This picturesque village on the Sabie River was established in 1895. The name is a derivative of the Shangaan “uluSaba”, meaning “fearful”. When gold was discovered here, many people flocked to the area, but even before gold was discovered, people realised the potential value of the timber in the area. To this day the economy of the town is largely supported by its flourishing timber industry. The South African Forestry Company (SAFCOL), the custodian of many of the forests in the area, has gone to great lengths to ensure a fine balance between the utilisation and conservation of these beautiful tracts of land and has established a network of hiking and horse-riding trails through the forests. The many lodges and guest houses in and around town cater for visitors with a wide range of interests.
Adventure And Sport
Cycling: The 56-km route from Sabie to Lydenburg over the Long Tom Pass is considered to be one of the ten most scenic cycling routes in South Africa.
Hiking: Explore the indigenous forests and floral diversity of Sabie and surroundings by choosing one of the many hiking trails that criss-cross the area. Some of the most popular hiking trails include the Safcol Fanie Botha network of trails. These trails meander through the Ceylon Plantation near Sabie, passing waterfalls, crossing streams and climbing rocky cliffs. The network includes trails such as the two-day Bonnet/Mac-Mac Pools Trail, the three-day Maritzbos Falls Trail, the five-day Fanie Botha Trail, the Mount Moody Trails and the two-day Mac-Mac Trails. Easy day routes provide alternatives for those who prefer less strenuous hikes and include the 14-km Loerie Route through the Ceylon Plantation, the 7-km Sekretarisvoel Route starting at the Mac-Mac Pools and the 3-km Forest Fall Route.
Entertainment And Shopping
Shops and restaurants: The town has a well-developed tourism infrastructure that caters for the needs of a wide variety of visitors. The shops sell lovely articles, many made by local people. Visit the shops that sell jewellery made from semi-precious stones or buy some lovely batik cloth. There are also several coffee shops and restaurants to bring welcome relief to the tired and hungry traveller.
Fauna And Flora
Scenic Drive: The scenic drive from Sabie, with its many beautiful waterfalls and forests down to the historic mining town of Pilgrim’s Rest and on to Graskop with its Lowveld vistas, down Kowyn’s Pass and round to the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, up the Abel Erasmus Pass, with its stunning views over the river gorge and on to Bourke’s Potholes, has been voted one of the ten most scenic day drives in South Africa.
Tree Breeding Station: The Government Tree Breeding Station lies east of Sabie. The station uses cross-pollination and experimental breeding methods to improve the quality of timber.
History And Architecture
Anglican Church: The famous architect, Sir Herbert Baker, designed the beautiful sandstone church in town.
Sabie Forestry Museum: The Sabie Forestry Museum, the only one in South Africa, details the uses of different types of wood. It also tells you about the history of the South African timber industry and of the people who have made this industry their livelihood. The musical qualities of wood are also explained and a “talking tree” tells of the evolution of a tree.
Mondi Timber Mill: Mondi Mill is the largest timber mill in the Southern Hemisphere and is close to town.
Waterfalls: There are some splendid waterfalls in the area. These include the Sabie Waterfall, the Bridal Veil Falls that can be reached via a scenic forest track along the south bank of the Sabie River, the Lone Creek Falls with their 68-m high cascade of water and the lovely rain-forest effect caused by the spray and the aptly named Horseshoe Falls. However, the 56-m Mac-Mac Falls must count as one of the most impressive waterfalls in this area. This twin waterfall cascades down into a gorge with fern-covered rock walls. A digger’s blast in 1873 changed the rock formations in such a way that the waterfall split in two. It was called “Mac-Mac” by the then president of the Transvaal, President Burger. So many of the diggers at the time were Scotsmen, that it seemed to Burger that every second digger was called “Mac”. Below the falls and further down stream are the Mac-Mac Pools where visitors can have a safe swim and a picnic.