This month I visited the interesting Cradle of Life development near Badplaas.
I’m testing the limits of my “one and a half hour driving distance from White River” brief for suitable destinations or activities on this monthly BLOG but that is what makes White River such an amazing travel destination. There is a wide variety of travel destinations with wildly alternative climates and landscapes on offer within this hour and a half radius from White River.
There’s the Kruger National Park and plethora of private game reserves to the north-east. The ever impressive Blyde River Canyon in the far northern Drakensberg. The spectacular waterfalls of the Sabie/Graskop region. The Long Tom Pass to the north-west. Schoemanskloof and the Sudwala Caves to the west. Kaapschehoop and Badplaas to the south west and finally the Barberton Mountains and Swaziland to the south. Did I mention Mozambique?
The winding road from Nelspruit to Badplaas is scenic and dramatic. The road takes you first through the Barberton Nature Reserve Pass and then to the Nelshoogte pass, topping out at nearly 5000 feet above sea level. Soon afterwards you descend into the Komati River basin and just after passing the Vygeboom Dam you arrive at Cradle of Life.
The Cradle of Life development is just that, with the word Cradle signifying the early beginnings of life on earth. Records of Earth’s earliest life forms, including microfossils, stromatolites, bio mats and other organically derived material have been discovered in the adjacent Barberton Mountains which have been dated at some 3600 million years of age.
Life is very much part and parcel of the environment here, not only ancient, but modern too. The most impressive array of earthly animal species, exotic and indigenous, has been gathered together at the Cradle of Life. These include white lions, tigers, jaguars, pumas, leopards, cheetahs, Siberian wolves, hyenas and meerkats. There is also an absolute abundance of bird life including raptors for the birding enthusiast.
There are regular game drives through the park and to the big cats’ enclosures throughout the day. A personal highlight for me was to see the Bengal tigers, jaguar and pumas. These are all, like our leopards and lions, awe inspiring cats. The only downside is that they are not roaming free in their natural habitat.
There are neat and spacious thatch chalets at Cradle of Life. They all face towards the Komati Gorge Mountains to the north which makes for spectacular sunset views. Star gazing is also exceptional here as the Highveld’s power stations’ smoke pollution is blown south of Badplaas by prevailing north westerly winds.
Summer temperatures are comfortable to hot but night time temperatures in winter can get bitterly cold. This is a lovely outing to do as a day trip or one night sleep over. There aren’t always cubs at the restaurant but with my visit I was very fortunate to handle twin six week old tiger cubs Ciara and Cayla. What surprised me most was their coarse fur that felt like wool. Each of us got to spend ten minutes with the cubs which was a humbling experience. It’s amazing that such a fragile helpless little cub can become a 300 kilogram monster cat.
If diving is your thing you can’t miss out on the nearby Komati Springs dive site which used to be a mine prior to 1972. When mining became unfeasible, equipment was pulled out and they ceased pumping out water. The groundwater rose back naturally, thus providing a dive site and swimming hole of note. The site underwent a big rehabilitation in 2002, which removed all signs of mining and made it a pristine site.
Cradle of life is not cheap if you go as a family but it is wonderfully entertaining, informative and fun.
Current Special: Buffet and game drive for only R250/adult and R150/child.
Tel. no. 082 345 1924
Disclaimer: The author’s expenses were not paid for by Cradle of Life.