Bela-Bela, long known as Warmbaths, nicknamed the “Sunshine Town”, is Limpopo’s equivalent to the beaches of the Eastern Cape, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. Many holidaymakers stream here every year to bask in the sun and relieve their aches and pains. The name Bela Bela and its former name, Warmbaths, refer to the natural hot springs in the area. These springs produce some 25 000 litres of mineral-rich (sodium chloride, calcium carbonate, etc.) water per hour at 50 degrees Celsius! The springs were the reason why the former Transvaal Provincial government developed the town as a holiday resort.
The Tswana tribes, early inhabitants of the area, discovered the hot springs during the early 1800s and named them Bela-Bela — “the boiling place”. During winter months and on cold mornings the location of the hot springs can easily be identified from a long distance on account of the huge cloud of steam rising over the veld.
The Tswana believed that the springs had amazing healing properties and that the prolific wildlife in the area, especially elephant and buffalo, relished the water and wallowed in the warm, mineralised mud to relieve their rheumatism. When the resort was being developed, they were proved right when a huge accumulation of skeletons of humans and wild animals, especially those of elephants, were found in the mud and soggy vegetation that formed a morass around the springs.
Today, Bela Bela is a popular holiday resort with an ultra-modern spa and sufficient accommodation to cater for the differing needs of a many types of tourists. In addition Bela-Bela is the centre of a 6 000-square km mixed farming area and there are several game farms and reserves in the region.
Adventure And Sport
4×4 Routes: Information about the variety of trails that criss-cross the area can be obtained from the local tourism office.
Bela Bela Dam: Situated 8km from the town, this dam is the ideal venue for water-skiing and rowing. There is also a weekend hiking trail that starts from the dam and allows visitors to enjoy the beautiful Bushveld scenery, the birds and the wildlife.
Sport: The town offers excellent facilities for many different types of sport, such as tennis, golf, squash and bowling. Bela-Bela also boasts the development of a cable-waterski installation, the first one of its kind on the African Continent.
Entertainment And Shopping
Bela Bela Waterfront: This new development features many restaurants, shopping opportunities and entertainment galore.
Carousel Entertainment World: The Carousel guarantees a fun-filled experience for the entire family. Entertainment facilities include gambling at slot machines or tables, games at the entertainment hall and a variety of restaurants and stage shows. The Carousel lies next to National Road N1 road about halfway between Pretoria and Bela Bela and many Pretorians make the short journey far a day’s entertainment.
Aventura Spa Resort: Take a leisurely walk to the natural source of the hot springs, situated inside the Aventura Spa Resort. The hot springs have natural healing powers and make Bela Bela one of the best health resorts in the country. Many people prefer to treat ailments such as headaches and arthritis by visits to the waters. The spa has become a trademark of the town and is one of the biggest of its kind in the world. It offers facilities such as mineral water pools, rheumatism baths, sauna, underwater massages, a gym and hydrotherapy. The therapists who work at the resort are skilled in any number of therapies and treatments. Mum can have a relaxing facial while Dad lounges in the mineral pool and the kids play on one of the slides – the perfect family vacation.
Fauna And Flora
Bela Bela Nature Reserve: The 530-ha reserve adjoins the public spa and resort and is home to red hartebeest, impala, kudu, wildebeest, Burchell’s zebra, giraffe and other smaller mammals. Visitors can explore the reserve on guided walks, game drives (also night drives) or horse trails.
Bird Sanctuary: Situated 5 km from the town, this sanctuary is home to a variety of exotic birds and is worth a morning or afternoon visit.
Bonwa Phala Game Lodge: Situated just a few km west of Bela-Bela, the lodge offers a selection of walking trails and early-morning and late-night game drives, with an experienced game ranger in attendance. Various species of antelope, as well as rhino, zebra and giraffe can be viewed. Advance booking is essential as the lodge can accommodate only 12 people.
Mabalingwe and Sondela Nature Reserves: Enjoy the rich indigenous wildlife and beautiful natural scenery of the areas enclosed in these reserves.
Mabula Game Lodge: The reserve stretches from just off Road R516 outside Bela-Bela to the foothills of the Waterberg Mountains. Named after Mabula, a once-proud and revered Tswana king, the reserve is home to some 60 species of mammals, 300 species of birds and numerous reptiles. This is Big Five country (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino) and the reserve is particularly renowned for its white rhino population. A wide range of activities and safari experiences are offered, including big-game-viewing on horseback, morning and evening game drives and guided walks. Enjoy the essence of Africa in all its unspoilt splendour while you stay and travel in unadulterated luxury!
Mokopa Reptile Park: The Reptile Park is home to several species of lizards and snakes. The Thaba Kwena Crocodile Farm gives a home to their bigger brothers. Thaba Kwena is the largest commercial crocodile farm in the country.
History And Architecture
Blockhouse: The area did not escape the tragic Anglo-Boer War of 1899 to 1902. A British blockhouse, built to protect the railway line from Boer attacks, can be seen in the town.
Buyskop Rock Formation: Buyskop was the halfway point on the postal route between Pretoria and Polokwane (Pietersburg). Some of the sandstone taken from this rock formation was used to build the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
Christina Pretorius Grave: The grave of Christina Pretorius, wife of the prominent Voortrekker leader Andries Pretorius, can be seen in the old churchyard. A memorial erected on the spot immortalises the words that she used to convince her distraught husband to leave her behind and continue with the “trek”.