River Canyon.
For Thursday morning we decided on a boat tour on the Blyde River although it was a very cool, cloudy and hazy day.  We'd hoped that we'd have a sunny day in order to see God's Window, scenery that definitely requires a clear day.
The lush greenery coupled with the sandstone walls created a beautiful backdrop in the canyon.
The cost of the boat trip was surprisingly low at ZAR $240, US $22.54 for both of us for the two hour excursion.  Did we get our money's worth on this outing?  An definite, YES!
The colors were a feast for the eyes, not clearly depicted in our photos on this hazy day.
A short distance from the lodge we entered the Blyde River Reserve easily finding our way to the boat, a pontoon in good repair with plastic molded chairs with seating for 20.  The boat tour lasted two hours.
Not a recreational boating area, the only docks we saw were the few allocated for the tours.
Our guide and boat driver's knowledge of the area was a result of eight year's experience, resulting in never a dull moment.

We could only imagine how it would look on a bright sunny day.  The eerie appearance of the low clouds presented it own unique beauty.
The Blyde River Canyon is best described here in this excellent quote from Wikipedia:

"The Blyde River Canyon is a significant natural feature of South Africa, located in Mpumalanga, and forming the northern part of the Drakensberg escarpment. It is 25 kilometres (16 mi) in length and is, on average, around 750 metres (2,461 ft) deep. The Blyderivierpoort Dam, when full, is at an altitude of 665 metres (2,182 ft). 
Human and animal remains were found in this deep cave when explored years ago.
The Canyon consists mostly of red sandstone. The highest point of the canyon, Mariepskop, is 1,944 metres (6,378 ft) above sea level, whilst its lowest point where the river leaves the canyon is slightly less than 561 metres (1,841 ft) above sea level. This means that by some measure the Canyon is 1,383 metres (4,537 ft) deep.
A series of waterfalls lined the walls in certain areas. This dead tree caught my eye.
While it is difficult to compare canyons worldwide, Blyde River Canyon is one of the largest canyons on Earth, and it may be the largest 'green canyon' due to its lush subtropical foliage. It has some of the deepest precipitous cliffs of any canyon on the planet. It is the second largest canyon in Africa, after the Fish River Canyon, and is known as one of the great wonders of nature on the continent.
The beauty of Blyde River Canyon continue on and on regardless of how far we traveled.
Possibly the best view in the whole of the Blyde River Canyon is of the "Three Rondavels", huge, round rocks, thought to be reminiscent of the houses or huts of the indigenous people, known as rondavels. This canyon is part of the Panorama route. This route starts at the town Graskop and includes God's Window, the Pinnacle and Bourke's Luck Potholes."


More colorful canyon walls.
On Friday, we took the entire day to tour the above mentioned Panorama Route which we'll share in tomorrow's post with photos that may be in our file of "favorite photos" since beginning our worldwide travels.
Although we saw little wildlife along the canyon, occasionally we spotted interesting birds. A couple we met in Marloth Park shortly after we arrived, Lynne and Mick, have kindly informed us that this is an African Finfoot, a relatively rare bird.  As extremely knowledgeable bird enthusiasts they were excited for us in seeing this bird.
At the end of the boat tour, while waiting to use to "outhouse" near the dock, we ran into an American couple, only the second Americans we've met since arriving in South Africa. 

As our boat tour came to an end, we were grateful for the experience, clouds and all.
Not that meeting other Americans is a priority to us.  It's just curious to us how few American we've encountered since arriving in Africa over four and a half months ago. 
On the return drive to the lodge, we got a peek of the Blyde River dam when we were unable to find a viewing area.
With the people of South Africa speaking both Afrikaans and English (and many speaking Zulu), it's been easy to make friends and communicate our needs and wants when out and about.  in Kenya, the languages spoken were Swahili and English, an easy process for us single language speaking people. How we wish we'd learned other languages as children! 

Once we returned to the Blyde River Canyon Lodge, we took this photo from the stunning grounds.  Soon we'll share photos of the lodge.
At the end of the boat ride, we made our way back to the lodge until our next activity a few hours later, which we shared in yesterday's post, the tour of the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.  (Please scroll down to see the details of that rewarding experience).

Please stop back tomorrow for the some of our favorite photos, taken Friday while on the  scenic Panorama Route which includes many of the above mentioned sights.

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